Self-Defense vs Sports Martial Arts

Self-Defense vs Sports Martial Arts

It is important in today’s society, for people to know some form of self-defense. It is even more important to be able to use it effectively if an unfortunate situation should arise. Learning a martial art has many benefits, and becoming proficient at using it in the controlled situation in a training setting is an important goal in your training, but never confuse a controlled sparring or kata with real world application. The normal rules of engagement are off the table. This is not an attack or a discussion on which martial art is better than the others. Nor is it a complete dismissal of any martial arts effectiveness in defending yourself in a crisis situation. It serves as a reminder that we must always be vigilant and be aware of our limitations and options when confronted with someone attempting to harm you.

Training in sports martial arts can prepare you for a fight. Live sparring, using controlled techniques, against a live opponent has many benefits that can help you if you need to defend yourself if the situation arises. But, that being said, there are rules. Some martial arts will incorporate situational self-defense techniques and drills. But as someone famously said, everyone has a game plan until you get punched in the face. We can never be truly prepared for the unknown. But we can train our bodies and minds to recognize certain factors that will come into play when your fight or flight instincts kick in.

It’s easier said than done to tell someone to simply not put themselves in a situation where harm may come to them, and it’s unrealistic. The only person’s actions you can control are your own. Just don’t walk down that dark alleyway at 3am. Each situation is going to be different and there are a lot of what-ifs, but generally speaking there are some basic principles that you can use.  When faced with a conflict situation, you must quickly assess the risks and formulate the quickest course of action to escape unharmed.


If someone confronts you and demands your wallet, and the fastest way to get away is to give it to them, throw it away from you and them, and run. Even unarmed, a person who is bigger, stronger, or faster can do a lot of harm in a short time. Your first goal of self-defense is to remove yourself from the threat.

Assume a non-violent posture. Kru Joey De Los Reyes has a great tutorial video on this on our Kombat Arts YouTube Channel. Even a well-trained individual in any martial art needs time to assess the threat level. By assuming a non-violent posture, you are presenting yourself as a non-threat, but are in a more advantageous position if needed.

Be mindful of body language, is there the threat of a weapon? Do not immediately engage the assailant if they are obviously or gesturing in a manner that they may be armed. This changes the game drastically. I will not be covering a whole lot of weapon based self-defense in this article, but the goal is the same. Remove yourself safely from the threat by any means necessary.

If you are forced into a combative situation, and need to fight off your attacker, be efficient. You do not know the skill level of this person, their intentions, or their state of mind. Look for openings while maintaining a safe distance. Go for the eyes, groin, fingers, and toes. Any and all form and technique go out the window. Do it safely and efficiently and get away as quickly as possible.

Pay attention if you can to your surroundings, look for escape routes and hazards. Look for other people, draw attention to the situation. If you know you have to travel down that dark alley at 3am, arrange for someone else to be with you, or at the very least, have someone on the phone with you that know exactly where you are.


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