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Differences between self-defence course & studying amartial art

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    Differences between self-defence course & studying amartial art

    Yes, there are obvious answers to this, such as the syllabus for a self-defence course is significantly shorter and encompasses far fewer techniques than a fully-fledged martial arts course. Casting around on the interwebz for more info mainly turns up essays on the sports vs str33t debate, so as a readily available pool of experts I turn the question over to you guys!

    I know we have instructors who both teach martial arts and run self-defence courses and I'd like to know if/how your approaches differ between the two when it comes to:

    - What techniques you teach (this is probably a no-brainer)
    - How these techniques are presented & taught to the class
    - How the techniques are tested... Do you spar or closely simulate a non-scripted confrontation situation in your SD course? Or do you have prescribed attacks against which participants must defend themselves?
    - Do the class sizes vary much between SD participants and MA students?

    This is probably the biggest and most difficult to answer - how would you define "competency" in SD vs MA? What skills would a person need to possess in order to be considered competent in one or both of these things?

    Whew! Quite a broad topic to cover here. Any information or opinions on just one question or the whole shebang will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks guys!

    Stereotypically when I hear "self defence" images in my mind pops up of martial-absent soccer moms practicing wrist locks on a 350 lb cop with a 4th dan in Aikido.

    Some of these soccer moms go on to say they study martial arts

    I am a believer in just learning how to fight. With that comes great self confidence and a general sense of self defence


      When my judo teacher does self defense stuff the main difference is that he spends a fair amount of time talking about what leads up to the physical encounter. He talks about how assailants might approach you as well as the idea of the interview. He also makes it clear that any self defense move has to nullify the immediate threat but also be justifiable should the matter go into the court system.

      The actual moves them selves are not all that different from basic no gi judo.


        My Taiji teacher has run SD seminars ( yes you read that right my Taiji teacher).

        This is from memory of a short convo we had a few years ago so a pretty short possibly off base anecdotal answer.

        IIRC it was a very short 2 days or so course.
        The focus was on awareness and courses of action to take/not take.
        It's focus was on avoidance and escape or pre-emptive action.
        Sorry I don't know what techniques were taught ( if any ) or how they were 'drilled'.
        I will ask him tomorrow and report back.

        The very few times we have had new students come and ask about SD in class, he has said go do boxing/kickboxing/judo for the physical side as we don't do any hard contact/pressure training in the public class.
        This is because of his philosophy of teaching Taiji according to the demeanor of the general students, all of whom are not interested in SD.

        If you are serious about the 'fight' aspect of SD you have to train hard contact ( PrTotheChoir I know! ) to learn how pressure affects your skills, and get a taste of the so called 'chemical cocktail'..

        My short unqualified opinion.


          Imo, a SD class won't have the "art" portion of a Martial Art. That means no forms, fancy flip-kicks, "showie offie skillz", etc. They'll probably be taught a mindset if you're being attacked by an armed opponent (like just give the dude whatever he wants), and may or may not have simpler moves than a MA so that it may be taught more quickly. For instance, Jab, Straight, Hook, "possibly" uppercut, some basic groundwork, maybe a front kick and roundhouse.

          I doubt the minor details would be done as much as a competitor in MA because you usually assume an armed or unarmed but UNTRAINED opponent. Thus, learning to slip instead of block, counter instead of strike, clinch instead of sweep and throw, would probably not be taught. Depending on who's teaching and for what purpose, pins, locks, and holds may or may not be taught.

          They would probably emphasize the groin.

          And then there's the crosses between MA and SD where MA claim to teach SD (though usually they just teach a MA and let that be your SD), or SD becomes a form of MA like Krav Maga and whatnot.

          Ofc, I'm a nooby, maybe we should wait for a qualified instructor like Omega to step forward.


            Real self defense is awareness, good judgement, fast comfy shoes, a small blade, a willingness to part with your belongings, a CCW permit and a CCW you are trained in how to employ and maintain.

            Anything else is bullshit Martialbation.


              I had a girlfriend who took self defense classes in college. I used to make fun if her for it and tell her if she wanted a baseline if proficiency she needed to take Judo... not that I did but I knew she'd never wrestle. Or box.

              Years later she told me a guy grabbed her and tried to pull her into a doorway when she was walking through Paris. If I recall correctly she told me she threw an elbow to the face, knee to the groin, push and run. It was one if those sequences she said she drilled in her SD class.

              My first reaction was 'okay well, the guy was French anyway.'

              But in retrospect I guess I had to admit it worked out for her. I'm still a little suspicious of SD courses in general but I guess if they train relatively simple moves against some kind of resistance then it's better than no training at all.

              I'd still recommend Judo though. Or BJJ.

              Nobody likes the wrestle :-(


                Originally posted by BackFistMonkey View Post
                Real self defense is awareness, good judgement, fast comfy shoes, a small blade, a willingness to part with your belongings, a CCW permit and a CCW you are trained in how to employ and maintain.
                I'd add deescalation (or rather the ability to talk people out of being angry/aggressive/a dick) very high to this list.


                  SD classes vary in quality quite a bit from what I have seen read heard.
                  Often times they are a means to get traffic into a gym.
                  The good ones seem to go deep into situational awareness stuff.

                  I think the positive thing they do is encourage someone to fight back and at the very least give them a few tools.
                  If nothing else it gets people thinking about their personal security.

                  Now we all know one weekend isn't enough to instill any real fighting skills into someone its not even enough to really learn some basic escapes from bad positions. So this is where that BS meter goes up. Like I said earlier though it is a good way to get people in the door the good old free self defense seminar then you can encourage them to learn a deeper understanding.


                    I taught self defense courses professionally via various adult education programs during the late '80s/early '90s.

                    The most profound differences between SD and MA are the entry-level mindsets of your participants and thus the amount of training time they will be undertaking. SD (at least when I was teaching it) appealed to people who typically had zero interest in making "martial arts" or "combat sports" part of their lifestyle. They were not athletes and many of them were primarily motivated by fear based on having survived past assaults or due to a present danger in their lives.

                    On that basis, we did self contained 25 hour courses that focused on realistic risk assessment and avoidance strategies combined with roleplay-based "padded attacker" scenario training, which is the approach that I would recommend to anyone who wants to teach self defense. The physical combat side involved very, very simple, versatile techniques - palm heel shots under the jaw, kness and elbows to wherever they can land them, headbutts, biting, gouging - trained as realistically as is safely possible against a thoroughly padded and well-trained "attacker".

                    Every class began with a set of drills in projecting awareness and confidence while walking or standing in a public place, etc., which developed into tactics for attracting attention in an emergency. The logic was that, under most circumstances, an "attacker" wants to compress time, distance and exposure, so the defender's first goal is to extend all those factors. Then, if all else fails (or if one never gets the chance to try the awareness/confidence/etc. skills), fight like an absolute demon until you can break away and extend those factors. I want to really stress that the less-obvious stuff, the drills in how to carry yourself with confidence, etc., were IMO crucial to the success of these courses.


                      What is the objective of training in SD?

                      What is the objective of training in MA?

                      (Yes, obviously, there can be some overlap).

                      I won't reiterate what has already been stated in this thread.

                      In my kinesiology-undergrad days, everything we did was based on this principle:

                      The more closely one's training resembles the situation one is training for, the more effective that training is.

                      One thing that means is, you need instructors who have actually dealt with the situations they're training you to face. Otherwise, it's all theory, all abstraction. If what they claim is that they're teaching SD, is it a good idea to have people coming out of such "training" thinking they can actually defend themselves?

                      As for MA, Katje, you might need to be more specific in your question. Modern (mis)usage has made the term so vague and nebulous that it can mean anything from MMA to eighty-year-olds doing ultraslow chi-balls in a city park--and just about everything in between. The term often has--or claims--cultural content not necessarily claimed in SD courses and, for that reason among others, MA (whatever its stated objectives) tend to take longer to learn. As a matter of fact, many SD trainers emphasize the point that what they teach doesn't take years to learn.

                      Again, there may be some overlap between MA and SD, but that must not be assumed just because it's so advertised.


                        Originally posted by BackFistMonkey View Post
                        Real self defense is awareness, good judgement, fast comfy shoes, a small blade, a willingness to part with your belongings, a CCW permit and a CCW you are trained in how to employ and maintain.

                        Anything else is bullshit Martialbation.
                        I can't say I agree with the 'small blade' part. Deploying a weapon in the midst of getting jumped is not all that easy and I think that underlining that fact should be part of any good self defense course. Brandishing a weapon to preemptively stop a potential mugging or something doesn't seem terribly wise but probably will work in some cases (and be a felony in others).


                          Thanks for the responses guys! It seems from what I understand about self defence courses in general and what has been written here that a good self-defence course will focus on 3 aspects of defense - situational awareness (prevention), the attack and the getaway, with the main focus being on the prevention part.

                          Vieux you make a good point, when I talk about a martial art I'm essentially referring to a codified system of combat practice, whatever the actual style may be (judo, wrestling, boxing, and so on). It would naturally take much longer because the syllabus would be far more extensive and complex. I wanted to know what type of competencies MA vs SD focussed on and how those competencies would be taught and tested, and it seems like this has been answered now.

                          I'm writing an article about starting martial arts following a sexual assault and I thought it was important that I clarify the questions that I asked in the OP, since I'd like to cover what a self-defence course will offer a person in comparison to a full martial arts system and what they can expect to get out of each.

                          Huge thanks to everyone for their contributions, the info is really helpful!


                            the usual self-defense scenarios (barring prior awareness of the threat) that require physical intervention usually start at clinch range, without the clinch of course. usual methods of attack are blitz-strike(strike to KO or kill, drive-by shootings also fall under this category, albeit with a different range), immobilize and strike , and immobilize and control (coming near you and poking a knife to your side falls under this category).

                            going to ground takes up too much time (and the danger of AIDS needles). Keeping it a stand-up encounter on the side of the defender is a training goal. your techniques and mindset must have a "wham-bam-slam-thank you ma'am" approach.

                            and running, RUNNING IS A MUST. included in this are approaches to clothing and footwear.

                            and of course, training to overcome the inhibition of bashing someone's head in so he'll look like a ninja turtle.


                              The inhibition thing is actually a very interesting subject all on its own. In the 2.5yrs I did kung fu and dabbled in a few other things 99% of the girls had trouble committing to strikes or outwardly showing aggression. I've never had too much of a problem with striking, but even I had issues with things like kiai-ing in goju ryu. I wonder if anyone else has found the same?



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