6 Feb 2013

Recommendations to adopt for a street fight

Written by: Gianfranco


Here is a list of recommendations to adopt for a street fight that I wrote and included in the theory section of our Manonuda Self-Defense Program (MSDP) curriculum. I thought that it would be nice to share it with anyone interested in the subject, and to provide a description for each point.

The list

  1. Avoid physical action if you can
  2. Accept fear, don't fight it
  3. Have your hands up and inbetween you and the danger
  4. Use the surprise element
  5. Score first
  6. Always use more than one strike
  7. Alternate the lines of attack and the targets
  8. Use everything you can
  9. Avoid going to the ground
  10. Avoid high kicks
  11. Against multiple opponents, always keep moving
  12. Against a knife, try to use an equaliser
  13. Expect anything
  14. Be determinate, never give up
  15. Respond proportionally to the danger and stop when you're safe

1) Avoid physical action if you can

Funnily enough, my first recommendation about a street fight is not to get into one in the first place. Most of the time a real fight will get as ugly as it can, so whenever you find yourself in a verbal confrontation, no matter the circumstances, try not to take it to the physical stage.

The results of a real fight are never good, and there are no winners in the end, only injured people, or worst, so be ready to jump into it only when there is no other solution available. Most of the times, there are.

2) Accept fear, don't fight it

The possibility of getting totally frozen up by fear, of not being able to physically react when we most need the full control of our body, is probably what pushes most of us to integrate martial arts into our lives.

It's a fact that when it comes to any kind of confrontation, fear is what we all have to deal with. But dealing with it by trying to reject it is actually not the best way to avoid getting momentarily paralysed, and that is because, realistically, when someone's life is involved, fear will occur always, and it won't let go easily.

Being scared is a natural reaction, so one should not tend to fight fear, but to mentally accept it without being dominated by it. And that is the hard part, sure. But the simple fact of being ready to accept it, of knowing in advance that the fear element will be for sure involved in the process, and that you should just let it come and be there without focusing on it, will make a big difference, believe me.

So whenever the moment comes, don't fight fear, you've already got someone else to fight, just let it there it and if you can, use it to your advantage by turning it into inner strength instead.

3) Have your hands up and inbetween you and the danger

As a prevention measure, one of the first things I teach in our MSDP training is to always have your hands up and inbetween you and the potential aggressor, for you to be ready to react in real time, if you need to. That doesn't mean you should take a fighting stance whenever you are involved in a verbal confrontation kind of thing, because that will just make things worst.

In MSDP we have some drills in which the student takes natural postures that do not indicate a ready-to-react posture, but at the same time would position the hands where they need them the most: between them and the potential danger.

The rule here applies also, and especially, when you have already engaged in the actual fight. Having the hands up and inbetween you and the source of danger, is a very basic and fundamental instinct to build when you train for self-defense, and will allow you to have a quick defensive and offensive system available at all times.

4) Use the surprise element

If you want to increase the chances to score effectively, or in other words have your technique to work successfully, you should use the surprise element at own your advantage, whenever you can.

Catching your opponent by surprise is a key factor that comes into play especially when you find yourself in a threatening situation, be it armed on unarmed. For instance, you may act scared and willing to submit, only to create the opportunity to explode into your defensive action of choice.

And, once again, the surprise element is a card that can be played also during the dynamic aspect of a fight, by not showing up your moves or intentions to the opponent and have him tricked in order to beat him.

5) Score first

If you ask to a majority of street fighters (and by street fighters I don't necessarily mean bad-ass bullies or criminals, but just people who got involved in some fights during their "wild days", and who don't practice martial arts) how to win a street fight, they will all tell you: "Hit first!".

While I comply with the result of such statement, I don't particularly agree with its formulation. That is because there is actually a subtle misconception between initialising the action by "striking or hitting first" and "scoring first", and the difference is somehow quiet important to me for a clear distinction between the role of the aggressor and that of the defender. Usually, and technically, whoever strikes first, take the role of the aggressor.

But see, in reality, you don't need to strike first, to score first. The point is not who starts the hitting process, but who gets the target first. So you should bare in mind that at all moments, you should be in the right conditions to respond appropriately to an attack and hit your opponent before he does, even if he attacks you first. And that, of course, is simply what self-defense is all about, actually.

6) Always use more than one strike

Unless your biceps look exactly like the Hulk, most of the time a single strike won't be enough to defeat an opponent, therefore you should never limit your offensive action to a single strike, even if you aim for a high sensitive target or vital spot.

You actually don't know what effect a given strike or technique will have on your opponent. An opponent can be less sensitive by nature to some targets, or can have a big deal of drug in his system in that moment and won't feel much of your striking, believe me. Or maybe your strike will not land effectively as it should, or as desired.

A combined action will always bring more results than a single one, so make it an habit to use combinations, and when you do, try to apply the next recommendation on the list.

7) Alternate the lines of attack and the targets

If using multiple strikes is the way to go, you also want to make sure those strikes are not all directed to the same spot. This tactical approach has the benefit of making your opponent more vulnerable because he won't be able to cover all the targets during your blasting action.

Also, by varying the lines of attack, you'll have more chances to land your attacks successfully. For example, using one combination you can hit the nose, the knee, the neck, the groin, which will make your aggressor unable to counter your global offensive action.

8) Use everything you can

Well, this is about the dirty part, but since we are talking about surviving to an aggression, we can't really leave beside the more brutal and practical aspect of the topic.

In a street fight there are no rules, and since the aggressor is very likely to use this fact at his own advantage, you should as well do the same in order to survive.

You should therefore be ready and wiling to use everything you can to get out of there, and that can mean biting, spitting, throwing objects, screaming, using the environment or any kind of object you have at hand. Street fighting is a "everything goes" situation, so make the best out of it.

9) Avoid going to the ground

This one is a big DON'T in the domain of self-defense, but unfortunately it's a recommendation that is very much underestimated by many teachers and instructors, and therefore, sadly enough, by many students.

The reason why you don't want to go on the ground is that no matter how good you are in ground fighting, you certainly can't deal with more than one opponent if you're wrestling someone on the ground, and you should always consider the possibility of multiple opponents, even if you're sure there is only one aggressor. Another thing to take into account is the fact that your aggressor can pull a blade or other weapon out while you're wrestling him on the ground, and most of the time you can't see it coming, and anyway fighting weapons on the ground is too risky.

Avoiding going to the ground doesn't mean that you should not train for the ground (actually, you should). It simply means that the last thing you want to do is to take the fight there, and more precisely yourself. Not your opponent. Yourself. I watched many videos and participated to many self-defense semianr in which a lot of techniques end by controlling the opponent to the ground with locks and holds that are not convenient for street fight purposes.

Teachers should make the difference between the idea of a one to one fight, like in a ring, cage or sport room or dojo, and consider the reality of things when they teach self-defense techniques, and they should teach what you want to do and don't want to do in certain situations and especially why.

The fact that many techniques in self-defense end by taking the aggressor to the ground, doesn't mean that you should end up with your back flat on the ground to do an arm-bar, compromising your mobility, even if temporarily. There are other ways of restraining an aggressor and still be able to move out and away in a split second, if necessary. So consider this point whenever you train for self-defense.

10) Avoid high kicks

Another big DON'T in a street fight is kicking high. High kicks looks great on TV and in competitions. But a street fight is neither one nor the other. In a street fight, you want to make sure you are on your two feet as much as possible, and be able to move and to keep your balance at all times.

As for targets, you should never aim higher than the groin area. Some exception could be made for middle kicks to the ribs or the stomach area, but the problem with them is that they're easy to counter by grabbing your leg.

In any case, you don't want to compromise your ability to move when you're in a street fight, so keep your kicks on the low line, even if you're a kicking dragon in the dojo.

11) Against multiple opponents, always keep moving

One rule that you want to apply when fighting multiple opponents is to move around and never stay stationary in one spot. By moving around you should try to align them so that you can deal with one at the time and not with all at the same time. And that is achievable only if you keep moving around.

12) Against a knife, try to use an equaliser

If a knife is involved in the fight, you should try to get out of there as soon as you can. Running is the first and the best self-defense technique (and the oldest too!). If that is not possible right away, and you have to deal with it, try to use any object to disarm your opponent, like an umbrella, a chair, your handbag, or else. You should use your own body to disarm a knife only as a last resort.

13) Expect anything

Reality bites, but in the case of a street fight it can get you seriously injured or killed. Whenever you find yourself involved in street fight, you should always expect any possibility. The aggressor is alone? Expect some others to pop out from nowhere! The aggressor is unarmed? Expect him to suddenly pull out a knife!

Expecting anything means also that you should be ready to get hit, hurt, and feel pain, and also that your attack may not have the desired effect on your aggressor. If you expect anything, you will lower your chances of being caught by surprise and you will just go with the flow of teh fight and follow it, wherever it will take you. And that is one real survival attribute to build.

14) Be determinate, never give up

One undeniable truth about surviving during a street fight is that you need a very good dose of self-determination and on different levels. You need to be fully determinate and commit yourself into every action you take, whether it's a defensive or an offensive move.

But above all, you should be determinate not to get out of that situation as a victim. Even if for a split moment you think that surviving is not an achievable task, you should never stop believing you can do it and give the hardest time possible to your aggressors.

Remember, no technique will ever get you out of a hostile situation if you don't have self-determination in that particular moment and the spirit of a true warrior.

The aggressiveness and determination of your aggressor will always beat the techniques you've learned, if you don't put the same or a higher dose of determination into it.

As a metaphor, I always say to my students that I can give them techniques and principles and methods, but in the end, is like giving them a car without fuel. In order to function, they need to put the fuel in.

So whenever the moment comes, if the situation calls for action, be fully determinate to go for it, and don't ever give up!

15) Respond proportionally to the danger and stop when you're safe

The line between self-defense and aggression is very thin, and that is true by two standpoints, the legal one and moral one.

Not everybody is aware of the fact that crossing that line is very easy, and I admit that there is something quiet disturbing, about it. One very common scenario is somebody who gets an aggression and in order to defend himself causes injuries to the aggressor, and he ends up paying him medical charges and sometimes even getting sued by him, which is crazy. Still, I know so many cases just like that. From a legal standpoint, you should apply physical action in order to get out of the threatening situation, but as soon as you are in the position to run out, you should. If you instead choose to "give your aggressor the lesson he deserves", and keep beating him up, in just a second you are considered an aggressor as well, because you did more than just defend yourself (or another).

And than there is a moral aspect to consider as well. Do you really want to disarm somebody who attacks you with a knife and let him pay by stabbing him and risk his life? In my opinion, if you can get out without causing serious or permanent injuries to your aggressor, you should. The point of self-defense and self-preservation is to put yourself in the condition get out of there, not to play the avenger.

In a proper self-defense method, one should learn to respond proportionally to the danger, so that if someone grabs your wrist and pull you, you don't automatically react by breaking his neck and smashing his nose against the sidewalk, but by using the right technique to get free of the hold and get out of there. If that involves hitting, it should be just enough to put yourself in the position to run away, that's all. So train with that in mind.


While writing it, I found it very hard not to expand more (much more) on each of the points of the list, believe me. But I tried to cut it to the essential, and the frustration of saying more was appeased by the idea that I can always write a separate article for those points that could be expanded further, and for which I got more to say.

I should say that the list presented here is not exhaustive - as it couldn't possibily be, because there are so many aspects in the domain of self-defense and street fighting that I don't believe it's possible to cover them all in one article.

However, I hope you find this article interesting and that it will get you to put certain things into perspective, and if you do, than share it with your friends. It may be interesting for us as well.


- Subscribe to comments by rss

  • Félix Freire Lopez:

    All points listed in your article are valuable but my preferred (not personal) ones are
    #3, #5, #13 and #14.
    Instructive and fun to read, as usual
    Thank you

    6 Feb 2013 Reply to this comment
  • Tonio Rovenez:

    Thank you Gian ! Great, simple, logic.

    7 Feb 2013 Reply to this comment
    • Gianfranco:

      Yep, the way it should be. Merci…

      7 Feb 2013
  • daniele:

    A perfect, concise to do list. Excellent reminder! very well done!

    8 Feb 2013 Reply to this comment
    • Gianfranco:

      Thank you Daniele, I appreciate it! ;-)

      8 Feb 2013
  • Mikaël:

    Salut Gian,

    super article, c’est sûr qu’il y a pleins de choses à dire et de commentaires à faire pour développer chaque point…
    Mais Antoine de Saint-Exupéry à écrit ceci: “La perfection est atteinte, non pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à retirer.” :-)

    Merci beaucoup de nous faire partager ton grand savoir en arts martiaux :-)

    13 Feb 2013 Reply to this comment
    • Gianfranco:

      Merci Mikaël, j’apprécie beaucoup!

      13 Feb 2013

Write something…

Use your Facebook account to comment…

Connect with Facebook

… or comment using your email (get a Gravatar)…