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Today, in my first article, I would like to take a brief look at the modern perspective of martial arts, its new sporty image and its level of practicality in a self defence situation.
During my time in training, I have come across many proponents of the belief that traditional martial arts are no longer suitable for use in self protection, as the techniques require too much training and do not allow for enough personal variation. That may be your opinion, but I feel this view has largely been built around the ‘new’ image of martial arts.
At this point, I think it is important to remember where these arts originated from – brutal warfare. The majority of martial arts were founded hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago, by warriors who were engaged in deadly conflicts. They had no interest in scoring points, impressing the judges or even building up a devoted fan base, these guys had to develop methods of rapidly eliminating their adversaries. These are the techniques that remain effective today, and so they should. Human anatomy has not changed, nor have the laws of physics!
You will find the majority of martial artists on one side of this imaginary ‘line’, or the other. Some are sport fighters, training for competitions rather than self defence. The others are more traditional, focusing on the highly effective self defence techniques found in their art. Much as I enjoy tournament fighting, I believe it has gone some way towards destroying the viability of traditional arts in self defence. The advent of padded gloves, padded feet guards, helmets and body armour has entirely changed how a fighter uses his arsenal of techniques. Kicks and punches have been adapted to accommodate the padding, and many traditional techniques almost entirely forgotten.
In a self defence situation there are no second or third places, no umpires, and most rules. What works in competition may well not work in the street (for example a multiple high kick combination), and what is most effective in the street probably goes far beyond the rules of the tournament.
That being said, I do believe that tournament fighting does have some positive aspects- it teaches good timing, distancing, control, flexibility, speed and also promotes general fitness. Once we have a firm understanding that there is a world of difference between what happens inside and outside the ring, then we are on fairly safe ground.

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