The Best Martial Arts Tactics I Used Against Bigger Bullies In Street Fighting

The problem with giving advice on fighting is that every article ignores the reality that there are different levels of hostility, different kinds of fights.
Most small guys like me grow up fighting. It’s rarely a choice. Older siblings, yard fights, bullies, party fights, street fights, muggings and full on life or death assaults. They’re all totally different scenarios calling for different degrees of response and physical tactics.

If you go into every fight thinking you have to kill the other guy no matter what is happening you will be dead or in jail before long. It’s simply not intelligent. My approach is realistic self-defense strategy in a civilized society.
Big (or just bigger) guys have been messing with me my whole life. I never had to kill any of them!

Strong training in a good kicking style will definitely help. I trained Karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in high school. By brown belt (In Karate), nobody who saw my kicks wanted to fight me. It really does cancel out the reach and strength advantage. But it only works if you have excellent kicks and are in top physical condition, able to execute them at any time. Now I’m too old and busted to be throwing roundhouses to guys jaws.

Also, there is a common assumption that fighting other small guys is preferable. Not in my experience! Small guys are faster and more spontaneous, often more experienced, and more work to deal with. I’ll take big, strong, slow, overconfident and untrained over small, fast and skilled any day. I’ve met plenty of short guys who feel the same way.

Regarding grappling bigger guys, I’ve won almost every fight by grappling or choking them into submission. I didn’t have a Brzialian Jiu Jitsu black belt back then, just a lifetime of dealing with bullies mostly through non-lethal grappling because I didn’t grow up in a war zone. 

In my experience, it’s actually better to charge in and catch an arm or leg, work your way to their neck as soon as possible. All the confidence that comes with superior size disappears the moment they feel your little arm slipping under their chin and locking in tight.

It’s not rocket science. We’re all born knowing how to wrestle. I would encourage just going for it if you think you can catch them off guard. Most big guys aren’t expecting the little guy to attack first. If you’re good at shooting, you can capitalize on that. 

Most recent fight for me was long ago in my mid 20’s against a much bigger and stronger guy, same age. But also an acquaintance and we were at a party in his house surrounded by his jock housemates. So I had to be careful in the process of defending myself not to make him or anyone else watching feel threatened and escalate the violence, thereby increasing the chance that his buddies might join in and then I’d have no chance whatsoever. 


So I made sure to keep the mood light even as I was grappling with him. I actually made physically comedy out of our struggle to get the room laughing as we were in the clinch. I made it obvious I had no intention of hurting him even though I was clearly capable and he was not showing any regard for my safety and that kept it from getting out of hand. 

If I lost control and felt scared or angry and struck him or started becoming more aggressive, I’m certain it would have ended with me getting stomped by half a dozen other big guys. 

Instead, I kept my cool, continued to use technique over strength to control him and it ended with me humiliating him in front of his buddies in a headlock on the couch getting noogies, so he never messed with me again. No one else who saw me fight even looked at me funny the rest of my time in that town. But the important thing is no one got hurt and I was not only still welcome to party at the house afterwards, we were able to stay on good terms and I got treated with a lot more respect by his housemates every time I came back after. In my opinion, that’s how you really win a fight.

In that particular fight, I mostly used basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so he could not keep a hold on my wrists or arms. I highly recommend mastering basic wrist grab escapes and joint locks for any small guys or anyone who feels generally weak. 

Usually, if it’s not a right haymaker, or the classic two-handed chest push, the first thing they want to do is to demonstrate their superior strength by controlling you with their hands. If they can’t get a grip on you, they can’t affect you and that ends up intimidating them instead and making them look weak in front of whoever might be watching. 

Most bullies need an audience. If you can turn their audience to your side during the fight, it will completely mess up their mental game, usually breaks their will, and makes it easier to finish them and end the fight.

I keep seeing articles giving advice on how to fight a bigger guy and they’re always written in theory, never written by actual short guys who have fought big guys successfully.
Don’t be afraid of grappling a bigger guy. Almost every fight I’ve been in, the other guy was bigger, stronger, meaner,  and I almost always won by grappling. I even climbed a kid’s back once and choked him out in front of the whole football team in high school. Choking is a great way to break a larger opponent’s will. So is repeatedly flipping and tripping them.

I would advise grappling over striking for so many reasons:

  • Less likely to do harm
  • Easier to end the fight fast in a lock or choke
  • Leaves no evidence of a fight

My advice to short guys is not to read articles written by big guys about how to fight big guys.