You don’t need perfect technique to win a streetfight

Posted: August 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Do you need to execute perfect technique in a self-defense situation, aka a streetfight? The short answer is, “No.”

By now, martial artists and MMA enthusiasts alike are warming up their keyboards, a prelude to putting me in my place before challenging me to a fight. Thing is, I’m not talking about combative sports such as boxing, kickboxing, or MMA. In those arenas, it’s always best to have perfected your technique, not to mention your stamina and a host of other qualities needed before the bell goes “ding.” In a self defense situation, however, the need for flawless execution of technique diminishes in the face of such things as mental preparedness, conviction, and above all, situational awareness. Or, to put it bluntly, a wild haymaker and the determination to use it can be far more deadly than having a McDojo black belt but not knowing when the bad guys (or girls) are sizing you up for an attack.

One of the first things the School of Perfect Technique will tell you is this old chestnut: wide, looping punches (aka “haymakers”) are very easily to block or dodge, and leading with one is sure to get you knocked out or worse. While this is sound tactical advice, YouTube is FILLED with clips of people getting laid out by these “wild” punches. Here’s one where I swear the kid throwing the punch HAD to have had his eyes closed:

Also on the subject of punches, fight gurus will preach on and on about the correct way to throw a punch and what parts of the knuckles should make contact with your opponent. They’ll all criticize lobbing a straight, stiff-armed punch, which tends to strike with the inside of the palm and knuckles. Not only is such a strike telegraphed and easily blocked, fight experts swear that the punch is ineffective because it hurts the puncher’s hand far more than the victim’s face. Internet fight sensation Sharkeisha might disagree; with just one of the aforementioned clumsy punches, she practically destroyed a young woman her age:

If you think that was brutal, this stiff, straight-armed punch conributed to a man’s death:

Here another piece of fight advice from the technique gurus: never throw high kicks to the head/face in a street fight. Such kicks can be blocked and the kicker can be knocked off balance. Worse yet, such kicks are highly dangerous on the street, in a bar, or any other place where the terrain is uncertain an could cause the kicker to slip and fall. Despite this sound advice, here’s at least one streetfight where a head kick was a gamechanger… luckily, the victim’s friends had the presence of mind to save him!

Last but not least: “Never go to the ground in a streetfight ’cause the guy’s friends could stomp your face while you’re down there.” Technically speaking, I can’t exactly argue with this advice. Going to the ground with your opponent does present certain, undeniable risks, especially in this day and age where it seems like no one fights without a little help from their “boyz.” And Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other wrestling arts are largely used for sporting competitions such as MMA and grappling tournaments. That said, they also have plenty of application in self-defense, and there are cases where these techniques have been used effectively in self-defense situations, aka “on da streetz, yo!” Here’s some basic BJJ moves used to neutralize an attacker:

So the School of Perfect Technique is full of shit, right? Wrong! Just because I showed instances where streetfighters went against the experts and came out victorious, that doesn’t mean that we as martial artists should quit honing our techniques. I will agree that wild haymakers can easily be blocked or dodged, and that they have a high probability of missing. I’ll also agree that the stiff-armed punch increases the risk of breaking one’s hand, and that a good strong hook or overhand right might be more effective. And when it comes to head kicks, I never used them in my competitive kickboxing days, let alone on the asphalt or inside the bar. And every martial artist should hone his/her ground game if for no other reason than they might find themselves there… whether they wanted to pull guard or not. (Also keep in mind that while most fights go to the ground, ALL of them start standing up.)

Simply put, sloppy techniques also work. Just about any technique will IF you execute it with determination and conviction. In other words, you have to WANT to knock out your attacker because he or she wants to knock YOU out. You gotta do something and do it quickly, and with all your strength behind it. Try not to worry about all the little things, such as “Is my footwork in the proper position?” or “Did I rotate my shoulder enough on that punch?” Those thoughts will cloud your mind and take you out of the mindset needed to survive a confrontation with the thugs and roughnecks out there waiting to prey upon YOU.

Stay safe, good people!

J.P. Ribner is the author of Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

  1. johnnyid says:

    Many more good points. Have you ever read Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense? It’s more conceptual than a “how to” but talks about a lot of similar points..

    I really like these posts, keep them coming! 🙂

    • johnribner13 says:

      No, but I’d be happy to check it out. I’ve read a lot of Peyton Quinn and Marc MacYoung’s stuff, mostly.

      • johnnyid says:

        Cooper’s most well know for writing about military style tactics and invented the concept of the “scout” rifle. The Ruger Gunsight Scout is based on his specificiations. He also wrote a kind of male manifesto “To ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth. The Principles of Personal defense is kind of like the philosophy of self defense, not any techniques, but it’s a fascinating read. He’s very old fashioned when it comes to “being a real man” and self defense. Interesting stuff.

        I hadn’t heard of those two authors, but I’m looking at their stuff on Amazon right now and they look good.

      • johnribner13 says:

        Start with Quinn’s “Real Fighting.” It’s an eye-opener, and forms the basis of much of what I preach.

      • johnnyid says:

        Will do, thanks!

  2. Hi John,

    I also read a lot of Marc MacYoung. Have you read any of Rory Miller’s books? Those two are basically on the same page.

    While reading this post, I was wondering where you were going with it. I thought you were going in a totally different direction. Good post, thanks for sharing.

  3. […] the technically-proficient strikes exchanged in the above muay Thai fight/brawl, it was a sloppy, stiff-armed haymaker that finally ended it for […]

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