Self-Defense and Technique Efficacy

An ongoing debate in the martial arts world, that has probably been going on for its entire existence and probably will continue to go on for its continued existence is about technique efficacy.  Does it work?  That is the question, and well it should be because we are often trusting our lives to its answer.  Recently, I have seen this question being bantered around  in the context of self-defense.  This teacher posts a strategy/technique to deal with this scenario and someone else responds with a criticism, then someone else with another criticism of the criticism.  Bravo, this is the line of thinking that keeps us all sharp.  Without it, we may allow ourselves to become ineffective and watered down, and that is when we become truly dangerous – not to our opponents, but to ourselves and to our students.

However, I do want to point out that whether a technique works in real life or not is nearly impossible to answer.  We have all seen examples of things that probably should not have worked, but did.  It doesn’t mean we take a laissez faire approach, we should teach with a critical eye, based out of experience and research.  It instead means that we have to acknowledge all the different factors that contribute to a specific technique’s efficacy.

If the technique will work in a demonstration, then it works… period.  Everything that decides its efficacy after that is more about whether Joe Schmoe can make it work against Harry on Nov. 22, 2017, at 12:32 pm in the alley behind Place X.  And that depends on a lot of different things.  How much has Joe trained that technique, how many people has he practiced it against, did he set it up properly, or was it appropriate for that moment, was he trying to force it, weather, lighting, fatigue level, injury status, footing, terrain, Harry’s level of preparedness and skill level, etc… you get my point.  I talk about this a little in my post on sparring strategies.  The bottom line is that every person is going to have to commit to training to make anything work, no matter how simple or effective, and there will be situations where it won’t work… no matter who is doing it or how good they are at implementing it.

You want to be able to defend yourself, you need a multi-modal approach that looks at multiple different approaches and gives you several different tools to use.  I believe in keeping things simple, but when you simplify it too much you risk making it less effective due to narrowness of scope.  You try to make it too broad and you risk making it unattainable for the masses.  There is no perfect balance for all people.  Each person seeking to improve their self-defense skills needs to have a custom fit approach, and that isn’t always possible for everyone.

My recommendation is to be realistic in your expectations of any technique or strategy, understand its strengths and weaknesses.  Have multiple tools to use, carrying a gun is a great tool… but you can’t always get to it in time and you need to have something else to use in the meantime.  Same thing goes for if you are attacked by someone bigger and stronger than you or if there are multiple attackers.  Be prepared for a lot of different scenarios and learn how to identify them earlier rather than later.  In self defense it is especially true that knowledge is power and an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.  And train regularly against a variety of different resisting people with different demographics and anthropometrics. Never assume something will or won’t work until you have given it due diligence in training, and that means hundreds of hours of practice.  If you don’t have that, then stick with the easier methods, but don’t be critical of the technique.

I tell all of my students that in real world combat there are only 3 rules:

  1. what you can do, try.
  2. what you can’t do, don’t try.
  3. always consider what you can justify in a court of law.

Happy training folks!!! and keep it real – real life, and real civil.

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About Shifu Read

Primary instructor of the school. Training in martial arts since he was 5. He started in kickboxing, then moved to XingYi at 18. At 32 he began training in BaGua. At 36 he began training in TaiJi. At 40, he began in BJJ. He loves to share his knowledge with his students and help them along in their own martial journey.
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