Like some other members here, I hang out both on here and on the Martial Arts subreddit (r/martialarts). One of the big differences between this site and Reddit, is I feel this site has a good mix of people from all different backgrounds, while Reddit seems to focus heavily on combat sports that make it into MMA, with a lot of bashing of TMAs and RBSDs in the process. I was thinking about making this post over there (since it's more in response to the threads I've seen over there), but figured since I'm not going to be bowing before the golden calf of the UFC, I'll probably just get downvoted to oblivion and my message will be missed. So I'll make the post here, and I'll try to keep it in the context of this site. The question that often comes up from beginners is "what art should I take for self-defense?" Another common question is experienced students who haven't ventured outside of their gym will ask "is my art effective for self-defense?" The typical answer to this question on the MMA Cult Fan Club...I mean r/martialarts...is that if your art has a high representation in MMA, and you do live sparring in class, then your training is good. If your art doesn't have a sport component (like Krav Maga), or is based on non-resistive drills (like Aikido), then your art isn't good for self defense. It is this answer which I would like to discuss. Before I get into it, I'd like to clarify that I have nothing against MMA, UFC, or any combat sport. I think combat sports are fun and exciting, and I think the live sparring they do is invaluable towards building skill and confidence. I think MMA and the UFC are excellent tests of martial arts, probably the best test we have. My only issue is with the gate-keeping mentality that if it's not MMA, it's bullshido. Situation 1: The Pre-Fight Before the fight even begins, there's usually a build-up. Sometimes it's a sucker-punch or you get jumped, but in my experience it's far more likely that someone needs to be amped up before actually getting into a fight. In my adult life, I've never been jumped out of the blue. I've had people outright tell me they want to fight or beat me up, and I've had people try to play into my fight-or-flight response. By remaining calm and collected, I was able to avoid the fight in the first place. I think most martial arts will do this. The confidence from class will help you to not lose your mind when someone tries to get you riled up. The discipline you learn will help you be patient and rational in a situation where they're trying to get you to think with your lizard brain. Even the exercise helps calm your mind and make you less likely to react out of anger. The number one solution to a bad dog (one that chews on everything or barks all night) is to take it for a walk to get it exercise. Same thing for a terror of a cat - get it some toys that will get it exercise so it's not laying around all day penting up all that energy. This is also where sparring really helps. Not only is sparring going to give you the most confidence in your abilities, but it's also the best way to get rid of that pent-up aggression, so you're not seeking a fight when you go out at night. However, I think almost any martial art will help keep you poised under pressure. One thing I hear a lot is that if the martial arts you've learned doesn't do a very good job of teaching the techniques (because of poor quality control, lack of resistive sparring, or fantastical techniques that won't work in real life), that someone is going to get into fights and get hurt. While it is true that they are less likely to win a fight if they haven't sharpened their technique, this misses the point entirely. A martial artist shouldn't be looking to get into fights, no matter how skilled they are. You're not "more likely" to get hurt, because you shouldn't be more likely to get into a fight. Situation 2: The Typical Self-Defense Scenario Typically you're not fighting against UFC champions when you need to defend yourself in the street. For one, I think most people who train martial arts get their aggression out in class and don't need to pick fights to get their fix. (Not everyone, but most people). If someone pulls a gun on you, chances are they aren't John Wick. If someone throws a punch, they're probably not as skilled as Mike Tyson. A lot of people believe cross-training (or training a generalist art) is required to be able to defend yourself. In a typical situation, you can easily control where a fight happens and make it work to your advantage. Most of the time it takes a good shot from a boxer or a good take-down from a wrestler for the other person to realize "they actually know how to fight and this is going to be too much work." While you'd need a broader range of technique to compete in MMA, having a one-dimensional skill is generally fine for a street fight. What about the more maligned arts, such as an RBSD or a TMA? These can still be successful, especially in a typical self-defense scenario. Aikido gets a really bad rap, but I recently saw a news clip of a convenience store clerk who disarmed a gunman using his Aikido training. Does this mean you will always have success disarming someone? No. But it can work, and saying it absolutely doesn't work (which I hear a lot from the MMA Jocks) is a break from reality. Speaking of breaks from reality, arts that are completely based on fantasy are not likely to work in a self-defense situation. We already discussed that you should be able to avoid most fights. Of those potential fights that remain, a large number of them can be handled by someone with training in almost any art. Situation 3: The Competent Attacker Let's say you weren't able to avoid a fight, and that the person you're fighting with actually has some idea of what they are doing. It is at this point that non-resistive arts will start to fall off the map, and join the fantasy-based arts in irrelevance. RBSD arts will have some viability...as long as what the attacker provides fits with the scenarios provided in the system. The more you spar, and the less you rely on specific drills to make that happen, the more likely you are to succeed. One-dimensional sport fighters will still have a good chance, if they can keep the fight in their dimension. Situation 4: The Skilled Attacker Instead of the enemy from #3 being merely competent, let's say they are actually skilled. In this case, you either need to be a very skilled 1-dimensional fighter that can keep the fight where you want it, or you need to have multiple disciplines in order to press every advantage you can get. The alternative is to "cheat". This is where using the threat of a weapon or an actual weapon to defend yourself becomes a much better option. (And I would argue a good option in most cases for Situations 1-3, because you won't know ahead of time if they are skilled or not). This is where having friends or other backup would be helpful. This is also why we should try and stick to situation #1 and just avoid the fight in the first place. Situation 5: The Cheater What if the other person cheats? What if they have a weapon of their own? Well, the same rules apply as going down the list. Try to avoid the fight entirely If they are stupid with it, then even arts that are much-maligned can be successful (the aikido anecdote I mentioned above) If they are competent with it, you either need to be more skilled than them or you need to cheat, too What if they have friends? Same rules again. Try to avoid the fight. Most groups that attack you are going to have a leader who wants to fight, and a bunch of others there out of moral support. If they have good teamwork and are each competent fighters in their own right, you need to be much more skilled than them, or you need to cheat, too.