Self-defence skills to learn for the street

Jack Dempsey street fighter

If you’re a fan of boxing history you’ll recognise the gentleman in the title image of this article.

Jack Dempsey is one of the all-time great heavyweights. Known for his aggressive fighting style, the ‘Manassa Mauler’ wore opponents down with relentless barrages of rage.

Dempsey was a 1920s cultural icon and broke gate records throughout his reign as heavyweight king from 1919 to 1926.

Over 60 years later a young Mike Tyson would cite Dempsey’s no-nonsense style and aggression as the blueprint to his dominating the heavyweight division in the 80s and 90s.

Dempsey was tough because of his upbringing. He left his poor family home at 16 with no money, no food and sleeping rough on the city streets. It seemed he was just another impoverished teenager with a bleak future.

But humans are survivors and can adapt to the most hell-on-earth situations. The young Dempsey had luck on his side and was gifted with raw strength and two sledgehammer fists that he would use to make a living in street fighting.

Despite humble beginnings, he went on to win the greatest prize in sport, amassed a fortune doing it and the rest, as they say, is history.

You might think you’re cool but you’ll never be Jack Dempsey cool.

No one today is so limited by their choices that they have to earn money in organised street fights to survive. Poverty is still rife in our society but it’s not 1920’s American poverty.

That’s not to say the impoverished fighter’s life doesn’t exist. Go to Thailand and learn the culture of muay thai to understand the harshness of a young thai fighter’s life and the sacrifices they endure.

In the West, however, our surroundings have changed and our culture reflects that.

We suffer from mental stress not physical stress. We are overfed not malnourished. We prefer to lie instead of speak the truth out of fear of offending someone. Weakness is celebrated and stoicism discouraged.

Learning how to defend one’s self is not a requirement in today’s white collar world. City living is safe and gentrification has made it so.

This is wrong. If you think your world is safe from harm you’re deluded.

People are beaten up, mugged, raped and murdered daily. Often it’s a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. People lose control in alcohol, in a lustful rage or behind the wheel after being cut off while driving. This is the reality.

Training in self-defence may one day save your life or indeed the life of someone you care about. Confidence is half the battle won. Learning self-defence gives you the belief that if something does happen you can handle it.

The best way to learn self-defence is to learn the basics of today’s combat fighting.

The art of combat fighting has come a long way since Dempsey’s day. Asian forms including karate, kung fu, muay thai and jujitsu have made their way over to this side of the world.

The best of each discipline has been applied to MMA (mixed martial arts) today’s most fierce kind of combat sport.

Standing 6ft 5ins and weighing around 250lbs, heavyweight MMA fighters with their ability to punch, knee, kick, wrestle and choke are the most dangerous unarmed combat fighters in the world.

MMA requires the student to develop the skills and techniques across each of these fighting disciplines. Their training is as intense as their fights and the life of an MMA fighter requires full dedication to the sport for success.

With their size, strength and fighting skills, heavyweight MMA fighters like Brock Lesner and Alistair Overeem (pictured above) are the most dangerous unarmed combat fighters in the world.

You’ll never get to an MMA fighter level. Sorry to break it to you. But you can learn from them by adopting the physical and fighting attributes they use to become an all-round fighting machine.

The basics you need to learn to handle yourself in a street fight.

You don’t need to learn flamboyant roundhouse kicks, flying knees or spinning back elbows. Get the basics right and you’ll stand more of a chance at defending yourself than 90 percent of other people.


Physical fitness is important to live a good life. We need endurance and stamina to do everything we want in life. When it comes to fighting, fitness levels could be the matter of winning and losing. Often the most skilled fighter will lose due to his fitness levels. The term ‘punched himself out’ refers to when a fighter has ran out of gas and has nothing left to give.

You have to work on your stamina, endurance and overall fitness if you want to be able to handle yourself in a fight. This requires doing conditioning work like HIIT, hill sprints, skipping and rounds sparring and on the punch bag.


Strength amplifies force. The greater the strength (and weight) the greater the force. Lifting, pinning, hugging, clinching, punching, kicking and kneeing are delivered with greater force when strength is increased.

Build strength by lifting weights. Do compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull ups, dips and bench press.

A strong body usually means a larger body too and the larger the body the more intimidating it is to a would-be attacker. Don’t underestimate the power of size for intimidation.

Knowing how to throw punches in bunches

Most people have never thrown a punch though punching is a natural instinct when fighting.  Watch someone who has never fought engage in a street fight and their natural instinct is to position themselves in a boxer’s stance.

There is an art to throwing a good punch. To leverage as much power as the body has it requires transferring power from the legs, through the hips and up through the shoulders. A punch is not solely about the upper limbs but requires the full body for maximum impact.

Watch the master of the powerful punch demonstrate how to do it. “Punches in bunches” he was always told as a kid.

Basic Brazilian ju-jitsu

Brazilian ju-jitsu (BJJ) is one of the most effective forms of self-defence. MMA fighters make BJJ a part of their overall toolbox and it’s easy to understand why since many of their fights end in an armbar or choke.

The once queen of the UFC, Rhonda Rousey is a specialist at the armbar.

Street fights usually end up on the ground. If you know basic BJJ and the other guy doesn’t you’ll have the upper hand to render him powerless.

The ability to run fast for as long as possible

If you think self-defence is all about fighting, you’re mistaken. Running away is sometimes the best thing you can do, particularly when you’re outnumbered. Don’t be a hero. If your odds are slim run away as fast you can.

The U.S. Navy SEALs, one of the most elite group of soldiers in the world are taught to run away if they have to. Their prime objective is to carry out a successful mission and if that requires running away they will.

Train your body to run fairly short distances fast. If you can run a mile in around five minutes the average person won’t catch you.

Unless you’re an idiot, nobody wants to get into a street fight to risk their life over something trivial. But the choice is often not yours and you need to be prepared in the event you’re confronted. Self-defence skills can literally mean the difference between life and death.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Quotes by Arthur Schopenhauer on how to live a life

Four practical subjects they don’t teach in schools but should