Martial Arts blogs and forums are full of tough "cage fighters" telling us lowly traditionalist & self-defense trained types how superior they are because they train for the real thing. The sad truth is they aren't training for the real thing... They aren't training anywhere close to the real thing. Why? Because wear gloves, a mouth guard and thai shorts isn't logical.
Here is part of why:
1. You work at McDonald's you have black pants, non-slip shoes (slip more then my hiking boots, combat boots, sneakers or running shoes) and a very cheap thin shirt. You get attacked in the parking lot leaving work by a someone who sneaks up on you and hits over the head with an empty beer bottle, steals your wallet and kicks you a few times before running off (they might make it 100ft before they stop to catch their breath but you ain't running after them).
2. You work in an office, wearing dress shoes and suit. You get held up at a Go-Mart on your way home because you stayed late to work on a project and now are being robbed as part of an armed gas station robbery.
3. You work as an assistant and are wearing a uniform that includes a shirt, short dress and high heels. Now two young men are cornering you at your car in a parking lot.
The cage is as far removed from "the street" as is a bunch a kids bowing and yelling kiai every time they punch the air with a classical reverse punch, bring one arm to the hip palms up and the other shoots out at shoulder level palms down. The clothing is different...
In the Cage you are fighting for pride, experience and several other reasons. A lot of your training is about developing physical and technical prowess. In the Street you can also fight for pride (number one reason most people get into fights) but there are other reasons. However, no one ever gets to be a rich and famous "street fighter" except in Van Damm movies. Believe me I tried my share of "street fighting tournaments" as a dumb kid (15 & 16 years old) and I never got rich off the things. I got to experience pain & carry bruises, scrapes & cats as trophies.
The thing is you have to understand martial arts, 1. Martial Arts is a Business and Businesses exist to make money and 2. Martial Arts are about selling you something you want. I can give you the lessons on how to fix a car and the tools to fix a car but you will never fix the car unless you get up and use it, to fix the car. That car is a metaphor for yourself... I can give you to tools to better yourself but you have to get up and use them. This is why martial arts or even parents can't teach Self-Discipline, they can teach discipline and child must choose to exercise that discipline on their own and then (and only then) does it become Self-Discipline.
In the Cage you know your opponent is there, right in front of you and you know that they are trained. You may have even watched them, in pervious videos of the previous fights. While I agree to some extent that as sport fighters have certain advantages, I don't think it is the all round proof of skill the sportsman want to make it out to be. Look I was trained for combat, US Army Infantry School and comparing my training to that of a range marksman, paint baller or airsofter is a laugh. I'm not even talking about the job, I'm talking about the training... Why?
Because when you train for combat, you are training for a situation without rules &, there are no rules in the street. Well even an MMA fighters can eye gouge and "kick people in the cherries." Yes, I agree however, that isn't what it means to say there are no rules. No rules means anything goes, weapons, ambush tactics, burning your house down or shooting you in the face. It can also mean planting drugs in you car through a slightly open window to let out some of the summer heat and calling the police on you to get you arrested. It can mean attacking your spouse or children, elderly parents or even killing you pet to make you worry about protecting your loved ones. Literally, it means ANYTHING GOES.
So when a cage fighter once challenged me over a forum and invited me to come to his gym to engage him. I made a realistic offer, to have him sign and send me a waiver saying he wasn't goin bring charges or "in anyway find me criminally or civilly responsible for an injuries or death, and that he understood that allowing me to attack him without rules or restrictions meant that I could use whatever method or tools, weapons or items I deemed necessary to create a realistic life threatening self-defense situation." That ended up with him, crying foul and saying I was threatening him... Why? Because most people online are mentally weaklings trying to look tough.
The reality is that a Street Fight is not the same as a Cage Fight, not even close. In Street Focus Jujitsu I broke down altercations into three types: A Fight, A Self-Defense Situation & a Street Fight. To get students to understand that situations are different but can turn in different situations by means of escalation or de-escalation of events. These three types of events are simple to understand;
A Fight: Is a mutual intention to fight another person without the intent to seriously harm or kill said opponent. This can range from a fist fight with a bully trying to gain social dominance to a Cage Fight. It is a mutually agreed on contest via altercation.
A Self-Defense Situation: Is a situation in which violence or the threat of violence is used to gain something, this can be money, jewelry or even one's own physical body. A person who doesn't want to fight has to do so for self-defense. Many of the solutions for such a situation are verbal de-escalation and breaking contact more then "kill the enemy."
A Street Fight: Is a Mutual intention to Kill, Cripple or Maim the opponent. It is best described as Combat. This is an example of gang violence where drive by shootings, home invasion, arson with the intent to murder and so on are common examples of a true "no rules" scenario.
So when I say the Ring doesn't prepare you for the Street. I literally mean, nothing in your ability to submit, choke out or knock out an opponent in a cage prepares you for a home invasion, someone to firebomb your house, shoot you or attack your family. I'm sorry, but it means you are not qualified to Street Fight because you are trained in the cage. Sure, being a better fighter might give you an advantage in a bar room brawl, at least until someone stabs you in the neck with a broken beer bottle or just stabs you with their knife.
So it doesn't matter what you study for fighting, you need to know what tools are needed for what jobs. I'm not bashing on Sport Martial Arts they all have their place and have certain advantages and disadvantages. Better physical conditioning and being able to apply techniques against someone trained to resist those techniques is a huge boost that is very much needed as part of realistic training. However, to be a complete martial artists you need more then just that...
The reality is most of the people online talking about martial arts either are trying to sell you a martial arts course, book or class and are trying to argue their bias against it. Or they are trying to bash on other arts or systems. Or, they are trying to paint unrealistic scenarios. Where every altercation is between two people with the intent to engage each other and don't get dirtier then eye gouges and nut shots.
In reality you need much more then most or any martial arts will provide for you. The skills of fighting in the Cage or on the Mats are honestly a safer bet then the "kill or be killed" techniques of traditional systems, for legal self-defense.
For example the Juji Gatame (cross arm bar) of Judo, Sport Jujitsu or its ugly step child Brazilian Jujitsu is basically the same as one would see in Japanese Jujitsu. The difference in intentions means a Japanese Jujitsu practicer might just as well break the arm outright, where as a Submission Sports Grappler may only hold an attacker in place with the same technique. This is a huge bonus on court if one finds one's self in court because of civil suit or criminal proceedings. After all you will apply a technique with the intent it is taught... so by training in both "kill or be killed" combat applications and in less then lethal intended competition applications a martial artist can be well rounded.
Neither is going to help you against the next DC Sniper, a gunman in club, a punk gang banger with a gun in a stolen car or being ambushed by a hatchet wielding terrorist. To train for the street means to go beyond martial arts as an unarmed style of competition, apply fundamental weapons, first-aid, survival training and some form of firearms training. To study elements of psychology and sociology to de-escalate and control situations in a social setting. The Ring is a great place to train and offers many more virtues then I've mentioned here but, it is no where near as close to the Street as a kid's Tae Kwon Do class.