This is a subject that can quickly go from one page to fifty pages. This is such a broad subject, and volumes can be written on it. This is a very basic outline of some of my thoughts on this topic.
It is true. The environment you find yourself in and the clothing you wear can change the dynamic, and outcome, of a fight. The key to success in this regard generally comes down to two things: Preparation and versatility.
Living in an urban environment, not being at war and having some semblance of a normal life to lead means that it may not be possible to prepare entirely for what may happen out there, but we should prepare as far as is possible.
Four basic things you need to prepare, and be prepared for, are your body, your mind, your clothing and your environment.
Your body must be prepared through training. It is my belief that a good fighter is well rounded physically. Besides the fact that he should be fit, strong and flexible, he should be well practiced in all ranges of fighting. A person may specialize in one sphere, but that doesn’t mean other spheres should be neglected. When fighting, versatility is a key component to coming out on top.
Your mind must also be prepared through training, not all of which is covered in the dojang/dojo. Some mindset training can be done in classes, but often this is not enough. Very often people gain confidence through their training, but having a fighter’s mindset out on the street takes practice. It is often about thinking ten steps ahead. And when it comes down to it, is your mind prepared to make your body do what needs to be done?
Your clothing can be prepared to a degree. Living a normal, or semi-normal, life in a country not at war can sometimes prove difficult when it comes to clothing preparation. In most cases you can buy clothing that gives you as much free range of motion as possible, but there can be certain “social conformities” that need to be abided by at times, where we may not have as great a choice of clothing as what we would like. For example, going to a wedding may require you to wear a suit, tie and smart shoes – perhaps not your first choice in “fighting gear”.
Your environment. This one can be tough. Unfortunately, living normal lives, we don’t often have the option of “preparing the battle ground”. The best we can do is attempt to know the environment we will be walking into, and its surrounding areas.
Now, assuming you are both physically and mentally prepared, we will focus a little on clothing and environment.
When it comes to clothing, you always want to be as comfortable as possible for the environment you will be entering. Where possible, you do not want to wear restrictive clothing, shoes included. The more restrictive your clothing, the less versatility of movement you have. Try as best you can to know the environment you will be entering and dress to the best of your ability for that environment. For example, try not to wear slippery shoes where you know you will be standing on tiled floors all night. Knowing the type of people at your intended destination is also about knowing your environment. If you are going through a “bad” area or into an environment of known trouble, best to be prepared (in fact, best not to be there in the first place).
Clothing and environment can have a major effect on your fight game. This is why you need to be versatile in technique and thinking. You have been training in near perfect conditions with loose clothing, dry ground and a somewhat friendly atmosphere. Now you find yourself wearing a tight fitting suit and slippery shoes on a tiled patio in the pouring rain, surrounded by thugs. All of a sudden kicking the guy in front of you with a reverse-hooking kick doesn’t seem like the smartest idea. This is where one of the Taekwon-Do training “secrets” always comes to my mind.
Use the appropriate attacking tool for the correct vital spot.
Both your clothing and environment have changed the game in this situation. What you may have been able to use as an attacking tool for a particular vital spot in another scenario, may no longer be applicable. All is not lost. Just do something relative to the situation you find yourself in. Just because your reverse-hooking kick to the temple is no longer appropriate for this particular situation, doesn’t mean that grabbing the guy’s head and shoving your finger into his eyeball all the way up to your knuckle, isn’t.
Where your clothing and environment have dictated for you not to do a particular thing, easy, just do something else that your clothing and environment will allow you to do.
So, as stated earlier, much comes down to preparation and versatility. Preparation allows you to be more versatile in the clothing you have worn and in the environment you have found yourself in. Versatility allows you to adapt to the given situation, regardless of what you are wearing and where you find yourself.