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The Monkey Dance

November 22, 20184 min read

The Monkey Dance

The Monkey Dance is a ritual combat to establish social dominance or defend territory.  It is nearly always non-lethal.  The Monkey Dance is basically a precursor to a fight.  It’s the set up.  From a self-defence view point, you should never engage in “Monkey Dance”.  Avoiding the Monkey Dance is the only sure-fire way to avoid a fight.   Some variations of the Monkey Dance allow you to avoid a fight, some variations mean no matter what answer you give a fight can happen.  An example of the first kind, could be a potential mugger/attacker, asking you do you know the time?  A simple confident no and a refusal to be stopped, could avoid trouble.  This response also works with someone asking for a light.  The act of looking at your watch or reaching for a cigarette lighter, can be enough of a distraction for an attacker to launch a surprise blitz attack.

Other forms of the Monkey Dance mean no matter what response you give, a fight is unavoidable.  Failing to engage is the only way to avoid trouble, act like you never heard the question.  An example of this could be, are you looking at my girlfriend?  Answer yes and your attacker can act offended and defensive that you were staring at his girlfriend and start a fight.  Answer no and he can claim you are calling his girlfriend ugly and start a fight.  Remember in the Monkey Dance your attacker holds all the cards, no matter what your response if he wants a fight, he will start one.

Another example this time in a bar, would be someone claiming you spilt their drink.  Deny you spilt the drink and you attacker will claim you are calling him a liar.  Say you did spill his drink and that is an excuse to start a fight.  Even in this situation being diplomatic and offering to buy a new drink can enrage someone looking to start a fight.

The Monkey Dance or Interview come in many ways, but they are all designed to force you into a confrontation or to distract you from another threat.  As a friend of mine experienced abroad, a young child kicked a football at him as he walked down the street, in the confusion that followed another child stole his wallet and ran away.  That person pressing against you in the queue, to get on the bus or train may in fact be robbing you, leaving you stranded as the doors close, watching your mugger casually walk away.

The Monkey dance is a ritual with specific steps.

  • Eye contact, hard stare

  • Verbal challenge, (What you looking at?)

  • Close the distance

  • Finger poke or two-handed push to the chest

  • Dominant hand punch

Because it is all about dominance you can usually circumvent the dance with submissive body language, such as lowering your eyes and apologizing.  This has a personal cost.  For most men, backing down from a status conflict is very difficult and does psychological damage.  If you do it out of fear you will feel terrible however if you do it consciously as a ploy, it is far less damaging but de-escalates the situation.

While the Monkey Dance used to be reserved strictly for males, it is beginning to crop up with females also.  Because it is a status thing, men wont usually do the dance with children (no status to be gained) or crazy people (they don’t follow the rules).  If a man monkey dances with a female and she verbally stands up to him, diminishing his status (in his warped eyes) he may seek to punish her.  Punishment is worse than damage.  The Monkey Dance is designed to be non-lethal fatalities when they do occur are nearly always due to falling and hitting the head. Unfortunately, this could be with someone she knows, a partner, family member instead of a stranger.  Conversely if a woman attacks a man, I will not be to show who is boss, she will be seeking to do damage.

Other non-physical tactics include treating the verbal challenges as serious thoughtful questions, acting bored, or crazy.  If its appropriate circumvent the monkey dance by jumping steps.  Pre-emptive strikes if you know the fight is going to kick off is a very good self-defence tactic, just be sure you can articulate Intent, Means and Opportunity of your attacker in the inevitable law suit.  Witnesses will all agree you threw the first punch. Jumping steps and applying a lock works, while waiting a trying to lock a strike is impossible.

Big guys are not immune from the Monkey Dance either.  Because it is designed to be non-lethal going against a bigger guy is a win-win situation for the small guy.  Win the fight and he gains status, lose the fight and he gains status for having the courage to take on a bigger guy.

Avoid the monkey dance, de-escalate if you can’t avoid it.  Avoid places where young men group together, avoid places where mind altering drugs are taken.  But anyone with minimum of training should not lose this fight.

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