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What martial arts can learn from Kangaroo fighting

"Kangaroo straight up threw another kangaroo through a fence and stared it down triumphantly."

What actually works in martial arts? Mixed martial arts seeks to answer the question in the arena, but there is another way, observing the application of martial arts outside the arena, in gyms, on the streets, or in the Australian bush. Check out more stories from MixedMartialArts.com on:
Martial Arts on The Street
Dojo Storms
Animal NHB


Many Chinese martial arts were inspired by the movement of animals. There are the famous five traditional animal styles (Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake, and Dragon); however, there's precious little historical evidence for that. Others say the five animals are Crane, Tiger, Monkey, Snake, and Mantis. Further animal styles that have been developed include Bat, Bear, Boar, Bull, Centipede, Chicken, Cobra, Crab, Crow, Deer, Dog, Duck, Eagle (not to be confused with Eagle Claw), Elephant, Fox, Frog, Hawk, Horse, Lion, Lizard, Monkey, Panther, Python, Rat, Spider, Swallow, Tiger derivatives (these include Tiger Cub, Black Tiger, Tiger Fist, Black Tiger Fist, and Black Tiger Claw), Toad, Turtle, and Wolf.

Kangaroo Fighting

It is a sad fact of geography that there is no Kangaroo Kung Fu. There is a famous 1997 documentary called Warriors of Virtue that features fighting kangaroos, but that's too recent to count. It's a pity there's no Kangaroo Fu, because kangaroos can fight. In fact, the boxing kangaroo is a national symbol of Australia.

Boxing Kangaroo

Boxing Kangaroo

To be clear, it is reprehensible to encourage kangaroos to fight, or for humans to fight kangaroos, as happened historically in Australian circuses. However, fighting between males, often for female attention, is common in nature, and has been observed in all species of kangaroos. The fights are categorized as long or short.

Short kangaroo fights can be over access to limited resources, notably water, and both sexes will fight. Males will often engage in short fights as well for attention from females in estrous. The short fights consist of punching and kicking from the outside, and ends when one breaks off. This is typically followed up by the winner grasping the other, and pushing him away or down. The winner will sometimes occupy the loser's sleeping and resting spot that day, among other delights.

There are also longer, ritualized fights, and these are typically to get attention from females. The two males stand upright, and the fight is initiated when one male gets a Collar Tie and the other agrees to fight, which does not always happen. If both tie up, they may seek to take the other down, either from the Collar Tie, or from an Over Under. They may also seek to strike to the head, shoulders, and chest from the upright posture, or to balance on the tail and strike with both feet to the body. 

Below we see the ending of a typical fight. The noise adds to the drama.

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Kangaroos have even been observed applying a rear naked choke.

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Should You Be Afraid of Kangaroos?

Many animals will defend themselves if in danger, but wildlife attacking humans unprovoked is extremely rare in Australia. That said, there have been reported attacks downunder (often provoked) by a variety of animals including blue-ringed octopus, buffalo, cassowarie, cone shells, crocodile (freshwater and sea, both), dingoes, eagle, emu, grouper, jellyfish, koala, platypus, possum, sea lion, shark, snake, spider, stingray, stone fish, Tasmanian Devil, wallaby, whale, and, yes, kangaroo.

Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection advises curling into a ball if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself being attacked by a male kangaroo.

”Turning your back on it and running could be dangerous as a large male can easily outrun you and still kick at the same time,” the department explains. “Turn side-on and protect the front of your body with your arms and keep your head as far away from the animal as possible to minimize the risk of being scratched on the face.”

You will never need to know this; it's not the point.

The Lesson

The lesson is not that humans, in seeking to defend themselves, should emulate animals. That's silly. Humans shouldn't learn Kangaroo Fu, jumping up and executing double front kicks to an opponent. That's been done anyway. Below, UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten does his signature Kangaroo Kick:

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The lesson is that humans should fight like humans, not like crabs, chickens, or dragons. The truly amazing thing is that if you learn to fight properly as a human, you can immediately recognize and feel a kindred spirit with many animals competing in nature.

For example, if your system trains you in the proper use of a Collar Tie and Over Under, then it is natural, making optimal use of leverage, strength, and control. And it's natural for kangaroos, too. You can call points when kangaroos fight, using the same rules that govern human combat sports.

However, in order to do that, you need to learn martial arts that are real. And, most unfortunately, most martial arts techniques are not real. 

So make sure you fight just a little bit like a kangaroo.

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