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The question about which martial art is best suited to real life street self defence situations has been around and argued about for many years. Many modern (but not all) martial arts have the ability to be used as a way of defending yourself (note, I said ‘ability‘), and the answer to which one is best will always be just a question without an answer. However carry on reading and I will cover some useful info, but also explain the dangers of thinking you are invincible because you think you know a martial art.
Also I’ll list further in the article the martial arts most popular amongst those teaching, practising or using them today as pure street self defence/combat systems.
Before we get into the rest of the article, it is important to understand that self defence should be used as a last resort. People have been and are killed in street fights, even with just one punch being thrown – you have been warned.
Firstly, lets talk about what and why we may feel we need real street self defence training.
Let us define some different and potential situations that may occur in our daily/weekly lives:
- Street/bar/club/sporting event fights/attacks – these are normally alcohol driven and often unprovoked but can be occasionally planned.
- Road rage – an increasing random occurrence, could happen anytime.
- Domestic violence – sometimes sudden, but often a gradual build up.
- Muggings/robbery/burglary – can happen out of the blue to anyone, anywhere.
- Civil unrest/demonstrations/other similar events – nowadays it can happen anywhere.
Often these unwanted encounters can happen in crowded places, so just because there are other people around doesn’t mean you are safe, as many people will suffer from what is known as the ‘bystander effect’, where they will just ignore or pretend nothing is happening, due to either them being scared or they just do not wanting to get involved.
So what is real street self defence and how does most martial arts stand up to a real life situation?
Real self defence is the ability to defend yourself against an attacker/attackers. However many situations can occur out of the blue, unexpected or you just don’t see it before it’s too late. Attackers often don’t give you a warning, they don’t wave a flag in front of you, telling you of their intentions. Attacks can/are very often quick, spontaneous, unpredictable, aggressive, full force, have no rules and are unstructured and not like following a set kata or set of forms or techniques with a training partner. Many of these people aren’t thinking straight, possibly on drugs or are just plain crazy. Fights can have multiple attackers and one minute be a fist fight, the next a knife or other weapons can be introduced. Most brawl type attacks are to the face/head, while attacks with weapons can be made to anywhere. Attacks can come from both untrained and trained fighters and often end up on the ground.
Therefore many martial arts fall foul of over teaching complicated set techniques, that in reality would be impossible to use against such attackers. They can also give people a false sense of ability and comfort. It’s not unusual for even the most experienced martial artist to freeze in a real attack and often the bodies natural instinct in such a situation can cause a second or 2 of blank thinking or flinching that will allow the attacker the time to do what they want. It’s not like the movies, you generally get no time to think, nor are they like cage fights, bare knuckle fights or even so called no holds barred fighting, these all have some rules and some form of referee/control. With regards movies, the actors in them, some of whom are great fighters, have all had to embellish their fight scenes for show and to a large extent this embellishment gives a false reality of real life fights and the role of genuine street self defence.