Are You In The Right Style or School For Self-Defense?

by Keith Pascal

Originally, this article was titled “Competition v. Self-Defense: Never the Two Shall Meet.” I wrote it for a martial arts newsletter.

If you’re looking for a martial arts school or if you wonder if your classes are teaching you what you need for practical self-defense, then read on.

Of course, you can learn self-defense skills from a school that focuses on competitions, but the school may not be giving you what you need for truly efficient self-defense.

Let me know what you think …

From the very beginning of my writing career online (1999), I have made the distinction that

I’d always focus on practical application self-defense, not tournament scoring.

I’d would focus my writing on real-life self-defense.

Would you like a detailed answer of why “you” prefer real self-defense to competition talk?

Well, here it is …

Let’s start with a big difference that I have never read about in the many online articles I have perused. It’s a biggie …

It has to do with third-party viewing of the fight. (No, I haven’t lost my mind.)

Think about it: In a tournament, it’s absolutely imperative that the judges and refs notice your moves. The strikes have to “look” as though they’d have enough power to do damage.

If your move is subtle, and missed by the referees, then you don’t get credit for it.

So, the competitors walk a fine line: On the one hand, they need their techniques to be subtle enough get past a guard to score, but on the other hand, they have to telegraph their intent enough, and make the punches and kicks obvious enough, that the judges award the point.

Contrast that with a person in the midst of a true self-defense emergency. When you are

actually defending yourself, not only do you want zero telegraphing to be able to surprise your enemy, but you don’t want onlookers to see your hits.

Note: In my book, it’s okay to let a witness see the other guy hitting you, but it’s not cool to let the witness see you beating the snot out of your attacker. If you have a choice.

It’s not just the “who’s watching” difference between the two, but it’s my need to have an edge, if I go into a fight.

Long ago, my teacher taught me to avoid all fights, if you can, but if you can’t, only fight a fight that you will win.

To me, that means having an advantage.

Would you agree?

Well, in a tournament, the rule makers go to great lengths to make sure that the playing field has been leveled.

You are allowed the same tools in the ring as your opponents. If one tournament allows kicks and punches, but doesn’t allow knees to the groin, then that applies to both competitors.

If another tournament says no kicking below the waist, then that means no kicking below the belt. No exceptions.

Even when I went out for wrestling in high school … for all of a few days … they wouldn’t allow the joint locks and throws that I had learned years before at the YMCA in my Judo class.

After all, it wouldn’t be fair for me to use those, since the others didn’t know them. It would give me an unfair advantage.

Ding, ding, ding!

I want, need, and crave, an unfair advantage, if I’m going to have to defend myself.

If some bodybuilder, younger and in shape, were to bug me in a lounge and insist that we take it outside … first, I might not wait to take it outside.

After all, the element of surprise is important.

Next, if he thinks he’s simply going to challenge me to a fight without me trying to involve the manager or owner of the establishment, he’s sorely mistaken.

(Remember to avoid fights, if you can.)

Finally, if for some reason the guy gets me outside, I am not waiting for him to explain any rules.

If there are no witnesses, then I’ll probably strike first … when I have an unfair advantage. That means surprise.

And if folks are watching, then the element that I add to the equation is that I want it to “look like,” not only is he picking on me and I’m doing everything

to avoid a fight, but it has to appear to all that he threw the first punch, and I didn’t have any choice except to respond.

Remember, I really will do everything in my power to avoid the fight …even running away, if  can … no ego involved. Fights aren’t worth it.

But if I can’t avoid it, then expect me to snap a low kick to a shin, poke an eye out, crush a groin, etc. And I will execute my move at the most unfair time possible.

Anything to get the advantage. Anything to have an edge.

Remember, this is a real self-defense situation. This is not a tournament, where if you surprise the judges with an unfamiliar technique, you might be disqualified.

This is not a tournament where if the technique goes unnoticed by onlookers, you lose.

This is real life, where the subtle technique, the strike under the armpit that nobody sees, could be the one that ends the fight.

Any questions?

Keith

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