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What’s the Best Martial Art For a Street Fight?

If you’re into martial arts, then chances are you started training because of a need to defend yourself. The problem is, training martial arts in a gym is not the same as using that martial art in a street fight. There are a lot of different factors involved, such as the difference in environment, if weapons are involved, and the number of enemies. There are no rules in real life like there are in an MMA match, so the question then is: What is he best martial art for street fighting?

There are a lot of martial arts that can be useful in a street fight, but Muay Thai, and Jiu-Jitsu are at the top of the list. I would also encourage that you use elements used in Krav Maga, such as groin strikes, eye pokes, and headbutts. Stay away from using too many kicks, especially high ones, as a kick can leave you unbalanced. If you lose your balance in a street fight or your kick is caught, a fall on concrete has a very high chance of head injury, and is especially unforgiving in a real fight.

In the rest of the post I will explain why I chose Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu as the most useful in a street fight scenario, and I will also discuss the different factors at play that will influence how you fight. I will also show some examples of martial arts used in street fights and statistics to help you determine what martial art you should use in a street fight.

Your Objective In a Street Fight

If you ever find yourself in a street fight, you should always remember what the objective is. In most cases, you’ll find that it is to get yourself to safety. Other times it may be necessary to subdue your opponent. Whatever the case may be, the point is to never get caught up in the fight. Whether it’s because you get emotional, or you love fighting, never fight for nothing.

If you are alone, and the confrontation is one on one, then easy solution is to flee. Now, I know that is not the most exciting answer, but it works. If this is not possible, then you can use a striking based martial art (such as boxing) to hurt your opponent and create a way to escape.

If it is absolutely necessary to subdue your opponent, then I would use a submission based martial art so as to take them out quickly and effectively.

Before I get into the next section I must emphasize that you should never fight just to fight. I understand that it is difficult to back down from confrontation, but if it is possible, always avoid a fight.

The likeliness of getting injured is very high, and street fights usually end up in one person getting knocked out and falling onto concrete ground. With that out of the way, I will next address the best martial art for different situations.

Controlling One Attacker

If your street fight only consists of one attacker, then your best bet will be a submission based martial art such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu jitsu is a great martial art because it is effective and efficient.

For one, the realm of knowledge is so vast that even if your attacker knew what jiu jitsu was, they wouldn’t be able to stop a high level martial artist. Also, jiu jitsu has been shown to be effective even for someone with a size disadvantage. This was proven at UFC 1, where BJJ black belt Royce Gracie won the tournament in dominant fashion despite weighing only 170 pounds, compared to the 220 pound average.

BJJ Black Belt Royce Gracie getting his hand raised at UFC 1.

Another great thing about jiu jitsu is that there are many options once you mount your opponent. From mount, you can punch your opponent, or hyperextend their arm with an armbar, giving you time to escape.

You can also work your way into a choke, which you can apply until you render your opponent unconscious, and then escape. And finally, you can simply remain in mount, shout for help, and keep your assailant down until the cops arrive.

As a lighter person myself, it is good to know that jiu jitsu can be useful despite facing someone who could easily overpower you otherwise. Because most people are not familiar with jiu jitsu at all, you can end the fight very quickly using it. However, there is one rule that I must make very clear: NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, PULL GUARD.

If you don’t know, pulling guard is when you sit down on the mat and use your legs and hands to grab your opponent. This is fine in competition, where the ground is mat or canvas. But in a street fight, you will most likely be fighting on concrete.

Your opponent’s first reaction will be to slam you onto the ground, after which your head will hit the concrete, resulting in unconsciousness, severe brain trauma, and possibly death. Even on canvas, a hard slam will knock you unconscious, as seen when former UFC Champion Rampage Jackson fought Ricardo Arona.

Rampage Jackson (left) slams Ricardo Arona onto the canvas, which KO's Arona.
Rampage Jackson (left) slams Ricardo Arona onto the canvas, which KO’s Arona.

Fighting Multiple People

Now I will address the situation where you are facing multiple assailants. Reminder: when you are in a fight, the purpose is to get to safety. Against more than one opponent, your best bet will always be to run. If that is not an option, then here’s what you should do.

Strike first, and strike quick. Your focus during this type of fight should be to take out as many assailants as quick as you can. It is a lot easier to escape when there are less people after you.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t grapple when fighting multiple people. In the time it would have taken you to tackle one person, your other attackers would have already pounced on you. Stick to standup fighting techniques.

Strikes that are illegal in competition (groin strikes, headbutts) will be your best friends. I cover these more in depth in the next section, but just know that these are highly effective, and that they are illegal for a reason. In the typical scenario, you should be getting chased by your enemies, while occasionally striking, tripping, or throwing the one closest to you.

As I mentioned earlier, you should throw hard hooks and uppercuts. This will incapacitate your opponent quickly, and can deter the other enemies if they see that you can fight.

Former UFC Champ Jose Aldo (right) finishes Jeremy Stephens with a body shot.

For this, I would definitely recommend Boxing or Muay Thai. Muay thai will be useful for several reasons. For one, most people aren’t used to taking low kicks, and this can catch them off guard. Muay Thai training will also strengthen the bones in your shin, although this doesn’t apply to your hands, which I mention in the post Does Punching Walls Make Your Knuckles Stronger?

Also, it can be useful to sweep your opponent if the opportunity presents itself, something which is used in muay thai. Boxing will be useful for its application of head movement. The majority of people you face in a street fight will be untrained, and their go to martial art will be boxing.

If you can bob and weave some sloppy hooks while landing a few hard ones yourself, it can easily knockdown an untrained assailant. However, the fight will always be difficult against many opponents unless you are VERY highly skilled. That is unless…

Forbidden Techniques

…you use forbidden techniques. Yes, I already mentioned this, but I have to explain why illegal strikes are so valuable in a real fight. First let’s talk about headbutts.

The skull contains some of the hardest bones in your body. When you find yourself in a no-holds-barred fight, always remember the option of headbutting. If you need an example of just how devastating headbutts can be, below I linked to a video I found on Youtube demonstrating the martial art of Lethwei. Lethwei is very similar to Muay Thai, with the exception that headbutts are allowed in Lethwei.

This video explains the dynamic style of fighting known as Lethwei or Burmese Boxing.

Headbutts are especially effective when clinching or grappling, as it can quickly break an opponent’s nose or knock them out. The same idea can apply to biting, but I still think headbutting is a lot more effective.

Next we will talk about groin strikes. These are a bit tricky, and the main reason is because it is very easy to miss. If your opponent is wearing tougher material, such as jeans, this also makes it harder to land. However, when it does land, this strike is devastating (as you males reading already know).

Groin strikes can sometimes even be felt through a groin protector, so imagine how effective they are without one. I wouldn’t recommend this to be your main strike however, and I would focus on boxing, until you see an opportunity for this type of strike.

Next is eye-gouging. This is one of the most effective strikes you will have, and it will also make escape a lot easier. Even in MMA fights, where eye-gouging is illegal, fights have ended due to accidental eye pokes.

To land this, you should keep your lead hand open, with the fingers wide and in the general direction of your opponent. Use the hand to gauge distance as you fight, and jab it open-handed with the intent of eye-gouging your opponent. This is how most eye pokes occur in professional competition.

Rafael Dos Anjos (right) loses momentum after getting accidentally eye poked by Tony Ferguson, with Dos Anjos eventually losing the fight.

Many of these attacks are taught and encouraged in the self-defense system known as Krav Maga, so if you want to learn more, that’s what I would look for.

Important Factors

You should know that there are lot of factors involved in a street fight, many of which you can’t control. One of them is weight. As martial artists, you should know that weight is one of the most indicative factors as to who will win the fight.

A person who is stronger can overpower someone who is better trained in many cases. There are exceptions, but you should be aware of how important of a factor strength is.

Also, the use of weapons. Whether it is by you or your opponent, you should be aware that objects in the surrounding environment can easily be used as weapons. And lastly, always recognize when the situation is escalating.

Many street fights end with quick knockouts, and this is usually due to one person being in fight mode while the other hasn’t realized how far the argument has escalated. But when it does escalate, strike first, and strike hard.

In conclusion, you should use a combination of boxing, muay thai, and jiu jitsu when in a street fight, as well as elements from krav maga. When used with the purpose of escaping, or subduing your opponent, they are the most efficient, effective, and safest martial arts available.

If you’re just getting started in your Martial Arts training, check out the Training Tips page, where I cover questions you may have when starting out. Thanks for reading!