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How is Self-defense Different From Martial Arts?

Many people have the impression that to learn to protect themselves against everyday dangers they have to learn a martial art—they have to learn Michelle Yeoh’s or Bruce Lee’s techniques.

This simply isn’t true.

While many martial arts evolved as self-defense systems, they suited the needs of a people in a specific time and place (for example, fighting with weapons on horseback in 17th century Korea). And they don’t necessarily translate well to practical, modern-day needs.

Instead, self-defense techniques are those you would use for the real dangers women and girls face in our society today, such as harassment, abuse, and sexual assault. These are best addressed through a quality women’s self-defense class.

Self-defense Martial Arts Both
Physical Effort and Ability
  • Anyone can learn basic physical self-defense regardless of body size, fitness level, age, or physical limitations.
  • Is a good workout.
  • Will get you in shape and bring you the health benefits of fitness.
  • Some schools are geared toward sports and competition and attract younger or more athletic people.
  • Other schools are non-competitive and view martial arts as a practice open to anyone.
  • Get you in touch with your physical power.
Confidence and Situational Awareness
  • Teaches skills to use against harassment, abuse, and assault, including everyday situations that don’t involve a physical attack.
  • Builds situational awareness and assessment skills in determining level of threat, barriers and aides to safety, and techniques for managing adrenaline in the moment.
  • May help you develop the confidence to handle daily situations teach awareness to help with prevention.
  • The physical fighting techniques of martial arts contain ancient and powerful self-protection information.
  • Effective martial arts training can help you better understand their practical, realistic application to current-day attacks.
  • Increase confidence and situational awareness.
Learning Curve
  • Effective skills can be learned quickly.
  • Must be studied for a long time to attain proficiency. Often a life-long pursuit.
  • Create a stronger mind-body connection.
Social and Historical Awareness
  • Develops a broader awareness of issues related to violence against women and girls, and others targeted for violence.
Personal Development
  • Develops self-respect and awareness, and reduces self blame.
  • Encourages personal insights into experiences with violence.
  • Develops discipline, respect, and focus.
  • May spur internal change as well as learning specific skills.
Connections Beyond the Classroom
  • Depending on the program, may connect to feminism, anti-racism, and larger sociopolitical issues.
  • Depending on the focus of each school, may encourage spiritual development and/or martial arts as sport and competition.
  • May make connections beyond the particular focus of the program or school.