Including Real World Street Fighting Techniques In Traditional Martial Arts Programs

In my ongoing research into “street fighting” concepts vs. “martial arts self defense” concepts I am more and more convinced that there are distinct differences and distinct similarities between the two.  I am further convinced, however, that a good martial arts program run by an open minded instructor can easily incorporate the currently accepted “street fighting” approach and techniques into virtually any program.  The resistance from many instructors is that doing this would violate the traditional style that their system is based upon.  This brings up the question of whether you are teaching martial arts for the sake of teaching martial arts and tradition or are you teaching martial arts with the intent of your students being able to defend themselves.  Or is it both?  Instructors have to be very honest in analyzing this question.

For reference, let’s define “street fighting” as an unplanned and potentially violent conflict where there are no rules, no referees, etc.   Typically martial arts fighting has rules, referees, limitations to the amount of damage inflicted, etc.

An overview of most of the “tried and true” street fighting self defense techniques shows that they are little more than basic martial arts techniques, perhaps structured in a more primitive, instinctive manner than in a typical martial arts environment.

I believe that incorporating these “primitive response” reflexes or techniques as well as the rationale and principles behind the need for them into an existing martial arts program, regardless of style, would be providing a great service to the students of that art.  Possibly including some education about the reality of what happens in certain unexpected violent conflicts while introducing the techniques and approaches would be a tremendous asset.

We know that there are at least two kinds of “street fighting” situations which are likely to occur.  One is a situation you see developing and which, to an extent, you can analyze rationally and to some extent control.  The other is one that is sudden, totally unexpected and almost instantly violent.

A holdup, for example, is a situation where you can stay reasonably rational, make decisions on whether or not to give the aggressor what he wants or decide to disarm him, fight, etc.  A similar situation would be where you are going down a dimly lit street and see a couple of men lurking in the edges of the shadows.  You can either change your route or decide to proceed on a rational basis and plan how you might react if they accost you.  These situations more often than not will allow your martial arts techniques to work to one extent or another, assuming that you have practiced them long enough and under the right conditions.

The other situation is one where you are perhaps walking down the same dimly lit street and suddenly one or two men jump out from behind something, run over to you yelling and pushing, demanding “your stuff” and threatening to beat you to a pulp or worse.   You have no time to plan, prepare, etc., and your brain locks in to a more primitive ‘fight or flight’ mode based on fear and surprise rather than allowing you to think rationally.  Under these conditions, even if your vehicle were next to you, putting the key in the door’s lock would be a nearly impossible task primarily due to nature’s protective methodology of dumping a huge amount of adrenalin into your system.

The two similar but very different situations outlined here are real.  These are situations that happen every day in every city, suburb and park in our country.  Your traditional training MIGHT prepare you to handle the first one if you have trained well and if you have trained long enough.  It will likely not prepare you to handle the second.  This is what the “street fighting” argument and dialogue is all about.  I believe there is a need to include at least the basics of this concept in our martial arts programs.