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PASmith
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SD - Fighting - Martial arts

Having just listened to Iain on Geoff T's podcast it got me to thinking about the distinction between SD, fighting and martial arts. Both Iain and Geoff mentioned the importance of recognising each for what it is and training accordingly.

Now what I wonder is if the distinction between the three areas is one they are "forced" to make because so much of modern martial arts fail to deliver when it comes to SD and fighting?

As such "martial arts" has become a thing in itself distinct from the other two almost by default?

But if martial arts were better at delivering such things the distinctions would start to blur and melt away?

It strikes me that the masters of old would be surprised that their martial arts weren't seen as suitable for SD or fighting. Or that SD was something that had to be trained separately.

I also feel they would be surprised if it was suggested that their skills only worked in SD but they couldn't handle a simple limited rules bout of sparring.

As we see in Iain's interpretation of kata the karate of old was geared towards SD and also had back up tactics if a basic hit and run didn't work and principles/techniques that can be applied in a much wider combative context. As such I feel it covered the SD and fighting portions (using fighting to mean what happens after a pre-emptive strike fails). Now I would also class the Karate of old as a martial art and it would also have included drills for body conditioning, increasing your fighting spirit/will/fitness etc. So you see how that would blur the distinctions between the three?

Doing a martial art (back when it was much closer to reality) would have increased your ability to defend yourself AND fight if needed AND been a system of martial arts training with longevity and depth to study. There may be distinctions drawn in different lessons, different focuses from day to day but when taken as a whole there would be less distinction than is drawn today. All three working together.

I would also posit that someone like Iain teaches in just such a way and would confidently predict that his students (and himself) could defend themselves, fight if neeeded (both with and without rules) AND be martial artist and "do" martial arts.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi PA Smith,

Thanks for the post. It’s good one and hopefully it will help me clarify the distinctions I referred to in the podcast. As is so often the case, this comes down to how we define the terms involved and our “martial worldview” or paradigm.

PASmith wrote:
Having just listened to Iain on Geoff T's podcast it got me to thinking about the distinction between SD, fighting and martial arts. Both Iain and Geoff mentioned the importance of recognising each for what it is and training accordingly.

Now what I wonder is if the distinction between the three areas is one they are "forced" to make because so much of modern martial arts fail to deliver when it comes to SD and fighting?

I think such distinctions have always been there for as long as people have been walking the earth and that they are vitally important if a given system is to be capable of achieving its goals. Throughout the ages there has always been an acknowledgement that different types of violence require different solutions.

Fighting and SD are different and I think they have always been regarded as different by all efficient systems. There are even sub-categories too as the “fighting” of a gladiator in the coliseum would not be the same “fighting” that a member of a roman legion would train for. The same exists today as modern day gladiators (boxers, MMA, etc), police officers, prison guard, soldiers and civilians all face different types of violence and are required to address it in different ways.

“Martial Arts” are a more recent development, but again it is different from the other two. Not “entirely different” because there is some cross over, but they have different objectives, different training methods, different knowledge pools, different strategies, different tactics and so on.

The common view is that fighting = self-protection = martial arts. But that’s not the case and that was the point Geoff and I were making. To give some very basic definitions / objectives of each:

Self-Protection: The objective being to give the individual the skills they need to avoid being a victim of crime.

Fighting: The objective being to effectively employ violence to achieve a given objective (win the bout, kill the enemy, arrest the suspect, etc).

Martial Art: The use of combatively inspired disciplines to enhance physical health, provide personal challenge and growth, achieve aesthetic beauty, for cultural education, etc.

They are different and I think that one of the biggest mistakes in the modern day is to superimpose all three on top of one another.

If a person avoids a physical confrontation then their self-protection skills were successful … but they did not use fighting skills. If a person gets involved in a “street fight”, batters the other guy to a pulp, and then goes to jail … then their fighting skills were great, but their self-protection skills were poor because they got into a fight and found themselves on the wrong side of the law. The guy who finds the martial arts add to the quality of their life as “art” and personal challenge is being successful as a martial artist, but that dos not mean they can fight or protect themselves. They are different and should be treated as such if we are to successfully train for all three and get the benefits of all three.

PASmith wrote:
As such "martial arts" has become a thing in itself distinct from the other two almost by default?

I think “martial arts” originates from the “do” movement first started by Kano and others and see it as an intentional shift as opposed to something that happened by accident.

PASmith wrote:
But if martial arts were better at delivering such things the distinctions would start to blur and melt away?

I think it is the fact that those distinctions have started to melt away that is the problem. As I said on the podcast, to effectively address self-defence we need to include personal security, awareness skills, the law, escaping, de-escalation, etc. None of that has any relevance to martial arts and fighting. To be a good fighter I need a whole host of skills that have no bearing on self-protection. I can be a good fighter and capable of defending myself and totally ignore the personal development that is central to martial arts.

If we ignore the distinctions, we fail to train for all three in a focused and relevant way.

PASmith wrote:
It strikes me that the masters of old would be surprised that their martial arts weren't seen as suitable for SD or fighting. Or that SD was something that had to be trained separately.

I disagree. The old masters were very good at marking the distinction between self-protection and fighting and they did train in a focused way. Itosu wrote, “Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary. It is a method of using the hands and feet to avoid injury should one, by chance, be confronted by a villain or ruffian.” In other words karate (or more precisely the karate of Itosu’s day) was not constructed to deal with a “square go” but for self-protection. Like Itosu, Motobu said that “The techniques of kata have their limits and were never intended to be used against an opponent in an arena or on a battlefield”.

PASmith wrote:
I also feel they would be surprised if it was suggested that their skills only worked in SD but they couldn't handle a simple limited rules bout of sparring.

I agree with that, but I don’t think I suggested that they could not. One thing to keep in mind that their sparring had an objective though. Not all limited rules sparing is the same. As well as agreeing on few rules, you need to agree what a “win” is.

If you are training for the physical side of self-protection, then the sparring needs to constructed for that i.e. escaping is a win and should be sought (not a disqualification or discouraged in favour of fighting), multiple enemies, weapons etc. Funakoshi talks about live drills for escaping from multiple enemies in Karate-Do: My Way of Life.

If my students were sparring for “self-defence” then if they took their partner down and submitted them with an ankle lock I would say that was a loss. In reality such action would be suicidal as they could get stabbed or stamped flat. However, if they were sparring for “fighting”, then that would be fine and would be a good win!

If they quickly disengaged and ran way, that would be a win in self-defence sparring. However, because they did not fight, such action would be inappropriate for fight training.

It’s vital we define the “win” and we can only do that if we know what we are training for … and that is why blending things is such a big issue in my view.

In my dojo we have sparring drills for self-protection and sparring drills for fighting. There is some skills common to both … but they have very different objectives. One is all about not fighting and one is all about winning the fight.

PASmith wrote:
As we see in Iain's interpretation of kata the karate of old was geared towards SD and also had back up tactics if a basic hit and run didn't work and principles/techniques that can be applied in a much wider combative context. As such I feel it covered the SD and fighting portions (using fighting to mean what happens after a pre-emptive strike fails). Now I would also class the Karate of old as a martial art and it would also have included drills for body conditioning, increasing your fighting spirit/will/fitness etc. So you see how that would blur the distinctions between the three?

Again I would caution against blurring the distinctions by being overly focused on the common ground. It is my experience that doing that leads to the “by-product myth” were people train for one aspect and mistakenly believe they will acquire skills for the other aspects by default i.e. become a good one-on-one fighter with no idea about personal security, de-escalation, escape skills, how to deal with multiple assailants etc, etc.

PASmith wrote:
I would also posit that someone like Iain teaches in just such a way and would confidently predict that his students (and himself) could defend themselves, fight if needed (both with and without rules) AND be martial artist and "do" martial arts.

That’s certainly the aim. However, we do keep the three aspects of what we do distinct because we feel that’s the best way to achieve that aim. The “cross over” happens quite naturally, so we let that happen and ensure we remain “goal focused”. Self-protection is self-protection (our main priority due to traditional karate’s “civilian” nature); fighting is fighting; and martial arts are martial arts.

Everyone can do all three if they wish and there are many benefits in doing so, but they are not the same and if we fail to mark the vital distinctions between them, then we can train inefficiently and may even use the “wrong tool for the job” (i.e. fight when we should be protecting ourselves) which can be disastrous.

I hope that adds to what was said in the podcast and thanks for the opportunity to expand on what I feel is a vitally important issue.

All the best,

Iain

PS This issue is also discussed here: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/martial-arts-fighting-or-self-protection

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Iain Aberenthy wrote:
The old masters were very good at marking the distinction between self-protection and fighting and they did train in a focused way. Itosu wrote, “Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary. It is a method of using the hands and feet to avoid injury should one, by chance, be confronted by a villain or ruffian.” In other words karate (or more precisely the karate of Itosu’s day) was not constructed to deal with a “square go” but for self-protection.

Ah...I can agree with that. However what I think I'm groping for is that Karate as a method to save us from ruffians is still (in my view) doing a martial art. It happens to be a martial art designed for self protection rather than a square go. And so doing martial arts and learning some self protection become one and the same?

If Karate had retained its initial character (a solid self protection art) then perhaps the distinction wouldn't be (or wouldn't need to be) as clear as you make it?

Martial art = Self protection (IF the martial art in question addresses that arena).

I think maybe we are coming at the same topic from different angles? You are seeing it (perhaps) from an angle that is looking at the training itself. How it needs to be approached to get the best outcome and achieve the desired functionality.

I feel I am coming from it with a view to what an individual can achieve. How any individual can become someone that can protect themselves, fight and enrich their lives through martial arts (provided they approach each in the manner you suggest).

I suppose I feel that by making a distinction between the three areas it seems as though a person almost has to make a choice about which area they are interested in and exclude the others. I know that's not what you are suggesting but it can seem like that is the choice on offer.

I think I don't have an issue with the distinction between fighting and SD (as you say they often have very different desirable outcomes)  but take issue with the idea that "martial arts" doesn't describe the training needed for both.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Thanks for the reply and I think you’re right that we are coming at the same thing from different perspectives. And maybe using the terminology a little differently too? We seem to agree in sentiment though.

PASmith wrote:
I suppose I feel that by making a distinction between the three areas it seems as though a person almost has to make a choice about which area they are interested in and exclude the others. I know that's not what you are suggesting but it can seem like that is the choice on offer.

No they don’t need to make a choice, just be aware what they are training for at any given point. As I say, people can do it all … I just feel they need to be aware of what that “all” is made up of and not think that “all is all” or that it’s “all the same”.

PASmith wrote:
I think I don't have an issue with the distinction between fighting and SD (as you say they often have very different desirable outcomes) but take issue with the idea that "martial arts" doesn't describe the training needed for both.

I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think “martial art” describes the training for both because I don’t think that anything covers training for both self-protection and fighting; aside from training for both self-protection and fighting :-) People can do martial arts as “art” and not address either self-protection or fighting.

So when I’m being specific, I see “martial art” as being distinct from fighting and self-protection because of the “art” element and all that entails. There is the common use of the term “martial art” though which is more general (and maybe how you are using it?). It’s definitely a terminology thing and I guess it’s like “theory” as it has a common use and a scientific use; which mean very different things. Step of a roof and see if the “Universal Theory of Gravity” is “just a theory”! ;-)

As I say, I think we agree, but we may be using the term "martial art" a little differently in this context.

Thanks for the help in covering this one. Differing terminology aside, I think we’ve brought out and hopefully clarified the general point myself and Geoff were making.

All the best,

Iain

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Interesting

I don't remember any such distinctions in my early training.  We trained hard to get the skills technically correct (art), fought hard in the dojo (fighting) and I defended myself successfully on many occasions (SP).  I was a bit stupid in my youth and got involved on the pretext of 'helping my mates' but if I'm honest I wanted to see if things worked.  They did, including high kicks that many people today say are totally useless for SP.  Interestingly, no fights I was involved in went to the ground (well not for me anyway) wink

It all came from the same root source.  Focussed repetition and plenty of sweat.  We never thought 'this is for grading' or 'this is for real', we just trusted our instructor and put in lots of effort.  Happily it served all three purposes.  We didn't ask many questions at the time, so Iain, do you split the training because modern students are far better informed these days and expect more explanations rather than just drills?

Gary

Boris B
Boris B's picture

excellent thread so far.

mattsylvester
mattsylvester's picture

Hi Iain,

I have to disagree slightly on the statement saying that a self-protection person's SP skills are poor if they have a fight. I appreciate that you were most  likely making a generalisation, however I would view fighting as something that a SP person does if they can't leave the situation. For example, confronted whilst on a walk with their child in a park etc. Although I have my kids colour coding risk assessments (yes, they ROCK :)), I know that in certain situations, no matter how careful I am, I'm still going to be comprimised by the fact that I can't just leg it :)

I think that instead you have Consensual Fighting i.e. idiots lamping the hell out of each other and SD Fighting - where the situation dictates that conflict management etc cannot be safely or effectively applied.

I think also that there is a distinction between self-defence and marital arts, because many martial artists (and I was guilty of this as well) tend to concentrate on 'hard skills' i.e. taking out the opponent as opposed to soft skills such as distancing, BRAG, profiling, footfall pathways, use of force ladder. They effectively do half the job, but there's only so much you can do in any given class or system and, if you have a system that emphasises technique etc, then something's got to give.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Gary,

Gary Chamberlain wrote:
Iain, do you split the training because modern students are far better informed these days and expect more explanations rather than just drills?

Not at all. I make such distinctions because I feel it helps us achieve our goals better.

For example, this Thursday we did some work on getting the partner’s back when they are kneeling and then applying a strangle. In self-protection this is an irrelevance because the “strangler” would be better off running. Or even simply standing up and kicking them before running. If they did the same “finish them on the ground” manoeuvre in reality, they could be easily stabbed by any accomplices.

If I did not make distinctions between “fighting” and “self-protection” then the student may not understand the context of this method and use it with disastrous consequences in a real situation. The other alternative is not to teach things unless they are 100% relevant to self-protection. The trouble with that is they miss out all the benefits that fight training can bring (it’s fun and develops broader skills).

So I teach the drill and as I’m doing so I utter the words, “This is a fight drill and is not relevant to self-protection where you’d be better served by kicking him and running”. It takes around 3 seconds to say and then everyone gets the context.

By making these distinctions I feel the context is always 100% clear and it means we can do “fight training” and “martial arts” without worrying if it is 100% applicable to self-protection. It does not need to be, so long as our self-protection training is 100% relevant to self-protection.

Things like a solid high-quality punch are relevant to all three areas (and that is made clear too). However, I’ve found that making clear when things are not relevant to other contexts has helped the students massively.

It also helps me because it frees me to practise my Judo turnovers, submissions, flamboyant kicks, etc without worrying if they are relevant to self-protection or not. I know they are not, but they are relevant to fighting and I enjoy the “art” of them.

So in summary, it’s an approach I find very useful and logical and it is not something that has been forced on me by changing trends. It also does not take much explaining either in most cases. A few seconds to define the context and then we get on with it.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Matt,

mattsylvester wrote:
I have to disagree slightly on the statement saying that a self-protection person's SP skills are poor if they have a fight. I appreciate that you were most likely making a generalisation, however I would view fighting as something that a SP person does if they can't leave the situation.

I think you may be misquoting me there Matt. I never made the generalisation that people who engage in the physical only ever do so because of poor self-protection skills. I accept that we can all be caught unawares at times despite doing everything right. What I said was:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
If a person gets involved in a “street fight”, batters the other guy to a pulp, and then goes to jail … then their fighting skills were great, but their self-protection skills were poor because they got into a fight and found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

In the example I gave they chose to have a “street fight” rather than escape, they also chose to batter the guy when they could have escaped, and hence found themselves on the wrong side of the law. So in the example I gave we have good fighting skills but poor self-protection skills. I made no generalisation, but a specific example to make a point.

If we can’t escape – for whatever reason – then we need to “fight with a view to escaping” (so still part of the self-defence side of things for me) as opposed to “fight with a view to winning” (which would be the “fighting” side). Sure there is cross over, but the objectives are poles apart and that’s why I find such distinctions so useful.

mattsylvester wrote:
For example, confronted whilst on a walk with their child in a park etc. Although I have my kids colour coding risk assessments (yes, they ROCK :)), I know that in certain situations, no matter how careful I am, I'm still going to be compromised by the fact that I can't just leg it :)

Totally agree. Again the context dictates what you do and to address this we have loads of drills where the student is required to protect others and facilitate their escape as well as their own. Indeed these drills are a grading requirement for the brown belts.

If I was with my wife and kids and was attacked by a gang, if I “fight” with them then “I’m busy” and the ones I’m not fighting with have free access to my loved ones.

The key is not to “fight” them but hit anything that moves while facilitating escape. The drills we do really bring this home. The instant the “protector” engages with one person for more that a split second (i.e. fights them) those being protected get swamped by the others. As we say in the dojo, “You can’t dominate individuals but you can dominate the situation”.

So this scenario would not be “fighting” to me. It is still part of the “self-protection” side of things. A “win” is not “out fighting” the enemies … a win is keeping your loved ones safe.

mattsylvester wrote:
I think also that there is a distinction between self-defence and marital arts, because many martial artists (and I was guilty of this as well) tend to concentrate on 'hard skills' i.e. taking out the opponent as opposed to soft skills such as distancing, BRAG, profiling, footfall pathways, use of force ladder.

I agree but would also add that the same distinction exists between “fighting” and “self-protection” too. The trouble we often see is an over emphasis on “fighting” and zero emphasis on soft skills and escaping.

As the old saying goes, “When all you have is a hammer then every problem is a nail”. By not giving the students the wider and more relevant skill set, all they can do is fight because that’s all they know how to do. Many times fighting is the worst option possible and those purporting to teach self-protection need to ensure it’s not the only option they are giving their students.

All the best,

Iain

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

 A few seconds to define the context and then we get on with it.

Makes perfect sense.

Thanks for the further info smiley

Gary

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

Thanks for the extra questions. Reading back I think what I wrote may have been read as suggesting we have three distinct practises in training i.e. in a 90 minute class we do 30 minutes on self-protection, 30 minutes on martial arts and 30 minutes on fighting. That’s not the case.

The three aspects are distinct contexts and, while some things are unique to a given context, others are common to more than one. For example a powerful punch is relevant to both fighting and self-protection; solo kata (when the bunkai is in mind) is relevant to both self-protection and martial arts; positive changes to lifestyle can be relevant to both self-protection and martial arts; fitness training and mental conditioning can be relevant to all three; and so on.

The key is not to have all things lumped together, acknowledge the differences, cover the specialities, and always define the context.

As always, a diagram may help. How I see things is as per the Venn diagram below (not to scale ;-).

Self-Protection: The objective being to give the individual the skills they need to avoid being a victim of crime.

Fighting: The objective being to effectively employ violence to achieve a given objective (win the bout, kill the enemy, arrest the suspect, etc).

Martial Art: The use of combatively inspired disciplines to enhance physical health, provide personal challenge and growth, achieve aesthetic beauty, for cultural education, etc.

I would say that the majority of people mistakenly see “martial arts = fighting = self-protection” and hence would have a Venn diagram that was a small circle. This not only leads to people failing to cover things like law, awareness, escape, etc from a self-protection protection perspective (because it is all fighting!), but it can also lead to ineffective training. For example, if a person only wants to learn self-protection then what they need is in the green circle, fighting is within the yellow circle, and the “pure martial artist” will find what they need in the red circle.

However, the guy who has learnt martial arts (as art, culture, personal introspection, etc) should not kid themselves that they can fight or are capable of defending themselves. The person teaching fighting should not delude their students into thinking they are prepared to protect themselves with fighting skills alone. The person who has studied self-protection, should not think they are capable of “out-fighting” fighters in a “street fight”. And those of us who would like to study all three, need to understand the relationships and distinctions between all three.

I’ve really enjoyed this thread and I hope this post also helps clarify what I’m driving at and why I feel it is so important.

All the best,

Iain

Matthew Matson
Matthew Matson's picture

Nice diagram. I do my best to cover these 3 topics though out a semester in my college classes. I notice that the women tend to pay attention more to the discussions about self-protection and the guys pay attention more when fighting. LOL.  Some pay the most attention to the martial arts aspects. Those tend to be the ones that join our dojo.

PS you might want to think about adding a like and or share button on your blog posts so they could easily be seen on facebook and twitter.

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Great post Iain. However I would re-label the red circle "self improvement" (or similar) and then put a great big circle around it ALL called "martial arts". smiley

For me martial arts as an activity can (and should IMHO) include the previous two activities/goals (sd and fighting).

I suppose it's all just labels and semantics at the end of the day. So long as we are clear about what we are doing personally then we're all good?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
Great post Iain. However I would re-label the red circle "self improvement" (or similar) and then put a great big circle around it ALL called "martial arts".

But what would be in the bits outside the inner three circles but within the big circle? wink

Geometry jokes aside, I get the sentiment of what you are saying.

However, I would suggest that something like doing kata for its own sake (the enjoyment of the “art of it”) would not be self-improvement, fighting or self-protection. People enjoying training for the “culture” of it would not be self-improvement either. So I’m not sure that “self-improvement” can replace “martial arts” in the diagram. That’s why I like the term “martial arts” (with the emphasis on the “arts”) to cover all of that.

PASmith wrote:
For me martial arts as an activity can (and should IMHO) include the previous two activities/goals (sd and fighting).

But for some people it does not. I’d like to think that my diagram would work for those martial artists who like “art for arts sake” and are not focused on fighting or self-protection ... and the people who are pure fighters (i.e. pro MMA fighters) or pure self-protection exponents (i.e. security consultants) … or even those who fight and do martial arts; but never address law, awareness, avoidance, securing the home, travel security (and hence have missed the area of "pure green") … or any other combination there of.

The big potential danger of making “martial arts” the blanket "cover all" term is that people could take that as meaning all “martial arts” classes cover all elements of self-protection and fighting … whereas the whole point of the diagram / distinctions is communicating that’s not the case. So that could be OK for your personal diagram, but it may not have a wider use.

I would suggest that the vast majority of “martial arts clubs” never cover the law and wider security issues (so they don’t cover any of the pure green parts). I would also say that the vast majority of “martial arts clubs” don’t cover fighting in a wider sense (normally with the focus being on fighting their own kind) and hence they don’t cover any of the pure yellow parts either.

What they tend to cover is a little of what applies to self-protection and certain aspects of fighting. And the red “martial arts circle” reflects that. Putting a “martial arts” circle over everything would be inaccurate in my view.

I get where you are coming from though and I remain happy to use the term “martial arts” in a more general everyday sense as well as when referring to the specific context we have been talking about in this thread.

PASmith wrote:
I suppose it's all just labels and semantics at the end of the day. So long as we are clear about what we are doing personally then we're all good?

Definitely, but those labels and semantics can have far reaching consequences if they intentionally or unintentionally blur distinctions. Totally agree that so long as we define context and don’t mistake one aspect being the equal of other then, whatever specific labels we use to do that, we’ll be fine.

All the best,

Iain

PS I’m not saying I’ve personally learnt everything in all circles (is that even possible?)! I have plenty left to learn in all areas. However, I’d like to think I’ve covered aspects of “all colours” (pure and overlapping) and that my students are given a solid start for all of them too.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Matthew Matson wrote:
you might want to think about adding a like and or share button on your blog posts so they could easily be seen on facebook and twitter.

There is the "Share this" button on the first post of each thread which permits that ... but something for specific posts within a thread is a good idea! I've contacted Richard and he's looking into it. Nice suggestion!

All the best,

Iain

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Gents, that is a really good topic. As I understand the issue, one can easily replace Martial Arts, Fighting and Self Protection in Iains Venn Diagramm with Kihon, Kumite and Kata. If you are solely interessted in the Martial Arts site it would be okay to concentrate more on Kihon. Since your goal is to polish your techniques and the character. You are just doing it for the sake of the art. If you are only interessted in Fighting you would probably focus your training on kumite. So you just fight most of the time according to certain rules. When you want to learn self protection you focus on things like awareness, avoidance, escape and on Kata and their applications, if everything else went wrong. That is maybe a good indicator to find out what goal a karate club is aiming at. You train for a while and then you will see, if their training focusses on Kihon, Kata or Kumite. Would you agree? Regards Holger  

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi all,

I sometimes wonder if at times simple things can be over complicated. I view things as a progression, but the aim is always to escape a situation with minimum damage or trauma to myself.

At our club we begin by stressing the importance of awareness and avoidance.

If that is messed up we have de-escalation and the different ways this can be approached.

if this fails we stress pre-emption, non telegraphed and decisive using verbal deception or simply striking without any verbal trigger.

We acknowledge that even a good pre-emptive strike can fail and immediate escape may not be possible, particularly if you have a significant other with you so we practice blitz follow ups.

The above probably falls under the Self-Protection label.

If all that has still failed to allow an escape, well, you've got fight on your hands. For me this is where Kata plays its part. I study Naihanchi in depth as the tool to be used for fighting. Cover, crash ,counter is the ''go to'' response I use to attempt to regain the initiative, its in Naihanchi, but it is also a technique many Self-Protection practitioners use, whether or not they practice Karate, is it a Naihanchi technique or a self-protection technique?  Who cares, it works. As we practice Naihanchi the aim is always to escape ASAP, so as we're fighting we're trying to implement a key principle of Self-Protection, get away and get safe.

Regarding the question of aesthetic pleasure we stress good form be it solo kata or basic single techniques not for the visual aspect but because these techniques teach efficiency in delivery, if it happens to look nice then thats great, but something that looks good but is ineffective is pointless(in my opinion), besides does anything look better then a non-telegraphed right hook with explosive impact.

All the best

Mark

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

ky0han wrote:
As I understand the issue, one can easily replace Martial Arts, Fighting and Self Protection in Iain’s Venn Diagram with Kihon, Kumite and Kata.

I would not agree with that. The practises of kata, kihon and kumite can be martial arts, fighting or self-protection depending on what is meant by each term. My group has a self-protection bias and that affects how we approach kata, kihon and kumite. Another club may only be interested in points and kata competition; but they will still do kata, kihon and kumite; but with a very different emphasis.

I would also say that kata alone – without the live drilling of the technique within a realistic self-protection context (i.e. kata-based-sparring) – is meaningless from a self-protection perspective.

On a more general note, one issue here that may be getting missed is the original point Geoff and I made in the podcast. The most effective, and most important, aspects of self-protection have nothing to do with fighting or martial arts (i.e. the pure green area in the diagram).

A person can easily adjust their day-to-day lives to make themselves far less likely to be a victim of crime i.e. get good locks fitted to your home, don’t get blind drunk in a public areas, only use licensed taxis, don’t put valuables on display, travel in built up areas with the car doors locked, and so on. These areas have nothing to do with martial arts or fighting.

When it comes to potential physical side of things, then awareness and avoidance are the keys. Most martial artists give this lip service (i.e. “be aware!”), but when talking about awareness, the students need to know WHAT to be aware of!

We can “see” things and not be “aware” of them being potential problems. The student therefore needs educated in what to look for, the “attack ritual” etc. People can learn all of this without ever putting on a gi or a pair of gloves. It is not fighting and it is not martial arts … but it should be covered if we are claiming to teach self-protection as part of what we offer to our students.

A “default physical solution” to self-protection is what most dojos offer (i.e. all of the above ignored or not covered sufficiently). However, as Geoff said in the podcast, the vast majority of people will never have what it takes to function efficiently in a live situation. So rather than giving them the only option of fighting – which is less effective and less likely to keep them safe – we are better placed staying away from fighting and the martial arts all together and sticking with pure self-protection.

Once the key areas of that are covered, we can move onto the physical as a back up (i.e. the bits of self-perfection that cross over with fighting), but to put the cart before the horse and emphasise the physical is to really mess things up.

If a young girl came to me asking to learn self-protection, I’d tell her that she’d be far better going on a course ran by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust (www.suzylamplugh.org) than going anywhere near the average martial arts dojo; who will invariably teach her (wrongly) that a good right cross is the answer to self-protection.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust (and organisations like them) teach self-protection way more effectively than the vast majority of martial artists because they never touch on the physical but instead deliver good “personal safety training”. Martial Artists tend to focus on the physical and ignore, or give lip service to, personal safety training.

Now it is nice to have the physical as a “back up”, but we need to remember the best solutions to crime and violence lie outside martial arts and fighting. A pilot needs to know how to crash land as a back up too … but I’d hope we’d agree his time would be best spent learning how not to crash land.

There is also lots of stuff that can fall within the pure green that has nothing to do with martial arts or fighting. It’s for that reason that I don’t like the claim that martial arts cover it all. Even if they do cover threat awareness and assessment, personal security, the law etc, how many dojos cover the following (all of which has been part of my self-protection study, but I would say is outside the realms of fighting and martial arts):

Perceptions and fear of crime; Mobile security; Security in the home; Hotel security; Communication skills and strategies; Anti-stalking tactics; Anti-Surveillance; International travel safety; Bomb and bomb threat awareness; etc.

The above are part of self-protection, but they have nothing to do with martial arts or fighting. Which martial arts club can honestly say they cover all of the above? Mine certainly does not (bombs and anti-surveillance for example are not covered in our syllabus). That’s why I think we need to be honest about which part of the Venn Diagram we cover. Martial arts does not cover it all … nothing does.

Now not all self-protection students need educated in all areas of self-protection (difficult and certainly not possible for non-professionals). We need to prioritise what is relevant. I would suggest that we should cover the things most likely to impact our students. I would also suggest we need to acknowledge that the physical is not the best answer, and that for most people (who are not going to dedicate decades of their lives to training) the best program of training for self-protection will have nothing to do with the martial arts and fighting. That was the point Geoff made and that I echoed.

If you want self-protection; then learn that … but don’t think that martial arts and fighting are the same as self-protection. There is some overlap, but they are not the same.

If people are in it for the long term, then sure let’s cover the physical too. It’s a good idea to do that just in case … so long as we keep it in its proper place and keep the context right. And fighting and the martial arts are pretty fantastic in their own right too!

In short, martial arts and fighting are not the same as self-protection (see above diagramsmiley).

All the best,

Iain

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Iain,

thanks for the insight. Was just an idea that I had this morning. But when you put it that clear, I can only agree on that cool.

Regards Holger

P.S. You really study the whole s.p. thing? I mean bomb threat awareness and stuff? Do you look for left alone luggage on the airport and things?

PASmith
PASmith's picture

OK looking at it from another angle.

When Itosu/Sakagawa/*insert name of favoured karate master of old* was teaching his students do you think he too would have offered "advice" on the law, how to avoid fights, preferred local attack tactics, areas to avoid, psychology, body language, fear etc?

Logic tells me that YES such pragmatic fighting men would have offered that sort of advice. Perhaps not in the same scientific language we use today (adrenalin not being known for example) but in a similar vein. Having much in common with Iain and his goals (and vice versa) I'm sure they would have happened upon a similar approach (and the bunkai would point towards such). If the bunkai is practical for real violence then I'm sure the more ephemeral verbal advice given (that we have no real record of) would have been of equal practicality.

Again...and not to labour the point I hope...I would hazard that self protection advice has been a part of "martial arts" training as long as we have had the language to say "Don't go down dark alleys at night" or "Don't go over that hill as our enemies live that way". IMHO it's that that sort of advice is much harder to document and maintain  over time and is liable to become outdated, supersceded or changed with advances in society/culture. Especially when martial arts go through a "do" period of development where such advice could be seen as irrelevent baggage.

(EDIT: Apparantly adrenalin was first discovered at the turn of the last century and so is contemporary with the development of Karate but I doubt the early masters had such knowledge available to them)

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

While I can see where people are coming from on this, I really struggle to separate these elements out into the different facets advocated here.

A lot of people seem to shy from the word 'fighting' (self defence sounds nicer) and to my mind, have a tendency to overalalyse and over-emphasis the fact that you can defend yourself without fighting.  While that may of course be the case, you can also defend yourself by fighting and in fact, all in all, it's as pretty good means of doing it.

A lot of what we do in the dojo for example, is based on worst-case-scenario - i.e. we are already assuming that you can't run away so it doesn't need to be put forward as a viable tactic every time a scenario is explored.  Self-Protection as described apears in some cases (but by no means all) as almost an excuse not to train.  If it is just about avoidance, I wouldn't call it a martial art but then again, I'm not sure I would call it anything - other than perhaps, common sense? Don't get me wrong, avoidance is a very good thing; but what about when it isn't possible, or it goes wrong. Surely then, like it or not, you are into fighting.  It this not simply a continuum?

To me, martial arts are fighting - or at least combat in all its forms represent the vehicle by which we achieve all of the other elements discussed at length here.

While, of course, a 'normal' club martial artist need not be able to compete in for example, the cage, it still remains the case that the system should be able to deal with that environment - at least up to a degree.  Any system that found itself totally exposed in there should surely have to ask some very fundamental questions of itself.

Similarly, I personally would expect to find a high degree of self-protection ability in a high(ish) graded martial artist. If not, I would again think some serious questions need to be asked.

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Gavin has voiced much if what I was getting at. smiley

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
When Itosu/Sakagawa/*insert name of favoured karate master of old* was teaching his students do you think he too would have offered "advice" on the law, how to avoid fights, preferred local attack tactics, areas to avoid, psychology, body language, fear etc?

I’m sure they did and there is some evidence of them emphasising and teaching soft skills (i.e. Funakoshi being praised by Itosu for handing over food to a group of attackers rather than fighting them).

It is these “soft skills” that should be emphasised as it is they that are most effective. A group that emphasised “hard skills” (and underplayed soft skills) would not be effective for any but the extremely competent and highly trained. Many people automatically look for a “hard solution” and the point made in the podcast was that a true “self-protection” solution will be the most effective and is open to all.

Personally I’m very used to thinking this way and find it simple and kind of obvious. But that’s probably because I’m used to thinking this way and because all those I train with think and talk in the same way too.

PASmith wrote:
Again...and not to labour the point I hope...I would hazard that self protection advice has been a part of "martial arts" training ….

This is definitely a terminology thing between us. I doubt very much that the past masters thought of what they did as “martial arts” at all. I think they will have considered it self-protection or fighting (depending on the system), but I think “martial arts” (i.e. again emphasis on the “art”) is something that came along with the “do” or “martial way” era and hence why I like to use the term in the context (when being specific about the contexts). Aside from a differing use of the term "martial arts", I agree with the entirety of the last post though.

I fear this thread could be in danger of going around in circles. In some cases this could be because of differing terminology. In other cases it could be because of radically different concepts of what “Self-Protection” actually is.

Hopefully there is plenty here for people to ponder over and draw from though. Many thanks for kicking it off and ensuring all the aspects are explored.

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
While I can see where people are coming from on this, I really struggle to separate these elements out into the different facets advocated here.

I’m the other way in that I struggle to see how they can be brought together without adding in a great deal of confusion or missing big areas out. As I said in the above post, this probably because it’s a concept that is fundamental to my thinking, and that is also used but those I’m around.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
A lot of people seem to shy from the word 'fighting' (self defence sounds nicer) and to my mind, have a tendency to overalalyse and over-emphasis the fact that you can defend yourself without fighting.  While that may of course be the case, you can also defend yourself by fighting and in fact, all in all, it's as pretty good means of doing it.

I’m would not agree with that. It’s the only way of defending yourself when no other option remains, but I don’t think it’s ever a good way to defend yourself. Defending yourself by not fighting (whenever possible) is easier, and does not run the risk of death or legal problems.

It’s also not a viable solution for anyone who is not able to fight effectively. Because being able to fight effectively requires a great amount of time and effort; most people will never be good fighters. However, lifestyle changes and some personal security training are open to everyone.

And even for those who can fight, I’d still say it was a bad solution. One “lucky stab” and that’s it! And even if a person wins they can still face losing their liberty … which is perhaps more likely if the prosecution can show that violence could have been avoided but remained the chosen path.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
A lot of what we do in the dojo for example, is based on worst-case-scenario - i.e. we are already assuming that you can't run away so it doesn't need to be put forward as a viable tactic every time a scenario is explored.

Now that I agree with ... athough we do practise escaping (which is generally viable even if a little "fighing" needs to be done first) and "can't escape" in balanced amounts. Those in the dojo are putting in the time and effort to ensure they are prepared for the “worst case scenario”. However, they, and those who are not prepared / able to put in that time and effort are still best served by avoiding that worst case scenario.

One of my main points in all the posts above is that most martial arts instructors purport to teach self-protection and then take the worst case scenario as a given (i.e."no option but to fight to the finish every time"; which in reality is rare).

My point – and Geoff Thompson’s point in the podcast – was that a purely physical solution with an acceptance of “the worst” as a given is not a good solution or even a workable / practical solution for the vast majority.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
Self-Protection as described appears in some cases (but by no means all) as almost an excuse not to train.

If we are claiming to be prepared for the physical too (jncluding physical escape after confict has begun), then we’d better be doing some serious training. But for those who can’t train (the elderly, the unhealthy, those with other priorities in life) we can still help them with a very effective, easier to learn and easier apply skill set that does not involve physical training. My dojo students train hard. My pure self-protection students never break a sweat. I make it clear they are not prepared for the physical encounter, and then hopefully given them the information they need to avoid that encounter.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
If it is just about avoidance, I wouldn't call it a martial art but then again, I'm not sure I would call it anything - other than perhaps, common sense? Don't get me wrong, avoidance is a very good thing; but what about when it isn't possible, or it goes wrong. Surely then, like it or not, you are into fighting.

Aside from the fact that “common sense is not that common” I think there are whole areas of awareness and avoidance that do require an education. Sure, some people have learnt through trial and error, but the body of knowledge out there on awareness, avoidance, de-escalation etc is very impressive.

Things like Cooper’s Codes and the Threat Pyramid are of vital importance, and while they may be common knowledge to many here … I’d be confident in saying most martial artists don’t know them as well as they should, and they would be a complete mystery to Joe Public.

I would also say that the law is not common sense either and also requires an education.

Things like “LEAPS”, The 5 Step Appeal, Transactional Analysis, etc are also not common knowledge but they have proved to be highly effective in de-escalating potentially violent situations.

However, even this is a back up to not being there in the first place. We can't reason with unreasonable people ... so we need to avoid places where unreasonable people hang out (i.e. the drunk, drugged & violent by nature). Young men don't want to do that of course (I remember because I was one once ;-) because they can "handle themselves". However, an enducation via a few "horror stories" and associated pictures / video is helpful in communcating the message and more effective in helping them protect themselves than teaching them how to punch (which may indeed perpetuate their "tough guy" fantasy - Indeed, martial arts can be bad for that and hence can be part of the problem as opposed to the solution).

It’s this stuff that forms the key areas of self-protection, and with it people will be infinitely better at avoiding violence; which is why I think its where “self-protection” training should focus for people with a genuine interest in keeping themselves and their love ones safe.

And if they can’t avoid, escape or defuse then I agree we are into the last resort of fighting (the light green overlapping bit of my diagram).

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
While, of course, a 'normal' club martial artist need not be able to compete in for example, the cage, it still remains the case that the system should be able to deal with that environment - at least up to a degree.  Any system that found itself totally exposed in there should surely have to ask some very fundamental questions of itself.

I understand that sentiment but would say that the reverse is also true. Any “self-protection system” that has their students failing to avoid conflict (and legal trouble) also has some fundamental questions to ask. There is lots of stuff out there that can really help avoid violence, that is not common sence, and that most martial artists know nothing about. When most martial arts teach “fighting” as “self-protection” I hope you can see where I am coming from.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
Similarly, I personally would expect to find a high degree of self-protection ability in a high(ish) graded martial artist. If not, I would again think some serious questions need to be asked.

With regards to the physical aspects I would agree totally that something is wrong if they are entirely unprepared for a physical encounter. Using my definitions though, I see self-protection as being a lot more than just the physical. I therefore think there are whole areas of self-protection that even the most highly graded martial artist, and even world level fighters, will know absolutely nothing about. Hence I would not expect an overall high degree of self-protection ability from them.

I would NOT expect a high graded martial artist (or a MMA champion, etc.) to know what Criminal Law Act 1967 Sect 3 (1) states; what rights Palmer v R, 1971 gives us; what bearing R vs. Beckford 1988 has on physical self-protection training; the relationship between Cooper’s colour codes & The Threat Pyramid; what LEAPS is and how it can be applied to avoid conflict; your legal rights when arrested, the causes and signs of violence, the best ways to secure your home from intruders, etc, etc.

I would however expect someone teaching self-protection to know ALL of that as standard.

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to agree with or adopt the model above. I do, however, think that it captures some very important issues.

One key issue, I think, is that martial artists do tend to think of “self-protection” as being purely physical. And those that do acknowledge the non-physical tend to give it lip service only and generally don’t know enough about the “pure green” area.

I’m totally OK with martial artists saying they know the physical side well, but don’t know the other stuff. What I’m not OK with is when they “don’t know what they don’t know” and hence teach the physical as the best or only option … when in reality the non-physical option (the non-martial, non-fighting option) is the best option.

True self-protection is so much more than the physical and has many elements that fall outside fighting & martial arts; and are not common sense. That’s why I find the distinctions I have made so useful.

I’m not having a go at “martial arts” or “fighting” when I say “self-protection” is different. I’m simply stating what I see as an obvious fact ... and perhaps also trying to point out that self-protection is a wider field of study than perhaps most martial artists give it credit for  .... hence their desire to push it back in to the martial arts box (or maybe it's the unresolved "tough guy" thing)?

I know Gavin and PASmith well enough to know that the physical side of things is well covered by their training and that they have more than enough ability in that regard. I also know Gavin has lots of real life experience and hence I’m sure he has plenty of “conflict management” knowledge too (I don’t know about what awareness, avoidance, conflict management, legal, etc training PASmith has had, but I know him to be a bright and educated guy). I therefore accept that this is a genuine difference in approach where we have our differances.

However, in my experience many martial artists don’t like this three aspects model, simply because it points out gaps in their skill set. There is no doubt that some martial artists don’t like admitting their current skill set has any gaps. Hence they try to fill those gaps with inappropriate skills that they already have (“it’s all fighting!”), or they deny such a gap exists (things are dismissed as unimportant or denied as being required).

The point is we all have knowledge gaps, but for some reason many martial artists are not able to admit that they are clueless about some key elements of self-protection. The study of marital arts and fighting does not cover all areas of self-protection. Period! I would also say that generally it does not even cover the vital basics (although it can do a good job of the "last resort" in some cases).

After my 6000 or so words in this thread (and one diagram wink) I think I’ve just about said all I can on it now though. People will either "get it" and agree, are not going be moved by the argument, or will fail to grasp the distinctions I make between these three elements and why I feel it’s vitally important to acknowledge them.

I don’t know what can be said to make the case any stronger (to "win over" those people disagree with my case) or clearer (if people don’t understand). So, unless anyone has any specific questions, it’s “agree to disagree time” or “please reread and repeat until understanding is reached time” … and either way I’ve nothing more to say (which after such a long post I'm sure is a great relief to all!).

All the best,

Iain

Dave Moore
Dave Moore's picture

Here's one I believe the dojo's should teach as well,  shout the words nice and loud "help me  stop fighting" . Doesn't sound courageous or tough I know,  but to a independent  observer who is watching what you do and say and probably using their mobile phone to film it  , and  if the Police do attend and ask what happened'  the observer says" well it was like this, that guy/ gal attacked that guy/gal and that guy/galshouted HELP ME/ STOP FIGHTING but  the other kept at him/her as they kept shouting that and he/she ended up punching/ slapping/shoving, etc etc  them and they fell on their ar*e"

Now speaking as a Police officer who might be  speaking to that  very same independent oberver that sounds much better than "those guys/gals all started fighting and that one punched/slapped/ shoved etc etc  that one and he/she landed on his/ her ar*e.

guess what,  you are now in a very sticky area where you might end up looking really really bad when all you were really doing was 'self defence/fighting'

The other none tough guy/ gal thing to teach  is its perfectly alright to admit  " I was really scared" when speaking to anyone afterwards.

very simple I think and probably the type of thing Iain is advocating should be mixed in with the teaching of striking/self defence to make sure the student has some knowledge of such things in case it ends up bad.

With my Police officer head on 'self defence' and 'fighting' have two very different meanings and it crops up a lot when dealing with scrapes were  people who end up fighting then try claim self defence but were arrested. Guess who I go back to and ask  for a statement if it hasn't already been obtained , that independent witness who heard you shouting" HELP ME, STOP FIGHTING" or maybe I am taking a statement which states they didn't hear you say anything at all and you were all just fighting . The words usually used by CPS lawyer in these circumstances  are  ' now were they  fighting'(which sounds consensual) or was it  'self defence' and words like "HELP ME STOP FIGHTING" go a long long way with lawyers and barristers in proving either

 

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

I must admit I focus far more attention on the physical, both in my martial arts classes and in my self-protection classes.

Why?  I believe most people who come to me have identified a physical or emotional need.  They want to get fit and learn the skills and toughen themselves up to think and act under pressure.  That doesn't mean I discount soft skills or ignore the essential avoidance/legal principles, I just give them less prominence.

Gary

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

We have no need to agree to disagree as my views are (hopefully) not set in stone and I am more than happy to see things from another perspective - especially if it advances my own knowledge or abilities.

There is definitely stuff in Iain's descriptions that sit outside my definition of 'martial arts' and I'm not sure I have a definition of self-protection - at least not as an isolated discipline - but I do understand the distinction, can see the difference between the two and perhaps even see the cross-over of the original venn diagram.

My main issue however, still lies in the concept of a martial art devoid of either fighting or self-protection (as per Iain's description) and I still stuggle to envisage what that might look like.

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

Since I'm older and better looking than most of the people involved here, I'd like to add my opinion. And by the way Iain, if you were a real karate-ka you'd wrote six-thousand and one words, instead of six-thousand.

I believe this post originally began as a discussion of self-defense-vs-fighting-vs-martial arts and related sub-contexts. Distinctions between martial arts, martial ways and self-defense vary from culture to culture, as well as time spans. For instance the Jaapanese have long made a distinction between Bu-Jutusu (martial arts) and Bu-do (martial ways). Classical Bu-jutus, or Koryu Bujutsu as these systems are also known, deal primarly with fighting arts and styles, used primarly on the battlefield, which were developed prior to the 18th century and are weapons based: katana, naginata, bo and arrow, spear etc. Classical Budo, however, is a variation of the classical bujutsu in that these are weapons arts practiced primarly for spiritual development, overall health, mindset and even self-defense. The two terms, however, were often used in conjunction since most early Japanese warriors believed you had to have some sort of spiritual reinforcement to face death on the battlefield.  (Same thing applies today, trust me. There are no atheists in the foxholes) Hence, with earlier styles of fighting both a physical and spiritual development were acknowledged within a system.

Fast forward to the modern day, our industrialized age, the downfall of hand to hand combat-replaced by firearms on the battlefield, and the classical Japanese Budo and Bujutsu became very distinguished as the classical budo took precedence and the modern budo: judo, aikido, kendo, karate-do (ahem) came into being. These styles were and are practiced for many reasons: sport, self-defense, spiritual development, artistic expression, cultural preservation, etc.  The reasons for practicing are many end even Donn Draeger but I think Donn Draeger summed it up best when he observed that you can practice a fighting art for four main reasons: sport, battlefield, spiritual development and self-defense. However, what one's underlying motivation may differ between styles and people. You can have two people practicing Isshinryu (or name your brand or)karate, one for fighting and the other for spiritual development.  Likewise, just what good self-defense is varys from culture to culture. In the UK I get the impression good self-defense is karate based, unarmed against armed aggressors. However, where I live self-defense, and fighting, often means the use of a gun. For instance, I've been involved in the martial arts/fighting arts since 1966, but if you step into my front yard and challenge me to a fight what do you think I'll do: A. put on my karate gi and assume a fighting stance or, B. tell you to stand really still while I draw down on you with my shotgun. (If you guessed A, please don't come to East Tennessee) This distinction between fighting and self-defense is also found in other cultures and countires besides the UK and US.

Where the above three people are concerned (Iain, Gavin, and PA) it sounds to me like you're all talking about the same thing, just using different terms. The term self-defense (to me at least) has a different context when used by the untrained as opposed to the trained. As Gavin stated to me fighting means getting my butt out of harms way, it dosen't mean spitting into someone's beer and asking them to step outside. However to the untrained self-defense and fighting may seem to be two seperate entities. I know of people who like to fight, but they also spend a lot of time in jail. So perhaps we're all in agreement here, more or less, just at a loss at to what terms should be used to describe the experience of combat within the civilain world.

But, one things for sure, I'm by far the best looking of the lot.cool With, or without a gi.

You guys have a good day!

Mike R

BTW: Please excuse any typos, but I'm rushed today.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

Thanks for the follow up posts. As I said, I think I’ve said all I can on my take on things, but the posts draw out some very interesting points / clarifications that I’d like to address.

Dave Moore wrote:
With my Police officer head on 'self defence' and 'fighting' have two very different meanings

Me too. That’s why don’t care for the term “street fight”. Self-defence is legal; street fighting is not.

Gary Chamberlain wrote:
The last SP student who kindly let me know her training had helped was attacked in her own home by a partner of several years.  There was no opportunity to use OODA loops or colour codes or whatever.  She just had to act and physical skills saved her a beating.  She's one of a few that have coped well after fairly basic physical instruction.

On my courses I point out that statistically (i.e. based on the British Crime Survey) women are far more likely to be killed by their partner than anyone else (for men it is a complete stranger).

Not saying this is the case here, but I do point out to the women / girls that the colour codes apply in the longer term too. They need to be aware of what constitutes an abusive relationship, how to recognise it and how to deal with it. For example, the teenage girl who has a boyfriend who goes insane and accuses her of cheating on him when she failed to answer a text on a night out may want to look at this carefully (code orange) and see if this is a sign that things could go “code red” in the future.

Again, the dynamics of abusive relationships (and the analysis of crime statistics) are not part of martial arts or fighting, but they should be part of self-protection. Even ensuring young women know that abusive behaviour is not acceptable or normal can be hugely helpful.

I totally agree that physically skills are a must at the point where things get violent and your student did very well. It also shows that the broad package (i.e. one that includes the physical) is very worthwhile if the student is capable of engaging in such practise. Without knowing the background, it’s impossible to say if there were any signs that her partner was potentially violent. However, for the majority that kind of education can be very useful.

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
I'm not sure I have a definition of self-protection - at least not as an isolated discipline.

My definition (as per the above posts) would be as follows:

Self-Protection:The objective being to give the individual the skills they need to avoid being a victim of crime.”

There also people who teach and practice self-protection entirely devoid of a physical dimension i.e. the work of the Suzy Lumplugh trust, what crime prevention officers do in their work with the public, what I generally do when asked to run short self-protection courses.

If their skill sets fails, then we need physical skills … and as I tell those on my courses, if they want that too then they need to get to a good dojo and be prepared to work hard (“the last 1%”).

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
My main issue however, still lies in the concept of a martial art devoid of either fighting or self-protection (as per Iain's description) and I still stuggle to envisage what that might look like.

I think martial arts (using my definition) should cover elements of fighting (but not all because there are many different types of fighting) and elements of self-protection (but not all because there are elements of self-protection that lie outside the scope of martial arts). That’s why I see the overlap in the diagram.

However, there are some who practise martial arts in the “pure red” area (i.e. no overlap). They don’t look at fighting or self-protection and are very much “art for arts sake”. It’s not how I think martial arts should be practised, but they are out there … in large numbers. Some are aware that what they do has no relevance to fighting or self-protection. Others are not.

As to what it looks like, it looks like lots of line work with the emphasis on aesthetics, lots of kata with the emphasis on aesthetics, one-step “sparring” drills that have no relevance to fighting or the physical side of self-protection, and so on. It’s not martial arts as I want to do it, but it is out there. Early morning Tai-Chi by the elderly in the local park could also be martial arts with no link to fighting or self-protection. Outdated arts such as Kyu-do etc could also fall into the category. As I say, not for me, but we need somewhere to put them on the chart ;-)

Michael Rosenbaum wrote:
Likewise, just what good self-defense is varies from culture to culture. In the UK I get the impression good self-defense is karate based, unarmed against armed aggressors. However, where I live self-defense, and fighting, often means the use of a gun.

Good point and that’s an area where I have zero in the way of experience (aside from the very small amounts I’ve done with Peter Consterdine and the day’s play with Rory Miller). Something I want to correct. Indeed I did sign up for a combative shooting course in Prague, but it was cancelled. Culture and “point in history” do determine what is where on the diagram though. For example my few years doing Iai-do were pure “martial arts” … however swordsmanship would have been very different had I lived in feudal Japan.

Michael Rosenbaum wrote:
it sounds to me like you're all talking about the same thing, just using different terms.

I think that’s true. Always a problem when differing terms mean different things to different people. Good to thoroughly explore them though – as I think we have – as it then hopefully provides a useful resource for people no matter how they view the terms being discussed and the fields of study they represent.

Michael Rosenbaum wrote:
And by the way Iain, if you were a real karate-ka you'd wrote six-thousand and one words, instead of six-thousand.

Does this post take my word count to real karateka status? wink

All the best,

Iain

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Does this post take my word count to real karateka status?

Grand Imperial Poobah status I'd say, but it's all useful stuff so no-one minds!

I've been trying to reason (probably in my own mind) why I still prefer the physical, not as a panacea but as a route to enhancing ability in all areas, then it came to me.  FEAR

We all know that fear - or more accurately the way we respond to it - is one of the biggest factors at crunch time.  I know a fair bit about this as I was exposed to it regularly at work.  This much I know - for what it's worth - ACTION beats fear, INACTION fuels it.  Effective drills repeated until they become reflex short-circuit the freeze response and are reliable under stress.  Are soft skills?  I'm not so sure thay can be trained to that level.

We all know that 93.754% of statistics are unreliable, but I'd be curious to know how many would-be assaults are thwarted by a physical bearing and confidence that makes potential attackers think twice and decide not to bother. 

IME That sort of presence only comes from putting in the graft.

Gary

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

It is true that we all inevitably see things from our own paradigm and mine too is primarily physical.

That said, I do take the points on Self Protection and also (more reluctantly) the ones on non-fight related 'martial arts'. I think some of this is straightforward linguistics and definition differences. Martial arts with no fight relevance do not really fit into my definition of a martial art but they are definitely out there and perhaps we do need somewhere to put them...

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