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If you want to take self defense seriously it is imperative to differentiate between self defense and martial arts or combat sport. When practising martial arts it is about finishing a fight successfully. The fighter wants to dominate and to show his superiority. He wants to fight! With self defense the aim is to be left alone. If this is not possible, everything has to be done in order to stop the fight – and not to win it.
Martial arts are great but they are not always suitable for self defense purposes. Some types of martial arts, like Tai Chi consist of slow movements. However since in a street fight the focus is on fast and brief techniques some forms of martial arts are totally unsuitable. It is also necessary to train self defense under pressure and in real-life situations. Combat sport is not a suitable form for self defense either.
Another big difference simply is the interpretation of the guidelines. Even though fighters have a real go at each other in some forms of martial arts they don’t have to fear that they may suddenly be attacked with a weapon or that more offenders join in. This is not allowed. And also, there is always an official who interferes when it gets too “dangerous”. There are no rules for street fights, everything is allowed!
Martial artists are of course used to bodily contact and thanks to regular training know how to deal with kicks and blows. And of course there are always the same movements while on the street rather unconventional ways of fighting might come into play. Offenders always chose victims who are weak and small and appear insecure. Due to the difference in weight range combat sports cannot be an option in this case.
Self defense does of course use some of the techniques of martial arts. However with martial arts the main focus is on sports while with self defense the only purpose is to get out of a dangerous situation without being injured. Therefore the rule is: The cage is not the street!