The Role of Martial Arts in Self-Defense

Martial arts and self-defense are frequently brought up together in conversation. This results in an often-heated debate on the role of martial arts in relation to self-defense. Now, there’s a major difference between self-defense and martial arts. That doesn’t mean that martial arts don’t play a role in self-defense, however, and we’re going to discuss that role in this article.

Some Key Differences between Martial Arts and Self Defense

Traditional martial arts (i.e.) karate, taekwondo, etc.) are a great workout and will quickly get you in shape. While they look nice, the physical techniques you learn are often too complicated to be practical. You need to practice for a long time, often a good few years before you can put any training to good use. Many martial arts schools will also encourage a competitive element.

Self-defense classes are different in every way. The training is much simpler and can be learned and usable quickly. Students are typically taught ways to deal with abuse, harassment, and assaults and de-escalation techniques to avoid conflict.

The fights are also different, martial arts fights are typically structured with rules and the use of protective gear keeps participants relatively safe. Street fights are the complete opposite and while martial arts fights – competitive fights – are sanctioned at events, street fights are illegal and have serious legal consequences.

The Training Approaches are Completely Different

Martial Arts Training

A lot of martial arts training is technique-oriented or focused on competition. This means that you’re often learning a lot of complicated movements and sequences that are ultimately not practical. Are there things that are practical? Yes, many of the strikes and kicks could potentially be useful but you’re likely to need at least a year or two of training – sometimes more – to make them functional.

Complicating matters further, not every school or training center works with the same approach even if they’re working with the same organization and/or curriculum. Additionally, some instructors don’t take kindly to students questioning them about the practicality of their training – thankfully these are few and far between.

Self-Defense Training

Self-defense training has a significant problem: charlatanism. There are so many fake self-defense instructors out there that it makes finding legitimately good instructors a challenge. With that said a legitimate instructor will structure the class around practicality.

The training techniques would be focused on simplicity. Straight punches, simple kicks, elbows, and so on are all trained, and instructors will typically work to hone these techniques. Students are trained to focus on the more…fragile body parts: the groin, throat, eyes, and nose.

So, what is the Role of Martial Arts in Self-Defense?

So, when it comes to self-defense, what exactly is the role of martial arts when learning self-defense?

Well, training in martial arts helps to train discipline, control, balance, and focus. It also works to improve your overall health – which, if you’re attacked, is going to be crucial – by using workouts that engage your whole body. Your reflexes, agility, endurance, and metabolism will also improve. You also develop a sense of improved confidence. Improved confidence will change the way you carry yourself and if you carry yourself like someone who knows what they’re doing you can discourage someone from attacking you.

Training in martial arts also helps to improve your street awareness. Your distance management and timing as well as your reaction times to a situation.

Which Martial Art is Best for Self-Defense?

Honestly? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Most if not all martial arts bring something to the table regarding skills. A few good ones include:

  • Judo: Knowing how to grapple, throw, and fall are all important skills for self-defense.
  • Muay Thai: This is a no-brainer. Learning to deliver punishing kicks, knees, and elbows will make you a genuine force to be reckoned with.
  • Boxing: Boxing is a very simple, and direct discipline that only takes a few months to be proficient in.

Of course, the best idea is to just stay out of trouble in the first place. If you are caught in a confrontation, try to de-escalate the situation, and avoid fighting if at all possible. You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you talk to someone.

In Closing

Martial arts training does have its place in self-defense and some would argue that it’s better to have some training rather than none at all. While that’s true to a point, it’s also important to understand that a street fight/self-defense situation is completely different from what happens in the Dojo.

Why do I mention that? Because there are people who make the mistake of thinking the two are either similar or the same. These are two very different beasts and it’s important to keep that in mind. In closing, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative.

Take care everyone, and stay safe out there!

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