Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Education on Bar Fighting Isn't So Tough

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Education on Bar Fighting Isn't So Tough

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh guy goes into a bar. Spends half his adult life working in them. Writes a book.

Don't wait for the punch line. James Porco, the 35-year-old Brookline man behind "Bar-jutsu: The American Art of Bar Fighting," is all about making sure punches aren't thrown. That said, his paperback book outlining his basic techniques is a hoot.

It's as if Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn wrote a treatise on bouncing as the sequel to "Wedding Crashers." I smiled through it one morning, sat down in a Baldwin bar to talk with Mr. Porco and co- author John Monaco for lunch the next day, and later tried a few of the techniques on the big mat in the Bar-jutsu school astride tavern- dotted Brownsville Road in Carrick.

I remain less likely to win a bar fight than to place in the Tri- State Brawl-Fleeing Championships, but I picked up a tip or two that might at least allow time for the cavalry to arrive if I'm ever backed against a saloon wall. I won't feel bad about not throwing a punch either.

The book's 128 pages of basic self-defense tips and color photos cover everything from dodging the drunk with the broken beer bottle (the "weapon of glass destruction") to defending yourself when an overly aggressive music critic comes at you while you're singing karaoke. Yet it's not about punching back. It's all about blocking and using the attacker's momentum against him. Mr. Porco, who has seen too many bar fights and stopped countless more, knows the Hollywood-style bar fight is way stupid.

The man who wrote the book on bar-fighting grew up in Bon Air, wrestled as a heavyweight for Schenley High, dabbled in professional wrestling under the name of his old shop teacher Van Hughes, and has been a bouncer everywhere from the South Side to Clairton since he was 18. He's also a union ironworker and a martial arts instructor. Apart from those details, it's an ordinary life with wife Erin and their 4-year-old, Molly.

Four summers ago, he was on the grass outside Keystone Oaks High giving free lessons in ninjutsu, a "survival art" of unconventional combat and weaponry, and found he kept answering "in a bar" when students asked where they might employ a given move. …

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