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7 Self Defense Lessons You Can Learn From A Street Fight

During my many years as a martial arts instructor, I have been asked, many times, how to apply martial arts skills to an actual street fight. The advice I provided was pretty straight forward, and I am going to give that advice to you in this article.

First I have a few thoughts for you. I know you are you serious about developing real-world, no-nonsense self-defense skills. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t! But, did you know that the “way” you THINK about self-defense, and where you put your focus, can make the difference between really being a master at self-defense or doing the totally “wrong” thing if you’re ever attacked?

It’s true.

I tell you something very important. So crucial in fact, that your life and safety could depend on you really getting your head wrapped around this critical, life-saving lesson!

That lesson is: fights are won or lost, but attacks are evaded, escaped, and survived. Do you understand where I am coming from? If not let me explain what I am talking about.

Fights, where both combatants are willing participants in the match, and both are trying to win the same “prize,” is very different from a situation where you are the victim of a savage attack and must do everything and anything in your power not to be beaten, broken, or killed!

These are two VERY different situations. And therefore, require two very different approaches to training and preparation for the “event.” If you’re serious about learning real, no-nonsense self-defense techniques that are designed for real-world, street self-defense, then you have to understand this critical difference! Because you will only be prepared for what you train for.

If you’re training to fight in a competition and your goal is to be able to survive a street self-defense attack, you may find that you are completely unprepared for what you are most definitely going to face at the hands of an attacker who has made damned sure that:

  • He didn’t follow any rules.
  • The fight wasn’t “fair.”
  • He had the advantage
  • He was probably going to get away with it!

Never forget that self-defense is about surviving a street attack, and should focus on simple, no frills, no nonsense self-defense moves – not belts, trophies, or fame and fortune.

At the end of the day, when you’ve successfully handled an attack, you will realize that your trophy – the only prize that counts is going home safely, and remaining in the lives of those who love you, and who look to you for safety and protection!

Effective self-defense requires more than just a few “karate moves.” It involves the ability to think strategically and understand how to defend yourself with as little wear-and-tear on you as possible. So, for that, I am going to provide you with seven self-defense tips you can learn from a street fight.

1. Your ONLY objective is to survive

Surviving a street attack is not about who can do the best roundhouse kick so they can look good in a YouTube video. It’s about surviving a potentially life-threatening situation. It’s about how you get in a few quick hits and get out. You never know if the person you are up against either has a hidden firearm or has backup already there or on the way. You don’t have time to find out. Your only concern is your immediate survival and getting yourself to safety.

2. Know your limits

You are not Bruce Lee. You are not invincible. You are only one person. Therefore taking on five opponents as if you are in a Bruce Lee movie is just stupid. Being able to take on multiple opponents only happens in the movies. It’s neither advisable to risk your life to save a few dollars when the attacker has a gun pointed at you. Know your limits. Give whatever the attack might require if he holds a weapon or has backup.

3. Stay Calm and keep your wits about you.

When in the heat of the battle; it’s easy for you to forget about using your common sense. When you do this, you can risk everything falling apart for you. You must focus on remaining calm and keep your head cool. If you do this, you will be able to see the big picture, make the right decisions and get out of the situation alive.

Search for an exit when possible. You can’t do that while your punching away in rage infused fury.

I remember once while I was living in Chicago, I got into a fight on the Basketball court. My assailant pulled a gun from his sock, put it to my head, and pulled the trigger. When the gun did not go off, I lost it and attacked full of rage, and probably fear. I was so enraged that when someone grabbed me from behind and tried pulling me off the guy, I turned and attacked him too. That person turned out to be my father. Someone had gone to my house to get him. I had totally blanked out and lost my cool. Learn from my mistake.

4. There are no rules in the URBAN jungle

That means I give you my permission to fight as dirty as you need to survive. Aim for the eyes, the crotch, find a weapon, bite, do anything in your power to make sure you survive.

This is not about pretty moves and cool kicks. This is about who can get out with the least amount of damage and wake up the next day. Remember, you WILL be hit. This is a street fight. This is not a regulated sporting event (You will get hit there too). This is man (or woman) vs. man. No rules, no boundaries.

5. Hit first – Take the initiative

You have the element of surprise. Most attackers won’t expect you to hit first. Use it! Hit first. Take the initiative if you KNOW you are going to be attacked. If you are the one getting hit, then you are at the wrong end and did not do the right thing. By making the first move, you have the opportunity to stun your attacker to give yourself a short window to get out of there. Use that to your advantage.

Once when I was attacked in Chicago by three guys. The leader reached behind him to go for a bottle on the street to hit me with. When he turned, I attacked. I have to say that I did not win against three guys, but the sudden attack kept him from grabbing the bottle, which may have made things worse. Luckily, I fought them off without taking too much punishment.

6. Take your attacker to the ground

I recommend this, but ONLY if you know what to do once you get on the ground. It makes no sense to take your opponent to the ground if you have no idea how to fight on the ground. Close the distance. Use your weight. Lock his joints and get him on the ground. Once you’re on top, you have the advantage. This is especially effective if you know any Brazilian jiu-jitsu or submission martial arts. Most attackers do not know how to defend themselves on the ground properly; please make sure that you do.

7. Keep your hands up

This is something boxing coaches remind their fighters. I have seen so many YouTube videos of people getting knocked the hell out with their hand to their sides. If someone is approaching ALWAYS put your hands up so you can be ready to protect yourself. You don’t have to have them balled into a fist, but, keep them hands up! Be prepared to defend yourself. Your head is one of the most vulnerable points on your body. Keep your hands up so you’ll last longer in the fight. Better yet, learn to evade the punches when you can.

That’s it for this article. These tips are from hard lessons I have learned in the streets. You don’t have to experience what I have; you can benefit from that experience. The other Fight Fast instructors and I are here to help you help yourself. Take advantage of our experience.

Click here for brutal, easy-to-learn self defense moves taught by Derek Smith

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