Why I Started Punching Jerks Again


Men, please take this as the verbalization of fantasies I know everyone of you has had. Ladies, take this as an inside look at the hardwiring of the male mind…

Perhaps it’s too much flying monkey or watching mating battles on Planet Earth, but I’m beginning to think (once again) punching jerks might not be such a bad idea.

The current issue of Esquire brought out my inner Tyler Durden with a hysterical article called — I believe — “Why I Started Punching Jerks Again.” I believe? I believe so because the online editors changed the title to “In Defense of the Fistfight.” Shame on them. The original makes more sense, as it’s first-person…

If you dislike some artful use of profanity, please close your eyes now. Here’s the lead from Esquire:

This whole thing started — or maybe it ended — with these guys engaging in some ritualistic, Hare Krishna clapping shit. They were sitting at a table across the bar from my buddy Phil and me. We were trying to enjoy a quiet pint in our quiet local on a quiet evening, but these hippies wouldn’t quit with their clapping. Swear to God, they might as well have been crashing cymbals in my ears.

I asked them politely to stop. “Make us,” they said, and then they clapped louder, smiling their dirty-toothed smiles at us, twisting our nipples. One of them was named Jericho, I picked up. He was a skinny bearded guy who looked as though he’d wear Guatemalan mittens in winter. “Jerry,” I said when they finally took a break, “come on over here, have a chat.” He did, and shortly thereafter, he loosed a throat pony into my face. It was Jerry’s bad luck that I had resolved to start punching people again.

It wasn’t a snap decision. I’d reached the end of the road after what seemed like a perpetual assault from life’s Jerichos — the sorts of assholes who not only act like assholes but celebrate their assholedom: the grease spot who gave me the forearm shiver in our recreational soccer league and said, “It’s a man’s game, bitch”; the walnut-headed midlife crisis in his convertible who cut me off and then gave me the finger. It felt like they had me surrounded, clapping in concentric circles. I mean, Jesus, a skinny bearded hippie named after a biblical city had just spit in my face.

How’d we get here? Blogs are part of it, along with the incessant frothing of TV pundits and reality-show contestants, especially that lippy midget from The Amazing Race: Everybody thinks they’re above being edited. And the saddest part is, the Jerichos are right to feel bulletproof. Somewhere along the way, we’ve evolved into a culture without consequence…

What?! Punch people in the face?! Read the whole article — it’s worth it.

I’m not suggesting that we just run around whacking each other in place of words. However, it seems to me that in this land of no physical consequence, where flaming is spreading offline, and where freedom of speech makes it alright to spit in someone’s face but not OK to give them a judo chop in return… could something be wrong?

Born premature and small throughout school, I was on the receiving end of hazing for more than a decade, but I put up a good fight. Being small didn’t mean I couldn’t operate in a world with a line that, once crossed, meant you had to put up or shut up.

Now, I don’t get in street fights and I don’t recommend looking for them. But how do you uphold a certain basic standard of respect and gentlemanly conduct when the Jericho-like instigators seem to be multiplying faster than “u r a douche” comments on Digg?

Is there a chance that we would have fewer AK-47-toting high schoolers if it were socially acceptable to take of a glove, slap it across an offender’s face, and issue the good ‘ol “Sir, you have insulted my honor” challenge? I think a little fisticuffs would do most men a world of good, giving options to the masses who put up with too much, consequences to loudmouthed idiots who would then think twice, and a release valve to a gender that otherwise comes up with far worse things to do to men, women, wives, and children.

The real question is: how do you create a common social contract that allows for this type of correction without bullets or lawsuits flying? Is it possible, or do we have to continue to walk through a world that seems to consist of either Mohatma Gandhis or Joey Buttafuocos?


Perhaps I’m just spending too much time in NYC and need to get away from all the I-bankers and crazies. I’m going to the gym.

[Thanks for letting me vent a little! The next post will be a how-to guide to collaborative filtering, which can feel like a punch in the face but tastes better.]

Posted on: December 18, 2007.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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123 comments on “Why I Started Punching Jerks Again

  1. Right on, Tim! I’ve never hit someone, but I completely agree with you on this. People are getting angrier and angrier because disputes are never resolved and aggression is never released.


  2. Some people deserved to get the beat down. Seriously. They weren’t raised right, and need to learn that the world doesn’t tolerate their flavour!

    Nice post.


  3. I agree with you until you start making this about gender. Not all women are pacifists, just as not all men are violent.

    Much like you and Jones, I put some thought into this and decided that, under certain circumstances, violence is not only okay, it’s my preferred course of action. I’m a woman and there isn’t a more satisfying response to a stranger’s hand on my ass than physically reminding him that isn’t acceptable.


    Hi Jill!

    Well said. I totally agree and just used that caveat because the topic of fighting tends to get the most visceral kick-back from women… but certainly not all women.

    Thanks for chiming in!



  4. All I have to say is, AMEN!

    It seems as if people take advantage of others, knowing they won’t stand up for themselves, and use it to be a complete ass. Violence has been filtered down into movies and completely removed form schools and public places.

    I’m not saying go around punching douchebags, that’d be too easy. Punch the extremely deserving douchebags.


  5. Couldn’t agree more with this article and your blog post. In America especially, where you can get arrested and put in the slammer for a night just because someone else said you hit them, something needs to be done about this problem.

    Frankly, i’m tired of the B.S. oversensitivity in American culture right now. I couldn’t even go out to the theatre without hearing people talk out loud (oftentimes on a cell phone), texting away next to me, parents allowing their kids to kick the back of my seat, and when confronted saying they couldn’t do anything about their kid’s behavior.

    I live in Australia right now, where it seems fist fights are a little more common and police are a little more tolerable to the innocent party.


  6. HELL YEAH!!! That is all I have to say to that. I myself put up with a lot of crap growing up (especially in highschool) and completely agree that some people just need to be put in their place. KUDOS TO YOU!!!! It is one thing to have an opinion and it is another to try and force it upon others. I spoke with a swedish friend of mine today and he just read your book. He described you best, “the guy speaks his mind and is not out there just trying to make money off others.” This is more rare than you can imagine. To just be yourself, you have positioned yourself as an elite. I hope you continue to say it like it is and help those around you. I don’t want to fill your blog with my opinions but rather just say “Great Job and I hope others follow..”

    Take Care & Happy Holidays,

    Jose Castro-Frenzel
    Dallas, Tx


    • Bro this is what i’m talking about! This is what happened I was on the bus guy behind me kept calling me a fat ass I told him to knock it off he kept on I told him if he doesn’t stop I was going to punch him he kept on! What do I do? I punched him between his top part of his jaw and his nose and he starts crying. I told him this, you ain’t gonna call me fat ass now are you? He shook his head


  7. LOVE IT!
    just last week I saw guy-A intellectually mouthing off to guy-B and then guy-A got punched in the shnoz. Guy-A whimpered, “what makes you think you can just punch someone like that?” Guy-B said “what makes you think you can talk to me like that and not expect to get punched?”
    It was great!
    The crowd definitely favored guy-B…
    but my wife still made me sleep on the couch that night.

    p.s. amongst all the NYT best selling business authors this year, you are the only one to take a stand for all us boys who love speeding, playing with guns and punching jerks.


  8. IANAL (still a law student), but I’m pretty sure that spitting in somebody’s face is assault, and you can be thrown in jail for doing it.


  9. Couldn’t agree more. It’s been years since I punched someone (actually, I elbowed his face a few times, much more effective), and it had been years before that.

    Iow, an especially deserving -and disturbing- case. Guy was trash talking me through every possible medium, and had finally called me at home just to harrass me. Obviously, there are people in this world who needed to be taught a lesson yeeeears before, and who just don’t understand “shut up” or “quit lying”.

    Ya know what? Not only did it feel GREAT, everyone in the circle respected me more after that. And they are still talking about it with reverence, 4 years on (also because the guy still needs a beating in many ways).


  10. Does the world really need more violence?

    And what about women? They can treat a man however they like with zero consequences? Not all jerks are male y’know!


  11. When you’re physically provoked you just gotta do what your male primal instincts dictate.
    There does seem to be a growing number of rude people who are either socially unaware or just don’t care. Either way I think you did the right thing.
    Good for you man!


  12. I took fencing lessons for a while, and “Coach” was of much the same opinion — if everyone carried steel and an insult was a reason to challenge to a duel, people would once again learn to be polite instead of being jerks.

    And, he added, he’d get rich teaching people how to do the skewering.


  13. You know, I hate to be all pompous and superior about this, I really do, but most people just don’t have the self-control to ‘slap Jerrico down’ as you suggest.

    So yeah, maybe you can take the other guy… you think. Believe it or not, it might take more than you expected. Suddenly your plan to right the wrongs of the world turns into nothing more than a bar-room free for all or just another trip to the ER/A&E dept at your local hospital.

    If you’re coming from a position of weakness – psychological *or* physical – you are likely just acting out and over-compensating for your own insecurities, trying to ‘be the man’ you never were. If you truly are a superior man you will be able to acheieve a similar result via verbal means (ie humiliation or social embarrasment in front of his peer group) – or give him just the hiding he needs without going overboard and going ‘psycho’. Too many guys think standing up for yourself means unleashing your inner Rocky and throwing a punch to settle an argument.

    Where I live there are enough idiots every weekend who’ll gladly take you up on the offer if you think you are man enough. Why do you think martial arts teach self-control? Because even if you lose the fight you still acted with dignity, honour, self-respect and stood up for your values. Then you’re always a winner. Trust me.


  14. I usually like your ideas, but I’m not a big fan of this one. If there are too many a**holes, it’s worth a little bit of shoe leather to just get up and move on. The human body is pretty delicate and it’s way too easy to put someone in the ICU by accident to start a fight just because someone is an ass.

    The way I look at it, they have to live with being an a**hole for their entire lives – I only have to put up with them for a few minutes. On balance, a little compassion is in order :->

    I trained in martial arts for many years and the main thing I got was a respect for how easy it is to damage something vital in a fight – often by accident. It’s why I never got the whole “Saturday night barfight thing”. I don’t know. Maybe I was just raised wrong, but I just think life is too short . . .


    Hi Peter,

    This is a good point. Once boys are big enough to be called men, fights often produce more than bloody noses. 99 times out of 100, the issue can and should be resolved by taking yourself elsewhere. Your comment also raises another important question: were there more gentlemen’s rules in the fisticuffs of yore? It seems to be the case. Today, fights to settle differences are generally considered “no-holds-barred,” which is ridiculous, of course.

    Thanks for the comment,



  15. To be fair, though, I sometimes feel the same way when I’m living in NYC (which I do a few months every year). Right now I’m in Manly Australia surfing, diving and generally avoiding winter! If I was back in Manhattan right now, I might just agree with you!


  16. Mandatory martial arts training in school.

    There have been studies done that have shown that children, even children with a high risk of resorting to violence, show a marked decrease in their tendency towards violence when they are trained in a martial art. The studies also show greater respect for others and empathy and increased self confidence.

    It would also give them a controlled environment for resolving physical disputes, if they decided to take it that far (and the studies show that they probably wouldn’t).

    But of course, there’s always the risk of a John Kreese (http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0044574/) instructor teaching the wrong things like winning means more than honor…


  17. This is an important topic and post! While I have not been in such a fight as the author of the Esquire article describes (on either side)…there is a huge problem in society with people like “Jericho” and his friends who think they can say or do anything without consequences. I have heard a self righteous person actually proclaim “I can say what I want, its a free country!” (what is this 2nd grade?) after saying something offensive. They really believed they could say rude and offensive and nobody should be allowed to challenge their words.

    I think there was a time when people acted more civil because of both the threat of a good punch in the face and the teaching of proper etiquette by their parents. Nowadays the punch factor is gone (or the puncher get sued, while the person who deserved the punch collects cash) and parents raise kids to think they are more important than others. Many believe they can act in any manner and say anything without regards to those around them.

    This is a shame. I agree it is worse with the anonymity of the internet and it all just feeds upon itself.

    Great post Tim, now my question…..how do we restore civil behavior and respect into society? Maybe some people should have special permits issued that allows them to punch jerks in the face without the threat of a law suit.



  18. I agree with you. The fear, of course, is that – even if the guy deserves it – you pop a fist in his face and he pulls a gun and pops a bullet in yours. There are some crazy-ass people out there.


  19. Our definition for battery is far to lose. It’s too easy to get sued for touching someone on the shoulder much less deservedly punching them in the face.

    I think our problems go much farther than this. As men particularly we’re no longer willing to draw a line in the sand and say this is the behavior I’m willing to accept and this is the behavior I’m not; whether it’s your girlfriend or your boss.

    We’re expected to sacrifice our own time for the everyday emergency at work. We accept blame for the short comings of our coworkers. We will perform any assignment or attend any meeting passed down to us. We can never be pushed too far.

    The most important thing I’ve done in the past year was telling my boss I will no longer be performing a particular type of job…one way or another. When you accept that your time (life) has value, and define what you are willing to accept, you’ll be a lot happier. Surprisingly people will recognize this and respect you for it more than if you simply perform to their satisfaction.