Global Training Report
Taking it to the Street
Your Martial Art Street Effective
By Marc "Animal" MacYoung
Reviewed by Roberto Pedreira
Marc "Animal" MacYoung is the prolific author of twelve (including this one) books and videos. His persona is that of a hard core street fighter who has seen the folly of his erstwhile hard core violent back alley street fighting life style and is now sharing his mature wisdom with those who lack even the barest modicum of common sense (although to give "Animal" his due, common sense is, as Descartes said in another context, anything but common, and in the dollar driven American martial arts milieu, it is positively scarce).
My guess is that "Animal" attended a community college in southern California but dropped out after flunking first year composition. If not, he has made good use of the local library, citing the neurological research of Joseph LeDoux, and alluding to the influential ideas of Karl von Clausewitz.
Animal's writing style is remarkably similar to that of Ned Beaumont, although to its detriment, considerably more verbose. Everything Profs. Strunk and White caution the budding writer not to do, Animal does it.
Animal's most basic idea is that cross-training is good, but it isn't enough. In other words, there's too much stuff that doesn't work "for the street" in every style or art. What you have to do to fear no man on the street is "field strip" your style and get down to essentials. This is the subject of the first three and a half chapters. In fact, this is the first three and a half chapters, if one were to edit out the padding and the unrelenting bragging about how he (and his friend Stevan Plinck) knows what works on the street from practical experience, while other people don't understand the difference between the street and the dojo.
He also offers his opinions about his favorite books and movies and relates some of the compliments his girl friend and assorted buddies gave him. Interspersed randomly throughout are "Animal's Important Safety Tips." Some of them are more helpful than others. Every chapter also has a bunch of vaguely academic looking footnotes, in which Animal plugs his pals' books and videos, explains what Kimch'i (1) is, and drones on about almost any subject you can imagine. There is also an appendix in which Animal explains how the human brain works.
Chapter 4 starts to get more concrete. Animal explains the concept of Range, of which there are three: distance, infighting, and grappling. Grappling is one of the most dangerous ranges among the three ranges (!!). This is "not because the guy could Gracie Jujutsu you" but because his buddies might attack you, (assuming you go to the ground with a clown who has friends waiting nearby to bail him out). Also, you might hurt yourself when you fall. Animal is not saying you don't need grappling skills, but he seems highly in favor of the Infighting range. This isn't a radical idea. Knees and elbows can be brutally effective. The only problem is what to do if you can't stay at that range. (Clinching correctly is a good defense against elbows and knees, and tends to segue into ground fighting).
Animal doesn't address this, despite wisely pointing out the need to have a back-up plan for when your preferred range/strategy doesn't work. Animal advises you to assume that anyone who wants to fight with you has friends. The most logical solution, which he ignores, is don't fight with this guy.
Actually, he doesn't exactly ignore it, but he seems to be thinking that if you take it excessively to heart, then there wouldn't be much else to put on the other 322 pages. Animal does however correctly say that knowing why clowns want to fight with you in the first place is more important than knowing how to fight with them, in terms of maximizing your personal physical safety.
Subsequent chapters offer more of the same mix of good common sense combined with incoherent blabbering. In between, there are recommendations on how to "field strip" your martial art to make it "street effective". Animal's own martial arts background includes Wing Chun and Kali and apparently Silat (there is a photographic depiction of a street lethal variation of the Silat Putar Kepala technique (a variation of which exists in Muay Thai) on page 189. He also teaches the Muay Thai "shield" block, although we have never seen a fighter in any gym or ring in Thailand do it the way Animal does, scrunched over forward, but then again maybe the Thais don't understand the difference between the ring and the street.
Despite his lack of formal training in Aikido, Judo, or Jujutsu, people say that Animal's throwing technique is perfect (page 11). Rather than wasting time studying and practicing for years the way some people do, Animal just intuitively and naturally does what he knows "would work at the moment".
How does he know this? Street experience. Animal has been in a lot of street fights and seen a lot of blood-stained, sheet-covered corpses. He knows what works and what doesn't. Animal's experience has taught him so much that despite being a fat, out of shape, old man (in his own words, page 111), he could spar with a 21 year old with three black belts, and "speed that would make a rattlesnake gulp in disbelief", and never receive so much as a scratch. Why waste time in gyms?
If you spend time in gyms, you might be tempted to fight. Animal has been in a lot of fights and knows as a result of his experience that not fighting is better than fighting. Although he could have learned that less painfully by watching Enter the Dragon. Another reason to avoid gyms is that it is a waste of time because most of what you learn in the gym doesn't work on the street anyway (although some of it might, if you learn how to use it correctly by reading Taking it to the Street).
One could play devil's advocate and say that gyms are not a waste of time. After all, every hour you are sweating in a gym is an hour you are not drunk in a bar, which is an excellent way to reduce your exposure to violence and stupidity.
Judged by the standards of the American martial arts industry, Animal's approach is relatively practical and realistic. Most of the techniques and applications and variations and modifications Animal suggests would probably work reasonably well enough, although not being drunk in bars or otherwise in the wrong place with the wrong people doing the wrong thing at the wrong time would work even better, as a general rule.
Clearly then, not fighting is the best defense. But sometimes not fighting is not an option. And since you will never be able to reliably execute a move under the stress of being attacked unless you have drilled that move to the point of automaticity, maybe you should head for the gym after all. Animal doesn't come right out and say stay away from gyms, but he admits to being fat and out of shape. What does that tell you? GTR's bias is that whatever style or technique you believe will work for you, it will only work if (1) it is drilled realistically to the point of automaticity AND (2) you are in shape.
But you don't necessarily have to take my word. Read Taking it to the Streets and come to your own conclusions.
(c) 2001, R.A. Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Revised February 6, 2002.
Revised October 30, 2009.
Revised February 12, 2013.
1. Animal is incorrect in calling kimch'i "rotten cabbage" (page 103). According to BJJ black belt and Harvard Ph.D. Korea expert John Frankl, the garlic and pepper etc., and the method of sealing and storing the pots, are used precisely to preserve the cabbage.