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Self Defense Tips: Should You Grapple In A Street Fight?

Full Disclosure: I have been grappling for over 30 years, and competed for many years. Additionally, I am a USA Wrestling coach, and certified Brazilian Jiu-jitsu self-defense instructor, and have trained many competitors. To this day grappling is a passion of mine, there's nothing more fun than getting on the mat and "rolling" with other wrestlers and jiu-jitsu practitioners.

Facts: Any martial art where you are doing live grappling and wrestling regularly, is going to make you advantageous over someone who has never trained. I've finished some no holds barred matches (where there are no weight classes, or time limits) using submissions against bigger, stronger opponents, and against "Zombies" (those guys who don't quit no matter what you hit them with).

But does grappling work in a street fight where the opponent is bigger, stronger, has wrestling/grappling experience also? And what if they have a weapon, or you're fighting multiple assailants?

It depends. Grappling in the street is completely different than only grappling on a mat in your weight class. Getting smashed by a bigger, stronger person, on top of you is a nightmare (been there, done that, it's not fun).

For example, in order to beat a guy in a street fight using only grappling, you have to take him down to the ground and control him there. This act alone requires a series of complex movements and a lot of energy, (especially the bigger and stronger the assailant is). Then, while continuously controlling him, you have to finish him with a submission, before he gets back up again. More complex movements equals more energy expended (it can be done if you're a fit, high level grappler).

Compare that to knocking out an assailant with one punch, or kicking them hard in the groin. Which one is easier to do?

Another issue you are going to face if you are only grappling in a street fight, is getting punched or kicked while you're trying to get close enough to take down the assailant. And once you do grab a hold of them, what do you do if they bite, scratch and/or gouge your eyes? If you are not used to that kind of pressure, it could be disastrous for you.

Worse yet, what if they have a weapon? Did you hear about the jiu-jitsu guy who got shot, or the wrestler who got stabbed, while they were grappling in a street fight? I have (I happen to personally know a couple of guys this has happened to). It happens more often than you think.

Finally, what if there are multiple assailants? You cannot grapple multiple assailants. Your mobility while standing is the only thing keeping you from getting stomped. Once you go to the ground its over. Also, ever see what happens when strangers are watching two guys in a street fight, and one of them starts choking out the other guy? Folks jump in to "save the victim" by knocking out the guy doing the choking.

So what's a grappler to do?

Learn how to strike! Boxing and Muay Thai are two great systems that compliment grappling. Either of them will make you a better grappler because:

  • Your ability to defend against the assailants strikes will keep you safe, while you work to get into clinching/grappling range.

  • Striking the assailant can weaken them enough for you to get the takedown more easily.

  • If the assailant has a weapon, its more likely to come out in the beginning of the fight while you are stand up fighting. This allows you to see it and either disarm him, or run away.

  • If there are multiple assailants, keeping it on the feet is your best course of action. Likewise, if you are ground fighting and his buddy jumps in the fight, you can get back to your feet and strike both of them.

  • Striking makes submissions easier. Striking hides your submission attempts better, also, after you weaken the assailant with some "ground and pound", submissions are much easier to pull off.

So does grappling work in a street fight? I can say YES with 100% certainty, IF you add some striking to your arsenal.

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Lawrence Castanon,

Author, The Short Fight

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