Is karate self defense?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Self-Defense | Comments Off on Is karate self defense?

Is karate self defense?

Is any Martial Art Self-Defense?

Karate self defense? Taekwondo self defense?

It’s been my experience that many students of martial art consider themselves to be studying self-defense.  But, is karate self defense? taekwondo? is any martial art?  Though I teach both martial art and self-defense, I don’t consider them to be the same.

Martial art is commonly believed to have developed from ancient humans training to improve their ability to defend against danger. Taekwondo (Korean martial art) and karate (Japanese martial art), though, started to become what they are today in only the mid 1900s.  While these arts are based on moves that can theoretically be used against attackers (punches, blocks, and kicks), whether taekwondo and karate were ever intended to be self-defense systems is debatable.

karate self defenseTaekwondo and karate were definitely physical education systems, used by militaries and schools, to build strength, endurance, and character in participants.  The practice of learning to do kicks, punches, and blocks was—and still is—good physical and mental exercise. And, although any fitness activity can build character, martial art teachers often focus on character-building more than do coaches of other sports.

However, there are significant differences between the way that taekwondo and karate self defense are commonly practiced and good self-defense training. For one, martial art classes focus their self-defense training almost exclusively on the time during an altercation with physical contact.  To truly learn to protect one’s self from dangerous people though, one also needs training in body language and verbal response options for the time immediately before contact is made, and in recognizing and avoiding potential danger.

Second, when we martial artists practice striking each other in our padded gyms with uniforms and bare feet, we are taking out many of the variables that would affect how moves would actually be applied.   In real self-defense, one may be hampered by their clothing or other obstacles; and, their adversary will behave much more unpredictably than does a training partner.

Finally, although complicated martial art moves look good in movies, the effect of adrenaline during an actual confrontation makes most of them impossible to remember and apply.  Martial art instructors hope that lots of practice can overcome the negative effects of adrenaline: Self-defense instructors teach students to use adrenaline to their advantage.

Although the general public may consider “What martial art is best for self-defense?” a valid question, the name of a martial art doesn’t make it any better or worse for self-defense, or more or less likely to be used in anger.  Any teacher of any martial art is free to choose how much they will emphasize the self-defense aspects of their art, and how much they will teach their students about the importance of avoiding fights.

I wish the general public realized that there is such a thing as a self-defense class that is not martial art based. In fact, there are several.

In the technique-based self-defense system of krav maga, moves are specifically chosen to be easier to remember and use under the effect of adrenaline. In the non-technique-based self-defense-system of FAST Defense, people use simple moves and practice them in an adrenalized state to make them usable in a confrontation.  The Rocky Mountain Combat Applications Training Center (RMCAT) is another “school” of self-defense started by two martial artists, who had worked as body guards and bouncers, with the intention of teaching only moves they had personally used successfully in actual dangerous situations.

Marcy Shoberg is the creator of “Bring Out Your Inner Bodyguard in Two Weeks or Less” home study course for adults and seniors. See