It was only a tap. But the hulking driver whose bread truck Rhon Mizrachi's Nissan had grazed was enraged. Standing in a jammed Manhattan intersection trying to calm the man down, Mizrachi turned his head for an instant and suddenly felt a fist slam into his temple and his neck wedged in a headlock before crashing to the ground beneath the full weight of his burly assailant. The short-fused bread man could not have known what would happen next. Mizrachi, a teacher of the Israeli martial art Krav Maga, was "already in full fight mode," he says, his brain scanning his encyclopedic repertoire of moves. "There was only one part of the guy I could get to. So I bit the whole top of his hand off. When he jumped up, I just went to town on him."
Perhaps because more Americans are living in cities, more Americans are taking self-defense courses. The problem, according to top martial arts instructors, is that relatively few systems prepare you for the chaotic experience of a hand-to-hand fight. Here is a quick guide to the four that are most effective outside the gym. (Please don't put them to the test without proper training, and then only as a last resort.) They might not be the prettiest, and if you're looking to break boards or balance your chi, you could be disappointed. But, as Mizrachi says, "they get the job done."