People often turn to the martial arts to learn how to defend themselves. The trouble is that the ‘martial arts’ is about as vague as saying ‘sport’ or ‘vehicles’ when it comes to what is ‘good’ or not.
If I want to drive a car fast around a racetrack then a family SUV is not ideal. However, an SUV is capable of going off road a little but won’t be as good as a more off-road orientated vehicles such as a Jeep or Land Rover.
The ‘Martial Arts’ is a wonderfully broad and diverse collection systems, styles and organizations. My blogs are going to focus primarily on real world application of fighting skills in a self defense situation. As such more esoteric styles such as Kendo have very little practical application for self-defense, However it is the case that anyone well versed in Kendo, if they get their hands on a stick of any length will fare far better than the average person in a street fight so ALL systems have their value to a greater of lesser extent!
I am going to posit that there are broadly 3 martial arts system ‘Types’ which overlap and a particular system, school or individual will fall somewhere in the following diagram:
It is my opinion that you can’t be truly great at self-defense if you only train in a system like Krav Maga. Many such schools don’t spar or have any form or competition because they consider themselves ‘too dangerous’. This sounds very cool and tough but sadly nonsensical techniques and ideas can creep in because no one is testing the skills in the crucible of combat.
Do not limit yourself by staying with one system. Train to be technically proficient. Test yourself against people not only offering ‘resistance’ but actively trying to beat you and also practice scenarios that replicate real life, not the sterile confines of a training hall with rules. With luck you may find all at one school but often the journey may be longer.
Next time I’ll discuss what supplementary training you should be doing to be better able to defend yourself.
Paul Landreth-Smith is a 5th Dan in Tae Kwon Do, 6th Dan Kickboxing, an eternal Blue Belt in BJJ and a 3rd Dan in Krav Maga. Ex Doorman, 18 years as a cop, 11 years of which in an elite SWAT unit. Now a paramedic and runs training courses for LE and civilians in defensive tactics and firearms training. Author of Sheepdog with a Black Belt.
Paul’s Combatives Blog: What Makes a Good ‘Self Defense’ System? (blackbeltmag.com)