Martial Arts v Self Defence

I’m Paul Willson I am a brown belt in Ju Jutsu, a centuries old Japanese martial art.

When a martial art federation or dojo is selling what they do one of the selling points is learning self defence. I absolutely hate this and I really think it is a bad thing to do.

Before I explain why I will explain what I think self defence is. Martial arts isn’t self defence. Self defence is creating a space so you can escape an attacker. Ways this can be done can be:

  1. Not going down that dark and scary alleyway.
  2. Crossing the road to avoid those dangerous looking people.
  3. Running away
  4. Using a self defence technique to escape an attackers grip to run away.

Points 1,2 and 3 may seem obvious but that is still self defence and it is really good self defence because you are avoiding danger and keeping safe. Point 4 is more of a grey area and should only be used when danger finds you.

The reason it is a grey area is because you will probably use a simple martial art technique but and this is a big but a B.U.T but, it won’t work 100% of the time. If you are told this then it is misguided advice. The reason for this is that everyone is different. Your attacker could be very flexible and if you try and hyper extend their wrist or arm they might not feel it. They may be drunk or on drugs so they won’t feel a strike. In a dangerous situation you will feel tense so there is a chance, no matter how simple or well practiced, the technique you use, you might not do it correctly the one time you need to use it.

Now why do I hate martial arts being sold as self defence? The reason is that the way it is sold is that you will be able to stand toe to toe with an attacker, fight it out and win giving you a false sense of invincibility. This something that you should never do. An attacker will never attack you if he thinks he is going to get hurt.

Other reasons are that they might have a weapon, they might have a friend (with a weapon) you haven’t seen and most martial art techniques are unusable in real life, either they just won’t work or it can get yourself into trouble with the Police. You may think that it is an odd thing to say that a victim can get into trouble with the Police but self defence laws vary from country to country and if you injure your attacker and you can’t prove it was self defence for example no witnesses or CCTV then the your attacker can accuse you and the police could arrest you if you are unharmed.

What is is the point then I hear you ask. Well something is better than nothing. When in danger always try to do something to escape but never stand toe to toe and fight an attacker.

What you should do is learn and understand your martial art, learn what could work in real life. Test it out in the dojo by asking your training partner to resist and be awkward rather than standing still and letting you do the technique on them. Once you do this you will have a better idea of what might work and not work in real life.

One last point about self defence. If you are threatened because an attacker wants to rob you especially if they have a weapon, give them what they want. You can earn more money, cancel credit cards, get a new phone. You can’t replace you.

Do you have an opinion on the differences between martial arts and self defence or do you think self defence is part of martial arts? Do you think it is right or wrong to use self defence as a way to promote a martial art? Please leave a comment below.


Published by Paul Willson

I am Paul Willson. I have reached the rank of brown belt in Ju Jutsu. Thanks to Coronavirus I not been able to take my black belt grading stopping my martial art's journey in its tracks which the only polite word I can think of as frustrating. I have created this blog to try and help anyone who is thinking of starting a martial art or has just started a martial art.

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