Martial Arts are not self-defence.

Martial arts are not self-defence!

Martial arts is a popular pasttime in China. T...

Chen style Taijiquan a wonderful martial art, but is it any good on the street?

OK before I am inundated with responses from students informing me that their instructor, Sensei or Sifu can can break boards with his or her little pinkie and defend him or herself from legions of robo-Ninjas armed only with a copy of The Financial Times,  I had better explain.

First disclaimer coming up. There is nothing wrong with being a black belt, being a Dan grade in a martial arts is undoubtedly better than nothing at all. But anyone wandering, even the relatively peaceful streets, of the United Kingdom confident that their 1st dan in Shotokan Wado Ryu or a couple of years on the Judo Mat will keep them safe could be in for a rude (and painful) awaking.

The Black Belt myth.

You hear about children aged 13 and 14 and even younger getting their black belt and I say, well done!  A young person trained in a martial art will have greater self control is less likely to get involved in crime or is unlikely to be easily pressured into activities by a gang or peer group. But if that kid got involved in a fight outside a pub or club one evening do you really think his skills would make all that difference?

Martial arts and self-defence on the face of it,  may seem very similar.  In Karate and Kung Fu you learn to kick and punch and any self defence course is likely to have those same core elements. The ability to kick and punch in an athletic fashion over the course of a two hour training session could well lead people to believe they have developed viable street defence skills. So let  just explore some of the differences.

A karateka using body armor

Very skilled, but likely to get you killed if you use it on the street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dojo No! Your opponent will not warm up, stretch, bow and spar with you!

A fight could happen anywhere and any time, outside a pub or a club, in the street on your way home, in the car park, the possible scenarios are endless.  The ground could be paved or tarmacked or covered in broken glass, blood and vomit from some earlier encounter in the night. Flashy ariel kicks and and clever ground defence is probably not your friend here. If you self defence does not include fighting after a couple of beers and a nice meal at 2am in the morning in a car park or around the tables of a pub with broken bottles and glass in abundance, you need to think again.

The Marquis of Queensbury is dead, probably shot by a drugs dealer!
20 years ago I seldom needed to teach weapon defence, knives were rare and guns unknown. These days you have to assume that the other guy or guys will have a weapon or will improvise one during the fight. If you have not trained to deal with you have a problem.

Black belt and no bruises?
We live in a litigious world now and you can understand why instructors are not keen to see their student go home with even a bruise much less a black eye fractured rib. But the simple fact is that unless you have some experience of getting hit the first time it happens for real, the shock will slow you. Many styles emphasise no contact and while there nothing wrong with this as a martial art as a viable street defence it’s a complete waste of your time.

No rules!
No ref to step in if things get too heated, or one person is injured or winded or put out of the game in some fashion. In a street fight you go down and the next thing you will feel is a boot in the gut or head. You may be bitten or gouged in the eye,  your attacker may drop a knee in your back or guts.  He will not fight fair.  And neither should you! 

This blog contains what I hope is useful advice to ordinary people about how you can look after yourself on the street, it is aimed in the main at the 50+ generation but younger people may find it useful as well.  My advice is based on 30 year experience and observation in various parts of the UK and abroad, I may no guarantees but suggest you read and see what you think. Find what works for you and if you need it use.

RC August 2012 

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