One of the main reasons, if not the main reason, that people take up martial arts is for self defense. Although some statistics of 10 years ago indicated that the main reason was for confidence building. It is more than reasonable to relate confidence building to the ability to look after yourself, or self defense. And although I could not source the original study, that gave the aforementioned result, it would be interesting to see the questions that gave the results as all statistical surveys are subject to bias as a result of the wording of the questions and the demographic surveyed.
However, another recent survey asking the question of why people had given up martial arts training indicated that the main reason for giving up was a lack of real world self defense training.
Certainly in my experience self defense is a major reason that students start martial arts training. The ability to look after yourself and the skills that you develop learning martial arts all contribute to building greater confidence and an enhancement of your lifestyle.
Fitness, which is another factor that people give as a reason for training, is another reason that is solely dependant on the amount of training and the intensity of the training. Many martial arts approach training from a very low intensity point of view and although fitness of the general coordination and flexibility attributes may be improved, there is little gain from the intense cardiovascular point of view.
There are many levels of fitness and what may be considered a good fitness level for one individual may be quite different for another. The fitness level generally cared for in most martial arts schools is a moderate level that provides a good fitness level for the majority of students that wish to have a healthy level of fitness. This will, in turn provide a definite lift in confidence and well being overall.
However, it must be kept in mind that the main underlying reason for the majority of people who leave martial arts training after a short period is the lack of real world self defense training. Therefore what ever your discipline is you must, unless you are particularly focused on sport and competition, teach realistic street self defense as part of your curriculum.
The key word here is “realistic” not a method necessarily based on the techniques of your discipline as these may well be too restrictive. For example, if you teach Tae kwon do then you must address the close range and ground aspects of real life street defense. I don’t care what the hardcore supporters of this discipline say; the reality is that Tae kwon do teaching focuses on a long range, standup striking approach to fighting.
Their ability at close range and on the ground is extremely poor and this is where most street fighting and self defense combat occurs. The same situation can be also said of the current focus of many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools. Their focus has turned to gi competition with lots of complex sweeps and moves. Many of which are either unworkable or would get you wasted in the street.
In addition, when it comes to the street a lot of attackers will use knives or other tools such as tire irons and baseball bats or worse; guns. These are completely out of the realm of your regular martial arts school training which focuses on unarmed tactics.
Finally there is the element of adrenal stress response that is responsible for the freeze/fight/flight response which is a critical factor in all real street fight confrontations.
This is an element very poorly understood by most martial arts instructors and is lacking in the majority of self defense teachings in martial arts schools. It requires specialist training and drills to prepare a student
Experience in martial arts and real world situations is the key, together with a realistic approach that includes adrenal stress training, such as the N.A.S.T.I. self defense course offered at the Academy of Combat Christchurch Martial Arts school and for realistic street proven techniques for self defense check out my No B.S. Street-fighting and Self Defense Guide.