As Murphy's law implies, you will never be in an ideal environment when in a physical altercation on the street. There will not be gloves, wraps, a gi, a cushioned mat, and a referee. More than likely that environment will be confined, like a pub, nightclub, or in or around a vehicle. Hence, you will need to adapt your hand-to-hand techniques to those confined spaces. A person needs to know which hand strikes, leg strikes to use, and how to use the environment to your advantage, in these situations.
The first strike I teach any of my Krav Maga students is the palm-heel strike***. It is an extraordinarily simple strike to learn and use. It is also relatively safe for the hands. You do not need to worry about closing your fist properly or hitting a hard object (skull, floor, wall, etc). Secondly, almost any elbow strikes are good to utilize in a confined fighting environment. They are short, create a lot of trauma to an opponent, and reduce risk of injury to you. In general, hand strikes should be the main strikes to use in a confined space. This is because they make it easier to maintain balance as the feet do not need to come off the ground.
***for more on the palm strike read the article Fist or palm, which is the better strike for self-defense?
Sometimes however, our hands are occupied for defensive purposes or simply cannot be used, so the legs have to be put to use. Because balance is a big concern legs strikes have to be low, and short; knees are great for that. They can reach vital areas like the groin but still make it relatively easy for us to maintain balance. But we still must be aware that many confined spaces will make it very difficult to use our legs.
The environment plays is possibly the biggest factor when it comes to hand-to-hand combat in confined places. It will determine which strikes we will utilize and which we will not and it can be used to our advantage or our disadvantage. Always stay aware of the environment you are in. Keep in mind potential dangers like curbs, water, and other people as well as potential tools like chairs, bags, and keys. Mitigating the risks of the fighting space and maximizing the tools it provides is key. Using that same danger against our foe can help us win, whether it is pushing someone off balance off a sidewalk curb or utilizing the wall to spin an opponent into it.
Confined spaces force us to adapt our techniques, mitigate risk of injury to ourselves, and modify fight tactics in order to win the fight. Although we may not choose the environment of our confrontation, we must understand that it will never be ideal, comfortable, or safe in order to be prepared. Therefore, we must prepare for all contingencies and create optimal conditions to win the fight (of our lives).
Thank you for reading,