Many martial arts instructors do tend to treat the combat arts and self defence as two separate things. Maybe not intentionally but it does tend to be that way at times.
They tend to treat the martial art style in question as the main area of combat training while treating the self defence aspect as a separate item altogether, as just a simple set of moves, for beginners. In reality of course the self defence part is the basics of stance, block and counter strike training.
One step training, (basic level self defence), is a very valid part of anyone's study and practice of the martial arts, more so for beginners, but sadly however many instructors fail to merge these two areas of practice, or even think of them as part of the same thing, over a period of time and continue to treat self defence practice separate to the main area of training.
As a result of this mindset we often end up getting martial arts and self defence classes promoted, or even advertised as two seperate items within classes as a somewhat perfect example.
The thing is even when thought of as being part of the martial arts, and not a separate thing, the self defence part of it all is rarely covered at the advanced levels.
Even those that do attempt to teach the advanced aspects of self defence they still only think of it as a complex combination of moves and clever takedown methods when in fact the more advanced side to it all should involve the same type of defence and attack but with more unpredictable variations added and with follow on attacks from the aggressor in a more freestyle flowing way until the defender has clearly shown control over the situation. A precursor to freestyle sparring you could say.
Even more vital than that the methods of attack should not be martial art techniques only, all the time, but also attack and defence against a good old punch around the ear or being pulled to the ground and so on.
When it comes to learning any form of self defence there really is only one thing you need to remember and that is your first response is the only one that really counts.
Self defence classes will often teach you a variety of block and counter strike moves but that will only truly work if the attacker just stands there after the first punch or kick. Something that is often shown within self defence classes and demonstrations take note.
However if someone wants to do you real harm then their attack will often be a multiple attack of several punches and kicks. Therefore you really do need to make sure that your first response works, because after that, you will need to adapt very fast to the oncoming strikes that will be fast flowing and very unpredictable.
In fact if you fail within the first 2 to 5 seconds then it all becomes a form of freestyle fighting with every passing second making your chances of survival becoming ever lower. So the bottom line is all about making your first response the best that you have but also ensuring you are ready with additional defence and attack actions if it all goes wrong.
Hesitation or treating the whole thing lightly, as is often the case within martial arts classes where there is no fear factor involved, will get you killed. You really do only get one opportunity, one vital response chance, and that’s your lot. So make it count.
Ask anyone involved in the martial arts what the main difference is between sport competition martial arts and what is commonly termed as street self defence and there is a very good chance that they will highlight the fact that street fighting has no rules while sport combat events are full of them. However the real big difference when talking about the practical aspects of it all is space. Yes - space.
When it comes to competition events, or just sparring with someone within a class session, the fighters are often doing so with plenty of space around them. And of course no chairs, tables or even people walking past getting in the way. However that is rarely the case in a street fight situation.
The term ‘street fight’ I hasten to add at this point is somewhat often misleading as many fights of that nature are often within a building, or a pub, (aka a bar), with lots of tables and chairs in the way, or people walking past. Or even far worse than all of that people standing next to you watching the fight, (for their own personal entertainment), and often these days with a camera phone pointing at you.
So jumping up and down or running at someone with a fancy spinning kick, or a flying side kick, will be totally out of the question. Therefore learning close range, in-fighting, methods is very much a skill to learn.
Learning adaptability is also something to take into account. Some within the martial arts really do think that they are very good at what they do, more so if they have a black belt, but unless they learn the true nature of adaptability they will never be that good.
It's all good and fine being able to do the martial arts up to a good standard when training with others that do the same methods of fighting as yourself but that can quickly be undone when fighting someone who does not fight the same way as you do.
Take Wing Chun Kung Fu as just one general example. Both students will practice their skills against each other using the same close range methods, and the same punching and blocking applications, but when faced by someone who is trained in long range kicking methods then for sure it will be a case of adapting very fast to the situation or finding out that your belief in being a good martial artist soon comes to a painful end.
So the true thing to do when it comes to being adaptable, and being able to handle most fight situations, is to pressure test yourself often against all sorts of martial art stylists.
Style, now that is one more item to think about in conclusion. I would imagine that a street thug couldn't care less how he looks when punching someone's head in or how he looks when kicking someone on the floor? Yet can that be said about martial art practitioners that have it embedded into their minds to punch and kick with style, technical accuracy and dare I say graceful actions, while doing so?
The more you think about this the more you may start to realise that when you throw a kick, more so if in a real street fight, it will be in the back of your mind to not only perform a kick with accuracy, as taught to you within lessons over the many years, but also with a degree of flair and style.
This mindset is not just to do with how you have been trained in the martial arts over all those long years but also how the martial arts are portrayed within films and photos in magazines.
When you think about it in a more in depth way, punching someone's head in within the martial arts is more about making it look good and stylish than getting the job done, which is a luxury you don’t have in a street punch up.