Eye gouges, groin strikes, bites, scratches, throat strikes, hair pulling: why “fighting dirty” is not enough in reality

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Groin strikes, eye gouges, and other “dirty” street fighting techniques are often overestimated in their effectiveness, and are not reliable substitutes for fundamental fighting skills.

The key issue with these techniques is that they rely on pain to influence behavior, rather than directly incapacitating or controlling an opponent. Real fighting scenarios (see videos) show that people can endure severe injuries, including serious maiming, and still continue to fight. This resilience is especially true when the stakes are high.

Gaining a controlling position increases the effectiveness of any technique, including those banned in sports. Without a dominant position, attempts at “dirty” tactics are more likely to fail.

Consideration must also be given to what happens when these tactics fail. In a fight, once a certain level of violence is introduced, it can be reciprocated, potentially leading to more severe consequences.

Real-life examples illustrate these points. Fighters have continued to compete even after sustaining significant injuries like broken limbs or blindness. The effectiveness of these tactics is unpredictable and can vary greatly depending on the situation and the individuals involved.

While “dirty” techniques can be part of a fighting strategy, they are not reliable or decisive. Effective fighting requires a combination of skills, including striking, grappling, and a strategic approach to positioning and control. Simply relying on pain-inducing tactics is insufficient for real combat scenarios.

Here we have a man arguing with police, and he throws a knee to the groin. You can see the officer’s hips move back as the energy from the strike transfers to his body. The officer responds with a punch which knocks the man unconscious. This is a stark illustration of the difference between doing something that simply hurts a lot, and something that takes away your capacity to fight completely.
A jeweller is stabbed and attempts to stop the attacker by using groin strikes and eye gouges, which have no effect. Neither man is able to clearly dominate the fight before the stabber eventually gives up and walks away.
This man entered an MMA gym and challenged them to a fight. When he gets caught in a guillotine choke, he attempts to eye gouge his opponent, who continues to choke the man unconscious.
In Japan 1995, 5’7 Yuki Nakai fought 6’5 Gerard Gordeau in an MMA bout. Gerard illegally eye gouged Yuki, which left him permanently blind in his right eye. Yuki continued to fight with one eye, and won by heel hook in the fourth round. He never let officials know that he’d been blinded.
Full fight where a man’s ear is bitten off, and the biter loses by submission when he is unable to escape from a bad position, demonstrating the importance of basic grappling skills no matter the rule set.
A man’s lower lip is bitten off in a street fight; however, by the end of the video he is keen to continue fighting, while it is the biter who walks away.
Man has his ear bitten off in a street fight and does not stop – by the end of the video he is in a dominant position and continues to fight without issue.
A man who is allegedly a pedophile according to onlookers, attempts to bite and eye gouge while underneath the mount of his opponent, which fails. His opponent – the man in a controlling position – eye gouges and blinds the other man, demonstrating the importance of positional control no matter what rules of lack thereof.
Two men are fighting on the ground, one has his eye gouged out – however, he continued to fight and at the end of the video, he is in a controlling position and is now gouging the eyes of the other man.
Multiple unanswered strikes to the groin which appear to have no effect
Source of video thumbnail – by MMA photographer Esther Lin
“After the fight, Werdum said the poke didn’t hurt or affect him – and even if it had hurt, he might have lied to the ringside physician and said he was fine out of concern the bout would be stopped. Werdum, who won a unanimous decision, says he thinks some fighters embellish the severity of a poke to get out of the fight and that offends him to some degree.”


Lower lip bitten off in street fight

Two main things to note here:

  1. Biting is possible at any time a grip is established and from any range and position, and it can happen very quickly;
  2. Despite having about one third of his lower lip bitten off, the victim of the bite was willing to continue fighting. It was the biter who stepped back, put his palms up then walked away. Biting does not incapacitate and will at best discourage.

To Maim: Do eye gouges, bites and groin strikes work in a real fight?

“Street effective” techniques like eye gouges, biting, groin strikes and the like are considered by many self defense experts as some of the most effective techniques in a street fight, almost like a kind of off-switch for bad guys. The following video appears to confirm this:

And a groin kick seems to be effective at ending this fight:

These techniques can be effective. However, they are not the self defence panacea many believe them to be.

Jewellery Store Stabbing

The victim is stabbed repeatedly. He used everything he had to defend himself: punches, kicks and throws, and attempted two eye gouges and two groin strikes.

None were effective -the assailant moved his head away when eye gouges attempted and blocked kicks to groin.

It should also be noted that although the victim was stabbed many times, he was still capable of fighting and managed to escape – neither person was incapacitated, and both were capable of continuing the fight.

Groin kick attempt 1. The offender lifts his knee and blocks the kick.
Eye gouge attempt 1. Unclear if defender was able to cause any harm. No apparent effect.
Groin kick attempt 2, seems to connect in some way but no effect
Eye gouge attempt 2. From this shot it looks like a finger may be completely embedded in the eye, though it is impossible to know for certain. No effect.

Any technique can fail or be blocked and countered. Eye gouges and groin strikes are not special in this respect. There is no magic technique.

Yuki Nakai blinded in MMA fight

In 1995, Yuki Nakai entered an MMA knockout tournament. Competitors would have multiple fights and be eliminated with their first loss.

Note the sporting context – his life was not at risk, he could have chosen to stop any time he wished.

His first opponent was Gerard Gordeau. Gerard illegally eye gouged Yuki, which left him permanently blind in his right eye.

Nakai speaks with his corner backstage following his first match.

Yuki continued to fight and won by heel hook in the fourth round. He told no one that he had been blinded. The photo above shows Yuki talking to his corner backstage after the first fight.

His next opponent that night was Craig Pittman, an american wrestler with a 100 pound weight advantage. Yuki won via armbar.

In the third and final bout, Yuki fought BJJ legend Rickson Gracie and lost at 6:22 in the first round via rear naked choke.

Yuki was not taken out of the fight when he was eye gouged. He was still capable of fighting and his will remained unbroken.

He stopped fighting when he was incapacitated with a strangle. He was now physically unable to continue, despite any level of motivation to win.

The distinction between maiming and incapacitation is an important one which we’ll look at later.

Groin strikes traded

The first two strikes in this one are groin kicks thrown by both parties. They both seem to lose confidence in the groin kick and immediately go to punches.

Man uses knee strike to groin of police officer

The man who kneed the police officer in the groin had no plan beyond the groin shot. This is the critical mistake mentioned at the beginning of the video – he probably expected that the cop would go down from the strike. The reality was that he had initiated a physical fight in that moment which he was totally unprepared for.

While the groin strike may have caused pain, the punch he took in return left him incapacitated.

Werdum vs Travis Browne

The following image shows an accidental eye poke during an MMA match. It’s quite obvious that the finger has entered the eye all the way to the first knuckle. However Werdum, the fighter who suffered the eye poke, continued the match as if nothing happened and won by decision. He did say afterwards that his eye was a little sore.


Two main things to note here:

  1. Biting is possible at any time a grip is established and from any range and position, and it can happen very quickly;
  2. Despite having about one third of his lower lip bitten off, the victim of the bite was willing to continue fighting. It was the biter who stepped back, put his palms up then walked away. Biting does not incapacitate and will at best discourage.

A man is able to continue fighting despite having his ear bitten off, and in fact is dominating the fight when the video ends.

Above, a bite from an inferior position only causes the other man to escalate the level of violence. Biting did not end the fight or cause the person in control of the fight to release him.

Joint breaks and maiming generally

  • Maiming is permanent damage caused by techniques such as eye gouge, biting, joint break. This might reduce an individual’s capability to some extent or incapacitate them, or it may effectively do little more than cause pain.
  • Incapacitation or physical restraint may be required to stop an individual who has a high pain threshold and high motivation.

What is commonly known as a “submission” in combat sports is a break in reality. When no one submits and the technique is taken to completion, the end result should be a torn joint or broken bone.

Below are two sport examples where a fighter has refused to tap out and was willing to continue the fight, and two examples in street fights where limbs AND the will to fight were broken.


Strangulation is an effective way to incapacitate, although what to do when they wake up must be considered. By then you should have a dominant position at least.


  • Nothing is 100% reliable 100% of the time.
  • Depending on a small set of methods (e.g. bite, eye gouge, groin strike alone) is foolish and not a replacement for hard training. Use a mix of skills, training and systems to prepare for reality.
  • Maiming does not necessarily end the fight;
  • Because many people are able to fight on despite severe injury and  pain.
  • In this case, the goal must be incapacitation and/or physical restraint, even if maiming is used to facilitate it.