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We have already defined self-defence, but what about martial arts? Like self-defence the definition will vary depending on who you ask. Most will agree that they are systems for combat (life & death - war & self-defence) or fighting (domination, victory). System implies more than a collection of techniques or methods, it includes overarching strategies along with the tactics. Additionally many systems also address discipline, physical health & 'spiritual' aspects. Here I use spiritual to mean a mix of 2 things:

  • the mental & emotional calm that is required to deal with violent situations & the aftermath
  • the spirit with which one lives e.g. respect & honour.

Put like that martial arts sound like the perfect match for self-defence & of course that is how they are often sold. There is as always however more to the story.

Firstly most martial arts as we know them are truly martial sports. Competition brings regulation. Rules are implemented to protect fighters & of particular importance to the promoters is that the fights shouldn't end too quickly. It's entertainment after all. Techniques are disallowed, gloves & other protective gear is worn. Think about how simply allowing eye-gouging, groin strikes or head-butting would change the face of MMA. As real as it gets? The net result is that most martial sports are accumulation / attrition based. The fighter who can score the most points or can do enough damage to stop the opponent wins. Throwing a combination & stepping out to reassess in a self-defence situation might only give your opponent time to reach for a weapon.

In order to have the greatest chance of surviving a life or death situation you need to gain & maintain control. The longer the encounter takes the more risk there is of serious injury. Every move / technique / method must:

  1. prevent your assailant from harming you
  2. ensure you maintain the initiative / control
  3. further your aims either to incapacitate or escape.

Secondly imagine a fighter from the cage or ring in civilian clothing in a bar doing what they do best. Would you call it self-defence or fighting? This is why I use the terms martial arts & fighting as synonyms, they are the same thing. Beware a self-defence situation can all too easily turn into a fight & even assault.

That is not to say that you cannot use what you have learnt in the gym / dojo. In fact it may prove invaluable if it is applied within the right strategy. Which brings me to the third & more important point. Self-defence is about far more than physical ability. Common sense, manners & habits will do far more to protect you than any fighting technique or system. It is more about education (general) than training (specific). Being able to apply your understanding in situations & arenas you haven't been trained in.

Self-Defence Training at Mec's Martial Arts

Mec's self-defence programme uses a layered approach to self-defence:

  1. Common Sense
  2. Diplomacy
  3. Strategy
  4. Tactical

It is unreasonable to believe that all situations can be resolved reasonably....

- mec