Are martial artists really aware of how a no rules street brawl really plays out?

In this thread there seems to be the notion by some martial arts enthusiasts that even when the participants are vastly mismatched in size and power that there will always be room or opportunity for some sort of “fists of fury” martial arts action that will bring the big bruiser to his knees if he’s fighting a considerably smaller and less powerful, but more highly trained, opponent.

In stand up fighting with rules I wouldn’t question this supposition, but in a no rules, real world street brawl scenario I have to question this optimism. I haven’t had a real fight since high school, which was the typical clumsy, pummelling , grappling nonsense, so I’m not speaking from any substantive martial arts experience here. Beyond that, the only grappling experience I had was high school gym wrestling, and the occasional scrum with my brother who was approximately my size and strength.

The main things that make me question the effectiveness of martial arts technique in a real street brawl was two experiences. One of my real estate leasing clients was a very strong (for his size) and wiry man who weighed about 150 lbs, and taught Brazilian-style “go to the ground” fighting techniques. This man has multiple martial arts titles in a variety of fighting disciplines, and competed regionally and possibly nationally. He also tended to be a bit “cocky” in the way he carried himself, and had had his share of bar fights.

I was asking about the effectiveness of his style, and the point he made to me was that if you can’t control the action on the ground, you have little hope of prevailing unless your opponent has a heart attack. He went on to describe a fight in which he was semi-seriously injured by a random belligerent, out of control drunk, who was his size, but being a laborer of some kind was very strong and muscular, and just would not go down, or allow himself to be choked out. He finally prevailed by getting him pinned with the assistance of the bouncer until the police came.

The point he made to me was that martial arts can sometimes give you the edge in confrontation, especially in an open stand up confrontation, but thinking that there are magic, killer moves when things get real messy is nonsense, and that if there is large disparity in mass and reach your best bet is to avoid the confrontation if at all possible unless there is some real chance of taking them out quickly.

Beyond this, re the effectiveness of female martial artists (and again my practical experience in brawling with women is non-existent) I had the occasion where a woman I dating, who was an experienced martial artist, wanted to show me how she would defend herself against me. She was medium-small height and about 130 lbs but very strong for her size, with excellent upper body strength (for a woman) . She was utterly unable to break any grip she had me assume, and was unable to throw or leverage me because I was taller, stronger, and more massive than she was. She was genuinely surprised, because she sincerely expected things were going to go her way.

After twisting, beating and scratching the crap out my forearms and ribcage she conceded that I was too big and strong for her to handle. Prior to this discussion re her various fights with large men (in a martial arts training context) her conversation was always peppered with “Then, if it was real fight, I would do this, and that would kill them or paralyze them”. The nose into the brain palm smash seemed to be her favorite prospective technique in life and death scenarios. (she was a barrel of fun).

Anyway, between these two experiences, and in my limited experience with clumsy, youthful scrums, it always seemed that the stronger, heavier person with the best grip was probably going to win unless you hit them with something and knocked them out.

Having said all this, the question is - Do martial artists, and especially female martial artists, have an reasonable degree of self confidence about their real world chances in a down and dirty fight or not, or does their training tend to make them overly confident?

Most of the time (at least that I’ve seen), the people getting in fights are what you described - untrained, inefficient, drunk, or otherwise making a variety of silly mistakes. They have bad technique, bad balance, and little chance they’re going to connect with any real power. In that situation, I’ll bet money on the martial artist any day of the week.

Those ultra-slick moves you’re talking about are frequently just controlled shots to sensitive body parts, like a knee or a nose or a groin. Generally speaking, the martial artist has enough training and discipline to recognize an opening, take a shot when a sensitive area is exposed, and keep their own sensitive bits defended. Combined with good balance & correct technique, that one shot can be enough to end the fight.

Those are for your average schmoes in the street - when you’re talking about going up against an experienced street- or bar-brawler,well…they’ve learned to recognize the openings, hit with power, defend themselves from an agressor. So they’re martial artists too, and I expect their training has been a lot more thorough.

Then why does the military teach hand-to-hand fighting? Why did anybody learn to fight before the invention of the gun? Would an unarmed knight be of no use against an unarmed ne’er do well?

Was her skill judo? I’ve tossed guys who had great advantages in size, strength, and weight, and there are throws specifically taught for dealing with opponents of different sizes. But I don’t think a cursory education in the art of throwing is going to serve well one who is a stand up fighter. I’ve seen a 160 pound junior high wrestler nearly pin a 360 pound behemoth, so yeah, training can make a difference, but making a difference isn’t a panacea.

A guy in my college judo club got attacked at a party and neck tossed the attacker, without even spilling his beer. The attacker got a separated shoulder, and the guy in my club didn’t even have to go back to the keg for a refill.

One’s tool box may not have a tool for every job, and one’s ability to use the tools may be limited, but still, it seems hard to argue that there’s point in owning tools or learning to use them.

Second degree black belt in hapkido here. No.

Fighting isn’t like college football in which the better team wins 95 percent of the time. Skill is important, but there’s also a lot of chance involved. However, I am not interested in training for street fights, and I suspect a very good percentage of martial artists are not interested in becoming a great street fighter. IMHO, good street fighters tend to put themselves into situations that avail themselves of fighting on the street, and I’m not that kind of guy. I like martial arts because it teaches me some principles of self defense while also being physically and intellectually challenging.

But I have to take issue with an implication of the question: I think the question about whether that your average martial artist is a good street fighter – or is even interested in being a good street fighter – is a pretty silly oversimplification of why most people are interested in the activity. It’s like thinking that all cops want to be on the SWAT team, all lawyers want to be highly-paid criminal defense attorneys, or all baseball players want to be the type of slugger who can hit 70 homers a year. There are many more reasons to be interested in law enforcement, the law, baseball, or martial arts than being able to beat people up.

It is easy to become overconfident as a martial artist (MA). This is because it is always easier to fight someone within the same martial art style than anyone else. This is because of predictability of action from similarly trained people. The MA will know how to do techniques that seriously hurt or cripple their opponent, and can usually do them quite easily against a similar MA. But the application of a technique against an unknown opponent is much more difficult, MAs tend to forget that.
It reminds me of a martial arts session a long time back, it was a freindly informal group, and the instructor was very skilled but quite a light man. He showed a technique for dealing with someone who had caught hold of one arm with both hands. The instructor said he couldn’t understand why anyone attacking would take hold of their opponents lower arm with both hands, so I offered to show him. I took his arm and started swinging him arround by sheer weight and strength advantage as if to throw him into a wall. He managed the technique then in a realisitic dangerous situation (OK I wouldn’t have thrown him into the wall, but his pride would have been hurt if my simple thug attack had beaten him).
So a weight advantage, and an apparently weak attack (controling one arm using both my arms without any arm lock) was almost too much for a better martial artist when applied.
Sometimes the simplest brutish attacks are effective.

Can anyone comment on Krav Maga in relation to this discussion? As I understand it, it is a “martial art,” but it appears to be less about competition and “finding your chi” and more about self defense in real-world situations.

Hand-to-hand combat training is actually very limited in all but the most elite commando roles, and even then it’s not heavily emphasized.

If you have a rifle that kills people from a thousand yards away and you let the enemy get close enough to touch you, you have failed somehow.

Not if they’re smart. The number one thing taught at the gym I used to train at is never underestimate your opponent.

A smart marital aritist of either sex will try to avoid conflicts, and if faced with a situation take steps to get out of it rather than actually engaging the other person.

Anyone who goes around spoiling for a fight for an opportunity to “show off their skills” has a death wish.

Martial artists are human, and can be just as over-confident in their real ability as anyone else in any other activity. It is not a weakness of the art, but of the individual.

An analogy according to the OP: because he witnessed trained singers sounding absolutely terrible on American Idol, musical training can not produce good singers. It is fallacious logic.

By grabbing your friend’s arm effectively, you only demonstrated that she was overconfident as an individual. You did nothing to invalidate the effectiveness of the art form as a whole.

“When two tigers fight, one will be killed and the other severely maimed.”

A real “trained martial artist” is someone who’s trained to avoid fights, and if that fails, not be the tiger who gets killed.

I was coming in to say this. I have been in the army in one form or another for almost 18 years. I had one afternoon of hand to hand fighting training in basic training. That’s it. I would much rather rely on an M1 Abrams to defend myself. I have had a lot more training on that.

My answer to the question is no, most have no idea what they are getting themselves into. For every story I have heard about a MA taking care of someone in a fight, I have heard another story about some master getting the shit kicked out of them. When I was younger and had two good knees I took Tae Kwon Do. The instructor had a practical way of training. He trained us for toutnements and form but also made sure there was a self defense aspect to it. One new guy objected. He was from another school and was a brown belt. He told us that being a martial artist meant he would never get into a fight. We tried to explain to him that the world is a messy place and there are people out there who might not cooperate with him. He refused to budge. He was never going to be in a fight because of his discipline. I guarantee he would get his ass kicked in a real fight.

As a 200 lbs man I can tell you I would not trust any martial art to get me through a street fight with a determined opponent, at least not without injury. After some experience the best technique I have come up with when going up against such a person is to have three other 200 lbs men with me. Works every time.

I forgot to add that there is one thing that any form of self defense or MA does for you when you get into a real fight. You are used to getting hit. Of course that only goes for the training that includes real sparring and contact. Anyone who is not used to getting hit in the face is going to be shocked the first time it happens to them. Then the real beating will begin.

Well put.

Most of the styles I have studied have not pointed out their weaknesses. The best overall styles made weakness analysis a major part of the style. “If you’re in this stance, you’re vulnerable to this, this, and that other thing.” Part of learning those styles was to know what those weaknesses are so that you can present them to your opponent; he then tries to take advantage of that weakness, so you switch to something that takes advantage of what he’s doing.

Everybody knows that, in order to win at chess, you need to think several moves ahead. People see a few blows in a fight and don’t realize that, in a few seconds, they just saw each guy go through four stances, three changes in foot position, three blocks, and two blows, all of which were presenting or taking advantage of some kind of strength or weakness.

Which is all kind of straying from the OP: Most styles I have studied have not included much in the way of real-world application of what they were teaching. However, any martial art, even Tai Chi, if studied long enough, will give you some measure of understanding of what you can and cannot do, and rewire some of your reflexes so that if you do get jumped, you will respond better than if you had never studied.

A light-hearted answer to this question: Drunken British Martial Arts (warning - some profanity).

Why, it’s Llap Goch!

Well performed, yes, but I’m not so sure the skip-like-a-school-girl attack is going to be very effective. Stick with nutting. :stuck_out_tongue:

Whatever one does, don’t Dim Mak on bjj students. :smiley:

I never trained KM or knew anyone who did, but my understanding is that it is an attempt to synthesize a system of effective fighting at all ranges. Of course, the “system” is only as good as the individual teacher.

There are a number of folk who intentionally train MA focussing on effective practical applications. Most commonly they will describe themselves as doing some sort of “mixed martial arts”, but that designation alone is certainly not enough to ensure that a teacher or school is really any good. And it isn’t just a matter of taking a few techniques from this art and a few from another.

Most folk who are interested in learning fighting techniques will seek out opportunities to train with folk of all kinds of styles. And you’ll want to train a variety of striking, grappling, and weapons arts. With most styles/arts, if they have rules, many if not most are to protect the participants against serious injury, so what you want to learn is how to break them.

We used to do all kinds of things in efforts to add “realism” to our training. Grappling on mats is all fine and dandy, but you have to roll in an alley to realize how much you want to avoid going to the ground on the street! We would train in stairways, against multiple attackers, with and without weapons, guys reaching in car windows - one time we used a freight elevator to practice in enclosed spaces. When we were working on biting, one night we practiced tearing mouthfuls of meat off of steaks. We’d grapple in gis and in nothing but shorts, and would spar in winter clothes and boots on ice and snow. On one really fun FMA camp I was at, students would have to walk a path in the woods, while the instructors would jump out from behind trees and whale on them with rolled up newspapers. Great fun!

But having said that, I’ve never been in a fight since I left college. My instructor used to say that 2 things can happen in a fight, both of which you’d rather avoid if at all possible. Either you would get hurt, and/or you would hurt someone else.

I would have to say, that the point of all Martial Arts is “finding your chi”, including Krav Maga. Though it may seem like woo woo or some other mystical idea, it is really just your misunderstanding of the concept of chi.

Chi is the concept of dynamicism in Martial Arts. It is an “internal” concept of the physics of fighting that every MA must command to be an effective fighter. Chi is the physics of Speed, Power, Focus, and Balance. This also includes proper breathing and dynamic tension and relaxation.

Even a boxer utilizes chi in his sport, although he might refer to it as something else. Chi is universal to all physical arts, it’s just that your prejudiced of the term from misconception.

Interesting video link

“Tae-Kwon-Leap is the wine of purity, not the vinegar of hostility.”