Streetfighters vs Ring Fighters

There is an ongoing debate among martial artists, actually between three groups–although there appears to be a debate among just two of them:

  1. Streetfighters. Martial artists who train strictly for streetfighting. They have little interest in, or respect for, tournament fighting of any type. They modify traditional martial arts for the street in the modern world, and believe that martial arts must keep up with the times and changes in technology. Show them a world-class ring fighter, and they will tell you that the street is a different animal because there are no rules, etc… They often see fighting as a life-or-death struggle between murders and the law-abiding citizen–not mutual combat between trained fighters.
  2. Ring Fighters. These martial artists don’t care for any martial arts philosophy that does not involve some form of fighting against other martial artists in organized (or unorganized, lol) events. They range from point fighters, to kick boxers, to Mixed Martial Arts fighters, to guys who participate in backyard brawls and dojo fight nights.
  3. Traditionalists. Those who neither believe in fighting in sport events nor “modernizing” their beloved arts. The art is valid as-is, and if you develop it strongly enough, you should be able to adapt to both the ring or the street. And in doing so, you embrace te actual purpose of the arts:  To live this lifestyle, preserve the tradition, and understand it well enough to use it under a plethora of circumstances.

Each of them have their strengths in this argument. Parties on all sides of the debate also have their misconceptions:

  • fighters must have a way to test technique in real time, against an opponent determined to make that technique fail, to fully understand how that technique works. many who don’t fight never get this lesson
  • there must be the element of the strange opponent–someone unfamiliar, unpredictable and uncooperative
  • all sporting events have rules. the street has no rules…
  • or does it? does mutual combat between two men at the football have some understandings? of course it does. if one pulls out a knife or gun, it IS unexpected. many combatants have self-imposed limits in a fight, because they know that this is a fist fight and not a fight to the death. if one has a child, the other man will not attack him. RULES.
  • but then there are those guys who will ^^^
  • many fighting techniques practiced by traditional martial artists are, in fact, outdated
  • as much as I love sport karate and kick-boxing, the average fighter on the street is NOT going to kick you, and he is most likely not going to throw textbook punches at you… and he is most likely not going to attempt a one or two leg takedown
  • even if 90% of fights go to the ground, don’t 100% of them start standing up?
  • ^^ not necessarily, ask someone who has awaken at 2 am in bed, with an assailant standing over them
  • or a woman who is put in a chokehold from behind by surprise
  • you can’t do most of those grappling moves on a concrete sidewalk
  • or against a guy with a concealed knife

The bottom line is this:  None of the above has all the answers. None of them. Each has credible points in the argument, and if you neglect one or two, your martial arts will be missing some very important information. You cannot treat the full contact arena as preparation for street fighting. You cannot “simulate” a real street fight. You cannot substitute the feel or experience of fighting someone trying to knock you out without (well) fighting someone trying to knock you out.

And if you are training empty hands without some element of fighting and sparring with a knife, stick or club–you darn sure aren’t training to fight a punk on the street. The gang banger, skinhead, or drunk soccer fan you encounter is not going to kickbox with you, he is most likely going to do something “unfair”–pull out a weapon, hit you from behind, jump you with three or four of his buddies. In the world of martial arts and fighting, you must get as much of each school of thought as you can.

So my verdict for who wins the argument–they all do. And you cannot afford to take sides.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

6 thoughts on “Streetfighters vs Ring Fighters”

  1. Comparisons lead to heartache, it does not really matter what is the best, all that really matters is what works for you. Do that to the best you can learn and then move on to the next thing after you are ready or not. In the end, have fun, learn and get something out of your training that you can take to the next level, whatever that may be. My .02c Regards..

  2. I was curious about the 90% statistic so I started researching the background behind it.

    Turns out, the so-often repeated “fact” comes from an 1991 study by the LAPD. After collecting data, the study concluded that 95% of police altercations most often occurred in five patterns of resistance from the suspect. Of these altercations, understandably, 65% ended up with the officer arresting the suspect on the ground.

    So much for nearly every fight going to the ground.

    I’ve only had a few encounters on the street, but many of my acquaintances agree that in general, ring fighters are superior to street fighters.

    1. well thats probably because most people on the street don’t know how to fight as opposed to people who are in a sport that practice fighting. however I’m pretty sure attitudes to change when weapons are involved, I know thats how it is in the Philippines. people don’t fight the way they fight in america where the law is better enforced.

  3. Very articulate, as usual. At first I thought you would side with street fighters but the subsequent discussion put the points so well. Great conclusion! Thank you for this.

  4. Ring fighters are not superior to street fighters in any way, shape or form. What most people call are “Street Fighters” are simply drunks, verbal bullies, and/or people that get into confrontations. To me a “Street Fighter” is a person that has been in many fights and intends to end the fight with serious injury or death. Their purpose for fighting so often is related to illegal activity and they are Hell bent on not going back to prison! Notice I said prison, NOT jail. I have found that only a tiny percentage of my fellow martial artist have ever been in a fight, and no I am not talking about High School or fighting some piss drunk loud mouth! Other so-called street fighters include those in oppressed country where the locals must fight or be subjected to the will of someone else! Normally this someone is coming out of Europe or the Good Ole U.S. of A!

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