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Martial Arts vs. Self Defense Training

Updated on August 17, 2011

Martial Arts vs. Self Defense Training: Which is better?

People are always asking me “Should I learn a Martial Art or just learn some self defense moves?”

This is a really tough question to answer because the two are very different.

The real questions here are…

1.“What are you trying to accomplish?”

2.“How much time do you have/want to dedicate to this pursuit?”

To make it easy for you I’ll explain what both will accomplish and how much time they


Self Defense:

If you are looking to defend yourself from an attacker or have more confidence that you can protect yourself and loved ones, you are looking for self defense not a martial art.

If you just want to know some simple steps to avoid a potential threat or tips on how to prevail in a violent conflict learning a martial art may never actually provide those answers.

Here’s why:

1. Martial Arts usually have rules and conventions, street fights do not.

-Martial arts training may lull you into a false sense of security

because your sparring partner has never tried to knee you in the family jewels or scratched and bite you.

2. Martial Art training takes place in a controlled environment street fights do not.

Understanding the changes that happen to a fight on the street vs. in a fight in a dojo is critical.

3. Most martial arts do not teach you to recognize subtle body language cues

These cues can alert you of an assailant, or teach you to utilize your own body language to prevent or deceive an attacker.

Self defense and martial arts are in completely different worlds. Self defense has one goal, to protect you and your loved ones from an attacker, at any cost and without any rules or regulations.

The great news is…

Self defense also requires less time to learn. You can arm yourself with a serious arsenal of self defense tools in a matter of a few days of hard training,

Even better…once you have internalized the motions you don’t have to put in tons of hours every week to keep your skills up. Brushing up every now and then with a partner or a mirror will suffice.

How is this different from Martial Arts?

-You don’t follow rituals or convention; you only use what is proven to work on today’s dangerous streets.

- You have no interest in a long sparring match; your goal is to neutralize the threat ASAP.

-You have no regard for the well being of your attacker

- Finally you have no need for perfected techniques; an effective eye jab doesn’t have to be perfectly executed. It can look pretty awkward and still get the job done believe me.

Martial Arts:

If you are looking for a sport that will keep you in great shape, help build your confidence, and build discipline (especially for children) Martial Arts are a great option.

Most martial arts rely heavily on tradition. They are usually based on fine motor skills, and often very elaborate moves.

It also takes years to master a martial art.

This is exactly what some people are looking for. And there is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, martial arts training is also great to reinforce self defense training.

But…the secret is to know its pitfalls and be aware of its gaps in education.

Many self defense/street fighting techniques are derived from martial arts and repetition of these techniques in a class will sharpen your skills.

One of the keys of successfully marrying martial arts and self defense is to make sure you are more focused on targets than on techniques.

A perfectly executed kick which misses its target is worthless no matter how much your instructor would have applauded the technique.

If you are looking for a hobby or sport to reinforce self defense skills and have a lot of free time, learning a martial art can be a great choice. You can use it to improve your skills and stay in shape.

However, you will still want to know the real facts about how violent confrontations happen, how you can prevent them, and how you can win and end them if you are attacked.

Limiting yourself to the strikes taught in one martial art is a serious mistake.

To give yourself the best shot at survival you will want to know the techniques which are much too violent to be taught in a martial art.

For more info on how violent attacks really happen, what you can do to stop them and some simple but devastating techniques that can save your life check out or my blog at

Oh and one more thing, Look me up on twitter @fightfastbob for tons of great info every day

Stay Smart and Stay Safe,

Bob Pierce



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