Rob Ho – How to survive in a street fight

How does one survive in a street fight? This is an extremely difficult question to answer in a simple article. Not withstanding my 26 years tenure in the martial arts, I would struggle to make this piece definitive. However, I will endeavour to be as impartial as possible, and ‘set the ball rolling’ for anyone who is looking into street self defence.

As far as my martial background is concerned, I can attribute 70% of my study to traditional systems, and the remaining 30% to the arena known as Reality-Based Self Defence [RBSD]. The latter I spent the last four years or so teaching until I stopped in its entirety. I still remain connected to the martial arts community albeit to a lesser extent.

Before I start, I need to refer the reader to the Law of Self Defence, and this can be found at the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] website at : You would bode well by reading the CPS section in its entirety, and take heed of that alongside this article.

As mentioned earlier, the subject title is fraught with complexities; how does one tackle such a topic, when numerous articles have already been written of similar ilk in martial arts magazines? I will approach it as if a beginner were to consider training for the first time.

However, a martial artist currently training could also apply what they are about to read towards their own study. A question heard time and time again, is which martial art/ fight system is considered the best. It always comes up. Sadly, egos are predominant here as one style is deemed to be superior to the other. Within the relevant context, if you can make it work within a street situation then that is all that matters.

Ip-Man-–-The-Final-Fight-2013-Chinese-MovieGeoff Thompson and Terry O’Neill, both worked the door with karate in their repertoire. Master Sken, has Tae Kwon Do as well as Muay Thai, the latter for which he is renowned. So, please do not be so arrogant as to dismiss a style, as each can be ‘adapted to’, practically to street self defence. However, at this point I do need to clarify that the key phrase here is ‘practical adaptability’. What happens in the clinical training hall is far removed from what may happen in the street, and therefore adjustments would normally have to be made. ‘In the street’, you need to accept that any of the following could happen [the examples below are certainly not conclusive]: Your attacker could be holding a weapon, be it knife, screwdriver or baseball bat; S/he could be high which would potentially increase their strength in magnitude; There could be at least two attackers; You could easily be tackled to the ground from behind, by someone whose mates are standing nearby, ready to give you a kicking. Your attacker intends to rape you.

In the training hall, a student’s safety is protected by virtue of the Instructor’s Insurance and Public Liability of the building. There is also a First Aid kit on standby. Conversely in the street, the parameters are seemingly unfair; no rules, no paramedic. You may have been tackled to the ground by one person, whilst his friends are trying to stamp on your face. One of them may even try to stab you whilst you are lying down. It is near impossible to determine what mindset you would be in if you were attacked. The adrenal “Fight or Flight” takes place at this moment of time. You either freeze on the spot, or your mind pushes you into “Fight Mode”.


I used to apply Pressure Tests upon my students, to inject a certain element of controlled fear into them. In the winter months when the evenings grew darker, I switched off the lights in the studio, and got the students to move around, only relying on the dimly lit shadows in the room, offered by the outside street light. I would then call out a name, for the other students to basically attack that person, and I threw my focus pads blindly at the rucking group. I had a second drill called The Tunnel, whereby the subject would be at one end of the hall. S/he would have to work through a tunnel of antagonists, each wearing either focus pads or MMA gloves, and they would essentially hit the subject at 65-80% of full impact, whilst s/he tries to make it to the other end. Sometimes, their route was blocked and they were shoved or pulled back. I remember some people never tried it. We sometimes took these drills into the car park. Other Pressure Test drills involved weapons and working from the ground.

It is important to stress that again, no one can predict how they will feel after they have unfortunately been attacked. There is just no simple foreseeability concerning this. Confusion, anger, upset. Who knows how a person would feel.

It would be prudent to seek training in a number of disciplines that cover the ranges including standing, groundwork and weaponry; or you might find a system that covers all ranges. Certainly in my neck of the woods (Bristol, South West England), as far as a multi-disciplined system is concerned, I recommend either Pete Miller of Millers Martial Arts or Stuart Overal of Bristol Krav Maga Both in my humble opinion, are excellent Instructors in their own right, and I would certainly have them ‘watch my back’.

I have other influences from further afield, and they can be seen on my website below. A text that I have to recommend is Gavin De Becker’s, “The Gift of Fear”. This book was brought to my attention by Jamie Clubb, when he came over for a seminar. If you had a single book to consider as a reference, then it would be this. As I mentioned at the outset, this article only touches the surface but I hope it at least offers readers some advice as to the way forward.

Rob has turned his energies towards acting, and can be seen in KickAss 2, when it reaches the cinemas later this year.

Check out Rob Ho’s martial arts website :

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