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Street Fighting VS Competitive Fighting

Many people take up boxing as they want to learn self-defence. While it’s a good reason to learn combat skills, and while I believe a trained martial artist will come out on top in a street fight against the average guy, let’s get clear on one thing:

Street fighting is NOT competitive fighting.

It’s an entirely different ballgame to what goes on in the ring.

Real fighting is ugly. It’s raw, vicious and frightening to witness.

The people who excel at it are almost always nasty-pieces-of-work. They’re the kind of psychopaths that smile in your face, and then unleash an explosion of violence.

Even the toughest martial artist can be left broken and vulnerable when attacked on the street. And if you’re dealing with an aggressive and particularly sadistic attacker, the fight doesn’t stop when you fall to the ground or lose consciousness.

I in no way advocate using what you learn in the gym out on the street, but I also think it’s important to be able to call upon your training in a time of need.

This is the first in a series of posts that will cover the crossover between martial arts and street fighting. We’re going to go in-depth on how street fights develop, what to expect, and how to win a street fight. Let’s begin by covering what street fighting is by highlighting the differences between street fighting and combat sports.

In a street fight one man strikes the other with knee to the head

6 Differences Between the Ring and the Street

There Are No Rules

Street brawls are not going to pit two fighters that are the same weight and similar skill level against one another. There is no referee to ensure a clean fight. There is no doctor on standby or ambulance waiting to rush you to the hospital.

Fairness and gentlemanlike sportsmanship do not exist in a street fight.

There’s the very real possibility that you’re going to be up against someone that has a weapon, that is twice your size, or has brought his mates along for support.

You may even be ambushed or struck from behind as you turn your back.

“Hey man, let’s just shake hands and walk away,” are the likely last words you’ll hear before your world fades to black. When you wake up in hospital with 15 stitches and a molehill on the back of your head, you’ll know he didn’t stick to the agreement.

Deception and lies are rife on the street. In fact, they’re winning tactics.

However, you don’t have to resort to biting, head butting, or kicking your attacker’s head when he’s down to win a street fight. But you must be prepared for it to happen to you.

Young woman is fighting with thief on street. Self defense concept.

Let go of whatever idea of fair play you’re holding onto and be prepared for the worst.

  1. Style is Non-existent

Just as there aren’t any rules, don’t expect there to be any style either. You’re not going to have a taekwondo guy fighting another taekwondo guy on the street.

The majority of street fights will be a scrappy mix of awkward kicks, boxing, and grappling.

Strikes are going to come in wildly, from all angles, and in an unorthodox style. Tight guards and beautifully polished off technique are going to be substituted for reckless haymakers and charging.

It can be difficult to adapt to street fighting “technique” if you’re a student of a traditional martial art.

  1. The Pace is Fast and Frantic

Street fights are pedal to the metal. There’s going to be a mad flurry of strikes, and you’re going to be highly stressed and pumped full of adrenaline as survival mode kicks in.

There’s no feeling out your opponent with jabs and feints, or sticking to a fight strategy. You’re not going to have time to think about setting up combinations as you do when sparring. How you fight will largely depend on instincts and what comes naturally. You can actively train for street fights – which we’ll cover in future posts – but for now, just remember:

  1. Hit fast, hit hard, and hit first if you can.

If a fight is unavoidable and you sense things are about to kick off, you need to act fast and deal with the consequences later.

Don’t try to pace yourself or conserve energy to go the distance. Most street fights will be over after the first few punches.

  1. Be Prepared for the Aftermath

Whether you win, lose, or draw, competitive fighting finishes with an outcome. The fighters congratulate each other, acknowledge the other fighter’s trainers, and pay respect to the judges and crowd. End of. Everyone gets to go home from the event.

If you win a fight in a bar, it could just be the end of the beginning. With pride at stake, the loser may decide to retaliate with a weapon, or when you’re inebriated, or with a bunch of heavies that push the odds in his favour.

Retribution may even come days, weeks, or even years later, as grudges are held on to indefinitely.

  1. Expect Legal Action

There may also be legal consequences to your actions. What you view as self-defence and what the judge and jury think is reasonable, may not match up. Dig a little deeper into self-defence laws in your country to keep on the ride side of the law.

Common sense also prevails. Think about your actions from the point of a bystander. If there was a heated argument and you were shoved and then responded by launching a bottle into the guys face, that’s most likely going to be seen as excessive by witnesses and a court of law.

  1. High Chance of Serious Injury or Death

Barring those first early UFC bouts, fights in the ring retain their sportsmanship. If a fighter is downed or clearly injured, the referee calls time or puts an end to the fight. The fighters health takes priority over entertainment.

In street fighting, no one is likely (to be stupid enough) to jump in and save you. A beat down could last long after you’re out cold and life-threatening attacks, such as head stomps, are not out of the question. The risk of severe bodily harm and even death are always prevalent in street bouts.


That’s it for part one of our street fighting guides. If you enjoyed this post or you have any advice or experience with street fights, let me know in the comments below.

Future posts are going to go into what makes a good street fighter, tactics to increase your chances of winning a street fight, and drills and techniques to mentally and physically prepare for a street fight.

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