I’ve seen a ton of street fights go down in person and online. Some fights end with minimal damage and some just make you cringe. The best martial arts for street fights are Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), muay thai, with an honorable mention for kali. Trust me when I say you’re gonna want to know both striking and grappling when confronted in the streets and you have no choice but to defend yourself.
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If you have no choice, it’s one-on-one, and you don’t want to badly injure someone, you should consider using grappling. I say one-on-one because it’s really hard to defend against multiple attackers when you have someone else in a submission. If you’re up against multiple combatants try to GTFO.
Let’s say you’re forced to subdue a drunk guy or someone like a family member who you really don’t want to punch in the face. Then BJJ is perfect. You can slowly take them down and put them in a choke. Good night.
That said, if it’s a life or death situation, BJJ also has some devastating techniques when you need them. Think armbars, heel hooks, neck cranks, and twisters. Ouch!
Why BJJ is Good in a Street Fight
BJJ is a grappling art with an emphasis on choke and lock submission techniques done from the ground. It has elements from Judo newaza and throws from wrestling and sambo.
One thing that makes BJJ the best grappling art in a street fight is that it was refined to work against strikers. In the early 90s, the Gracie family proved Brazilian jiu-jitsu against strikers in the UFC and in PRIDE.
On its own, BJJ can at least defend against strikes. You can pull guard to nullify your opponent’s punches and kicks. Watch out for positions that put you in biting range though because when backed into a corner you never know how desperate someone will get.
There are also a lot of submission techniques that can be used if you’re on your back, under your opponent.
I am in no way saying you should pull guard, but let’s say you get caught off guard and some loser takes you down from behind. You can sweep to get yourself in a better position or even go for subs from the bottom.
This is true for most positions in BJJ. Drilling from a bad position like full-mount is one of the most practical things you can do as a fighter, and it’s constantly done in BJJ.
Why Muay Thai is Effective in a Street Fight
Muay thai is a combat sport developed from muay boran, which itself was used by the Thai military. You’d think that the sport aspect of muay thai would make it less practical on the street, but that’s not true at all. It’s simply one of the most efficient martial arts for quickly dispatching opponents in a street fight.
Also known as the art of eight limbs, muay thai is such a destructive martial art that it’s very effective for the streets. There are also many tools that you can use in different situations that make it an effective street fighting style.
The main weapons you have are kicks. If you’re up against a boxer or traditional martial artist (think taekwondo and karate) you can keep your distance and blast them with low leg kicks. Their legs will feel like jello in no time at low risk to you. You also have the ability to throw knockouts with head kicks and power punches like the cross.
If you’re up close you have clinch technique. Muay thai is renowned for the clinch. Fighters train different techniques such as knees, elbows, and even throws from the clinch all the time. It’s really just devastating how much destruction you can do with all eight limbs.
Against multiple opponents muay thai is great too. Use the pushing teep kick to keep attackers away and then blast them with knees and elbows when you get one attacker in range. Rinse. Repeat.
Honorable Mention: Kali
Kali sometimes referred to interchangeably as arnis or escrima, comes from Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). It’s primarily a weapons-based system that is used by the military in the Philippines and some branches of the US military.
This art emphasizes weapons such as sticks, knives, swords, but also uses many open hand techniques. Kali knife defense and offense make it perfect for street fights. You never know when someone will bust out a knife, and it’s good to know how to take out threats while taking the least amount of damage possible. That means protecting vital organs and arteries.
Knowing any of the above martial arts will put you in a much better position than not knowing them. In the streets, knowing the muay thai and BJJ combo along with kali could help save your life. If you want to learn more about muay thai check out the techniques section on TSK.