Self-defence: How to Win a Street or Pub Fight

by | Sep 21, 2020

Street Fight

At sometime in your life you’re probably going to need to get it on and protect yourself and others with self-defence. Violent people are out there — drug-fuelled criminals, those with impulse issues or a short fuse, drunk, a bully or just having a super bad day — and unfortunately acts of aggression happen too frequently. You can be assaulted or threatened in a park, a bar or pub, a shopping centre, on public transportation, your home etc The circumstances can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the environment and number of attackers. Every self-defence situation is different. But a given is it will be fast and fierce; dangerous and unpredictable too. And throw in chaotic — expect the unexpected. So what can we do to best survive the urban fight?

NB. Also see Street Survival Tips 101

Avoid, Defuse or Escape

The best way to prevent potential injury is not to fight at all. Drop the ego and do your best to avoid a physical confrontation. An ego will heal quicker than a broken jaw. Swallow your pride, walk or run and live to fight another day. Don’t let small stuff cause a big incident. Try to stay calm and controlled even if the other guy is mad angry and about to become the Hulk — an apology can go a long way if you think you’ve intentionally offended. But do it confidently sans nervousness. 

Look to escape, especially if outnumbered and/or he/she is armed with a weapon such as a knife. If escaping isn’t possible, try to ensure physical distancing and get verbal. Go on the verbal offensive and try to control or diffuse a situation before it explodes. Don’t assume a fighting stance just yet. If it’s possible to resolve the situation, do so. Premature adoption of a fight pose may be waving a red rag to a bull. 

Time to Fight: Reasonable Force and Preemptive Strikes

If all non-violent options have been attempted and failed then it’s time. Switch to red alert and adopt a fighting stance. Especially important is high hands to protect the face and on the balls of your feet — ready to strike or move. Don’t be flat footed and don’t stand too close ie. not within striking range. Let him or her come to you. Stepping away when they strike to avoid getting hit and to see what they’ve got.

There are many who believe the best way to win a confrontation is to get the first strike. And that may be true but is that justified self-defence? From a legal standpoint, everyone has a right to defend one’s person, family, or property against attack. But here’s the thing — no one is allowed to use more force than is reasonable. Is a one punch knockdown to someone who has yet to move against you in anger reasonable force? You will likely be held accountable for your actions. That being said, if you believe you’re in serious danger, preemptive strikes or striking before you’ve been hit or assaulted is a genuine legal defence — if you felt genuinely threatened. At the end of the day, you have to do what is necessary to keep yourself and others safe.

Don’t Hold Back & Maintain Alertness 

To beat the bad guy or guys you may have to do bad things, especially if it’s life threatening. When it’s game on, don’t hold back. Any street fight is potentially a fight to the finish. Maintain alertness, never underestimate and never take your eyes off your opponent — morons, knuckleheads and cowards can hit from the side or behind. It only takes one punch to end a life. 

Be Ready for the Overhand Right 

The odds are the bad guy will be right handed and an untrained fighter. So the overhand right or haymaker is likely to come your way. Learn how to defend against wild and reckless strikes. See video below. 


Improve your fitness. You can’t run if unfit. Similarly, you’re unlikely to win a physical encounter if you’re out of shape. Work on your cardio.

Self Development 

Learn a martial art or take self-defence classes. The type of martial art doesn’t really matter. What is important is to train hard and consistently and you’ll acquire offensive and defensive skills. Obviously, if you have the time and can learn both stand-up striking and ground grappling skills you’ll be better prepared to cope with different altercation scenarios. 

Do the Basics and Avoid the Ground 

Spinning elbow strikes and head kicks look spectacular when Chuck Norris destroys the movie villains — but when faced with an opponent of unknown skills on a hard and unforgiving surface, especially in restricted space, keep self-defence simple and minimise the risk. You ain’t Chuck Norris. You don’t want to lose balance and make hard head contact with a concrete or tiled floor. Even if the landing is a soft one, ending up on the ground is not a safe option — unless you’re a skilled grappler or ground fighter. Do the basics. And do them well. Have a strong stance and incapacitate with single or two strike combinations, low kicks to knees or thigh, knees to the groin, elbow strikes, punches to the body or jaw/nose/cheekbones (not the forehead) etc See primary targets below.

NB. Avoid the ground where possible — even a skilled grappler is vulnerable on the ground against multiple attackers. With this in mind, be aware of trip hazards. 

Protect the Hands

Focus on striking the primary targets and hit him where it really hurts. Primary targets:

  • Cheekbones with left and right hooks
  • Nose with a straight punch or palm strike
  • Eyes and throat with fingers and hands 
  • Kidneys, liver, solar plexus and groin with fists or knees 
  • Headbutt hard to the nose 
  • Elbow strikes against the head
  • Knees, groin and thighs with kicks

Especially, target the weak spot, the groin. Otherwise, secondary attack his vision, breathing and mobility. If he can’t see, breathe or move, he can’t run you down. 

NB. If your intention is to strike with your fists, avoid punches to the attacker’s or opponent’s forehead. Foreheads can be damaging to clenched fists.

Multiple Attackers

As mentioned, if faced with more than one opponent, grappling or taking the fight to the ground is unwise. Whilst you’re trying to choke or armbar Number 1 opponent, Number 2 (or more) is delivering the pain and kicking the living daylights out of your ribs. Stay standing, if possible, and take your attackers out with strikes. Better still, do your best Forest Gump impression. Run!

The bottom line is that street fights are high risk and potentially deadly — no matter how skilled and well trained you are.

Train hard. Train smart.

Yours in Self-defence,