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Anf
Anf's picture
Injury from training much more likely than violent encounter

I've been doing a spot of research. I'm sure I'm not the first, so it would be great if folks to fill done of the gaps.

In the UK, an estimated 0.2% of adults fall victim to a violent crime each year. For kids it's closer to 10% with the majority of such incidents being fighting or bullying at school. That's from the office of national statistics and takes into account a combination of police stats and estimates based on survey results.

So worst case, it's 1 in 10 chance that you'll be a victim of a violent crime in the UK (obviously that's not quite true - many factors can of course increase that figure substantially, but I'm on about national averages).

The ONS also looked at the extent of injury in such encounters. I can't remember the exact numbers, but I remember that more than half were no injury or minor injury, defined as minor cuts or bruises.

What surprised me was the section on assault with a weapon. Despite the recent emphasis on tragic events involving a knife, knives were not the weapon of choice in most assaults involving a weapon. But what surprised me even more was that where a knife was involved, most victims received only minor injuries. That's a stark contrast to what your average martial arts instructor says, that if you do nothing, you're dead.

I'm reasonably OK with the available stats on violent crime. There's plenty of reading to be had on the ONS website alone, and the stats there seem pretty solid.

Where I hit a dead end is when trying to compare the crime injury stats with training injury stats. There are a number of studies, but most focus on competition related injuries. Doing a bit of digging, I reached the conclusion that roughly 30% of martial artists will receive a training injury that results in time off training in any 12 month period. The numbers are vague but they kind of fit with my own observations. If anyone can add anything more concrete that would be great.

I haven't learned enough to form a conclusion yet, but I'm starting to lean towards the idea that in the UK at least, training in martial arts for self protection is utterly pointless and will actually put you at significantly higher risk of physical harm than not training. That's not even taking into account the liklihood that in a genuine encounter, most of our training goes straight out the window anyway as fear and adrenaline take over.

That's not for one second to say that martial arts or self defence training is bad. Of course it isn't. It's fun, it's social, despite the occasional injury (which you'd get in any sport or physical activity) there are many health benefits, but I think if the main driver is to learn how to protect yourself from harm in a violent encounter, then I think it's detrimental rather than beneficial.

So if self protection is not about combat training, what is it? And how does it differ depending on the audience? For me, as a middle aged dad that works in an office, self protection surely means trying to keep to a healthy lifestyle, while also keeping an eye on my employment related skills so that I can be confident that I'll always be able to pay for everything my family and I need. For my kids I think it's largely the same, but with some practice, somehow, at developing their awareness better, breaking down the childish taboos of not telling tales, because kids aren't good at dealing with problems, so I think anything that helps to ensure they communicate and ask for help is good.

So where do the martial arts fit into the equation? It seems you're far more likely to be harmed in the dojo than infamous Street. Well, it keeps you moving, so it's good for physical health, and many find it interesting, social or just plain fun, all good for mental health protection.

Thoughts?

Marc
Marc's picture

Hi Anf, thanks for the interesting topic.

I could give anecdotal evidence that self-defense training can be practically injury free if you do it right. But anecdotal evidence is not representative of the population as a whole, and therefore less relevant.

Instead I would like to point out some statistical details.

Anf wrote:

In the UK, an estimated 0.2% of adults fall victim to a violent crime each year. For kids it's closer to 10% with the majority of such incidents being fighting or bullying at school. [...] So worst case, it's 1 in 10 chance that you'll be a victim of a violent crime in the UK [...].

Statistically, it doesn't really make sense to say "worst case, it's a 10% chance", mainly because "case" and "chance" are very different concepts indeed. To clarify: A "10% chance" would mean that among 100,000 kids 10,000 would experience a "case". That may sound pedantic, but when dealing with statistics these things are important. Based on the numbers you gave, you could conclude: "So worst case, you are young instead of an adult." Which refers to the two age groups that have different chances of being a victim of violent crime. Or you could say: "So worst case, you've actually been a vicitim of violent crime this year. Best case, you won't ever be."

Anf wrote:

That's from the office of national statistics and takes into account a combination of police stats and estimates based on survey results.

I suppose we can assume the data from the ONS to be fairly reliable.

Anf wrote:

Where I hit a dead end is when trying to compare the crime injury stats with training injury stats. There are a number of studies, but most focus on competition related injuries.

It is difficult to compare the numbers from the ONS stats with numbers from various studies on competition related injuries. First of all we have to use simlar age groups to the ones distinguished above. Do the various studies refer to adults or kids?

Also, people who compete in the martial arts are a sub-population of the entire UK. So the respective studies are not really comparable to the statistics by the ONS.

Furthermore, people who participate in martial-arts competitions are not necessarily the same people who train in martial arts for self-defense.

Anf wrote:

Doing a bit of digging, I reached the conclusion that roughly 30% of martial artists will receive a training injury that results in time off training in any 12 month period.

Setting aside that "any 12 month period" is different from "any year", that would mean that I would expect to have at least one training related injury once every three years, or in 3 out of 10 years.

Anf wrote:

It seems you're far more likely to be harmed in the dojo than infamous Street.

At first glance it might seem that way, but from the statistical data you described, we really cannot draw any such conclusion. I haven't seen the statistics or the studies, but based on your explanations, the datasets are just not comparable.

That's probably not the answer you hoped for, but when assessing risks we need to use proper methodology. Otherwise it's simply conjecture.

Indepently of any data, I would say that if you design your self-defense training to be a safe environment for your students then the risk of injury should be the same as or even less than everyday life outside of the dojo.

Take care,

Marc

Leigh Simms
Leigh Simms's picture

I think the main thought that should come from the data is that our Karate training needs to be more than just self-protection. Most of us here already know this and don't train just for self-protection otherwise we wouldn't train karate we would train a different system which does not come with all the additional non self-protection baggage that karate comes with. The baggage is not a knock on karate, in fact it is the reason why makes it the lifetime study that it is and the different facets are the reason why I love karate! 

However, one thing that cannot be ignored is the continium of violent injuries in "the dojo" compared to the "street". Whilst, "the dojo" may be linked to more injuries, it may well be the case that the most serious injuries happen in 'the street".  I guess the question I am asking is something like this: -

Which is more dangerous, Activity 1 which will likely result in a small non-serious injury 50% of the time or Activity 2 which will cause severe injury 5% of the time?

I think you could answer the question both ways and with some more digging at the data available we may be able to get a specific question with specifc percentages for Activity 1 (Karate Training) and Activity 2 (Street Violence). 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Good tread topic!

Anf wrote:
What surprised me was the section on assault with a weapon. Despite the recent emphasis on tragic events involving a knife, knives were not the weapon of choice in most assaults involving a weapon. But what surprised me even more was that where a knife was involved, most victims received only minor injuries. That's a stark contrast to what your average martial arts instructor says, that if you do nothing, you're dead.

Pointing out that the majority of people survive knife attacks is very important. I recently added a video to the app on dealing with knives and I made this point in it. Sure, it only takes one unlucky stab or slash and it’s all done, but the odds are on your side. Presenting knife attacks almost certain doom causes crippling doubt and hesitation. The rib cage does a pretty good job of protecting the internal organs and the arteries are likewise generally “tucked away” to the inside of the arms and legs. It’s not a case of one mistake and you die. As you say, the statistics are clear on this.

Anf wrote:
It seems you're far more likely to be harmed in the dojo than infamous Street. Well, it keeps you moving, so it's good for physical health, and many find it interesting, social or just plain fun, all good for mental health protection. Thoughts?

It's true that way more people are harmed during physical activity than as a result of crime; because exercise and sport are very common whereas violent crime is comparatively rare. I train most days. I’m not facing violent crime most days!

Risk can be determined looking an probability and severity. A rare event that causes great harm is more of a risk than an everyday event that causes minimal harm. Crime is rare, but the effects can be severe. Not just physical damage, but the trauma and sense of injustice. If I phoned you to say severe winds has smashed all the widows of your house you’d feel better than if I said a gang had come round and smashed all the windows of your house. Same damage, same cost to fix, but a very different emotional reaction.

Same with taking punch. An accidental punch from a training partner and a deliberate punch from a criminal may cause the same level of injury, but the emotional element is very different. I carry a number of permanent injuries from my friends (I’ve accidently cased a few too), but it’s a source of humour and comradery as opposed to any lasting trauma.

Martial arts are also a surprisingly safe form of physical activity. Full contact causes health issues, but controlled training is statistically very safe. That’s why instructor insurance is so cheap when compared to other activities. Karate deaths are also extremely rare. Death from crime, whilst very rare, is much more common by comparison. It is also worth noting that health problems from inactivity are right up there among the top killers.

Crime is rare, but the damage (mentally and physically) can be severe, so it’s worth taking sensible precautions. Last resort physical skills can be part of that. The risk to your health from inactivity is HUGE, and martial arts can provide a safe and enjoyable way for remaining healthy that is suitable for all ages. There is a risk of injury, but on balance the far greater risk comes from inactivity. If martial arts keep you active, and you enjoy them, then they can be a significant part of a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.

Anf wrote:
So if self protection is not about combat training, what is it? And how does it differ depending on the audience?

Self-protection is protecting yourself from crime. Only a very small part is physical. It’s therefore most certainly not combat training. It does change depending on the audience because differing groups face differing risks. In the last year I’ve done self-protection courses for young males (greater emphasis on safe socialising and keeping ego in check), young females (greater emphasis on the warning signs of dysfunctional relationships), and elderly women (no physical component, reassurance that they are the least likely victims of crime, emphasis on home security), etc.

The Martial Map is useful here: https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/martial-map-free-audio-book

Zone 1 is a key part of self-protection but has nothing to do with either martial arts or fighting.

All the best,

Iain

Anf
Anf's picture

Thanks for the excellent and insightful input. Many good points raised. I'd like to pick up on them individually but it's really difficult on the phone version of the browser.

I think a key message, if I understand correctly, is that the fear of being a victim is probably greater than the actual risk of being a victim. Martial arts training can surely help with that fear. Even if, in the unlikely event of a physical confrontation, you don't actually do anything that looks anything like what you train, it surely counts for something to know you can land a decent strike against an equally trained opponent and likewise, you can take a knock without being immediately crippled. In terms of fear of assault, such things must surely be beneficial psychologically.

I'd also like to pick up on the point about sane damage, different cause (malicious or accidental) and the emotional effect this has. That's a very good point. I drive a car. And like I'm sure everyone who drives, I've had my fair share of scary moments. I've skidded on ice, I've slammed on when someone has pulled out on me, I had to take evasive action once when a daft overtaker on the other side of the road came straight at me head on. All very scary, with not just a chance but a liklihood of very severe consequences if my response is not correct. Yet it takes just a few minutes to calm down after such things, and it doesn't stop me driving. But I've also had violent encounters with people, and in most cases, they've come to very little, but they take much longer to calm down from. Almost certainly because while the former is accidental, even if the result of stupidity or arrogance. The latter is malicious and intentional. With this being the case, I wonder if the actual root of all this is simply fear of damage to ego. Fear of a sense that somebody else has imposed their will on us without consent.

PASmith
PASmith's picture

IMHO this why "martial arts" has to be greater than the sum of its parts and multi-faceted.

In the last 20 years I've had 3 "altercations" worthy of the name. None of which went very physical beyond some pushing, verbal "jiu-jitsu" and harsh words. I just don't lead a hazardous life and I try to practice good pro-active self protection to avoid trouble.

I've had a good few training injuries though. Broken ribs, black eyes, cuts, a thumb that no longer works very well due to a poorly targeted punch, a bad back that is an ongoing problem (which is exacerbated by lifestyle) and all the various strains, bruises, bumps and pulls. Far more "injury" than I've had in "reality". On balance doing martial arts to learn how to save myself from harm has been counter-productive! I'd have been better off not doing it at all if my only concern was preventing physical damage to myself.

BUT...the martial arts have also enriched my life immeasurably. The experiences, the friendships, the personal growth and confidence building, etc. It's an emotionally, intelectually and (even though I'm not religious myself) "spiritually" elightenting thing to do. The people you meet, the connections and links you make with others pursuing the same (or similar) goals.

Everybody needs to look at that "balance" of risk versus reward in their own training and work out what works for them and their goals. It won't be the same for everyone. It can even vary for the indivudual. There have been times when practicality was all consuming. Now I train mainly to keep active with my kids. :)

Liam
Liam's picture

Thanks for the add and for having me on this brilliant forum!

Part of my job is very physical and very high risk - injuries, and some quite severe ones, are common - especially since the safety culture in my line work can be lax at best with some people. BUT in 12  years I have never been injured apart from a few bruises and minor cuts - touch wood (taps self on head).

On the other hand with karate - in the last 3 years I have injured (enough to stop me training and working for a period) my back, ankle, elbow, both shoulders, broken a finger (permananetly damaging the joint capsule) and several toes - all while training.  I'm no spring chicken so I permanently ache anyway (in an irritating, rather than debilitating way). 

Apart from one snooker ball lump on my forehead when my old sensei accidentally kneed me in the head, non of my injures have been due to striking - they all have all arisen when doing ground work, mainly when being put down onto the ground when I wasn't expecting it.

This was all during training, rather then sparring. Is it a lot considering we don't do a lot of sparring?