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Mulberry4000
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sport karate and self defence

hi what do you think of the above and its ability to gather the tools of self defence. Does it harm or  enhanced the persons ability.

best wishes 

Mulberry4000
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Philios
Philios's picture

As someone who has competed only in point sparring matches (ippon shobu) for over 20 years, here's my view.  Sport Karate or point sparring alone is not enough for self defense but it does have some good qualities.  What it does train immensely well are blitzing, gauging/maintaining/breaking distance, timing, and above all, speed.  And sport karate athletes are typically... well, athletic and in good physical condition.  Certainly a good quality for running away!

The problems I have with it in regard to how well it translates to effective self defense are mainly that it engrains a lot of really bad habits: 

- The distance at which you spar is much further away compared to a real altercation.  Much harder to parry and defend against attacks at point-blank range.

- The techniques that score points are to safe targets with an emphasis on control instead of penetration.  Defending against a strike intended to simply touch the skin is much different than defending the same strike with the intent to knock your block off.

- Many attacks which you defend against in a sporting match you likely would not encounter in an altercation.  Two examples that instantly come to mind are head height hook kicks, and lunging linear reverse punches to the abdomen.  Both extremely common in point fighting competition but neither fall into the list of most common street attacks (HAOV).

- There is no continuity of the fight as once a point is scored, players are reset to the centre of the ring to give a level playing field.  One cannot capitalize/recover from a position of advantage/disadvantage.  

- There's no "weathering the storm" if you are hurt or stunned.  There's no fighting through the pain.  If you are hurt, they stop the match and let you resume once you have recovered.  Wouldn't that be the nicest mugger ever, if he suckerpunches you and then lets you recover before attempting to take your belongings!

- Minimal standup grappling (1-2 seconds to allow a footsweep or throw).  No ground fighting.  Grabbing and holding onto the opponent's limbs or clothing is not permitted.

- The whole "selling your points to the judges" by pumping your fist in triumph and turning your back to the opponent.  *facepalm*.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Mulberry4000 wrote:
Does it harm or  enhanced the persons ability.

Personally, I think it’s the wrong question to ask. If you go in to a grocer’s store looking for apples you should leave with apples. You should not pick up some oranges and then ask how “appley” they are.

Sport is sport. Self-defence is self-defence. Both have their own inherent value and we should not judge one by the standards of the other.

Here’s an article on that:

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/defence-combat-sports

People can do one or the other, or even both provided they keep the demarcation. But it’s not wise to do competitions with the view to increasing self-defence skills. Nor is it wise to train in self-defence with a view to improving your competitive skill. Train for the objective at all times.

All the best,

Iain

davidom
davidom's picture

This reminds me of one of your podcasts rightfully titled "Context, context, context". I think that is really important to clarify the objectives of training both at the micro level (we are doing this drill in order to improve this and that) and macro (in this club or dojo we believe in training for this or that). The concept of the by-product myth that you have talked about sometimes really clarified some of my ideas about it.

Even though there may be some side benefits that help you to improve the physical aspect of self-defense by practicing sport combat, but nothing will prepare you for a particular activity as practicing that activity itself! For instance practicing kihon may help you polish and perfect your individual techniques, and this will have many many added benefits to your practice of competitive kata, but nothing will help you more than practicing solo kata in exactly the manner in which you will have to perform it in a competition.

Just a humble thought about the topic in question!

Dennis Krawec
Dennis Krawec's picture

Here is where I would say that it the job of the instructor to teach in a manner that fits the wants and needs of all students (this is where I have issues with the WTF TaeKwonDo club my son goes to, as it seems solely focused on competitions).

If a student wants to compete in sport kumite matches then that is where a student should be allowed to focus their training, but they should not be allowed to ignore applications for self defence and real combat. Likewise if students want to focus on self defence or health, then sport competition takes a backseat, but again it should not completly ignored, as there benefits that can be gained from practicing Karate as a sport.

Another way to look at it is; Karate is kind of like a swiss army knife, there are a lot of tools to learn, it's up to you on how you use them.

Anf
Anf's picture

Good question. Perhaps we should ask what karate as sport offers, and what is required for self defence. Karate for sport, as with any sport, develops fitness, strength, balance and coordination. Let's forget about technique for now and just hold onto those attributes. Us humans, like all animals, have certain built in instincts. One of the strongest of which is the instinct of self preservation. Someone who has had no training of any kind will instinctively try to escape danger, and will instinctively fight if absolutely necessary. That being the case, surely having a tough and flexible body, good fitness and balance and such can only assume to what is already built in. Is sport karate the best thing for self defence? Probably not. But then 'self defence' isn't either, unless it's practiced until it becomes instinct, otherwise in blind panic of genuine hostility, you won't actually use anything you've been taught, as instinct will just take over.

Mulberry4000
Mulberry4000's picture

i agree sports are good, fun and make lots of new friends, also there is cross over to self defence, not only is the body and mind in tune  to getting hit or thrown, but it toughens up the body. Of course it does not help with the shock of being attacked, the fear of being hit or stabbed, or shot, or surrounded by lots of men. So in my view sport is left to its own and so does all so called reality based systems. Now here is the crux of the matter, even when karate was developed, it was just one of the so called self defence system, Ian decries as not being realistic or untestable, which is true, yet on here and other fourms or websites, people extol the vitures of kata for  its self defence possiblities and its basis in reality, If that is the case then all others, who claim theirs is "reality based" have merit. All are untested to the point, you cannot go out and fight, to break someone's arm or kill them, even when japanese society was more dangerous. This society at the time of karate's developement had laws and morales which  said this was not right, indeed peopel where getting so fed up of the voilence from Jui juistus  clubs it was in danger of terminal decline.   So if todays reality based system have no merit or basis to pedal their theories, neither does the old masters of karate and its reason for development. Even military training is not reality  based because no bullets are flying, no bombs are dropping, it is all theory based on  past events. It is only when  when the balloon goes up, the training helps  and kicks in till the solider learns how to deal with the reality of battle. Still veterans know the difference between training and war, but they still value trainning over nothing. So going back to combat sports and reality based sytems esp karate.  To say it was developed as a civilian defence system, sure in theory but where is the proof it  worked and it worked why does karate lack this knowledge in reality? If the training is based on theory and not proven why train in it, even as a sport?

Chris R
Chris R's picture

I agree with what Iain said about training for your objective. I understand that some people argue that sport Karate can develop useful attributes (speed, flexibility, balance, timing, etc) that could be used in self defence, but my problem with this argument is that you can develop those attributes perfectly well without participating in sport Karate. You only have a limited amount of time and energy to train, so in my opinion you should spend that time and energy doing something that is specific to your goals. There is a lot more to this topic than what I have mentioned, but anyway ... I personally would choose one or the other, however you could do both as long as you keep them seperate and understand the implications of that decision.

Anf
Anf's picture

Chris R wrote:
I agree with what Iain said about training for your objective. I understand that some people argue that sport Karate can develop useful attributes (speed, flexibility, balance, timing, etc) that could be used in self defence, but my problem with this argument is that you can develop those attributes perfectly well without participating in sport Karate.

I couldn't agree more. Some of the toughest people I know have never had a single martial arts class in their life, but play rugby or do downhill mountain biking. One of my friends is an old school biker, the kind that takes things apart and modifies things and hurts himself quite a lot, but is as tough as old boots. But if none of those things interest a particular individual, but they've watched The Karate Kid (ok, I'm showing my age), then the local karate club might inspire them and give them a fun recreation. That individual still has all their inherent, natural, instinctive self preservation instinct and skill. The karate class will never take that away. But it will provide the facilities for the individual to add to that inherent ability.

Paul_L
Paul_L's picture

I have heard it said that if you get into a physical confrontation and in this context a situation where you are forced to defend yourself, chances are you will get hit and you wil get hurt. Part of effective self defence is understanding this and accepting it and being fearless in getting into a postion of advantage where you can bring the situation to a conclusion. With many of the sports based formats it seems like there is quite a bit of emphasis on not giving points away so the way someone engages their opponent is very different. So I wonder if training and drilling for sports tournements could be counterproductive to what you learn from self defence drills?

Would any say this is a fair point?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Chris R wrote:
I agree with what Iain said about training for your objective. I understand that some people argue that sport Karate can develop useful attributes (speed, flexibility, balance, timing, etc) that could be used in self defence, but my problem with this argument is that you can develop those attributes perfectly well without participating in sport Karate.

Well said! We should train for the objective. Those who train for self-protection don’t need sport. Those who train for sport don’t need to justify what they do though the relevance to self-protection. Sport is not “bad” because of its lack of relevance to self-protection; any more than an apple is “bad” because it is not like an orange. As I say, I think it is the wrong question to ask because it assumes that either: sport needs relevance to self-protection to be valid; and / or self-protection training will be incomplete without sport. Both are wrong in my view, and therefore the question is based on flawed assumptions.

All the best,

Iain

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Those who train for self-protection don’t need sport

Can I ask...how can self protection training achieve some of the inherent benefits of sport training/competing (especially in a heavy contact format)?

Things like the adrenal build up (both slow release and fast), facing a stranger that is genuinely trying to beat you (not a friend playing a role or offering resistance but actually try to prevail over you) and dealing with adversity (something that can be achieved without sport but I think sport comes at that from an additional angle).

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Those who train for self-protection don’t need sport

PASmith wrote:
Can I ask...how can self protection training achieve some of the inherent benefits of sport training/competing (especially in a heavy contact format)?

Things like the adrenal build up (both slow release and fast), facing a stranger that is genuinely trying to beat you (not a friend playing a role or offering resistance but actually try to prevail over you) and dealing with adversity (something that can be achieved without sport but I think sport comes at that from an additional angle).

If we did go down the route of saying sporting practise was the only way to get the above benefits, then we also have to spend practise time developing skills specifically for any given sporting format that have no cross over. To compete, you need all the skills that competition demands; many of which have no relevance. That strikes me as a very inefficient way to train. I feel we should always train for the specific objective.

The thing with the adrenal response is that it is specific to given circumstances. For example, as someone who engages in public speaking several times a week, I no longer feel any “butterflies” about doing so. However, someone without that experience would be very nervous if asked to speak in front of 70 people for 4 hours. Now if I was asked to sing in public, I feel sure I would be very nervous. Conversely, a singer would be nervous about speaking on a given topic. Both the speaker and the singer are “making audible sounds” in front of an audience, so there is a commonality, but the differences make them very different experiences.  

Back to martial things, if you were to get an experienced boxer to compete in a Kyokushin tournament, he’d be a lot more nervous than he would if back in the relative comfort zone of boxing. An Olympic judoka would not be as confident if suddenly told they had to compete in the wrestling instead. The differences often matter more than the commonalities.

Just like real inoculations, “adrenal inoculation” requires exposure to manageable amounts of the things that will actually be faced. Relying on cross over is not efficient.

To get people used to physical self-defence, we need to recreate it as closely as possible. The dialogue, the multiples, creating escape opportunities, having others to protect, weapons, etc. It’s very different. So, while a person may be able to deal with adrenaline effectively in the “known” of sporting martial arts, it does not follow that that will significantly help when we move to the very different world of self-protection. It’s better to train specifically.

Police officers, soldiers, prison guards, bodyguards, etc all have to deal with adrenaline too. So, they do drills that aim to recreate what they will face … and it works. No one tells them they have to compete in combat sports because there is no other way to get exposure to adrenaline. Specific live drills are the way to go.

Our whole entertainment industry is built on the fact that our instincts and emotions are not good at differentiating reality from fiction. You get someone, even friends, convincingly acting like a threat and the body responds. I’ve seen the heart rate of experienced police officers jump to over 200 beats a minute in seconds in police training, even when they know the trainer in front of them, who is all padded up, is not really going to harm them … but the fact he acted like a threat is enough to get things moving.

PASmith wrote:
facing a stranger that is genuinely trying to beat you (not a friend playing a role or offering resistance but actually try to prevail over you)

Self-protection training should also have people actually trying to prevail in live drills. We build them up, but they must reach a place where the all parties are fully committed to achieving their assigned goals (safety considerations being the only factor). The level of resistance is comparable with combat sports. The difference is that the goals assigned will be a reflecting of the goals of self-protection (avoid harm) and not what is determined to be a “win” buy any given competitive format.

To be 100% clear, I am not anti-combat sports. They can stand on their own two feet without the need to make tenuous links back to self-defence:

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/defence-combat-sports

They also have many positive benefits that self-defence training can’t provide (detailed in the article linked above). If people want to be able to compete effectively, then they should train for that. Likewise, if they want to be able to protect themselves from crime, they should specifically train for that. Training for one because of the limited cross over to another is not good training.

If I want to be a good 100M swimmer, then I should train for that. I should not do 100M sprints because they are the same distance, involve anaerobic fitness, and are both forms of physical competition. The differences matter.

Those training for self-defence do not need to compete. They don’t need sports. They need live drills that share the same stressors as self-protection.

Likewise, those training for sports don’t need to many key aspects of self-defence training. Sport is good and beneficial in and of itself. It does not need to make a connection to self-defence to have value.

In summary, I think everything needed for self-protection can be achieved through self-protection training. There is no need to also train for sport if competitive success is not an objective. If competitive success is an objective, then train for that knowing it has inherent value; irrespective of relevance to self-protection.

As I’ve said throughout this thread, it is not wise to eat apples if you want oranges; nor should you complain about the apples lack of “oranginess” if you do eat an apple. Be specific and it is hard to go wrong.

All the best,

Iain

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Thanks Iain. Much to ponder as always.

One thing struck me about this though was that, unlike people that train for self defence, the people you list actually get to test their training for real.

Police officers, soldiers, prison guards, bodyguards, etc all have to deal with adrenaline too. So, they do drills that aim to recreate what they will face … and it works. No one tells them they have to compete in combat sports because there is no other way to get exposure to adrenaline. Specific live drills are the way to go.

In an ideal world we don't want self defence students to have to use their physical/confontational skills. But the people like the police, prison guards, etc (to greater or lesser degrees) have to use the skills they train for all the time. They are "forced" into confrontational situations. They have much greater exposure to the thing they seeking to be good at and get feedback into their training and experience. As such the training such people recieve is only part of the adrenal picture. Their training can be realistic but never real but they still get to experience reality. A person with a more "normal" job would maybe have 1 or 2 self defence "experiences" a year (at least a heightened situation that could become physical or dangerous) and probably not a physical situation for years or even decades (depending on circumstances and lifestyle). Would sport not offer another layer or outlet?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
Thanks Iain

You’re welcome!

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Police officers, soldiers, prison guards, bodyguards, etc all have to deal with adrenaline too. So, they do drills that aim to recreate what they will face … and it works. No one tells them they have to compete in combat sports because there is no other way to get exposure to adrenaline. Specific live drills are the way to go.

PASmith wrote:
One thing struck me about this though was that, unlike people that train for self defence, the people you list actually get to test their training for real ...

… Would sport not offer another layer or outlet?

It’s true that people with such jobs are more likely to face violence than those in civilian life. I don’t really think that really makes any difference to the central point though.

Soldiers don’t get prepared for war by going into war. Our armed forces take the experience of others and use it to create training drills that develop the skills and attributes needed. The training works. We don’t make reality part of the training because there is too much at stake. People die and operations fail if the training has not done its job.

I therefore don’t think “test” is the right word (“the people you list actually get to test their training for real”). Their skills are tested in the training and proved ready before deployment. Our armed forces, police force, prison service, etc have confidence that the training they provide gives the right skills and attributes.

Self-protection is exactly the same. We take the realities of self-protection – based on the actual experiences of real people – and create appropriate training programs (#). That way, if the worst happens, then the training will contribute toward the best possible outcome.

As per the last post, specific self-protection training should give the required skills for self-protection.

Sport training is created to ensure success in sport. It makes little sense to train to develop one set of skills when they are not the skills you wish to actually attain. If you want self-defence skills, then you should be training those.  If you want sporting skills, then train for those. Both are good and both have value; and we should not judge either by its relevance to the other.

As also mentioned in the above post, the “adrenal inoculation” for one activity does not automatically carry across to other activities either.

Self-defence training should include contested drills, that replicate reality, and cause adrenaline to flow. That is specific, goal-orientated training. Training for sport, if your aim is self-defence, would be unspecific and unfocussed. There is no need to compete in sport if your aim is self-defence. The best reason to compete in sport is because of its own inherent values and benefits.

All the best,

Iain

(#) – Sadly, most marital artists take their existing skills and try to reinvent reality to fit:

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/reinventing-violence-podcast

Anf
Anf's picture

Quote:
(#) – Sadly, most marital artists take their existing skills and try to reinvent reality to fit:

I kind of agree with this. But I'm not sure it's necessarily intentional. I once had a heated discussion with an instructor because I didn't feel our self defence drills were effective, on account of our protocol dictating lots of formalities and predictability. I get that they need to be slow and predicable when first learning them, but then we need to step up the speed, offer more resistance, add in a few surprises etc.

Trouble is for many, there's little option. Not everyone has easy access to a club that meets all of their personal goals, so they have to find the closest match they can, then try to find a way to make it work for them. Those who are lucky enough will make like minded friends with similar personal goals who they can practice with outside of class, but even that can be tricky. Everyone has their own busy life outside of class, and even then, unless all parties are somewhere near evenly matched, then you still have to take it a bit easy.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
(#) – Sadly, most marital artists take their existing skills and try to reinvent reality to fit:

Anf wrote:
I kind of agree with this. But I'm not sure it's necessarily intentional.

I think we are talking at crossed purposes? The point I was making is that the majority of martial arts instructors don’t care to study the realities of criminal violence and train and teach accordingly. Instead, they assume it’s just how it is when they fight each other. You see this all the time. Those who have faced violence tend to give a very consistent message, but if any part of that message does not fit with how martial artists would want it to be (i.e. not in perfect accord with their system as they currently practise it) then they “reinvent reality”.

3K karate types do “self-defence” against lunging punches from 10 feet away. Ground grapplers ignore multiples (or dismiss it as “who can outfight multiples?”, while missing the key point that the aim is to escape them – not fight them – and being on the ground is 180 degrees from helping you do that. There are escape skills that need taught and practised. Saying "run away" is not sufficent). "Military systems" often ignore civilian legalities (i.e. keep it as a military system and ignore the shift in context and objectives). MMA people make self-defence into a “street fight” and ignore all the “soft skills”. And so on. In short, we martial arts types frequently reinvent criminal violence into a being a perfect fit for what we already do. By no means all, but enough to make it a recognsiable trend.

What should happen is we objectively look at the problem, and create a solution from there. If everyone did this, the result would be a common self-protection core that would be universal across all arts. Once that box is ticked, we can move on to do all the other valuable stuff that our chosen art will offer i.e. health, fitness, fun, excitement, sports, etc.

When we look at the message from those who have actually faced violence, it is very consistent in what is required … but martial artists ignore that message in favour of “we know best”.

To my mind, ignorance is no excuse. If people don’t know what self-defence actually requires, and teach their own “reality” instead, we can’t defend that as an unintentional ignorance of reality.

Anyone claiming to teach self-defence has a moral obligation to do the research. If they don’t know what it needs, then don’t teach it!

Martial artists often know their martial art (so they are qualified to teach that), and they then pretend criminal violence is the same and add “self-defence” to their resumé. That’s both negligent and immoral.

I can drive a car, but that does not mean I can also claim to be able to fly a plane: “They both are forms of transport and have engines, so close enough!” That’s what martial artists often do when they teach self-defence, but they don’t see it.

I can’t fly a plane, but if I started taking money off people to teach them to be pilots no one should defend me by saying, “well he’s teaching utter nonsense, but to be fair he knows no better”. I should know the subject I’m claiming to teach.

If martial artists chose to remain ignorant, then they are not exercising due diligence … and that is intentional.

I hope that help clarify what I’m driving at. As for the points raised in your post:

Anf wrote:
I once had a heated discussion with an instructor because I didn't feel our self defence drills were effective, on account of our protocol dictating lots of formalities and predictability. I get that they need to be slow and predicable when first learning them, but then we need to step up the speed, offer more resistance, add in a few surprises etc.

I fully agree with you. Self-defence training requires those things. Without them it is not self-defence training and should not be labelled as such.

I also agree that there need to be a progression. I do feel many take way too long over this progression though. You can get people developing functionals skills, at an appropriate level, very quickly.

Anf wrote:
Trouble is for many, there's little option. Not everyone has easy access to a club that meets all of their personal goals, so they have to find the closest match they can, then try to find a way to make it work for them.

Very true. You are able to see the issue there, but many are not. Some go to a class to learn self-defence, only to be taught art, sport, fighting, etc and they never really realise it because the instructor deludes them into believing it is “self-defence”.

You have not had your “reality reinvented” because you have a grasp of the issues, but many are not in that position. Criminal violence is rare, so this delusion can go unchecked … until some poor individual comes unstuck when they find all the skills they were taught are not applicable to criminal violence.

Having taught for 30 or so years, I can point to a number of situations where people I have taught have faced dire situations. The one that always sticks in my mind is the woman who told me, “my kids still have their mum because of what I learnt”. If I’d have taught martial arts “knife disarms” (unlikely to work and just encorage dangerous actions) and not covered protecting others and escape skills, then people could have died. This is serious stuff, and martial artists putting the “ego of their art” first and foremost infuriates me.  

We need to seek a true understanding the issues, and if we find our current skill set is lacking, or counter to what is needed, then the way the art is practised and taught, as it relates to slef-defence, needs to change. I’ve done loads of that when it comes to “my karate”. Never once have I said, “No! My art is perfect as it is”. To do so would be to place my ego and the reputation of my art above the safety of students … and that is reprehensible to my mind. Sadly, many martial artists seem OK with that.

All the best,

Iain

Ian H
Ian H's picture

To bring this interesting discussion back to the original question posed at the start of this thread, and I am assuming that the question was in regard to sport kumite in particular, I'd offer the following:  in learning and advancing his kumite skills, the karate-ka will develop skills, abilities, and attritutes which he will also find applicable and useful in self-defence applications.  The key, though, is for the karate-ka to understand the differences between those two situations so he can figure out which of his kumite skills he should consider transferrable, and how best to transfer them.   Connected to that, he should understand which of his kumite skills are not transferrable, and what other skills are needed in self defence that his kumite does not teach or actively conditions him against.  

simonb
simonb's picture

Sport is sport and self-protection/defence is just that, and ideally you should train in relation to your objective when taking up the 'art' in the first place. So I'm in complete agreement with Iain. There is nothing wrong with sports based Karate, if it's done well. And you'll certainly be able to defend yourself better than if you'd done nothing at all. However....

When I took up Karate as a complete beginner in 2005 I had no understanding that Karate for self-defence and/or sport, even existed. I just wanted something to keep me active in my mid 40s (was I in for a shock). And I think that will be the case for a lot of starting students. Sure there will be some who have a fervent requirement one way or another, but I'm pretty sure the majority of students don't start out with a strong view about what they want out of Karate. They are doing it to: keep fit, meet new people and lastly so they can learn how to 'defend' themselves without really understanding that that can be completely different depending on the club and/or instructor they join/train with.

So yes context is everything, but if like me in 2005, you had no understanding that a context exists (or any interest either at that time to be honest), its really just pot luck. I picked a local club, which was pretty good, and then moved to my current club/instructor a year later, and got lucky!

Cheers

Simon 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

simonb wrote:
When I took up Karate as a complete beginner in 2005 I had no understanding that Karate for self-defence and/or sport, even existed.

That’s a key issue and I fully agree with your observation. The majority of students don’t appreciate the differences, or understand that there are many divergent activities all using the common label of “karate”. That’s to be expected because they are beginners.

The problem is that the instructor – who should be well-educated on these matters – often does not understand these issues either. They teach art, sport, fighting (all very important and valuable things) and slap the “self-defence” label on it without ever understanding that true self-defence is a very wide topic.

The student follows the instructors lead and the whole merry dance of ignorance continues.

It is only the instructor who can break that cycle, and they can do that by thoroughly educating themselves about what self-defence really is. They can then be honest and say, “We don’t teach self-defence” or set up a meaningful program of education within their curriculum.

Martial arts and fighting are not self-defence.

Self-defence needs to include (as basic requirements): principles of personal security, security awareness, threat assessments, perceptions and fear of crime, street security, home security, mobile security, conflict management, warning and danger signs, attack scenarios, de-escalation, the law, etc … none of which you expect to get taught if you were learning how to compete, or learning an martial art for enjoyment and health benefits.  

Instructors need to know that skill in a martial art, or competitive success, don’t make you qualified to teach self-defence. They are not the same.

Students can be forgiven for not getting that. Instructors can’t because they are obviously not exercising due diligence when claiming to teach something they have never sought to educate themselves about.

All the best,

Iain

Anf
Anf's picture

Quote:
Martial arts and fighting are not self-defence.

Hi Iain. I can't tell you how pleased I am that somebody of your experience said this. I've been trying to tell less experienced students for a while now that what we do (as in, in our club) is absolutely not self defence. It's fun, it's probably reasonably useful in a brawl, but if it contains a lot of techniques designed to close a gap and kick someone's head off from such a distance that you are significantly beyond their arms length, then it's not self defence. If it is most effective when you have lots of room to move about, and if there's a doctrine of 'you dictate the fight, you choose when to be in range and when to be out if range' etc, then it's not self defence because if you have that many choices about where to be, then you surely have the choice to just get out of there. Jumping up, spinning round, then kicking someone's head off is not a self defence technique in my opinion. Techniques for peeling someone off and knocking them to the ground before legging it, that's self defence, for the worst case scenario that you've failed to avoid a physical attack. But running towards someone full sprint, taking off, and then trying to smash straight through them heel first is not.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Martial arts and fighting are not self-defence.

Anf wrote:
I've been trying to tell less experienced students for a while now that what we do (as in, in our club) is absolutely not self defence. It's fun, it's probably reasonably useful in a brawl, but if it contains a lot of techniques designed to close a gap and kick someone's head off from such a distance that you are significantly beyond their arms length, then it's not self defence.

The difference in objective make a huge difference physically. Two people agreeing to fight for a win creates a very different dynamic to one or more criminals seeking to harm and the target seeking to avoid that harm. However, the main reason I said “Martial arts and fighting are not self-defence” is because self-defence is a far wider topic than most martial artists appreciate. The narrow it down to the physical because that is what they know. As I said in the above post:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Self-defence needs to include (as basic requirements): principles of personal security, security awareness, threat assessments, perceptions and fear of crime, street security, home security, mobile security, conflict management, warning and danger signs, attack scenarios, de-escalation, the law, etc … none of which you expect to get taught if you were learning how to compete, or learning an martial art for enjoyment and health benefits.

As an example of how we get this wrong, if asked to teach women’s self-defence most martial artists would immediately start teaching physical technique. When I was asked to teach 17 and 18-year-old females in the local school, I never did that. I talked about the warning signs and dynamics of abusive relationships. I’d then talk about a healthy attitude to personal safety when socialising. Awareness of these issues are a far more effective form of self-protection than any strike.

This is why I say martial art instructors often make the worst self-protection instructors. They don’t teach actual self-protection; they teach fighting or martial arts instead. Even when we come to the physical aspects – as you pointed out – they still get it wrong because they fail to appreciate the shift in context and objective. So, they still teach fighting and martial arts. Both of those are great and I love to practice them and teach them too, but I am aware of the differences and I’m ever mindful of them.

All the best,

Iain