Thoughts on the "what martial art should I take for self-defense" question

Discussion in 'General Self Defense' started by skribs, Feb 7, 2020.

  1. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    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.
    1. Try to avoid the fight entirely
    2. If they are stupid with it, then even arts that are much-maligned can be successful (the aikido anecdote I mentioned above)
    3. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.

     
  2. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    Rather than the art being of no use, it is imo, the practioner, and how well they apply themselves or what they have learnt and understood, to say Aikido is useless at SD because they do ABC is not accurate, in your opinion and others opinions this may be true.
    Of course avoidance should be everyones first choice, keeping calm, relaxed but ready is also vital, having the mentality, I dont want to fight, but its ok to fight if I have to, is also key. As for the rest of your comments, in theory you are correct, but in reality in my opinion go straight to cheating (a weapon involved or not), it is a matter of survival, no wait and see if they are any good, make your chance and take it, yes it will be harder the more skill your adversary has, the more difficult it will be, and
    this is where ma training from any legit art helps, distance, timing, speed, power, the last 2 are variable in a fighter, having said that the only way to practice this effectively is by sparring, and the further you go with sparring the better. Drills are ok, but you need to understand movement and moving constantly, rather than concertrate on the specific drills of class, the opportunities will reveal themselves once you have created the space/opening, and in my experience the mma types shouting their mouths off about this or that art is trash, probably have never fought other than in the gym or at school. Having said that I do see a lot of static sparring in tma, the striker will put in a front kick, the receiver will apply a technique to deal with said kick, then stand completely still, not just the beginners, the mid and senior belts as well. The more you do, the more you see, this is why sparring is great, it gets rid of tension and aggression, it sharpens up your responses, so my list would be.
    1) avoid
    2) keep calm and relaxed its ok to fight
    3) move and keep moving
    4) when the time comes, cheat before they do or strike and keep striking, keep moving, until they give up, run away, or take an involuntary nap.
     
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  3. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    What Martial Art should I take for self defense? Couple of answers for you.

    First art: PutYourPhoneAway Ryu - In this art you learn to put your phone away when walking down the street, or across the parking lot. Being buried in your phone, makes you a very easy target... which is what the bad guy is looking for.

    First self defense idea - Win! - But, winning has a very different definition than most people think. Winning means "I can go to work tomorrow" or "I can go to school tomorrow." Be aware of what is happening around you. If things start to get uncomfortable, or a problem starts... go some where else... don't get closer to see what is going on. If the bad guy does corner you and want your wallet... how much money is really there? $40? How much will your medical bills be if you get hurt? How much will your lawyer charge if the other guy gets hurt? How much money do you lose if you can't go to work tomorrow? Give up the $40, and go home. Do whatever you have to to walk away, run away or get out of the situation as quick as possible. Giving them your cash, apologizing (even if its not your fault), ignoring what they called your mom, or crossing the street early to avoid the whole situation are all wins... because you can go to work tomorrow... and not the hospital, jail or the morgue.

    Okay, so really which "Martial Art" should I take? The answer to this is easy... the art you are willing to practice the most, will be the most effective art for you. Danzan Ryu might be the most effective art for taking out the bad guy. I may have all the data, video, stories and actual evidence to prove it. But, if you won't practice and train it... it won't work for you, no matter how effective it may be. Something that you are willing to train in, practice in and spend time doing will always be more effective than something you make excuses not to do. Sure, kick boxing may be way better than aikido, because it has tons of full contact sparring and aikido has none. But, if my experience with kick boxing is a few classes, separated by a lot of time... and therefore my full contact sparring consists of me trying a technique, and getting countered and then pounded on... its not going to work. However, if you are at aikido 3 times a week, every week, getting thousands of repetitions in moving offline, and redirecting... hopefully, where the school ups the power and speed the better you get.... that may actually work better for you. Especially if you consider what winning is. The Aikido guy probably won't pull off the beautiful, flowing, turning, multi-part arm whip throw... but he may stay calm, get offline, redirect a little and run away.... keeping the ability to go to work, without having to deal with cops.
     
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  4. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    You still should start by being able to fight.

    "Do MMA" is a base line. So you should be able to handle one guy under a rule set. And then branch out in to whatever tactical process you want.

    Otherwise it is a case of rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.
     
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  5. Rat

    Rat 3rd Black Belt

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    The art of click bang.
     
  6. Rat

    Rat 3rd Black Belt

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    But in a serious light, many things would work, but some things you should tell somone to avoid. If they state they want it for self defence, then Kendo, Aikido and several other things are out, as they arent comabtive, about hurting people or about surviving in the modern world.


    Most things would require some altertion though, due to the fact "killing" arts have basically died out or became about something else.

    Good point here, if somone for example cant slaughter a animal without bawling their eyes out or being emotionally crippled for a year, then what hope do they have to bash somones skull in with a rock, drive a knife into them until they stop working etc. So if you go to a TMA school that has many things that work, you can get disconnected with what they will do to people as you dont see it done often and dont go through conditoning to death.

    Also as for the aikdo disarm, just because it works once in a blue moon doesnt mean it works enough to be valid. There is a video on ASP on yotuube of somone using the kick disarm, does that mean that technique is valid and should be taught? No. Everything was stacked in the kickers favour, distracted knife weildier, not facing him etc etc. You need something far more reliable than that, you only love up once in this situation after all.
    (isnt that a sterotypcial TKD knife defence also?)


    And competion is not a bad base to start from. It doesnt translate 1:1 to realty, but it is by far not the worst thing. If you can go 20 minutes stuck in a ring with somone being able to do pretty much anything, a pretty good start. Some adaptation and you are on a good road. There is also the TMA and RBSD nerd/cultist about eye gouging and groin kicking being the equal to a nuclear bomb, or a tornado kick being viable in a pub etc.


    Not many places to draw experiences from the only really prolific controlled envirment you can do it in, is sport/competion. (by controlled i mean, you arent going to die, not that the events are scripted) Military gets this issue as well. you dont know what getting shot at i like until it happens. So (presuming they have a good training programe) the training exists to expose you as much as possible to the stress in hopes you dont shut down when it happens and follow the SoP's that have been drilled into you. (police also get this issue, but i would argue crime is more prolfic than some places war record)
     
  7. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    So if someone in your opinion cannot slaughter a defensless animal, then their ma is bogus, what a load of bollocks, I would do my absolute best to evade control or destroy anyone who wishes to fight or attack me, but I could not destroy a defensless animal or human
     
  8. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    There is no such thing as cheating in a real fight.

    You take every advantage you can get to win.
     
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  9. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    Oh yes there is, and I have taken advantage of it, several times
     
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  10. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    what martial art should I take for self-defense

    I don't like the term "self-defense". It sounds like you are the only good guy. Everybody else on earth are all bad guys and try to beat you up.
    Agree! Fighting is a big cheating game.

    - I drop my guard.
    - You punch my face.
    - I kick your groin.

    - I raise my guard.
    - You kick my groin.
    - I catch your leg and take you down.

    - I twist you clockwise.
    - You resists.
    - I borrow your resistance force, and twist you counter-clockwise.

    - In jacket wrestling, before the match, if you are a right hand person, you put on your wrestling jacket with your left arm through the sleeve first. This way your opponent may think you are a left hand person.

    ...
     
  11. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    @Kung Fu Wang , i do like your posts, but they are bit like a recipe,
    10g sugar
    15g kick em in the the plums
    How many real fights have you had (sorry in 1 of them moods)?
    I enjoy your posts but they are a bit boys own magazine, a=B=c.
    I do not wish to appear rude, but its a bit comic book
     
  12. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    What is a “real fight”? I'm not trying to nitpick or be a jerk, just wondering what the parameters are. For instance, I've had to subdue a lot of people as a cop, and sometimes I've been injured, but it's not really a "real fight, as HE may be trying to fight but all I'm doing is trying to subdue him, sometimes for his own protection.

    As a bouncer you sometimes get in skirmishes, sometimes stopping people from coming in, trying to get them out, or separating inebriated people who are fighting each other. But I don't consider them real fights.

    So....what be we talkin' about exactly? :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
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  13. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    A real fight, is, your oppnent will not rest until he they have made you quit, made you run away, or made you take an involantry nap, or hurt you so you cannot continue,

    .
     
  14. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    If you only talk about street fight, I only had street fight (to protect world peace and enhance human civilization) when I was in high school.

    Back in high school, sometime during the evening, someone would knocked on my window and said, "... just got beaten up and we need to get even with." I grabbed my weapon (no fire arm in Taiwan), had no idea who I was going to fight against. It was an unwritten rule that everybody had responsibility to protect our neighbor.

    This is why I don't use the term "self-defense". If A beats up B, and C beats up A. I may call that "for justice", but I won't call that for self-defense.

    If you are talking about challenge fight (both be a challenger and being challenged) or tournament fight, It will be hard for me to count the number.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  15. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    Back in the early 90's I participated in unliscensed fighting, if you like you can call it mma without the ring or a referee, the ring was composed of straw bails, the fight ended when your opponent could not move or continue, there was a ref, but he was there to stop clinching, and holding, because the betting guests wanted to be entertained, and had money on you, and I was there to make money.for other people.
     
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  16. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    Back in the early 90's I participated in unliscensed fighting, if you like you can call it mma without the ring or a referee, the ring was composed of straw bails, the fight ended when your opponent could not move or continue, there was a ref, but he was there to stop clinching, and holding, because the betting guests wanted to be entertained, and had money on you
     
  17. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Back in the 70's I formed a fighting club. I still remember we had

    - MT professional fighter,
    - TKD black belt,
    - Hapkido black belt,
    - Okinawan karate black belt,
    - Kenpo Karate guy,
    - Kung Fu guy (myself),
    - ...

    We sparred with each other. That was the best time I ever had in my life.

    I used to watch a Karate school class. At the end of the class, I would walk toward a guy and asked him if he was interested to spar with me outside of his class. I strongly believe in to test my MA skill outside of my area.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  18. Gweilo

    Gweilo 2nd Black Belt

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    You may of asked, but how many accepted, as I said before, I do respect your comments, but your abc methodology seems to come from someone that trains hard, but has little conflict experience.
     
  19. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    I was thinking more like....

    You throw punch at me
    I hit you in the face with a glass beer bottle
     
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  20. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    I was thinking more like ...

    - I serve you a pot of tea. I then throw hot tea on your face and beat you up.
    - I open the car door for you. You step on the car. I smash the car door and jam your leg. I then beat you up.
    - ...123
     

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