What is the Best Martial Art for Street Fighting?

Which martial art would be best for self defense?

To begin, we’d like to clarify that we’re discussing martial arts and street fighting in the context of self-defense. The best defense is to simply escape the situation, either by running or diffusing the confrontation either by talking, or submitting to avoid the negative implications that can come from street fighting. Having said that, we’re going to investigate how different martial arts are effective in unavoidable real-life fight situations.

So, which martial art is best for street fighting? Or, to put it another way, what is the best martial art for self-defense? We’ll make a case for the most well-known martial arts before deciding which practice we believe is the most reliable in the given context.

Boxing for Self-Defense

Is Boxing Good for Street Fighting?

Boxing is an excellent self-defense tool because it relies on balance, footwork, speed, combinations, and tight technique. The agility of a good pugilist is their greatest tool. Being able to work an opponent on the feet and keep the fight standing allows the combatant to handle multiple attackers.

Boxing working in a multiple attacker scenario
Footwork and distance management helping fend off multiple attackers in a street fight

However, the boxer’s toolkit is limited to fights on the feet. It’s very likely that a group fight will end up on the ground. Boxing works best when combined with another grappling art, such as wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Muay Thai for Self Defense

Is Muay Thai good for street fighting?

Muay Thai’s footwork and balance, like boxing’s, would be extremely useful for self-defense. Muay Thai may not place as much emphasis on punches and combinations as boxing, but it makes up for it with body conditioning, clinch techniques, and some of the strongest kicks in martial arts.

‘The art of eight limbs’ employs elbows with the intent of causing lacerations on the opponent’s face. The Thai clinch also refers to a situation in which two fighters fight for control of the opponent’s head and thus their posture by using their hands and forearms. The clinch allows for numerous elbows, knees, and throws.

This would have utility in a self defense situation where grappling is a likelihood. Being thrown onto hard ground, or chopping at the leg with a sweeping low kick would be a great deterrent for anybody trying to instigate a fight.

Example of a muay thai clinch throw
Example of a throw from the clinch in Muay Thai. If done on hard ground it could be lethal (and potentially fatal).

Wrestling for Self Defense

Is Wrestling Good for Street Fighting?

Since the ancient days of Pankration, wrestling has been a prominent part of combat sports.

Wrestling is one of those skills that, in a one-on-one fight against an untrained opponent, will almost always win. Wrestling grappling, throws, takedowns, and slams are unparalleled in their effectiveness. Unless you consider combat sambo, it’s difficult to find a combat sport other than MMA with an art as effective as wrestling.

If you take a look at many fight videos, they end up on the ground, and often enough a slam or throw is what takes it there. Confident wrestling ability is the difference between finding yourself in the dominant position, or being sat on in a losing effort. Slamming on hard concrete is also a surefire way to win a fight (and catch a criminal record).

One drawback about wrestling is the lack of protection for the knees and elbows when executing double leg takedowns and other maneuvers that require contact with the ground. This can be mitigated by going for single leg or high crotch takedowns, It’s advisable not to go for slams or spikes since they are highly lethal and even fatal.

Body slam wins a street fight
Wrestling can change the course of a fight in seconds.
Body slam wins a street fight
It should also be treated with great caution. Slams on hard ground can be fatal.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) for Self Defense

Is BJJ Good for Street Fighting

BJJ is a great equaliser in physical conflict. If a street fight lasts too long, it will inevitably end up on the ground, which is the ideal place for any BJJ practitioner to end up.

BJJ focuses on ground control and submissions through joint manipulation and blood chokes. It’s a common misconception that methods like the rear naked choke suffocate the victim and cause them to pass out. Most chokes actually deprive the brain of blood, and an untrained person can be put to sleep in just a few seconds if the choke is held. If the choke is held, the brain is starved of oxygen, which can cause severe brain damage and eventually death.

Tony Ferguson applying the rear naked choke
The rear naked choke, the most consistent submission in MMA

The ability of BJJ to equalise a size difference between combatants is one of its main selling points. If a 5’5, 10st man and a 6’3, 15st man got into a fight and the smaller man was a blue belt in BJJ, the smaller man would likely win. It truly has the potential to be that effective. The problem with BJJ is getting to the ground in the first place.

Which martial art is the best for self defense?

You can’t be certain. They each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Combining the effective striking of one of the standup arts with that of a grappling art would be the best option. A fantastic combination, and one that pervades modern MMA, is Muay Thai and BJJ/Wrestling.

Every martial arts has its benefits. First and foremost is the discipline brought about by chiseling your body and mind into a better shape. The ultimate reward is becoming the best version of yourself. The ability to handle yourself in a physical altercation is secondary to the mental and philosophical benefits of martial arts training.

Thanks for reading. Drop a comment below with your opinions, or sign up to the Fight Forum to discuss martial arts with likeminded individuals. Fancy guest posting for The Fight Fanatic for a backlink? Drop me a message and we'll see what we can do.
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