Doing Martial Arts for Self-Defense
One of the most popular benefits advertised by martial arts schools is the ability to protect ourselves from harm through fitness, strength, skill and techniques to deter an attacker. Martial Arts for Self-defense is a vital aspect of your overall health and wellness as it directly feeds into your need to preserve your life. However, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration before training martial arts for self defense.
One of the major faults of commercial martial arts schools, and even well meaning masters and instructors, is that they do not always teach the techniques in a practical manner. All of the techniques taught in a martial arts school have a purpose, but until you learn the meaning of “wax-on, wax-off” you can practice these techniques for years and never truly know how to use them. A good instructor will teach exactly how and why a particular technique is useful, and why it should be done a certain way.
Another fault of martial arts schools, is teaching techniques that are so complicated they don’t really have a good practical application. They work great on the mat, in the training area, or in a demonstration, but when your heart is racing, adrenaline is pumping, and fingers are shaking, finely tuned movements are out of the question. Some of the most effective self defense techniques are often the simplest. What most people don’t understand is that it takes an extraordinarily calm mind to execute these complex moves, and furthermore to adapt in the event that a particular defensive strategy fails. This brings me to my next point:
Most martial arts schools and self defense teachers fail to address your most powerful weapon in your self defense arsenal: your mind! As mentioned before, if you panic in the event of a real attack, you may as well throw your training out the window. Panic, however, is not entirely in the mind. It is a physiological reaction. Your heart races, breathing changes, adrenaline flows, you get tunnel vision. All of these are a PHYSICAL reaction to a threat. There is really no way to stop this from happening. The only thing you can do is adapt to, understand, and work with these changes.
Another aspect that most martial arts schools don’t address for self defense is environment. Your environment is crucial for survival in a life threatening situation. First, you must be aware of potential threats. Is someone paying attention to you in an uncomfortable way? Are they alone or with others? Do they have a weapon? Then you look for potential benefits of your environment. Can you find an escape route? Do you have a potential weapon? Can you find a barrier? Can you find someone to help? Do you have a way to distract your threat?
Now for some BIG misconceptions taught in the martial arts and self-defense industry:
- I’m doing martial arts to get in shape and learning self defense at the same time!!! This is generally true, unless you’re in Boxercise, turbopunch, cardio kickboxing, etc. These classes are oriented towards elevating heart rate, making you sweat, and burning calories. Just punching away at a focus mitt 50 times isn’t going to help you stop a mugger in an alley. In fact thinking that way will probably get you hurt, or worse. Most of the time these personal trainers lack the experience of actual martial arts and self defense to even teach the techniques properly.
- I got a gold medal/trophy in this competition/ring/cage, so I can defend myself!!! WRONG!!! Ok, you have some very situational techniques, and sport fighting does not equal self defense. In a cage, you will never see a knife, gun, broken bottle, baseball bat, or more than one attacker. Quite simply, sport martial arts are not the same as SURVIVAL or self defense martial arts.
- If someone attacks me, they’re gonna regret it!!! Ok, just because you know martial arts and are able to fight and completely maim an attacker does not mean it is the best idea. For one, you should not confuse self defense with fighting. If someone pushes you, and you put up your fists, you have just agreed to fight. You will probably go to jail. However, if you put up your hands in a non-threatening (though ready) manner, and appear to be trying to diffuse a situation, the law may be more lenient.
Knowing martial arts for self defense is a valuable tool in your overall well being for self preservation, for self confidence, and for helping others. However, you need to take into consideration all of the aspects, including physical, mental, psychological, and legal. When you consider all these factors, and find an instructor that does the same, then you know you have found a good martial arts self defense program.