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Martial Arts or Self Defense?

Recently my wife and I were out to dinner sitting in a restaurant and immediately our ears perked up when the women sitting behind us started talking about self defense.

Considering my wife and I have close to a half century of experience in the martial arts and are both self defense instructors, we find it very interesting and sometimes very amusing to hear lay people talking about it.

The women were apparently talking about street self defense and the best approach to learning it. One women seemed to be 'sure' the best thing they could do was to attend a self defense seminar that was being held at a local YMCA. The other was talking about a friend that teaches Tae Kwon Do at a local dojang.

I didn't know what started the conversation or what their immediate concerns were but it seemed it was important for them to learn self defense and get up to speed quickly.

They also considered another martial arts school that I believe was some kind of karate studio. The two women seemed to speak interchangeably about martial arts and self defense, as if they were one and the same.

I am not putting down martial arts. No, not by any means. I make my living teaching martial arts (traditional karate). But it takes years to learn enough at a typical martial arts school to even begin to learn self defense that would be effective on the street. In fact, in many schools they would never learn much of anything that would help them if they were brutally attacked.

Many adults sign up for martial arts classes with the intent and expectation of learning self defense. I am all for martial arts but for different reasons. Martial arts can help someone improve their self esteem, develop self discipline, increase their self confidence, help get them and keep them in shape. Will it help them defend themselves? Well again, maybe?

Maybe after many years of hard training. Maybe if they are in a school that teaches effective self defense techniques. Maybe if the program adds some reality training. Maybe if the student learns to deal with the inevitable adrenal rush. Maybe?

Perhaps if the goal is self defense, then there are other, quicker, easier paths to this end. See Street Self Defense 101.

Shihan Michael Pace

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