What should you want out of a self protection system or martial art and what might be the difference?

It would be nice to say that any martial art should be a self protection system and any self protection system should be a martial art but that is not always the case.

Let me first say that:

  • A properly taught martial art will be a self protection system.
  •  A properly designed self protection system will be a martial art.

 The question now is how I am distinguishing between these two descriptors: martial art and self protection system?

 I will cover what I see as differences by explaining when I see each failing to live up to the other.

 A martial art fails to be a self protection system when it loses sight of why all martial arts were created – self protection. 

 A martial fails to be a self protection system when the drills are all prearranged and cooperative.

 A martial art fails to be a self protection system when it becomes sports oriented and rule restricted taking it farther and farther from dealing with assaults.

 A martial art fails to be a self protection system when it cannot transmit in evolutionary increments how to protect yourself.  If your art takes ten years of study before you can defend yourself against the common attacker then it is either not a self protection system or the teacher does not know how to apply the art in a self protection situation.

 A self protection system is not a martial art when it is solely based on learning a series of techniques and not the underlying principles.

 A self protection system is not a martial art if it can be learned in a weekend seminar.

 A self protection system is not a martial art if it lacks an increasing depth of practice taught in evolutionary increments.

 The best system is either a martial art that is a self protection system or a self protection system that is a martial art.

 If you cannot find this then you make a choice of training in a self protection system and seeking depth through self study or you train in a martial art and seek realist application ability through seminars in various self protection systems.

 There are self protection systems out there that are designed to fit in with martial art training.  Some specifically deal with that first moment in a physical assault and help you get to your martial art.

 Some deal with topics never covered in many martial arts classes but are vital for self protection.

 A self protection system can be excellent without having the depth of practice a martial art should have because it often has a specific purpose.  I see many of the self protection systems filling the gaps left in many martial arts schools.  All schools will have gaps.

 What can a martial art then bring to a self protection system? 

 A martial art can provide a framework and base to work from and incorporate new learning into.  A martial art can provide a depth of body mechanics that can improve the application of what is taught in a self protection system.  It should also provide an understanding and ability to see the principles that are making the techniques in the self protection system work.

 Where can a person fall down?

 By failing to see the specific purpose of a self protection system and not looking beyond the set curriculum for greater depth of practice to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of what they are doing.  A solid self protection system is often designed to be quickly assimilated and applied.  This is a good and necessary thing but if there are no higher levels then it can also mean only a certain level of understanding of the principles is reached and if the practitioner does not look beyond the curriculum they may never evolve to higher levels of competence.

 By failing to see that the martial art they are training in is not practical in real world applications.  Too often the rituals and traditions of a martial art dictate the training and the training becomes the way.  If those passing the training on have failed to grasp what made the art work in real life and there is nothing built into the training as a reality check then the practitioner believes they are learning effective self protection when they are not.

 The best is either a self protection system that has a solid curriculum getting people to a realistic ability to protect themselves quickly and then has something for people to go further in understanding the underlying principles and taking the practice deeper in efficiency and effectiveness or you can also have a martial art that understands the need for an accelerated learning at the start to gain basic skills to protect yourself but is also built off of a slower deeper progression into truly understanding the underlying principles.

 I do think that no matter what you do there will be gaps to be covered by other practitioners/teachers.  If your art does not train with knives then you need to go and train in seminars that teach how to use one.  Nothing is worse than someone teaching how to defend against a knife empty handed when they have never trained to use one.

 I also see even the best training having gaps in either that first moment of an assault or in understanding violence when many studying the art may never have experienced it.  I am going to use Rory Miller as an example here because he brings a wealth of experience and information to a school that you cannot get unless you live through what he has and have done what he has done.   Most schools need his seminars.

 Regardless of whether you are in a martial art or self protection system even when they meet what I consider is required having additional training from people with expertise in varying areas is required.

 No one art or system or teacher can cover everything and only the most arrogant think they do.  Those with confidence in what they teach expose themselves and their students to other teachings.

 The point of this blog is to be honest with yourself about what you are training and seek to fill any gaps.

 If you are honest you will find the gaps.  If you haven’t then you may need a reality check.