the "streetfighter" mindset

Bsktrp, only a small amount is new, the rest is from previous articles being pieced together for an upcoming book Luis and I are finishing.

Anythinggoes, Clint said exactly what I would say. It's not that anyone is suggesting that you don't do whatever you need to do to survive when you really have to.

Rather it's the cold hard reality that much of what is talked about in Martial Arts is based completely on mythology. And it's better to hear about that first, or discover it first in training, and not when you really have to defend yourself.

Forrest is a good example. In his last fight his forearm is snapped in two, and he finished the fight against a large, strong, highly trained MMA fighter, and wins! When he fought in South Africa he had his shoulder dislocated (hanging by his side) off the first takedown, and went on to fight 5 more minutes or so and win the match with his other arm!

Now think about what he might do to someone who bites him?

Granted Forrest is a tough guy no doubt, and we are all glad he is a friend and not an enemy. But, many "average" human beings, that are not athletes, and not trained fighters, can consistently do similar things due to controlled substances in their bloodstream, alcohol, adrenalin, and/or pure fear/aggression.

As such, one can NEVER rely on any single set of tactics, strikes, 'pressure points', foul tactics, or PAIN dependent movements.

Conditioning, root skills in the functional delivery systems, leverage, and intelligence is always a must.

-Matt Thornton

23 years ago I walked into my first Dojo and began training with an instructor who had recently completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. His was the perfect example of the "streetfighting" mindset. Every kata, every drill, every technique that we learned was designed to work "on the street."
What I remember most about those years was that the constant drilling of the "streetfighting" mindset kept us all aware that we had an enemy out there. That's why we had the weapons: The yawaras and bo's and nunchucks. We needed them to defend us from the enemy that was lurking in the cornfields of Southern Illinois in case the wrist locks didn't work. Today when I see a Yawara hanging off of someone's key chain I know there is a better than average chance that he has trained in a traditional martial art.
It is interesting to me that I don't see much of that with the "athletic trained" martial artists. I never think about the self-defense aspects of my training now. I think about staying in shape and improving my technique. I have been getting hit in the head ever since I walked into Clarance Thatch's school in Denver 10 years ago looking for a place to train while I was in town. He asked me if I sparred and I told him I did. He put 16 oz. boxing gloves on me and I learned the difference in live training with boxers and kick boxers vs. the karate sparring I had done. So I don't worry about someone hitting me on the "street." Not that it won't happen, just that I am not worried about it. I don't worry about getting thrown down and not knowing what to do on the ground ever since I walked into Luis' gym.
Matt's post is about "mindset." And that is what I think the real point is. It is the mindset that occurs in the individual with the difference in the training, not the ability to defend onself.

Though I read Matt's article when it was first in, the part about the "mercenary" mindset always sticks out.

It's the reason I dislike gun shows, even though I've been shooting pistols with my dad since I was a kid. A lot of that "scared 13 year old" thing going on.

"We needed them to defend us from the enemy that was lurking in the cornfields of Southern Illinois..."Hey Leo, where you from?
I was born in Mt Vernon.Happy Holidays!

ttt to read later

Matt, Great post. For those of us living far away from the center of the SBGi universe it's good to read/hear your thoughts.

I can quess your opinion came, as mine did, from guys just as you describe coming into your gym, dressed in camouflage pants, military boots, black t-shirts with 'Kill 'em all' on the front, and two or three knives secreted in their clothing. They never stay long as I won't feed their fantasy, not to mention they have to WORK OUT!

Your post also supports a contention I've had for many years...that all boys, beginning in middle school and continuing through high school, should be required (at school) to box and to wrestle. And girls should be required to wrestle (not co-ed). I think with these requirements our young people would be far better adjusted and able to handle the difficulties of life and not fall into the trap of fear, paranoia, insecurity and guilt.

But all that may be a whole different topic.

And've got one helluva busy life. When do you SLEEP?

Terry G.

Good Post! I'm also one of those that was looking for an answer thru the RBSD crowd. Being small and being in past fights I realize that I wanted to overcome that FEAR FREEZING sensation! I needed an EDGE...therefore I invested certain time reading articles on this and that. Although I train in MMA, I'm still paranoid about it working in real fights. Most of the fights I've been into lasted a few seconds with others breaking it up.

"And've got one helluva busy life. When do you SLEEP?"

You'll sleep when you're dead. That's some of the best advice Chico ever gave me.

Or you'll sleep when Chico knocks you out. WHichever come first.

Fantastic post Matt!!! With that said, I'm gonna go and sit quietly now by myself.

Terry, always nice to hear from you. I hope I get to see you sometime in person soon. It's been a LONG time, and it would be nice to have a beer together sometime.

Have a happy holiday season
-Matt Thornton


Ditto Matt's request. Next time you are around here, let us know. I'm sure Ryan and Harold would like to hook up, too.


Kevin Curtis,

I grew up near Effingham. North of you about 60 miles. But I worked all over Southern Il: Mt.vernon, West Frankfort, Centralia.
There were some Karate guys from West Frankfort who trained with us. I don't remember their names now but they were an institution in West Frankfort for years.

Do you still live there?


Matt and John,

The thought of having a good workout then kicking back with a few beers sounds really good. Someday.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Terry G.

Hi Leo,Yeah I know where Effingham is. I lived in Mattoon for a couple years while my step-father was going to school at EIU (and working at Anaconda Steel).We moved up to the Cleveland OH area about 35 years ago, after my parents divorced. But, I spent many Summers and holidays with my Dad after that. I haven't been back down there for about 20 yrs... since my Dad passed away.Livin' in S. Florida, and training at ODMA.
You've done pretty good for a country boy! :)Hope you have a great holiday...
and "keep an eye out" for those corn-field Ninjas!-Kev

I had a "Dojo" in Charleston for awhile. I went to Eastern too. 1980-84.

Yep, escaped the corn and found ODMA and it is 70 degrees right now. It could get better than this I suppose, but I ain't bitchin.

Matt is going to get his taste of the cornfield Ninjas in Carbondale at the end of January. I'm going up to train and drink. What else can you do there that time of year? You know what I mean.

It's Christmas Eve. I better act like I am part of the family. Merry Christmas.


Speaking of which, there is a great article in the new grappling magazine with Paulo Gillobel. I met Paulo for the first time a few Years ago at an SBGi Camp, and he is a great guy with an awesome Jits game.

Paulo talks a lot about the deeper levels of meaning that transcend the fighting aspects, and the who can beat who level of temporary ego measurement. Excellent interview.

My favorite all time qoute from Paulo has to be when he came off the amt after rolling with Adam Singer and said he felt like a "smashed potato". He's a cool guy.

-Matt Thornton

One thing I've never seen addressed in MMA vs "combatives" discussions is the issue of training non-dedicated people.

Matt, your discussion seems written from the perspective of a martial arts instructor. Having trained with a number of combatives instructors, I know that the better ones will readily admit that for a dedicated person interested primarily in unarmed fighting, MMA-style training is the way to go. Their perspective, however, comes from training people who may not be athletically inclined, who don't intend to train much, and have a limited time in which to learn. The fact that these people don't want to enter into martial arts as a lifestyle or even as a hobby doesn't mean they shouldn't learn self-defense skills. From this perspective, focusing on a few easy-to-learn skills makes sense.

"The fact that these people don't want to enter into martial arts as a lifestyle or even as a hobby doesn't mean they shouldn't learn self-defense skills. From this perspective, focusing on a few easy-to-learn skills makes sense."

No doubt, I wouldn't disagree with you there Tekton. Provided the skills where trained in an Alive manner, and the Instructor was honest about the reality of what was being taught.

The thrust of that article was geared more towards awareness.

-Matt Thornton


Dedication to something natural or in other words, to what you love, enjoy, find necessary, and hold dear is not that difficult at all as it becomes part of your life.

Be it for sport, self-defense, livelihood, or recreation, if its for the mutual welfare and well being of those involved, it becomes as common to your day as breathing or walking.

This paradigm shift of sorts is what is being discussed here in several forms. If training is one sided and does not encompass learning and developing on several levels it certainly becomes a task and something to do as little of as possible. But on the other hand if you enjoy it or it saves your life on the job or may help you in your surroundings, you naturally make it part and parcel of who you are.

For the officer or soldier, they must know their profession and craft well as their job is to respond to, face and deal with conflict. They must engage and resolve the situation. For the civilian? Though awareness is also paramount, its all bout avoiding, diffusing and disengaging when trouble presents itself.

I train law enforcement and security personnel from different agencies and the one thing I always try to impart is for them to acknowledge their assigned responsibilities in respect to their governing limitations but not to define themselves from such dynamics but instead awaken themselves to the possibilities there within. Training in an alive manner creates all sorts of possibilities regardless of time, place, or space restraints.

In other words, when someone comes to you and wants a few quick hours of training to defend themselves, make sure you ask what they are defending themselves from and how dangerous is it really if a few hours is all they have or want to give to themselves in dealing with it. Wouldn't a guard dog, security system, weapon, cell phone etc be better worth their time. Regardless, if you are sincere and DEDICATED in what you do, you will offer them the very best you can.


Luis, good points. I always recommend an integrated self-defense system to people, consisting of awareness/tactics, cell phone, weapons, and unarmed skills.

Hopefully I'm not changing the topic too much here, but I'm interested in the SGBI perspective on a minimalist unarmed skill set. It seems obvious to me that the palm-strike equivalents of the jab and cross, elbows, and escapes to standing from the basic ground positions are all vital. What about the clinch? If you had say, only 4-5 hours to teach the clinch to someone, what would you do?