Self defense vs. Competition

There is often the complaint that the martial arts don’t teach self defense. About two months ago, the local Fox affiliate ran a segment on Krav Maga. It was promoted as “real” self defense. **Please note that I am not saying that is how the Krav Maga people presented it** I had the fortune to chat with the reporter a few days later and asked how the story came to use Krav Maga as the focus. She said that “everyone” she talked to had said 1) that it is the only self defense that they’ve learned, and 2) the other martial arts that they had studied were ineffective because all they taught was competition.

After cringing, I told her that the other martial arts must not have been taught well because ALL martial arts are self defense. I do agree that it is unfortunate that so many martial arts schools focus on competing but that isn’t really all that strange. Even to the point that the competition doesn’t really look like its original application.

Originally, the Olympics was a “competition” using military training techniques. All of the one-on-one combat sports (wrestling, boxing, judo, taekwondo, etc) had battlefield applications at one time but have now developed into complicated competitive events. Then there’s the biathlon. The modifications to the clothing, skis and rifle have moved it well away from its original purpose. You also see the same thing in archery with all of the counter-balances and sights on compound bows. Okay, we probably won’t use archery on a battlefield any longer but you get the point.

If a student isn’t getting the self defense that they want from a class, then they are in the wrong class. If a school doesn’t provide training in all areas (personal growth, sport, self defense), then it isn’t presenting the martial arts in the best light.

Now, I do believe that the areas listed prior can be taught within any one martial art but they must be taught differently. Just because you learn Taekwondo techniques doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve learned self defense. The student’s mind needs to be trained to see the difference and act accordingly.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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