Social Violence: The Monkey Dance

As I mentioned in the Intro to Violence post, social violence is typically designed not be deadly. It is a way to establish social dominance over someone else. Simply put, it’s ego driven. We see the monkey dance in school yards, bars, and even at the office (this version is usually a verbal attack). The dance is initiated by someone who believes the other person is close to their own social level. This basically means that a 30 year old will not typically start a monkey dance with a 7 year old nor will a male monkey dance with a female. There are special cases but that is for another post. [1]

There are specific steps to the dance that have been ingrained into our minds for generations. Just like rams butting heads for dominance, there is an order in which it happens. Watch the video below.

This translates over to humans. It starts with a hard stare then some verbal challenging, pushing or arm swaying, then moves to a square off until one swings with an over hand right.

Did you see the similarities? It’s our way of showing our social dominance. We even sneak attack alike, the ram pretending to graze and the guy in the white shirt taking that step back and looking away before he swings. This type of violence is predictable because it follows certain steps, which in turn, makes it the easiest to avoid. The monkey dance frequently happens in places where alcohol or drug use are going on but not always. The easiest way to stop this from escalating is to check your ego and leave. Don’t give him anything to hook into like a smart comment under your breath or snide face over your shoulder while leaving. This is the hardest part. Since this has been conditioned for thousands of years, submitting can be very difficult unless you have created or been given some way to save face and leave without your ego getting hurt. It is very easy to get suckered into this game. This is especially true for young men or men who believe they are a badass. [2]

As I mentioned earlier, the monkey dance is designed to be non-lethal but that doesn’t mean that it can’t have serious consequences. Injuries are typically minor like a broken nose or broken hands (boxer’s fracture). More serious injuries are usually from someone falling and hitting their head or if the fight escalates to a different level of violence, like in the video below.

In the video, you can see it starts as a mutual monkey dance. After one guy is knocked out, the other man kicks him while he is down. The man in the video seems to have escalated to a level a violence called an educational beat down (a post will be made about this level in the future). Although, depending on what the goals are, it could be predatory. It should be noted that some individuals may not view a monkey dance as such but may view it as a higher level of violence. For example, I recently read a news report about two men getting into a fight outside of a bar/club. One pulled out a knife and stabbed the other. It started by the victim saying something to the suspect while the suspect was sitting in his vehicle. The suspect got out of the vehicle, a fight ensued, and the suspect stabbed the other man.

As you can see, the risk of injury can be quite high. There also are legal repercussions for both parties. It does not matter who started it or who threw the first punch. It is a mutual fight. No matter what, nothing good can come of this. You can be arrested, sued, hurt, or killed. If you are unlucky, all of the above. Speaking from personal experience, the best thing you can do is leave. I have been in a lot of fights because of my ego. Fortunately, I have only endured minor injuries. I was lucky. Now that I am older and more secure in who I am, I have no problem submitting and leaving. In future posts, I will discuss deescalation and what has worked for me.

The take away is this, if you are engaging in a monkey dance, you are rolling the dice that the other person will back down, lose, or not escalate to a higher level of violence than you are prepared for.

For further information on this topic I highly recommend Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence and Facing Violence by Rory Miller. Also, Marc MacYoung’s website has similar violence breakdowns and loads of valuable information.

1. Rory Miller Facing Violence ( Wolfeboro, N.H.: YMAA Pub 2011), 26-30
2. Rory Miller

4 thoughts on “Social Violence: The Monkey Dance

Add yours

  1. Those last two videos make me want to pitch a tent in the wilderness at the top of a very high mountain.

    The silver lining? “Now that I am older and more secure in who I am….” Admirable. Glad to know it.


  2. The guy in stripes who saved a girl deserves respect, he was K.Oed but didn’t lose his focus, am not sure if I would have kept my cool in such a situation


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