A Martial Artist view on self defence

Martial arts is well renowned as a great way to learn self defence but how to you think it really stacks up. With so many reality fighting contests martial arts has been put through the pressure test.

So lets have a reality check for a moment and be really honest. We all wonder how we would go for real if attacked. What are your thoughts, how would you go, how would martial arts in general hold up? Who do you think would be better off and why?

Post your comments below…


  1. Selma on August 18, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Regardless of what style of fighting you have trained in, the person who keeps calm, composed and regulates the distance between self and opponent(s) well will have a better chance of surviving.

  2. andy on August 18, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Thanks Selma for the comment and yes it is so true, remaining calm gives you choice and when you have choice you can see clearly what is needed in all stressful situations.


  3. adam on August 18, 2009 at 6:24 am

    through martial arts we learn self-awareness – and through self awareness we are able to avoid conflict by knowing ourselves and our environment wherever we are – mastery is dealing (or choosing not to deal) with disturbances in any environment before they become threat. potential threats don’t suddenly appear next to you out of thin air, fists blazing. there is lead up to this however insignificant it may seem. understanding the situation before it becomes a danger gives you choice.

  4. andy on August 18, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Hi Adam, wise comments and definately martial arts at it’s best.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  5. adam on August 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    following on … without awareness we perceive a street situation as a collection of parts – one part acting mechanically on another – we are disconnected. these disconnected actions can be effective up to a point but there is little flow, zero avoidance (or choice) and therefore much effort is required. some martial artists use force when they have failed to become aware of their environment and, in turn, potential threat becomes imminent danger, but they are not really artists at all.

  6. andy on August 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks Adam, great comments. The awareness that you talk about is one of the missing links in martial arts.

  7. Sandy on August 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Andy, I honestly hope I never have to find out (previous experiences don’t count – I wasn’t a martial artist then).
    That being said my appraisal of my martial arts revolves around fear. The notion of style/branch/dojo/sensei doesn’t really come into it for me. If I don’t handle my fear (I’ve felt it so often in the past) then I won’t handle myself in a bad situation. I could have amassed years of solid and effective training in controlled environments and all of it would be lost in a heartbeat if I didn’t get control of my fear and meet it head on.
    If I keep my fear in check, acknowledge it and then move forward – all should be OK.
    As for who would prevail and who would struggle I’m going to throw a spanner into the works a bit here. I see the popularity of so many grappling based arts/sports now that I worry that people are being convinced that this is all they need. ‘Sure, I’m going to wrestle you to the ground and then choke you out – I just didn’t see the knife sliding into my ribs.’ Alternatively I think there are also some martial arts that just aren’t based in reality. These guys get hurt, quickly.
    In both cases these practitioners might struggle.
    As I progress I’m getting a stronger conviction every time I train that there has to be a foundation from all of the major platforms (striking, wrestling, mental control, fitness etc). The objective would be to have a strong skill-set that is firmly based in the real world. If we have this then we will always do well in a street fight, by this I mean prevail – end up alive and well (there is no winning in a street fight, only levels of loss).
    Cheers Andy, great new site – have your feeds on RSS.

    • andy on August 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm

      Excellent Sandy, yes I agree, no winners in a street fight, only levels of loss..

  8. Ben on August 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    In addition to awareness of a developing situation key to surviving a street fighting situation is the following:

    a) practicing a martial art that is simple, direct and combines all elements and distances – punches, kicks, knees, clinch & throws, grapple and ground

    b) practicing sparring to a boxing/muay thai level. Sparring internalises all the martial arts that we train and learn and allows the unconsious competence to develop. Being hit hard is confronting and sparring prepares you for what that means

    c) using awarness to be able to escalate to what is required in a situation. A drunk guy pushing you and mouthing off is different to someone holding a knife in a drug induced psyhcosis


  9. andy on August 18, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Thanks Ben, great contribution, I agree with you, style needs to have really solid basics and a strong mental emotional component.


  10. andrew on August 19, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Great to be apart of a new forum,
    You never really know how you are going to respond in the real world,i believe training is the key difference, your not training for the absolute technquic but for the ability to remain calm and use the desired response. The more famiular we can get with a situation generally the more relaxed we can be. If you have never heard somebody yelling before you may apply a more lethal response than if you have got use to that type of threat.

    Do all humans have the instinct for survival?
    Thanks Andrew

  11. andy on August 19, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Thanks Andy. Yes all humans have that survival instinct though the will to live and survive is stronger in some. I always say that regardless of your training, if you are backed into a corner and you really want to live, you will do what ever it takes to win.


  12. Gyorfi Szilard on September 7, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Well, I would compare this with driving a car.

    You can start pushing the pedals and trying to maneuver the steering wheel and you may go 1-2 miles like this if you are lucky, but to drive a car you need to train/learn to drive.

    In a real fight a trained athlete sees and reacts to things differently than a normal person, just because he was put in similar situations many times before wile practicing.

  13. andy on September 7, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks Gyorfi, that’s it exactly, the more familiar you are with a particular way of moving your body the more likely you are to have the advantage.


  14. Ed on September 8, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Andy, if nothing else, a correctly applied martial arts buys you time, even if that time is 2 tenths of a second. Time to evaluate the situation and choose whether to engage or disengage. Disengage is mostly always the preferred option, but if engage is the choice due to the cicumstances then martial arts ‘may’ provide the speed, balance, precision and clarity of mind to swing the result in your favour.

  15. andy on September 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Nice comment Ed, well thought out and precise.


  16. Rick on December 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm


    Assuming you can’t dissolve the situation peacefully and it comes to blows, I think whoever has the greater fighting experience, and sometimes talent, has the edge. A brawler who gets into barfights a few times a month but has never trained an art will have an edge over a “theoretical” martial artist who rarely spars and only studies forms and techniques.

    To survive (almost) anything you need that balance of clarity to assess and escalate a situation, and a certain viciousness to deal with it. If a knife comes out when you’re in the state of mind to deal with an unarmed opponent, you need to change your game quickly before the knife is in your gut.

  17. Kai on January 1, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Hi Andy,

    Regretfully, I have quite a lot of experience with violence, though I don’t often discuss it. It was only later in life that I discovered the benefits offered by the martial arts, and I don’t really count self-defense as one of them.

    In response to your question, it depends on the assailant. Many threats can be easily eliminated, even by those with minimal training. For the sake of discussion, we will assume that the aggressor in question is genuinely dangerous and determined to cause harm.

    I have thought about this question on a number of occasions, and I believe fear to be the biggest deciding factor. Many of us who practice the martial arts lead quite comfortable lives, and experience has taught me that he who has the most to lose is more susceptible to fear. Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation can be fatal.

    I think I had the edge when I was younger, as I had nothing to lose and no hesitation due to fear or concern for anyone’s safety. I may not have had a large amount of ‘moves’ back then, but I trained hard (on a sack full of dirt wrapped in gaffa tape), was extremely aggressive, could endure deep cuts and painful wounds, and considered weapons fair play. I also knew how to gain a psychological advantage and stack the odds in my favor.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe that you can train people to contain fear of a genuine threat in the comfort of a training facility. What we are talking about is killer instinct, and some people just don’t have it. We should never forget that good living is the finest form of self defense and avoidance is always the best policy.

    I believe that any response should be swift, aggressive, committed, and without consideration for yourself or your assailant. If this is a problem for anyone, then athletics may have been a more effective training method for self-defense.

    • andy on January 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

      thanks Kai, thats a great comment. I really appreciate your open honesty and feedback from someone that has had as much experience as you. It’s also great to see that even though you have had the experience, you have matured and grown to understand that the best policy is avoidance.

      Thanks for the contribution.


  18. andy on January 1, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks Rick< great comments. Andy

  19. Matthew Galway on February 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Hey Andy,

    First of all it’s great to see you continuing to build new websites and your presence on the internet.

    I’ve always mulled over this question myself. Throughout my school life I’ve only ever been in 1 full on fight, and that was in primary school… and it was over marbles!

    Because I grew up in Liverpool in the western suburbs of Sydney I was always in a state of readiness when I walked the streets, even in my own neighbourhood. In a way I was lucky, I was never in a situation where my readiness paid off! However, in another way I’m now disadvantaged because I don’t know how capable I would be in a street fight.

    I’ve studied both Kung Fu and Judo (both only to 7th-kyu equivalent level) and rather than being able to overcome opponents physically I feel it has given me confidence and presence of mind to overcome them mentally. But this is all theory.

    Any thoughts Andy?

  20. andy on February 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for the feedback. The chances of getting into a great fight are maybe once or even twice in your life if you are really unlucky. So as an adult, training in martial arts just for the sake of learning to fight is pretty limiting and takes alot of energy! Even if one has trained for years, and has done all the preparation, you can still get caught due to the unpredicability of a confrontation.

    As you say, it’s the presence of mind to have an awareness of a situation and to avoid it. I often say, that there are 2 people in a confrontation and some how you have your part in it too. Unless you are taken completely by surprise there would have been some kind of interaction that caused a situation to flare up. Not many martial arts actually address the ego and how to respond with out it’s powerful influence.

    Kind Regarsd


  21. rbl on March 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    One thing that’s hard to prepare for is the intensity and adrenaline dump of a real situation. The only techniques that will work are the ones you’ve drilled until they are performed unconsciously. I think sports competition (MMA, boxing, Judo, knockdown karate) is the closest you can get, psychologically, to the stress and unpredictability of a real fight.

    With that said, the most important self defense skill is being able to defuse a situation verbally. Keeping a calm tone and non aggressive posture while being ready to defend yourself is vital.

    • andy on March 7, 2010 at 1:49 am

      Very well put and thanks for your great contribution.


  22. nick on March 27, 2010 at 9:26 am

    hi guys. mathew im 14 and i live in liverpool and it’s the same now. I always have to be ready when walking around liverpool especially at night and i never ever feel safe unless with a big group of friends.. I havent been in a street fight but because of being chased i have started training in Muay Thai. I have seen a lot of street fights mainly the ones my friends have been in and the person with the most experience is most of the time the winner.

  23. Jay H on April 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    ive fought more then id like to mention .
    i grew up really poor and angry.
    when i was young i loved to fight, so much .
    beating ppl up or getting beat up,
    it didnt even matter.
    i just loved the feeling of fighting .
    when i got older i started to train in boxing
    muay thai ,brazilian jujitsu , and wrestling .
    and for some reason i didnt want to fight any more .
    the better i got at fighting the less i wanted to street fight
    im sure there is polar opposites but for me . the better i got the less i wanted to hurt ppl

    • andy on April 15, 2010 at 1:29 am

      Thanks Jay, great to hear from some one that has had such a colourful experience and then to able to temper the need to fight by actually learning structured martial arts.

      Great comment


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