Street Fighting in the Martial Arts

Street fighting – Learn its most important elements and how to train them…

Street fighting is the “battle ground” of the 21st century.At the Warriors Project we’re “dead serious” when addressing the subject.

For some people the way in which we analyze street fights can seem a bit harsh and violent… we don’t encourage violence, but we feel obligated to be truthful to reality and not to paint an unreal picture.

Street fights definition

We consider a street fight to be any fight without rules.

• On the streets we don’t know the intention of the other person – does he want to just injure us, mug us, knock us out, kill us, maim us…?

• We don’t know how many people are going to be involved – it might begin with one and than another person joins in, it can be simply someone who comes to stop the fight…

• On the streets we don’t know the surroundings – are there rocks or stones on the ground or floor, are there broken bottles lying around?

• Does the other person/s have a weapon, if he does, does he intend to use it?

• And so on…

A Street fight can catch us in different situations:

# When we’re the initiators or attackers to begin with

# When we’re just the first to strike, but didn’t initiate the whole situation

# When we’ve been attacked

# When we’re defending some one else

# Either way…

A street fight can be any one of these situations, either together or on their own – as long as one thing remains unknown –

What are the rules

When we don’t know the rules the best and safest thing is to assume there aren’t any.

We must assume the worst

We must assume that our opponent/s want/s to kill us and they’ll do what ever it takes for that – using a weapon, eye gouging, throwing a rock, biting, groin attacks, using chemicals, using a broken bottle and so on…

We will use the “theory tool” in order to understand and then build our street fighting martial art training system

Theoretically analyzing a street fighting / no rules / no limitation - martial art

(Analyzed according to how the Warriors Project understands a street fight…)

Definition and conception

This is exactly what we’ve been talking about above. We just don’t know…If we don’t know we will assume the worst -

1. The person\s want\s to kill us.

2. He/she/they have a weapon and will use it, either when needed, or to begin with (they already have it drawn…).

A winning situation is when the other person/s can not harm us any more in the present – knocked unconsiounce, maimed, controlled (submission holds) or dead.

This is one of the main differences between street fighting and self defense

In some situations we might decide to escape from the street fight, if for instance, we have too many people against us; in which cases we will change to self defense techniques...)

After understanding what winning is lets agree on some physical boundaries:

• Unless we’re super human a submission hold (for controlling) can not be used when dealing with multiple attackers.

• Dealing with multiple attackers on the ground is impossible.

• We are better balanced on 2 legs than on 1.

• The head is always more vulnerable than a (healthy) body. The body can be trained for physical endurance, the head, on the other hand, for improving “knock out resistance” - much less.

• And more

We should decide, to the best of our ability and capability, what our “starting” situation , weapon wise will be –

Are we going to carry with us a weapon at all times? If so, what is it?

(To read more about martial arts weapons)

A knife, a stick, a samurai sword, a nunchaku a gun, a bat…

Depending on the answer we shape our street fight theory and training. Of course there can be exceptions, we might get caught in a street fight without our weapon, just like we might get caught with a cast on our leg, that still doesn’t mean that’s what we’ll train for.

According to the answers above we now move on to decide upon and understand the strategies of a street fight

Street fighting strategy

Obviously the strategy changes in accordance with the answers above. Nevertheless, there are some strategies which are common to the vast majority of street fight situations.


If we can surprise our opponent/s with an attack when they’re not prepared it’s always better. Even if we’re the ones being attacked we can still surprise our opponent by, for instance, striking first…

End it fast

The longer the fight takes, the more risk we run of someone joining not in our favor (remember…worst possibility), or someone else drawing a weapon or picking one up from the ground,


Both with a weapon or without - striking is the fastest way to cause damage, and as we saw above time is of an essence.

Try to fight one at a time

Yes, in some cases this claim is made when discussing tactics, but when analyzing street fighting, we need to consider multiple opponents as a highly likely possibility - part of the definition and conception and not an exceptional or out standing situation.


Remaining at a close enough distance where we can use our weapons (whether armed or empty handed) easily and quickly enough that if our opponent tries to draw his weapon or take or pick up another one we can do something about it and prevent him –

or in other words remaining at a close enough distance that we’re a constant threat.

Keeping the distance far enough so that we cannot be grabbed effectively, and can see the rest of the “fight scene” (as effectivly as possible) –

“making sure” we won’t be surprised by another person, and that our opponent cannot pick something up or draw something with out us noticing.

Dictating the events

While not always possible, it is important to push the events and be the aggressors, it doesn’t mean we have to throw the first punch, but it does mean that we should at least press our opponent so that he has to attack and when he does, we counter and press on without (as much as possible) releasing pressure.

Street fighting tactics


Tactics are determined for a specific situation, but there are some which are normally very dangerous to use in a street fight.

Using the fighting style of a “player” –

Using the fighting style of the counterer, as a tactic, is also risky because it allows our opponent to be the dictator of events.

Martial arts technique

From all the above we conclude the basic martial arts technique we must use…

# If we decide to carry a weapon, the most important thing to know and be skilled at is how to use it and all the techniques which are relevant for it.

# Striking from the long and middle range distances, especially punching and low kicks (not to risk being taken down or having our leg trapped – harming our mobility).

# Countering take downs.

# Learning how to get up from the ground as quickly as possible

# In every and any stage during a street fight there is more than a likely possibility we will decide to escape (choose to "draw" instead of losing... Because of the life and death applications of losing)

It is very important to train escaping techniques when training for street fights.

These techniques are built in parts of any self defense martial art.

# Techniques which are low risk – concentrating on striking is the first step in this direction, but the strikes themselves should also try to minimize the risk – striking fast with little loading time and some what less “committing” strikes.

The strikes should also be narrow and short rather than wide and long –

• Big swings and wide hooks.

• Falling into the punch – a situation where we strike with “all we have got” and if we miss we lose balance and can’t recover quickly– over committing

• “Loading” before striking – either the leg, hip, arm…

• Big steps, jumping…

These are all examples of techniques and behavior we should not use in a street fight, because they’re just too risky, and we stand a bigger chance of being countered , taken down or something else (which can be fatal) than of landing a “killer strike”

In other words, we must use short and quick techniques with which we can recover from easily and quickly in cases where they don’t succeed …

Street fighting training system

A street fight training system is a form of/specified martial art training system which, similar to any complete system, trains and builds the mental, physical and technical elements and qualities which a martial artist (in this case street fighter needs).

As we examined, in a few examples, when discussing mental training and physical training a street fighter determines his “list” of mental and physical qualities and, as we saw above, technical guide lines according to his understanding of the theory.

However there are some qualities which are pretty much standard in street fighting


Aggressiveness (with a weapon and without) –

This element differs in accordance to whether or not we’re up against a weapon or not.

Aggressiveness can help us achieve 3 things

1. “Pushing” the events of the fight and dictating what will happen.

2. Forcing our opponent to use his technique while moving backwards or sideways, a technical fact which can reduce his striking effectiveness, agility and speed and balance.

3. Aggressiveness can improve our mental and physical endurance

However, when up against a weapon numbers advantages 2 and 3 don’t play a very relevant role – as we reviewed in the martial arts weapons section, a weapon doesn’t need much force to be effective, therefore going back or side ways will not reduce substantially its damaging effect.

As for number 3, while aggressiveness can improve our mental and physical endurance - when it comes to weapons and the injuries they can cause – these endurances suffer a relevancy problem for 2 reasons

• There are physical limitations to mental endurance - We can’t use the arm if our muscle has been torn or slashed, and a broken joint can not function – these injuries occur more often in weapon fighting than without.

• Our first objection is to win, but our second is to win with minimum damage. A win without a torn liver is better than one with… so from that sense even if we manage to ignore the injury and its pain long enough to finish the fight - it will still be there when we’re done…

Nevertheless, without a weapon aggressiveness in a street fight is essential, because it provides all the advantages listed above while pushing the fight to end as fast as possible.

Controlling emotions

Controlling emotions is an important quality of any martial artist, but even more in street fighting, because we must be able to make rational decisions.

In a competition we usually need to make decisions regarding our opponent and nothing else – we usually relay on our assimilated reactions and responses and on our game plan.

However in a street fight we must be able to do this while evaluating other pieces of information in the situation, for instance – hearing people coming, potential weapons on the ground, a “stumbling potential” on the ground and so on…

we must be able to evaluate these before and during the fight

Controlling thoughts

Thought control and concentration is also an important quality of any martial artist, but in a street fight it’s a hundred folds more important, exactly because of the reasons we analyzed for emotion control.

We must have quick situation analysis in order to make quick and worthy decisions.

The ability to be ruthless – kill or be killed

This mental element is many times over looked.

Nevertheless when doing women’s self defense courses, one of the hardest barriers which they need to over come, is understanding that they must be ruthless towards their attacker –

Eye gouging (not poking the eye, but digging deep inside with the intention of blinding the attacker and or popping his eye out), biting the neck in order to rip the blood vessels and other such viscous actions.

This kind of ability and state of mind are crucial for street fighters, because it’s either him, them or us. In a street fight there are no rules and “it ain’t no beauty pageant…”


Anaerobic stamina rather than aerobic

A street fight doesn’t usually last more than 2 minutes, 5 minutes tops – but it is “dynamite” in energy, adrenaline and stress.

Therefore the type of stamina needed is anaerobic rather than aerobic.

Explosive power

Our ability to change positions and postures as fast as possible is crucial, because we might find ourselves in changing distances more easily than any where else – different sizes of opponents, different numbers of them, and different ranges of weapons.

Sparring and fighting experience

A street fight will never be exactly like another, there are just too many factors, however the more we can simulate the situation the more we can prepare all our qualities (mental, physical and technical) to function when needed.

The main difference between street fighting and self defense

Self defense is a sub category of street fighting, the main difference deriving from definition and conception -

In self defense the “winning situation” is “not to be in danger”. It is a situation we didn’t initiate and will not dictate its beginning (Although as soon as it begins we should take hold of the initiative).

Self defense is not about winning, it's about not losing - a "draw" for instance is a "win" for someone interested in self defense, unlike a draw being a draw for a street fighter.

If we can scream, run, hide, knock out, control, kill and so on… we will do it, as long as we don’t get harmed.

Because of this difference, self defense systems concentrate and develop other elements of and for the fighter, some are the same as in street fight systems and some are not.

It is very possible for a street fight to develop into a self defense situation for one of the fighters. This can happen if someone feels out-matched, out-numbered, or "under-armed" weapons wise.(Back)

Legal issues regarding self defense

The definition of "self defense" is a legal one and not only a martial art one. The meaning of it is determined by the laws of each country, some being more permissible than others.

People who practice self defense should be aware of the specific laws in their countries, and adapt their training to it.


Street fighting is the most versatile world of fighting in the types of martial arts, because it has no rules and limitations.

“War is the kingdom of the unknown” is a famous Russian saying

Street fights are these kinds of kingdoms – yet the more we can reduce the variables the better we can prepare.


The more we train for what we don’t know as being the “worst case scenario”, the better we’ll be ready.

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