Martial arts for self-defence… the truth (Part 2)

Following on from Part 1 of this post, I believe you can quickly tell whether someone comes from a martial arts and sports background or they have REAL life self-defence experience.

As previously discussed, there are limitations in training that will make a martial artist with no real life experience worry more about how many moves they know and think that there is one technique for every eventuality.  The REAL self-defence guys will have an appreciation for the full tactical situation and know to expect the unexpected and react in the fastest possible way with the simplest possible movement/technique.

The fad of grappling was mentioned in the previous part of this post and it seems everywhere you turn, someone is a grappling, BJJ or MMA expert and according to most of these “experts” grappling is the main component for of self-defence.  Statistics are constantly quoted of the number of fights that end up “on the ground” in grappling situations in order to back up their theories.  The truth of the matter is that most of these fights are as a result of alcohol and neither party are fully in control of themselves and will find themselves off balance and falling to the floor.

I am in no way saying that grappling situations do not occur outside of this scenario, because they do and sometimes grabbing an opponent and taking them to the floor is the only practical option, but what I am saying is that any statistics to back the claim that it is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF SELF-DEFENCE are flawed.

Grappling does have its place and it is just as important as any other category of technique, as we must equip ourselves to fight in any position in any situation if we hope to defend ourselves fully.

There are, however, many reasons to only use when you really need to grappling and not as your primary method of self-defence:

  • Your opponent may have a weapon or some other item to hand that can be used to inflict injury
  • You are limited to your possible outcomes, if you intend to use a choke or lock then what about any further attackers who may join in utilising their advantage of being in a standing position?
  • Added weight of clothing and equipment limits your mobility on the ground (ask any soldier or police officer how much movement they have while wearing a vest or a flack jacket and a utility belt).
  • Enemy may be much larger than you and also have education in grappling (size and experience is likely to beat experience alone – even if that experience is greater)
  • The ground has hard surfaces with debris, rocks, broken glass and other dangerous objects that can cause injury to you.

All of these are valid reasons to stay on your feet but they are still NOT the number one reason.

The REAL Silent Killer….

We have heard of stories of magical men who can touch a pressure point and you will drop dead seven years from now… unfortunately although not this is not too far from the truth.  The number one reason to avoid grappling is the REAL possibility of contracting a blood borne disease like HIV, Hepatitis C or any number of potentially fatal or life altering pathogens when you are bitten, scratched or cut by an infected subject or a dirty needle.

If the attackers blood, saliva, urine, faeces or semen get into an open wound or cut, your eyes or mouth you could contract these diseases.  Add to that the risk of contracting Syphilis, Herpes and DOZENS of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and you can see how much risk you put yourself at by ending up rolling on the floor with someone.

Those with only martial arts experience may not have considered these risks due to the fact that:

  • They operate in a controlled environment with rules (yes despite the original claims of being “a realistic competition with almost no rules”, UFC and other MMA competitions are highly regulated, if not then people would be dying left right and centre every week!  It is due to the limited amount of damage they wish to inflict upon each other that they end up grappling for a submission).
  • They practice on a mat or smooth surface.
  • They don’t care if the guy is bigger because they fight in a weight class.
  • The don’t worry about getting bitten, stabbed, pricked with a needle because it’s illegal
  • They don’t worry about what they are wearing because they fight in uniforms, shorts, rash guards and t-shirts.
  • They do not have to worry about contracting an illness because if there is blood, the match is stopped and the blood is cleaned up. Too much blood and the match is OVER.

In a real situation,  if you’re going to defend yourself YOU MUST consider ALL of these factors because one of the biggest unknowns in self-defence can be WHO YOU ARE FIGHTING.

One of the problems I have always had with any version of jiyu jitsu or wrestling is, if used on the street… how does the fight end?  There is no tapping submission where your opponent then walks away with the disgrace of leaving.  Once you have them in a lock what do you do?  You can break a bone or dislocate a joint… but if they are on some form of drug or an abundance of alcohol they may well try to continue the fight regardless.  You can choke them out until they are unconscious… yes but only if you have managed to take hold of their neck.  Apart from that you can hold them until their anger subsides and they accept defeat…. but what about their mates?  Are they standing around in an honourable fashion awaiting a sportsmanlike victory, or have they started stamping on your head?

To me; ground-fighting, grappling, locking, throwing etc. is of use for changing a situation to give you more options.  To put your opponent into a position or location that makes your safer or allows you to perform a punch/kick etc. that will finish the situation.  i.e. if you end up on the floor then a lock should be performed to inflict pain, make your opponent immobile and allow you time to get back to your feet and recompose yourself (should that be the appropriate position for your to be in).

I am sure soon that another fad will come along and more flawed statistics will be used to back whatever it is (krav maga is the most likely candidate with its gun defences), but for now, if you want to train for the street then train in everything, rely upon nothing in isolation AND KEEP IT SIMPLE – MAKE IT WORK!!

by Kevin Archibald


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