Martial Arts and Self-Defense

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing martial arts and self-defense training and how they differ with Joe Harrison who is writing a book on these subjects. Joe and Casey are traveling across the country and internationally to New Zealand and other places to meet with and interview school owners.

My main points were that martial arts and self-defense are like concentric circles. They overlap but they aren't identical. As school owners, we need to be clear, realistic, and honest with the public on what training we provide.

Martial arts have many benefits, including increased aerobic fitness, strength, endurance, quickness, agility, speed, self-discipline, self-confidence, and focus. But martial arts don't necessarily teach self-defense. They often focus on the preservation of the art, for example, a particular style of Karate or Taekwon-do.

In self-defense, on the other hand, training at Three Rivers Defense focuses on the trainee. The purpose is to provide each student with additional protection options that work for that particular student. What works for an 18-year-old athlete may not work for a 60-year old sedentary person. We don't teach a traditional art. Rather, we teach movement that is easy to learn and retain and that people can resort to and use under stress.

The purpose of self-defense training at Three Rivers Defense is to provide each trainee with realistic options to respond to threats and neutralize attackers.

Also, self-defense begins way before any physical defense. It starts with mental and emotional self-protection, boundary setting, self-awareness, risk awareness, risk reduction, and risk avoidance. And these are just a few differences between self-defense and martial arts.

Martial arts instructors can be insular. Some school owners even discourage their students from exploring other arts. Rather than isolating ourselves, we should all collaborate more, among the arts, as well as among self-defense, martial arts, and fitness professionals.

Brigitte Schulze