What practical martial art to use?
November 22, 2005 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Which martial art do you deem most practical/effective in a garden-variety street-fight or bar scrap?

Was having a discussion with friends over beers one night, and one friend pointed out that most martial arts are "ineffective" in your common scrap, which usually involves a lot of grappling and flailing where one out of every nine or ten punches actually connects. His point was that real fights aren't "Hollywood Style" events and far too chaotic to really use anything you've been taught. I'm not really familiar with various forms, although I've heard that Krav Maga is a particularly good form of MA. Nor have I really ever been in a fight like that.

So - without killing your opponent, what self-defense form would you want to be able to use/know when the guy at the end of the bar. itching to fight you, just won't be ignored? (And please, no statements of 'ching-ching' - the sound a chambered round makes in a 9mm. Heard that one before.)
posted by TeamBilly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (57 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would imagine that Krav Maga would be best.
posted by cmonkey at 2:23 PM on November 22, 2005

posted by dorian at 2:26 PM on November 22, 2005

I once saw a karate guy in a fight with a redneck. The karate guy did some kicks and flailing about to try and intimidate the redneck. Did i mention the redneck had a bat? He did.

Anyway, long story short, redneck swings bat, karate dude goes to block, arm shatters, redneck walks off, fight over.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:27 PM on November 22, 2005

Krav Maga is not a martial art, and many practicioners are actually quite vocal about this. But yeah, it's a load of great tricks for disabling an opponent.
Your friend is right about there being a lot of grappling, I have been in fights before where my Judo grappling and falling skills have helped me a lot and I imagine that other grappling arts would also be useful.
posted by atrazine at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2005

Krav Maga, Gracie Ju Jitsu.

Redneck story? If both had bats this would have been fair. And generally....the bigger guy beats the little guy.

Although the guy who brought Bando to the US, once got into a fight with 5 guys at a bar in ohio...of course, he had his walking cane, cause he's a little old man (used to coach at Univ. of Ohio boxing too.
posted by filmgeek at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2005

Brazilian Ju-jitsu.
posted by eas98 at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2005

If both had bats this would have been fair.

Doubtful, I think the karate dude was just all show and the redneck guy called his bluff. My story really proves nothing about anything other than that bats hurt.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2005

I had a friend in college (well, an acquantaince at least -- a guy who lived in my dorm and with whom I often ate and dicked around late at night). He studied "Ryu Kyu Kempo" (spelling from this site). He claimed that it was the one martial art that was actually good in bar fights and street fights.

I can't say because I never had the chance to see him use it, but the MA has lots of really really fast and damaging blows. Basically crushing insteps, strikes to the sloar plexus, knees, eyes, jaw, etc. It's apparently the source of the martial arts myth, the "touch of death," where a master can quickly and lightly tap on a sequence of body pressure points and then a day later, the person falls dead. Ryu Kyu Kempo is about disrupting chi in the body and so the guy was always studying anatomic charts and stuff. He said it was (pretty well) supported by modern science -- getting punched in the kidneys will kill you, etc.

All that said, I'd check out Krav Magna. That's what many bouncers take. That is to say, bouncers who take any martial art at all. Most are just big and strong enough to overpower people and the patrons are mostly drunk anyway, so quite slow.
posted by zpousman at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2005

Probably depends on a lot of factors-- relative size of the fighters, whether it's one on one or one on many, how long they've and the physical space of the fight. I'd disagree that martial arts are ineffective in most fights-- someone who knows how to throw a punch or escape from a hold is going to be better off than someone who doesn't.

Check out the rec.martial arts faq for more info:
posted by justkevin at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2005

Apparently this guy knows a thing or two.
posted by BorgLove at 2:42 PM on November 22, 2005

It's not really what fighting skill you have or don't have; it's your ability to improvise (i.e., use your environment to your advantage) combined with your willingness to be injured in the process, to "fight dirty", and cause great harm to another human being. Most people in fighting situations are just trying not to get hurt themselves; they aren't as concerned as they should be (in the context of the situation) with causing the other person as much harm as possible, as quickly as possible, without killing them. They pull punches, or try to fight "movie style", which will most assuredly fail you, unless the person you are fighting follows your choreography.

I was a bouncer for two years, and I saw more fights than I want to remember. The people who were the most successful at "winning" fights were the ones who were more concerned with putting the other person on the ground or in an ambulance than how cool they looked doing it, or whether or not what they did would leave a mark, on themselves or their opponent. I personally think that being aware of your surroundings is paramount; someone slipping on a puddle of beer and knocking themselves out ended more fights than anything else.
posted by weirdoactor at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Excellent thread... one of my big wonders has been whether classroom martial arts can take on redneck street fighting.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:55 PM on November 22, 2005

If you are just starting out, I would recommend just plain old boxing, or maybe Thai kick boxing. Any MA where you actually get into a ring or on a mat and get beat up. The point is that if you want to take a few classes and then get into a fight right away, by far the two most important skills to learn are how to take and throw a punch. Weirdo is right, most people who get into fights, hell, even most "martial artists" out there - the kind that for two hours a week throw fancy kicks into the air in front of a mirror or into a stationary pad, are far too concerned with not getting hit themselves to be at all effective.

Learning to get hit, learning how to get hit to minimize the damage, learning how to recover from a blow, learning how to counter-punch after getting hit, and all the things that you just can't learn without actually getting hit are far and away the most useful things you can know if you are trying to go from 0 to ass-kicking in as little time as possible.

Once you have your fair share of bruises, there are lots of martial arts that would be plenty effective in bar fights, but if I could only learn one, I'd learn the one that hurt me the most.
posted by ChasFile at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2005

I should add that the reason I say all that is because Weirdo is right about another thing. Unlike "hollywood" fights, the vast majority of real-world fights end in a single punch. 99% of the fights I've seen have gone like this: two people square up, swing away, and one of them connects. The other guy then either drops immediately or covers up, and the first guy then procedes to just wail away on him until the fight gets stopped. If you can take a few punches and not go down or even get worried, your chances of winning increase exponentially.
posted by ChasFile at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2005

learning how to counter-punch after getting hit

Yes! I forgot all about that. Being able to recover and counter your opponent's "cool" moves is far more important than having "cool" moves of your own. Excellent points.
posted by weirdoactor at 3:07 PM on November 22, 2005

Any "martial art" will do so long as you train full-contact (or as close as possible).

Practice makes perfect, and in my experience, the guy who wins the fight is the guy who fights a lot.

Witness the redneck in the story above. He's probably been getting in bar fights since he was old enough to drink, and so was prepared to inflict and receive pain.
Your average "karate dude" is prepared for neither, having been taught to pull punches and block only the expected blows("Ok, class, we're gonna do 5 minutes of roundhouses now").

In short, my father told me "Never get in a fight with someone who looks like they know what they're doing" and I've always found that good advice.
posted by madajb at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2005

A bouncer told me once that the most important thing to remember if you were trying to end a fight was to get the fighter on the ground. Said most people didn't know how to fight from the ground. Said they taught him that in the Army.

I flagged weirdo's answer as good, but i'll call out a prop here, too: Being aware of your surroundings is the very most important factor in preventing injury from malicious people. Aside from whatever advantage you get in the fight, it's advantageous in prevention, too: People who rob other people notice when you know what's going on around you, and move you way down the queue of potential targets. Plus, you see it coming from farther away.

Me, I'm that guy weirdo's talking about who's not willing to hurt other people badly enough to win, so I tend to focus on prevention. Anyway, somebody's always got better gung fu.
posted by lodurr at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2005

I've heard that Tae-Bo is really good in bar fights. Really.

Seriously: previously, on Ask MeFi ...
posted by Alt F4 at 3:22 PM on November 22, 2005

most martial arts are "ineffective" in your common scrap.
This just isn't true. If you're thinking about spin kicks and Van Damme style fighting, then yeah, it's ineffective. But if you pit someone who has been training several times a week for a couple of years, kicking pads, punching heavy bags, blocking attacks, etc. against someone of equal size, the martial artist will probably win.

I'm taking Hung Ga Kung Fu, we spar fairly often, and practice kickboxing once a week. I haven't been a "real" fight since I've started, but many of my more experienced classmates have used their Kung Fu skills in fights and won. A lot of it is in the physical conditioning. We do a shit-ton of pushups and situps in class, and stance training which leaves us with ridiculously strong leg muscles.
posted by Edible Energy at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2005

Way back when I read a piece by a supposed expert in self defense who said that in a real-world fight a trained boxer would beat 99% of the martial artists out there. So get thee to a gym, Tony Danza...
posted by jalexei at 3:47 PM on November 22, 2005

Seems to me that "ultimate fighting" provides the answer. The best wrestler usually wins.
posted by Neiltupper at 3:47 PM on November 22, 2005

however, "ultimate fighting" is not real fighting. There's no kicking in the nuts, no poking in the eyes, no grabbing the throat, no downward elbows, etc..
posted by Edible Energy at 4:02 PM on November 22, 2005

What ChasFile and madajb (and jalexei, sort of): the specific style is less important than actual fight experience. If you're not doing full contact sparring, you're going to be destroyed in a fight by someone who is, or who has actual streetfighting experience.

Neilitupper: the reason wrestlers win at ultimate is that the rules disallow certain dirty tricks that would make it possible to break those holds - particularly biting, gouging and joint locks.
posted by zanni at 4:03 PM on November 22, 2005

Muay Thai. Knees, elbows and headbutts are hard to defend against. That and it teaches you how to move.
posted by electroboy at 4:19 PM on November 22, 2005

I've spoken to a few people about this, and the general consensus is that boxing would be the most effective. You are trained to take a beating, dodge punches and can take people down quickly with a well aimed punch. Martial arts are only reallyt good against other martial arts (story about redneck+bat vs Karate). For common or garden fighting or street brawling, boxing will fare best.
posted by gaby at 4:28 PM on November 22, 2005

I agree with the above that the person who can get hurt & stay tough usually wins. The toughest fighters I've been around have been rugby teammates with ridiculous pain thresholds. If you've broken your nose 5 times and have weathered concussions, shoulder separations & c, you're not very afraid of getting hit.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2005

Well, speaking from personal experience the techniques that have been most telling for me in a scrap have mostly been the ones I learned in Judo and Ju-Jitsu, with a side-order of aikido.

As you say, street fights that don't take the form of "one punch and he's down" very quickly degenerate into grappling and wrestling and so on. Knowing how to use your opponent's force and movements against him; how to unbalance him; how to hold him down; how to apply locks ... all that stuff is far more useful than a stupid bloody roundhouse kick or "all that Jackie Chan bollocks", as that wonderful "British Kung Fu" video put it.
posted by Decani at 4:36 PM on November 22, 2005

What Decani said.

A big analysis I once read of Ultimate Fighting settled this debate for me, putting the above criticisms aside. Of any of the martial arts, it was Brazilian Ju-jitsu which was most effective; otherwise wrestlers beat everyone.

I think the above criticisms are true; but I think that even if such moves were allowed, the result would be the same. It's mostly about body mass, sadly.

My dad as a teen, and into his twenties, was a notorious street fighter here in Albuquerque. But he's not a big guy, he was pretty short and skinny. He told me once that the first punch usually decides the fight and I think that certainly if the fight is between people who don't normally fight, the smaller guy can do quite a bit with the first punch if he knows what he's doing. My dad did box, some, too.

But with people who are seasoned brawlers? Mass and toughness is going to win 9 times out of 10.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:55 PM on November 22, 2005

My cousin was one of the first fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. His fighting style was bar room brawling. Seriously. He got his kicks by going into bars and getting into fights. He was big and strong and could take a beating and never met a man who could knock him down.

When he went into UFC, he got his ass handed to him. The reason? Grappling. When someone gets in close, you can't hit them and they can't hit you. Doesn't matter how tough you are, or how hard you can punch. If someone gets you in a choke or a painful hold you can't escape, you will surrender. Simple.

The same thing would probably be more true in a bar fight. If all you are doing is striking at each other, whatever your style, then whoever can take a beating better will usually win. Learn how to stop someone from punching, you'll win the fight, and you'll both come out with less damage.
posted by team lowkey at 4:58 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Any martial art taught correctly would promote the awareness and wisdom that'd let you recognize a situation is getting dangerous so you could defuse it or run away. (Boring pacifist answer from ex-jujitsuka.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:11 PM on November 22, 2005

There's one martial art that will work almost all the time: running. I had a karate instructor tell me once that anybody who can run at full sprint for a 1/2 mile will be able to outrun 99% of attackers (or the attacker will simply give up).

Sure, it won't work for the "cornered in a bar" scenario, but that's what bouncers are for.
posted by gwenzel at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Tae Kwon Do. Most fights are settled with a single blow. The trick is to deliver the hardest, most forceful blow you can deliver and then pray. The best option is always a good, strong kick (to the head--don't be shy!). Also, TK will get you very used to contact. When you think nothing of being punched in the face or kneed in the stomach, you're already better off than 99.99% of the guys you may run into.

Of course, this only works if you're already a decently strong guy. For skinny wimps the only art that'll save you in a real street-fight is the art on your Nikes.

P.S. I'd second weirdoactor though it doesn't really answer your question. What settles most fights is a kind of hate. Being willing to put the destruction of another human being ahead of your own self-preservation.
posted by nixerman at 6:10 PM on November 22, 2005

Regarding ultimate fighting championship fights:

1) To the guy who said it isn't real fighting -- go watch the old ones. The first several had pretty much no rules, and were almost frighteningly brutal.

2) It's true - brazilian jiu jitzu and other grappling is incredibly important. Boxing will fail you in a normal bar fight, because people grapple and wrestle unless both of them are putting on a show and standing back from each other trying to make it a boxing match. A REAL fight, where two people are legitimately pissed off at each other and really fighting, will be on the ground quickly. This is where BJJ comes in.

3) The martial art with all the brutal strikes that someone was referring to earlier is probably Muay Thai - another excellent "real world usable" martial art. It includes clinching and grappling, and a lot of very devastating knee/elbow strikes. It won't do much for you on the ground though.

At the end of the day, UFC and other fighting sports like that have an overarching title: "MMA" for Mixed Martial Arts... the reason being - you need to learn several of them and be well rounded if you want to survive against a variety of people.
posted by twiggy at 6:18 PM on November 22, 2005

BTW, as far as UFC is concerned, UFC isn't a good example of real fights--particularly street fights. There are many, many factors--from other people to clothing--that are completely missing from UFC. The people who participate in UFC are not the sort of people you'll ever actually fight and when/if you do decide to fight them you will use a weapon. And, most importantly, people in UFC are not trying to kill one another. There are rules. UFC is not muchmore than showy sparring. I wouldn't base any sort of serious self-defense regimen on a game.
posted by nixerman at 6:37 PM on November 22, 2005

So get thee to a gym, Tony Danza...

Alternatively, hold me closer, Tony Danza.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:51 PM on November 22, 2005

Kenpo is good, very pragmatic and economical. For example, why train to kick some one in the head when your foot is so much closer to thier feet/knees/groin? I agree about needing close to full contact sparring, and lots of it for it to be truely useful. Lots of hold-breaking too, I pity the fool who decides to grab the shirt of someone trained in Kenpo, he's probably looking at a broken bone or two.
posted by Scoo at 7:03 PM on November 22, 2005

Tae Kwon Do. Most fights are settled with a single blow. The trick is to deliver the hardest, most forceful blow you can deliver and then pray. The best option is always a good, strong kick (to the head--don't be shy!).
posted by nixerman at 6:10 PM PST on November 22

Just a heads-up to lurkers and others: this will get you seriously injured or killed the ninety-nine times out of a hundred it doesn't work.

As in all things, the best way to improve is practice that matches the challenge. If you are looking to be effective in bar fights and the like, the most important training methods in ascending order are a) conditioning, b) weight training, and way way way most importantly c) getting in bar fights every weekend. It is not an amateur sport you can train for MWF after work.

If someone is picking a fight with you, it is because they want to fight you, and they have probably done it way more than you, and you will get your ass kicked soundly and roundly even if you think you are a tough guy. Defuse the situation. If that is not possible, back away, facing them. If that is not possible, run as fast as you can for as long as you can.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:27 PM on November 22, 2005

I agree about wholeheartedly about "live" training. You need to know what it's like having a guy who's bigger and stronger than you attacking you.

Point/no-contact sparring like what's typically found in Tae Kwon Do and Karate will teach you how to charge in agressively and deliver the first blow, but if it turns into a brawl, those guys tend to be unprepared for the rigors of a real fight.

Boxing/Muay Thai/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Judo all have you spend time with real-life resisting opponents, and that's what hardens you. I've been taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 4.5 months and even if I haven't learned a meaningful skill the whole time, which is unlikely, the simple fact that I get my ass kicked five or more times a week makes me far more prepared for a fight than most people.

And I agree also with the person above who pointed out the early UFCs. They had like two rules - no biting, no eye gouging - and the grapplers in general were on top, with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in particular being the dominate style early on. Unless he's a wrestler, the average guy won't be prepared for a well-executed takedown, and if he's a wrestler, he won't be prepared for most submissions.
posted by mragreeable at 7:34 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Body mass is debatable. The best bouncer I ever worked with was 5'2", maybe 125 pounds soaking wet. She wasn't all that great at brute-forcing a violent jerk out the front door (which is 90% of what bouncers do; Roadhouse be damned), but she had a way with holds and the like; I once saw her puppet-walk a three hundred pound fella out of the club without breaking a sweat.

The comment about handling pain was spot on. I once got cracked on the head with a beer bottle wielded a pissed-off drunk girl (we had pulled her boyfriend off of her, he had decided to use her as a punching bag). I (vaguely) remember turning to the girl, feeling the blood coming from my scalp, picking her up on a shoulder and carrying her out the front door, before feeling the pain. Adrenaline. Yikes. The guy who can take the most pain is always going to have an advantage, if he can give more than the other person can take. It's kind of like those old-school boxing video games, where you only have a certain amount of damage you can take; so you have to knock the other guy out before your little bar runs out.
posted by weirdoactor at 7:49 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

" There are rules. UFC is not muchmore than showy sparring. I wouldn't base any sort of serious self-defense regimen on a game."

I agree and disagree. I agree because real no-limits fighting must be different because there's a number of killing or near killing things that will end the fight right there. But I disagree because anyone who is relying upon getting some killing strike in has to manage it early because if they screw it up then it goes back to grappling and the bigger and stronger person has a huge advantage.

The other big problem with the "willing to kill or maim" thing is that if it works, you're likely to get into legal trouble as a result. I think that if you're as big or bigger than the other guy, then if you know how to grapple you're likely to win the fight without anyone being seriously hurt. So you have the most options. If you're littler that the other guy, you have very few options and none of them are good. I really believe that a smaller man can successfully defend himself by immediately attempting to kill or maim but is otherwise mostly screwed. And if you do kill or maim, you're probably screwed.

Also, I want to underscore what people have said in the last few comments: almost the very best thing you can do is to become accustomed to being hit and not be afraid of it. Not just because it will give you an advantage when fighting, it also greatly increases your chances of not having to fight at all because the other guy will be more likely to back down.

On preview: "...but she had a way with holds and the like..." Yeah but that's still a situation where there are constraints on what people are willing to do—especially to a woman.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:57 PM on November 22, 2005

Yeah but that's still a situation where there are constraints on what people are willing to do—especially to a woman.

When you're nine sheets to the wind and sporting for a fight; and someone grabs you from behind, binds your arm in such a way as that if you move it, it will break, and walks you out the door...you don't really have time to check their sex.
posted by weirdoactor at 8:21 PM on November 22, 2005

I took a bastardized melding of karate and kung-fu from a 5'2" guy in college. I wish he'd founded a school, because I'd love to continue with it.

I still remember the first day of class. He walks in, and says, "This is self-defense Karate for people who might get in a fight with someone bigger than them, and want to know how to survive it. I am going to teach you reflexes that hurt others. I am going to teach you how to fight dirty. Where to grab, where to twist, where to push. There's all kinds of jackie chan shit you see in movies. There's all kinds of holds and stuff that I use. I have 25 years of martial arts. You don't. In three months, I'm just going to teach you how to deal out pain."

Did it work? Yeah. I liked it because I'm a small guy and can't take more than a punch or maybe two before I'm out for the count.

Downtown, two years ago (2 years after I'd graduated from that college and stopped taking his class), a bum pulled a knife on a girl I was out with. I told her to run, and the bum turned to me. There was a cop two blocks away, but I was gonna get shivved or mugged before the cop could get there. My reflexes and adrenaline kicked in. I grabbed the bum's knife hand and punched him in the throat. Then I kicked him in the nuts, and he dropped the knife. When he bent double, I helped him along until his face met my knee, which broke his nose. He hadn't had enough, even though he couldn't breathe, and was still coming after me, trying to grapple ... which wouldn't be good for me. He was high on meth, the paramedics said later. I used a sidekick to break his knee so that he couldn't come after me.

Was it nice? No. Did I hurt him bad? Yeah. Would I do the same in a bar fight? Yeah, if I couldn't run... but I'd run first. Did I feel good afterwards? No, and I didn't feel like a hero either ... the girl was grateful she didn't get mugged, but shocked at what I did to the guy. Would I have killed him? I almost did; the paramedics had a real job keeping him alive. Did I get bitched out by the judge? Yeah, something about making the state pay for his treatment, and please be gentler next time. Did I not get convicted of anything? Yeah, self defense. Dude had an illegally long knife. Was it stupid? Yeah, I should've run towards the cop. Did I not get hurt? Not a scratch on me.

No matter what you do in a fight/crisis, it's going to be on instinct and reaction and things that were drilled into you.

Your best response in any fight is to disengage. Just get out. Leave. Who cares if you get called a wuss. And it doesn't take a martial art to run. But if you do get into a fight, just hit for the places that are gonna hurt no matter what.
posted by SpecialK at 8:21 PM on November 22, 2005

Optimus Chyme, thanks for pointing that out. My advice is actually from an old inside joke and I wouldn't seriously recommend a kick to the head as an initial blow. Still, I'd maintain that striking first and striking hardest is always your best bet. Conditioning and weight training are essentially null factors when you consider that the fight will be over in a minute. It's not an endurance endurance. That's why I also find all the advice recommending holds and grappling to be misguided. Holds can be fantastically effective, yes, but ultimately they're a defensive--and thus losing--strategy that won't work at all in a real life fight where there are weapons and more than one person involved. Only experience allows you to really tell the difference between a guy looking for trouble and guy looking for a fight, but if you encounter the latter you're #1 priority needs to be putting him down immediately. Taking blows, closing distance, fighting for position, grappling--all of these require you taking considerable damage. Particularly if the guy is armed--not even with a knife, a pen can do considerable damage--grappling with him isn't a good idea.

EB, it's not about looking for the killing blow (there's no such thing unless your oponent is already beaten), again, it's about getting in a solid blow that can do real damage. This is probably the #2 major benefit provided by martial arts training in a real fight. (#1 is, as you said, simply the willingness to give and take pain.)
posted by nixerman at 8:24 PM on November 22, 2005

My two cents, as a former MA student--why get hurt? I don't care what's going on, I'll eat crow to not get banged up. Even if I know I can "win", the process of winning can be both legally challenging after the fact, as well as immediately painful (as others have noted, few real fights have one party leaving without a scratch). Plus, I can outrun most attackers (not helpful in a group but fighting is somewhat less likely in a group too).

About that other bit--depending on the exact timing involved, you want to get in really close to that redneck with the bat--the closer you are, the harder it is to use and the slower it'll be when it hits you.

Your question "which is best in the 'real world'" has been asked many, many times and is considered somewhat cliche. No offense, but just thought you might want to know.

I don't like fighting, so my answer is "whichever one keeps me out of a fight."
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:52 PM on November 22, 2005

Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee's epic "style of no style". Seriously. It is aimed at beating the crap out of people as quickly as possible by any means necessary. One of the basic tenets is to get rid of all the fussing over aesthetics and specializations in certain area in favor of using general techniques with proven effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Basically, Nthing kicks in the nuts and punches in the throat. They aren't terribly effective against skilled fighters who know how to protect their vitals, I'm just saying the best idea is probably to be very utilitarian in your consideration of techniques if you plan on real word efficacy.
posted by moift at 10:18 PM on November 22, 2005

Bar-stool Fu, Ashtray-jutsu, Pint of lager-do etc.

Rigid stratified systems vs. person with absolutely no rules or interest in fighting fair you can guess who's going to come out on top. Most martial arts are only useful if you are fighting fair.

If you learned in a dojo how to fight you'll probably be mighty surprised when you are in a bar room brawl. I've seen it happen a few times (and it's happened to me too). If you can improvise with your surroundings then you will do quite well.
posted by longbaugh at 7:48 AM on November 23, 2005

I've been studying hapkido for the better part of a decade now (with more and less focus at different points) and I think the main thing that's changed is that I'm just not really scared anymore. I know I can take a little roughing up, I know a fair amount of techniques and tricks that could be useful, I feel more aware of my environment (I remember when I started out that when we did group sparring in class I would bump into people behind me, or if I was thrown I'd sometimes get up with my back to my attacker, etc, things which now seem inexcusable)..., I'm in much better shape, and I generally just have a better sense of "how things work" so to speak.

I like hapkido partly because, although we do learn some more direct stuff, a lot of the techniques are subduing rather than defeating the opponent - you get a hold on the attack and either guide it or turn it around to a "take-down" and lock. We do grab defense, choke defense, knife defense, bat defense, etc. If someone swings at you with a bat you don't try to block the bat! - that completely misidentifies the weaknesses and strengths of your opponent. But there are weaknesses - someone swinging a bat will be using both hands to do that, and will be putting a lot of momentum into the swing. So he leaves himself open on one side and gives away a lot of energy that if you can manipulate, will take him down. There are a number of different particular techniques in terms of where to hold and lock etc, but the basic concept is to get inside the swing & turn it into a take down or lock. If the person swinging a bat was highly trained and knew you were thinking this way, sure, it'd be harder - they'd know that shorter, faster swings would be harder to manipulate, e.g. - the techniques don't claim to be foolproof. But they help train a mindset - or really I should say a bodily reaction - that better understands the dynamics.

I haven't been mugged or attacked since I began studying, though, so I can't really say how things would work in real life (we do lots of in-class sparring & training, but it's hard to simulate real life). I was mugged twice before I began training, and looking back I think both times I was probably targeted for looking scared as much as anything, so the confidence might help even if it's unrealistic :).

The closest to a test I've had is that one guy I was dating once sort of jokingly tried to pin me down in bed, and I judo-flipped him off me, basically instinctively. But it worked really well, and he was kinda impressed (he was a lot bigger than I am).
posted by mdn at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2005

Traditional boxing. Go to a gym, learn to hit things. Shortly thereafter, get in a ring and get hit.

Punching and getting punched is the basis of most fighting. Going to ground when bystanders may accidentally or purposely kick you in the head is a bad plan.

Punching comes naturally. Being able to do it fast, accurately, confidently, and being use to getting hit are essential. Add quick on your feet and you've got a plan.

If you can punch real hard from six inches you can handle the bar scene. I repeat DON'T PLAN TO GO TO GROUND.
posted by ewkpates at 8:40 AM on November 23, 2005

Response by poster: This has been a hell of an interesting thread - I had no idea....
posted by TeamBilly at 9:20 AM on November 23, 2005

You might want to take the adages "No plan survives contact with the enemy" and "A plan is just a list of things that don't happen" to heart. Boxing is certainly great but aggressive, preemptive action (aka "violence of purpose") wins. If you're sat down at a booth or table you are extremely limited in motion so you must look to other sources to hand. Flinging the contents of a pint glass or ashtray or the item itself buys time. Ash from an ashtray can blind and make you sneeze, beer on your faces means you blink lots. Bouncing a chair off someone's head makes them fall down, throwing a pint glass or whatever makes them duck or defend their face - cue a kick to the nuts. I must respectfully disagree with the "don't go to the ground" theory as well. Do whatever it takes, no matter what to win as fast as possible. Winning in this case means making sure you are no longer under threat, be it running away or leaving the opponent in excruciating pain.

Violence is never good but if you absolutely have no choice you must make sure that you do what needs to be done as quick as possible. If the opponent has friends this is doubly important. You must show them that you are not to be messed with and a violent and immediate action on your part will put the fear of god in most people. Target the biggest and loudest person in a group, do something unexpected, act like a lunatic. I'm sure I've mentioned it before but as an example of this I was accosted by four muppets in a pub toilet one time and managed to escape by pissing on them. They were so freaked out by being urinated on (and spending the rest of the night stinking of it) I managed to duck out past them and do a runner.
posted by longbaugh at 10:50 AM on November 23, 2005

Which martial art do you deem most practical/effective in a garden-variety street-fight or bar scrap?

Perhaps the Marine Corps Martial Arts program, an amalgam of various disciplines. I seriously doubt there's anything impractical about it.

The Marines teach a core version of it in basic training, and other services reserve it for special operations and MP training. There are belts and advanced levels.
posted by dhartung at 11:56 AM on November 23, 2005

This seems to be a regular question here. Some related reading:

Can seriously overweight people do martial arts?

What kind of martial arts should I do? (my comments)

This Google search might help too:

In summary, my thoughts: jeet kune do, boxing, muay Thai (or similar), Brazilian ju jitsu, judo, and possibly krav maga. Also check out anything with good knife defence, and gun defence if you can find them. A good school is of utmost importance. Shop around.

The comments on UFC (and vale tudo) are all valid: mixed martial arts as used in UFC etc are a devastating art form, but they apply to a sports arena. It will teach you some things that would be very useful in a street fight, but it is not a street-fighting art.

And remember, the best defence is not to be in a fight situation. I cannot stress the importance of this too highly. If someone pulls a knife, you better be ready to run, unless you really, really have no choice. In which case, what is it about your life that could possibly put you in that situation?
posted by ajp at 6:24 PM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Any martial art taught correctly would promote the awareness and wisdom that'd let you recognize a situation is getting dangerous so you could defuse it or run away.

Absolutely. Always try to avoid a fight. Fights are nasty, unpredictable things. They hurt. They do not make you feel good about yourself no matter what the outcome. Not if you're a decent, thoughtful human being, anyway.
posted by Decani at 9:51 AM on November 24, 2005

My Kickboxing instructor had fun addressing this question in his blog. It's worth a read.
posted by madmanz123 at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2005

PLEASE all of you go here.

and here

So I don't have to repeat myself. The blog above was pretty good.

If you want to learn to fight you want to:

1) Practice an alive art that relies more resisting opponents than pre-arranged choreography. An art that spars often with few rules and as much contact as you can safely take.

2) You want an art you can practice 90% of the techniques at full contact and speed on resisting opponents with out killing or maiming your partners in training. If the art has too many "deadly" techniques you can't spar it's likely bullshit.

3) You want an art that athletically conditions your cardio, reflexes, balance, timing WITHOUT needing special attributes to pull off.

4) You want an art that uses gross body movement NOT fine motor skills. Movements best to do under pressure.

5) You want an art that will take you through all the phases of fighting - from outside to inside to clinch and ground.

6) You want an gym that practices these arts that is not fly-by-night or populated by assholes or bullies.

7) You want to learn from somebody that has actually fought and can prove it.

#6 & 7 are the hardest to find. Krav Maga would NOT meet #6 or 7, IMHO.

My opinion is this.

If your young start with Judo and plain 'ol Wrestling. Both are common every where and have the traditional qualities easily verified if they are legit. They also have all the good real competitive sparring stuff you can do out of the box that is often overlooked everywhere else. Remember: Punching is overrated for most people and highly litigated. Pinning somebody on the ground may not look cool but you wont get sued.

Then, if you want to REALLY fight and get in great shape add boxing and simultaneously add BJJ if you can find it.
posted by tkchrist at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2006 [5 favorites]

tkchrist knows the score. A good friend of mine has taken a modified form of jiu-jitsu for years and is a black belt in it. By modified, I mean it's taught by a police officer, so the emphasis is knowing how to take hits properly and how to give them, and once the person is in close enough, to incapacitate the attacker so the threat is removed. This is everything from dislocating a shoulder to cracking their sternum. The officer/teacher would use situations that he'd experienced in the course of his job, and the different ways to deal with them, from one extreme to another. It seems that quite a few of the moves that I witnessed when I want to watch, ended up on the ground, so they train for that too. It's quick, brutal and very effective, which is what you want in a fight.

Note that the training I saw was black belts and first kyu, and they'd had a lot of training, but the end result was great to watch.
I've done a fair amount of akikido, specifically a style that's softer than traditional aikikai and one of the first things my sensei said to me was, "Oh, well, ki-aikido is crap for self defence at this level. It only starts to become effective at black belt, and only just then." The emphasis that was put on our training was flexibility and calmness, and the harder stuff came much much later when we were ready for it.

And just as a side-story: The officer told my friend about a time that he had to chase a suspect on foot for four blocks until he managed to grab and pin him to the ground. The suspect then tapped out on the ground and the officer let him go, and the suspect got up and started running again. The officer said, "Oh, for god's sake....", ran after him, and this time grabbed him and cuffed him before he could pull something else. "Remember," he said grinning, "sometimes all that training can work against you."
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

I'm generally with tkchrist and agree with bits and pieces of other comments in this and similar threads. Particularly, as far as self-defense goes, awareness, avoidance, and escape should always be the preferred options.

If these fail, my vote for the next best option is glock-forty-do. But this art is restricted in most localities and banned others.

As for MA styles that are street-practical, the two that would top my list of recs (with a very large gap between these and whatever would be listed as #3) would be traditional boxing and a school of blended Filipino martial arts (FMA).

I'd bet that well over 90% both street fighters and martial artists, if they had to name one style of fighter they'd least like to face, would choose a boxer. If we're talking the best empty-handed art that translates well to street fighting, boxing is likely it.

Without the empty-handed qualifier, a Filipino style translates even better than boxing. Almost every Filipino style trains in edged weapons; impact weapons; outside, mid-range, and infighting; and grappling.

But what makes FMA effective is the overall mindset. In general...

-- Instructors are very selective about whom they accept as students; for example, I had to pass a criminal background check, and then interview with the head of the school and my local instructor (like a job interview) before being accepted as a student. This really cuts down the cocky blowhards giving FMA a bad name and ruining a school.

-- FMA are taught in small, private, informal groups, often in backyards. This allows for a lot of individual instruction.

-- FMA styles believe that the point of a martial art is self-defense and, as such, teach weapons skills first and empty-handed, more intricate skills later. This is the opposite of most Japanese/Okinawan and Korean styles.

-- But, you do not need to carry a weapon. Weapons concepts are taught such that they transfer very effectively to whatever item might be handy at the moment of need, such as a pen or rolled up magazine.

-- FMA is not about pinning, submission, hitting, kicking, etc. FMA is about disabling an opponent (thereby creating an avenue for escape) as quickly and effectively as possible.

Just my two cents, hope it's helpful.
posted by CodeBaloo at 5:58 AM on July 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

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