The Best Martial Art For Self Defense

Adult Self Defense ProgramsLook around the Internet and you’ll find articles that rank various arts for self-defense or extol the virtues of modern styles like Krav Maga over more traditional styles like Karate or Tae Kwon Do.

But the argument is actually false in it’s nature and usually self-serving.

To understand this argument it helps to understand that all martial arts once originated as methods of self defense. In Okinawa, for example, Karate evolved to counter the Samurai. The Samurai were armored and armed while the Okinawans had only farm tools and their bare hands.

Over the centuries Karate as with most martial arts developed into 3 distinct components. And to understand what makes a martial art it’s important to understand these 3 components.

The Demonstration Side

Most martial arts have a display or exhibition side to it. Shaolin Kung Fu for example is an impressive display art. Shaolin Monks actually tour the world with their martial arts demonstrations showing incredible athletic and mental stamina. However much of what you see – like the acrobatic butterfly kick – has lost most of it’s combat value.

Tai Chi is another example of a demonstration art that’s beautiful to watch and has even been proven to provide healthful benefits for practitioners yet has no role in practical combat or even ring competition.

The Ring Competition Side

Most traditional martial arts have evolved from lethal force to adopt a competitive aspect. The traditional JuJitsu of the Samurai for example has become almost exclusively a competition sport in Brazilian Jiujitsu. In fact it’s the most trained martial art in MMA – a sign of it’s competition dominance.

Tae Kwon Do is another example of an art originally developed to counter the feared Samurai that is now best known as an Olympic sport just like Judo and Greco Roman Wrestling. Likewise, French Savate started as a self-defense style for merchant sailors and is now one of the most aggressive kickboxing sports.

While competition sports certainly have their value in developing and testing skill, they also come with rules attached. In fighting both participants know that they are going to fight, both have been trained and the rules allow both to know what to expect. This makes sport training of only limited use when it comes to combat or self-defense.

In Tae Kwon Do and Karate competitions safety gear is often used and punches to the head are forbidden. Even in the roughest of MMA matches, lethal or crippling strikes (to the spine, groin, back of head) are not allowed.

The Practical Combat Side

What was practical in medieval rural Asian countries isn’t necessarily what is practical today. This is how sword and spear techniques for example migrated from combat purposes to demonstration. It also explains why only about half of martial arts schools surveyed teach self-defense.

In today’s world ‘practical’ involves dealing with empty hand attacks and often with multiple attackers. This means that to be practical an art has to be able to deal with one threat quickly and move on to the next.

Practical self-defense isn’t about fighting…

The average person can take a lot of non-specific trauma – hits to the face, gut etc. This is the realm of sport fighting. Self-Defense is about shutting the attacker down in the quickest way possible while limiting injury to yourself. This means striking very specific targets that accomplish this objective and doing so reflexively.

Some martial arts have tried to blend all three aspects of martial arts into one curriculum. This is often the root of confusion for the average person that believes all martial arts are about self defense. To some degree I think even practitioners can fall victim to this mindset.

The Best Martial Art For Self-Defense

Ultimately while one art or style may indeed be more practical than another when it comes to self-defense in the modern world, in the end only an art that you can execute reflexively is worth anything at all.

The argument then isn’t about Wing Chun vs. Jeet Kun Do or any other such nonsense but rather about knowing your own objective in training in a specific art or style.

While it’s possible to learn techniques you can use starting on day one, on average it takes about 6 months of training to build a solid base for self-defense. It may take years to become an expert. This means committing yourself to a school for some time.

If you are looking for a self-defense curriculum ask yourself…

  1. Does the curriculum focus primarily on self-defense?
  2. Are the movements something that I can learn to do?
  3. Is the training built around real world scenarios?
  4. Is the school environment positive and are the people the kind I want to associate with?

I would welcome you to schedule a time to stop in and view a Dynamic Self-Defense class at our New Albany school. We’re located in North East Columbus between Westerville and Gahanna – right off 161 at Rt 62 in New Albany.

About Mr. Vatke

Mr. Vatke has studied and practiced martial arts for over 20 years. The quest for a practical self defense based system led him to Dynamic Self Defense. Mr. Vatke holds a 2nd degree Black Belt and is the Chief Assistant Instructor at the New Albany Dynamic Self Defense School.

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