Editor’s Note: This piece of expert content was contributed by longtime mixed martial arts competitor and coach certified by the International MMA Federation, Miguel Antonio Ordoñez. – GDM
We previously did a piece on the ineffectiveness of martial arts techniques in a street fight. The article pointed out some harsh realities of such a scenario, including the external factors that can quickly turn the situation from bad to worse.
We continue to advocate against violence and stand by our initial stance against engaging in any form of combat outside of a controlled environment like a gym. But that doesn’t mean that these techniques won’t work AT ALL.
As a martial arts practitioner, you’re learning the most effective methods to score a knockout, break a nose, and put someone to sleep with a chokehold. It would be disingenuous to say that none of these techniques would work outside your training facility’s sacred walls.
This article is the other side of the story. Your martial arts techniques CAN hold up in a street fight, and allow us to explain why.
Martial Arts Techniques Work, But…
Imagine yourself holding a knife. You have it with you as a tool to ward off potential attackers. In case things go south, you have something to turn to.
A knife can protect you, but it won’t serve its purpose if you can’t wield it the right way. The same concept applies to martial arts techniques. It’s about using them correctly at the right time.
Let’s look at some examples.
Boxing Head Movement
In another previous piece, we briefly touched on the importance of head movement when avoiding a punch that could shut your lights out. It is, after all, impossible to hit a moving target.
Boxing teaches a lot of head movement through specific drills, and it works excellently in a sport setting if applied correctly. But what about in a street fight?
Professional fighter Jeff Chan of the YouTube channel MMA Shredded provided a demonstration. He recently walked up to random strangers in New York City parks and had them throw punches at his face. He wasn’t allowed to do anything but defend and evade the incoming strikes.
Watch it if you have 13 minutes to kill. It’s entertainment, but you may learn a thing or two.
One thing you’ll notice Jeff doing is managing the distance. When he’s not moving his head, he has one of his hands out that acts as a barrier between him and the attacker. This martial arts technique, called framing, spares you a few seconds to land a slick counter punch.
Jeff’s objective is to either have the attacker further away from him so that he’s beyond reach or be close enough in grappling range to nullify punches. In the gif below, you also see him cupping the attacker’s biceps to prevent further strikes.
But Jeff and fellow YouTuber Icy Mike brought up one interesting point in the video: the head movement drill becomes more challenging to pull off against an inexperienced attacker.
That’s because technical, coordinated punches are predictable for trained boxers. They’ve seen it a thousand times in the gym. They know the fundamental combinations and immediately have a defensive answer for them.
The clip is a mere demonstration to prove that head movement works in a prize fight and a street altercation. But it’s not something to exploit in a real-life situation. Running away and getting out unscathed is still the primary goal.
Kicks of Any Kind
Many martial arts techniques involve kicks. We won’t delve into all of them, but we will look into a philosophy many longtime practitioners adhere to: never throw kicks in a street fight.
Their main argument is that kicking makes you vulnerable to sudden slips. You throw a high kick, it fails to land, you fall on your back, and it’s all over. And this is probably one of the worst takes of them all: kicks don’t work in a street fight because your opponent can easily catch them.
Yes, kicking in a street fight could fail you. But not if you do it right.
As mentioned in a previous piece, keep kicks (a.k.a. Front push kicks) have a high percentage of working. Imagine doing this to a belligerent, unskilled attacker whose training goes as far as watching UFC fights on TV.
They will likely flinch and cover up, giving you time to inflict enough damage to get yourself out of the situation. But what about roundhouse kicks? They look fancy for the camera, and they’re known fight-enders.
You’d be surprised at these kicks’ effectiveness, mainly when you target the attacker’s legs.
We already pointed out the potential dangers of wrestling an opponent in a street fight. The wrong head placement could end in disaster. But among martial arts techniques, wrestling could be the most useful.
When the renowned Gracie family from Brazil began sharing the art of Jiu-Jitsu with the world in the early 90s, they had one main selling point: all fights will almost always end in some form of tie-up. And especially now that the UFC is at peak popularity, people more often than not engage in a full-on MMA fight on concrete.
Now take any highly-trained wrestler to the streets. They know which routes to take to get what they want, and that path becomes much shorter against an average Joe.
This happens if executed right. He made it look so easy.
Here’s another martial arts technique that gets a lot of bad rap in a street fight setting. Basic logic will tell you that engaging in a ground fight in a civilian altercation would never be wise, and on some level, we stand by that.
But you have to look at the argument from both sides. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a street scenario is more for controlling and subduing another individual. This is why law enforcement officers make it a part of their training.
And as you’ll see in the situation below, the police officer took control of the problem using what’s known as the armbar.
The objective is to break the person’s arm by hyper-extending the elbow using the pelvis as the fulcrum. In this case, the officer used the move to restrain the suspect, who attempted to grab his firearm.
How To Make Your Martial Arts Techniques Hold Up in a Street Fight?
We can’t emphasize this enough: when you’re in a street fight, your goal isn’t to add fuel to the fire. You’re not there to look cool and prove your alpha male status. You want to de-escalate and run. Some would argue that it makes you look like a coward, but that beats broken bones and possible assault charges any day.
All forms of martial arts train you to think and act accordingly during a high-pressure situation. Sparring, in particular, offers the best practice for it. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling get the job done without the added risk of concussions because striking isn’t involved.
The best answer to this question would be to focus on that particular aspect of training. Get into stressful situations in the gym that urge you to handle a compromising position safely. Condition yourself to be ready enough for when the time comes that you need to use these weapons. You can’t afford to tense up when the moment arises.
Your martial arts techniques alone won’t hold up. It’s all about having the right mindset to approach the situation.