Many people claim that grappling martial arts like judo and jiu jitsu are very useful in a street fight but I don't think this is true for the following two reasons.

First, in a street fight you want to hit your opponent as fast as possible and then be on your way, you definitely don't want to take the fight to the ground as this will increase your chances of getting injured, you just want to stun your opponent for a few seconds so you can run away.

And second, a lot of people seem to have assumed that in a street fight, your opponent will try to counter your grapples in a fair way like an mma match, but this is not not actually true, your opponent will try to pull your hair, thumb your eyes, pinch you, bite you, kick your groin, etc. For example as you go for a shoot, he can pull your hair, or kick your groin if he is fast enough, etc. In a street fight grappling has no winner, both lose, you may be able to get your opponent to the ground but he could just bite your ear and rip it off.

Having said that, are my arguments correct? Is there any way that grappling can work in a street fight?

  • You are partially right - grapplers are very vulnerable, if opponent has a knife. They use to shorten the distance, and in such situation, it's a critical error. I've heard enough police news about grappler being killed by a knife. Jun 8, 2021 at 6:33

4 Answers 4


First, in a street fight you want to hit your opponent as fast as possible and then be on your way

You have decided to get in a boxing match. As in many boxing matches, it's difficult to land a knockout blow, and someone closes to clinch to avoid getting punched. Now you have entered a grappling position, and there is no referee to separate you.

you definitely don't want to take the fight to the ground

Then throw them and stay standing.

your opponent will try to pull your hair, thumb your eyes, pinch you, bite you, kick your groin

I assume you are picturing a ground situation. The basic wrestling strategy starts with getting behind someone and on top. From this position, the person on the bottom will not be able to pull hair, gouge eyes, bite, or groin kick effectively. They will still be able to pinch, but the person on top can pound their head into the pavement, so I don't see why you would be worried about this.

Yes, there are plenty of sport fighting positions that are unadviseable in a streetfight. No one says you have to use them.

For example as you go for a shoot, he can pull your hair, or kick your groin if he is fast enough

Why cannot this opponent do the same thing if you are trying to punch them? Shooting for the leg, like punching, relies partly on speed. The faster fighter will win this exchange.


Well, this question does ask for a lot of opinion and I'd like to prevent accidentally starting a heated debate over what type of martial art is better. Instead, I will show you how grappling is and isn't useful in a street fight.

How it's useful in street fight

Grappling's main strength in real life fights is that you are able to have a huge amount of control over your opponent. If you get them to the ground and you are able to secure a good lock, you probably don't have to worry about them pulling your hair or trying to bite your ear off. And if you are able to control them well, you won't even have to worry about them striking you, even small amounts. Here's an example. It's also easier to walk away from a fight after you have submitted them than after you have struck them, unless you are able to knock them out. If you punch them in the face and then try to walk away, they may very well just get back up and start attacking you again. But if you take them to the ground and break their arm or choke them unconscious, you impair their ability to fight back while you run away.

How it's not useful in a street fight

Well, the first thing, is that if you are being attacked by multiple people, most grappling arts are unlikely to be effective. Secondly, if you you miss your opportunity to gain control of your opponent and take them to the ground and they have started raining strikes upon you, it can be very hard to start applying grappling techniques right then. That's why if you intend to use grappling, you should manage your distance from your opponent: Always either be too far away for them to touch you, or close enough that their strikes become weak and you are able to gain grips and take them to the ground.

My Opinion

Whether others agree with it for the most part or not, this is a fairly opinionated question, so it is only reasonable that I share my opinion, built on experience, or course.

My opinion is that if you want to learn self defense, grappling is an essential skill to learn. It is extremely effective against one opponent and gives you the ability to control their entire body while simultaneously attacking them. However, I also believe that the best thing for self defense is being well-rounded in multiple styles. Punching, kicking, grappling, throwing, submitting, are all skills that one way or another will be useful for self defense in their own ways. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

If you are looking to learn martial arts for self defense, a some popular choices are

  • Muay Thai and BJJ (Gracie schools will be most likely to teach self defense-oriented curriculum, instead of competition-oriented)
  • BJJ and Taekwando
  • Mixed styles of Kung Fu like Wing Chun and Tai Chi
  • Krav Maga and BJJ or Wrestling (any kind)

I do BJJ and Krav Maga because BJJ gives you the knowledge necessary to win fights on the ground, while KM teaches you all-around self defense from standing, including against multiple opponents. I'm not by any means saying that this is the best combo, but I do find it extremely effective. I have no doubt that the other combos are extremely effective as well.

  • How can you immobilize every part of ones body?
    – user11304
    Jun 7, 2021 at 14:32
  • @Kthamil You can't, but you can absolutely immobilize them to the point where it is almost impossible to fight back.
    – LemmyX
    Jun 7, 2021 at 15:23
  • I don't know whether this is possible but if it is I would assume it takes many years of training to be able to do this, way more than it takes to just learn boxing, so I guess this would be another drawback of grappling, the fact that it is more technical and requires more training to be able to make it work.
    – user11304
    Jun 7, 2021 at 15:41
  • @Kthamil I don't know what you want me to tell you. You asked about grappling's effectiveness in street fights, so that's what I told you. You can learn any technique at any time during your training, but it WILL take a long time, even years to perfect. This goes for any martial art. If you came here just to argue about why boxing is better than Judo or BJJ, then the question is off-topic and should be closed.
    – LemmyX
    Jun 7, 2021 at 16:10
  • I am not here to argue, I am just trying to figure out how could grappling be used in a street fight, your answer does not exactly address how can things like pinching, bitting etc can be avoided in a ground fight, the argument that you won't let him bite/pinch you is not so convincing that is why I am trying to explore all possiblities that I can think of.
    – user11304
    Jun 7, 2021 at 17:29

Your arguments are standard, and I will give standard answers.

  1. Yes, if you are up against a formidable striker, you will have problems getting into distance. You will probably eat some hits getting there. But it does not take long to learn basic protection against strikes, which every grappler interested in self-defence will. Knock-outs against prepared opponents are extremely rare, so it's not improbable to be able to use your skillset.

  2. Grappling is a lot more than cuddling on the ground. There is a huge amount of standing techniques (throws, locks, strangles). Also, when offenders are alone, there is a number of techniques which allow you to keep them on the ground, pull your phone, call the police, and wait for their arrival. If you happen to be a lot lighter, this option is not viable, but breaking bones and dislocating joints before making the run can still be done.

  3. Grappling is all about superior positions. Yes, the other one can/will try to bite, scratch, gouge, etc. But truth be told: I can as well. From a superior position. My defense AND offense will be better. And I did allow stronger and heavier opponents to do whatever they like in grappling situations in self-defence seminars. Turns out they realise fast that I can hurt them more than they can hurt me. Turns out what you mention is an annoyance, but no vital damage.

  4. Generally, it is assumed that opponents do have a technical disadvantage compared to trained martial artists in self-defence. From experience, I can tell you that allowing the average bloke, even physically stronger ones, to do what they like does help them nothing. Yes, you could design a million what-ifs. But reality looks different. All the arguments you bring forward are clearly theoretical in nature, made by people who do not know self-defence, or grappling, or both.

Short comment on knives

Knives are obviously a problem. But control of the opponent's limbs and balance is at the center of every grappling martial art. And unarmed fight against an armed opponent is obviously problematic for all people and styles. You know what's funny? Every viable weapon defense involves grabbing the opponent's weapon/hand/wrist. Think about it.


Wrestling and Sambo is a completely different issue though. Watch Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC. You think any of his opponent had any chance at grabbing his groin or poking his eyes? He dominates them.

So the answer to your question would be: yes, SOME grappling is very good for self-defense. But not Brazillian jiu-jitsu. Hell, jiu-jitsu isn't even all that in MMA anymore. Oliveira is the only champion for specializes in jiu-jitsu, and everyone expects him to lose the belt soon anyways.

Striking (boxing, kickboxing, muay thai) + wrestling (sambo, freestyle, greco-roman) is the best combo, mix in some judo throws. Do look up some basic jiu-jitsu subs and defense methods, but don't seek a black belt in it, it's worthless.

  • 1
    Please don't try to sell your (obviously wrong) bias as if you were an expert. Sure, BJJ trains how to survive in inferior positions and how to get to superior positions since when two people fight, obviously only one of them can be in the superior position. Therefore, it makes sense to train how to survive in an inferior position and get out of there and how to get to and maintain a superior position, which BJJ, Judo, Sambo, wrestling etc. all do train exactly for the reasons mentioned Jun 9, 2021 at 12:18
  • 1
    The validity/credibility of an answer is not up for debate, only the contents of the answer. Saying "looking at your scrawny face" and using that as a basis for claiming an answer to be incorrect falls under the grounds of harassment. And, in defense of him, he has been on this site for a while and is a valued member of the community :) Wholehearted attempts to answer a question are always appreciated
    – LemmyX
    Jun 10, 2021 at 18:54
  • I have edited your answer to remove the personal attack. I would suggest that you read the Be Nice policy, the about and the help pages. We expect answers to be backed up, and not engage in personal attacks. If you believe BJJ is bad, present evidence other than "nobody does it, X is gonna lose soon it's worthless".
    – JohnP
    Jun 11, 2021 at 15:14

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