Martial arts for self defence: are they useful?

When I start thinking about self defence a number of different things come to mind: I firmly believe it’s difficult to feel 100% safe, however strong or skilled in martial arts you might be. A lot of martial arts clubs or schools will advertise themselves as teaching self defence. What is in reality self defence? Many different people, from different countries and cultures, might have totally different ideas about it. Let’s say that if you are on the street, rather then in a bar or a club: somebody might approach you and trying intimidating you for a number of different reasons. Robbery? Sexual abuse? Drunken brawl? Road rage… you name it: I heard of some people that just like going out and punch in the face the first person they meet on their way. What if that person is going to be you?

The best self defence is not being in the dangerous situation all together. Fighting might not be a not a natural thing for many but evolution gave us natural defences. Our natural instinct plays funny games: if you are not mentally ready your brain will release a lot of adrenaline, your heart will start pumping much faster and you might just freeze or became irrationally violent and uncontrolled. Martial arts training can vary a great deal in terms of how realistic and practical is in a self defence situation. In any case I am convinced that practicing martial arts is the closed resemblance to a fight, to various levels of realism. Different approaches will assume you have to punch (boxing), punch and kick (karate, tae kwon do, kick boxing), throw and or manipulating joints (aikido, ju jitsu, judo, hapkido) and so on.

The other important factor to consider if you find yourself in one of these situations is how well you master the art you are practicing: a few months can be useful to understand a few moves; 12-18 months can give you a level of proficiency; 3-5 years you might feel the confidence. It’s always a safe measure not to advertise your proficiency in any martial art: ignorant people out there might want to challenge you and see how tough you are.

Practicing a martial art is not about being tough, it’s about improving yourself with techniques and practices that make you feel better, fitter, more agile and ready for action: that doesn’t mean you should look for it. At the same time if this person did not practice martial arts in the first place he/she would be even more vulnerable.