In trying to sort out traditional martial arts training (particularly in the U.S.) in comparison to all the developing information and dialogue on “street fighting” (by definition not a sport) and even MMA (by definition definitely a sport) one has to try very hard to be objective.  This is particularly difficult for someone who has trained regularly over a long span of time in an extremely effective and potentially devastating martial art.  At the same time, however, in delving through the plethora of developing information, videos, books, blogs and other dialogue on “real world” fighting vs. martial arts training one really has to start looking and looking with a constructively critical eye.

Amongst the ever increasing volumes of information on “street fighting”, generated by numerous parties with varying backgrounds and experiences and from different parts of the world there seem to be a number of commonalities.  These commonalities make the situation very different from what is experienced and/or learned in most martial arts schools, especially in the U.S.  Among these are the following:
A street fight is usually an unexpected act of violence.
When confronted suddenly and unexpectedly with potentially life threatening violence, one’s ability to think rationally is badly impaired and often not existent.  All of the martial arts techniques one has learned over years of training (most of which require fine motor skills) are not able to be remembered, much less utilized.
Street fights are totally chaotic and unpredictable.
Street fights are extremely dynamic (i.e., the involved parties move around throughout the conflict, either to gain an advantage or to escape further abuse).
There are no rules of any kind, no morals and little to no conscience involved.
There is no referee and it is unlikely that anyone will step in and stop the fight regardless of what is happening to either party and law enforcement will likely get there too late to help.
There are certain legalities that come into play, usually after the conflict is over.
The original aggressor may well have friends nearby who will jump in and engage in the fight if the aggressor seems to need help.
It is fair to assume that the attacker (and/or his friends) may have a weapon.
The physical environment (i.e., pavement, curbs, walls, chairs, bottles, etc.) can be used by either party to gain an advantage or to end the conflict.  He who is generally aware of his environmental surroundings will have a distinct advantage if he is willing to utilize it.

It is evident to this author that serious martial artists have at least some obligation to themselves and to their students to look into this aspect of self defense or self protection.  It is quite easy to incorporate many of the principles touted by those who engage in real world fighting into a viable martial arts program without “violating” tradition or protocol.  All it takes is a little study, a bit of cross training, a willingness to adapt and, most important, an open mind.  One of the keys may well be to fully understand and accept the fact that a pre-emptive strike, under many conditions, may well be the best defensive move one can make.