Fiction and reality are too different things.
While it may look awesome seeing one Karate or Kung Fu guy taking on half a dozen dudes with his bare hands and walk away unscathed, in reality though, things are sometimes a lot more grim.
While what you learn in class should not be hastily applied outside of the school, sometimes you are left with no choice but to have to defend yourself.
In those cases, the style of martial arts that you studied could be the difference between walking away relatively safe or a trip to the hospital or even worse, the cemetery.
All martial arts are not cut from the same cloth.
Each one has pros and cons and works well in certain situations and environments.
If your goal is to learn how to defend yourself on the streets, then you need to pick a martial art that teaches these skills.
On today’s article, I’ll discuss the best martial arts for street fighting and keeping you alive out there.
Try to Avoid Fighting If Possible
Before we get to the martial arts styles that are best suited for street fighting, I just want to mention that martial arts should only ever be used outside on the streets if you have absolutely no choice whatsoever in the matter.
If you can defuse the situation with the aggressor, it will be much more beneficial for both parties.
You really won’t benefit much from the scuffle.
If you manage to take them out, you could potentially get charged for assault and battery, or in a worse case scenario even manslaughter if they end up dying.
If you fail to do so, you could end up seriously injured and may even need to be carried away on a stretcher.
In addition, it may be a wiser choice to try and run away if there is an opportunity to do so if you cannot settle things with them.
Sure, your ego might take a hit from either having to apologize or run away from the aggressor but you end walking away unharmed and without any legal repercussions.
Remember, only ever use martial arts if absolutely necessary.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the martial arts best suited for street fighting.
Striking refer to the use of your limbs to attack an opponent.
These can include things like: punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and even headbutts.
Basically whatever body part you have that can be used to strike at someone is fair game.
In striking styles, being able to judge distance is key so as to land strikes on your opponent while also being able to evade them.
Most street fights start off usually with either pushing and shoving, followed up with exchanges of punches and maybe even kicks, and eventually end up on the ground sometimes.
If your studying a martial art that focuses on striking, it is advisable to keep a safe distance away from your opponent so as to not allow them to attempt to close the distance and strike on you or try and grab a hold of you to either land strikes or to take you down to the ground.
Boxing is a very old martial arts that has been around for quite a while now and was a very popular form of combat sport over in Europe and North America back in the old days.
Nowadays its practiced practically everywhere in the world including Asia, where even some world champion boxers have emerged.
In Boxing, a student’s main and only method of striking is the use of their fists and learning the various different punches and their combinations.
A student will typically learn jabs, followed by crosses/straights, and then hooks and uppercuts in class.
In addition, learning how to bob and weave, and block punches are an essential ingredient in a boxing class.
Rather then block and take damage from punches or strikes, students are taught to evade them while also exploiting openings created by the opponents during their strikes.
As a student advances in their learning, counter punching and combinations are also taught.
Lastly, strength and condition, reflexes, timing, and footwork are all taught to make the student a much better fighter.
- Easy to learn
- Very practical for street fights
- Great at teaching evasive maneuvers and how to parry and block punches
- Great for developing good hand and eye coordination and reflexes
- Only focuses on punching and nothing else
- Boxers stance leaves them open for leg kicks and take downs
- No clinching taught
- No ground grappling and submissions taught
Best suited for: People that love to punch and are quick with their hands and feet. For people that don’t want to spend years trying to master a martial art.
Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art that is the national sport of Thailand.
Due to its effectiveness, it has quickly spread all across the globe and is now taught everywhere.
Muay thai is known for its lethal and deadly elbows, knees, and leg kicks that often times leave their victims incapacitated.
In a Muay thai class, students are taught how to punch, kick, throw elbows, knees, and how to clinch.
Strength and conditioning is also a big part of the curriculum as students need to be in tip top shape to spar and also absorb hits.
Through regular conditioning, muay thai fighters develop very high pain thresholds, especially on their legs where students are encouraged to kick punching bags or even banana trees to harden the shin for leg kicks.
When a Muay Thai practitioner strikes, they tend to throw their whole body weight into their strikes like a round house kick, which greatly amplifies the amount of power behind their strikes.
Its similar to throwing a swing with a baseball bat.
- One of the most powerful striking martial arts on the planet
- The techniques and moves taught in class are highly effective for fighting and combat
- Students learn a combination of punching, kicking, elbows, knees, and clinching
- Students develop excellent conditioning in classes and a high pain threshold
- Can strike at close range through the use of the clinch and knees and elbows
- There is a lot of physical wear and tear and damage you will need to endure in training
- Not the fastest style of martial arts out there
- There’s no grappling and take down being taught
- No throws being taught in the martial art
Best suited for: People that love to strike with all of their limbs and aren’t afraid of getting a few bruises here and there.
Take downs and Grappling Styles
Martial arts that focus on the grappling, taking down of opponents, and submissions falls under this category.
In a lot of street fights, often times after exchanging blows, both people end up on the ground and its usually the deciding factor that ends street fights as the guy that is on top usually comes out walking away the winner.
This is why it’s important to have some knowledge of what to do in those situations.
Furthermore, if your dealing with a larger opponent and you manage to get them on the ground, their size advantage will be reduced, assuming you know what to do with them while on the ground.
Also during street fights, sometimes aggressors will try and take you down to the ground if they are on the losing end of a striking exchange.
This is why it may be a good idea to know how to defend against take downs in case this situation ever happens.
If your not good with judging striking range or footwork, and usually end up in close contact with opponents then grappling styles would be a great fit for you.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
You may have seen this martial art being used in some sort of mixed martial arts promotion such as the UFC.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a Brazilian martial arts that focuses on taking down an opponent and then submitting them through various chokes or joint locks.
This allows smaller guys using leverage to even the odds when dealing with a larger opponent.
Students spend a lot of time in class working on perfecting submission techniques and then applying it in rolling sessions (sparring) with opponents.
- Smaller guys can defend and even subdue larger guys
- Teaches how to defend against take downs
- Teaches you how to control and dominate an opponent while on the ground
- Great for learning submissions and joint locks
- No striking taught
- Not effective when fighting more than one opponent
- Can be easily taken out if there is more than one attacker present
- Takes a while to move up in rank and get proficient
- Being in close distance with an attacker presents you with numerous additional risks such as them pulling out a weapon and using it against you
Best suited for: People that love to grapple and learn submissions.
Judo is a Japanese martial art that was invented in Japan and is now an official Olympic sport.
Like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo teaches grappling, mainly a combination of throws, take downs, and submissions.
But unlike Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which has a heavier focus on ground fighting, Judo practitioners prefer to stand up and throw their opponents to the ground and then pin or submit them.
Using leverage to their advantage and minimizing effort, judo practitioners are able to take down much larger opponents to the ground.
Students spend a lot of their time in class learning how to fall, roll, throw, take down, and submit opponents.
In a street fight, it may be advantageous to know how to throw an opponent to the ground, especially if they are rushing towards you and trying to wrestle with you.
- Great take down defense
- Can learn how to take down opponents, and throw them
- Ground fighting and submission is taught
- There is a lot of opportunity to grapple during class which gives you a lot of experience in close encounter situations
- Does not teach striking
- Not as many submissions taught in class
- Not very effective for multiple attackers
- A lot of techniques involve the use of a Gi, which an attacker would not be wearing outside.
Best suited for: People that love to grapple and throw opponents.
All Around Styles
With an all around style, such as mixed martial arts, students learn a hybrid fighting system of both striking and grappling.
Instructors teach students a combination of both striking and grappling techniques such as boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which helps train the student for competence in both areas and able to fight in both environments.
In theory studying an all around style may sound good on paper, however by learning too many different techniques for both stand up and ground work, a practitioner ends up being just average at both rather then great at just one style, like a jack of all trades, and master of none.
Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts (MMA) gained worldwide fame through the fight promotion company UFC.
Mixed martial arts is a hybrid martial arts fighting system that seeks to combine different elements and techniques from various styles of traditional martial arts such as boxing, Thai boxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo, and karate among other styles.
Rather then waste their time learning different patterns, breaking, or flashy moves and other philosophical concepts, students are taught how to fight under MMA rules.
- Teaches you to be able to fight standing up or on the ground making you more well rounded
- Teaches only the necessary components that are effective
- You will learn a wide range of different martial arts techniques as opposed to just one style
- Does not teach a lot of street fighting self defense techniques like groin strikes, or gouging of the eyes or other strikes to vital areas
- Students never become masters of each style but rather a generalist
- Too much focus on the sporting aspect and not on self defense and street fighting
Best suited for: Students that one want to learn a bit of everything and compete in MMA.
Sambo is a combat sport that was developed in Russia during the Soviet Union time period by Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov as a means for their army to improve their hand to hand combat skills using only the most efficient and effective techniques.
Although Sambo was created originally only to be used in the Red Army, its popularity quickly made its way onto the mainstream masses and nowadays, it can be watched and practiced as a combat sport as well.
In Sambo, students are taught striking techniques such as punches, kicks, as well as grappling techniques like throws or leg locks.
- Blend of self defense and combat sports techniques taught
- Teaches striking and grappling techniques
- Only teaches what is effective for combat or sport and eliminates everything else
- Great at teaching throws and leg locks
- Hard to find a school that teaches the combat version of Sambo and not the sport style
- Sport Sambo mainly focuses on grappling and not striking
Best suited for: Someone looking for a hybrid style that is used in the military as well as in a sports setting.
Krav Maga is a self defense fighting system that originated in israel back in the 20th century.
Today Krav Maga is taught to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security forces and has influences from a wide variety of traditional martial arts like boxing and karate.
In Krav Maga students are taught how to strike, perform take downs, throws, and how to grapple on the ground, as well as how to defend against weapons.
Some of the philosophies of Krav Maga are to finish a fight as quickly as possible, while targeting vital areas in the body to inflict damage.
- Teaches a lot of practical self defense techniques that can be applied to the streets
- Is a well rounded system that consists of both striking and grappling
- Teaches you to always maintain awareness of your surroundings and the situations you find yourself in.
- Teaches the use of weapons and how to defend against weapons
- Multiple attacker situations are also taught in class and how to fight in those situations
- Finding a good proper gym that teaches authentic Krav Maga instead of a watered down version is difficult
- Not as much sparring or competitions compared to some of the other martial arts, therefore less chance to practice and apply it in a real life situation
- Students turn into generalist instead of experts in each style of fighting
Best suited for: Individuals that want a well rounded system that mainly focuses on street self defense and incorporates weapons training and multiple attacker scenarios.
As you can see from the list above, each style and category has both its positives and negatives and there isn’t really a one size fits all approach to it when it comes to street fighting.
Rather, you should pick a martial art that suits your needs and interest, because you will need to spend a large amount of time studying it and if you don’t enjoy it, you will end up quitting sooner or later.
Also its importance to pick a style that suits your body type as well.
A taller person would probably fair a lot better with a striking martial art due to their reach advantage whereas a smaller person would do well with a grappling style.
Here’s a quick recap of the best martial arts for street fighting:
- Boxing: Focuses on mainly punching and footwork
- Muay Thai: Teaches the use of each limbs to strike out opponents. Clinching is also taught
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Focuses on ground fighting and submissions
- Judo: Students are taught how to throw, take down, and submit opponents on the ground
- All Around
- Mixed Martial Arts: A hybrid system of various martial arts combined together
- Sambo: Originally taught in the military for single hand to hand combat and also ground fighting
- Krav Maga: A self defense system taught that teaches striking, throwing, and ground fighting, along with weapons defense and training
Although martial arts can give you an edge in a street fight, there are unknown variables that could very well be detrimental towards your likelihood of coming out on top in a street fight.
When pitted in a potential street fight scenario, its always better to err on the side of caution and see whether you can diffuse the situation or walk away.
Remember you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.