Self Defence is not the Same as Fighting

I read a lot of posts on face book these days about the age old question, ‘What is the most practical and effective fighting system for self defence.. I hear shouts for Krav Maga, BJJ, boxing, Thai etc 
One of the things we must take into consideration first is fighting is not self defence.
Fighting or having a fight is about two participants agreeing to engage in mutual combat or facing off against each other. This is and never will be self defence.
Self defence is about one party minding their own business getting on with their life when unfortunately violence comes their way usually when they least expect or anticipate it.
These are two totally different things. If you are prone to fighting in the street you will have a very short shelf life. You will either be spending a good percentage of your life behind bars or eventually six feet under.
Fighting on the contest mat, in the cage or the ring is by the consent of all parties involved. It will be done according to weight, experience, rules and duration. There will be a referee present to see fair play and step in the stop the fight if and when needed.
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Self defence is about being targeted for an unprovoked attack. It can be split into two distinct areas. Confrontational and ambush. That’s it. A match fight is not in the equation.
In self defence if the situation warrants physical response and isn't dealt with in 3 seconds it will deteriorate into a type of match fight but that is a rarity. Normally the first person to land a shot wins.

Self defence isn't about sparring up and feeling out your attacker before you launch your deadly attack. It is about somebody sucker punching you in the head before you even realise it, or pushing a glass in your face or a knife in your guts. There will be no posturing and twirling of the weapon or any bad ass film dialogue before this happens.

It is about somebody grabbing you around the neck whilst you are checking your iphone or jogging with headphones on. It is being held at knife point at an ATM machine.
It is about being chasing down like a zebra and having a pack of animals kick ten bells out of you. No tap outs here or referee’s stoppage. You may not ever see daylight again or if you do you may be confined to a wheelchair.
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So forget all this macho posturing and bullshit that make up the big percentage of shit on the internet. Any time two people are facing off with each other whether it is on the pavement or the ring it is a fight. Whether you are wearing a Gi with more patches than a Girl Guide or Cameo trousers and boots, it is a fight.
In the world of self defence the only time you may have to face up to somebody is because you can’t talk or walk your way out of the situation or you maybe shielding your family or loved ones from harm.
Otherwise it will mean you are mutually agreeing with some arsehole to be an arsehole as well.
In the world of match fighting it has been proven beyond doubt the ‘big boys’ that stand up under pressure are Western boxing, Wrestling, Thai and Bjj/submission wrestling. Why? Because they are mainly practised as combat sports in this day and age.

Self defence is situational and scenario driven. It is a totally different world. It’s not to say these combat sports can't make the change over but they need to be adapted greatly. This is a huge topic on its own. The combat sports right cross, leg kick, double leg takedown, or rear naked strangle will work in any situation when adapted and practiced for that arena. But in the main combat sports are combat sports.

Having a row outside the chip shop or pub isn't and never will be self defence if you have willingly engaged and not tried to find another solution.
Self defence also includes legal and moral issues and they can’t be separated. The ethics and the code you live by will determine and justify your actions.
Teaching self defence and teaching fighting is not the same thing. When it comes to self defence engaging in the physical is the last resort option. If your only option in self defence is hit them in the mouth, then you will get plenty of time to perfect that technique in the showers at one of Her Majesties hotels. Teaching awareness, tactical positioning, spacial awareness, the ‘shield or fence’postion, de-escalation, escape routes are all essential stuff before you hit the physical skills. Then as mentioned it will be an in your face confrontational attack or it will be an ambush when you are switched off and not prepared. You won’t be attacked after leaving your dojo after 12 rounds on the pads and some sparring. It won’t be after you just got your record number of ‘tap outs’. It won’t be when you are stretched out, warmed up and ready to rock, (if only).
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No it will be when you are out for a nice quiet dinner with your partner, when you are in the park with your children, when you are walking with your elderly parents. It will be when you are cold and wet, tired, under the weather or pre-occupied.
Rarely will it be one person and if it is there will probably be a weapon involved. Reality says it will be more than one with weapons.
When you see these ‘Martial arts superheroes’ standing ground in fighting stances against two or more attackers you know it is bullshit. I have been targeted by gang attack more than once in my younger days. I was grateful for the mystical and magical techniques of running, climbing and fucking hiding over any combat moves. No pressure point knockouts or invisible force field energy in sight!
These situations are very scary. This is not about fighting for a medal or a trophy and a chance to impress on your mates what a beast you are. This is about survival and possibly having to defend your very life. Hiding under a car, pasty faced, shaking like a shitting dog and doing your up-most not to piss yourself isn’t so glamorous and it won’t get a viewing on you tube  and you won’t be giving it the ‘big one’ to your mates about it but it fucking works.
By now I hope you are getting the picture. I admire and salute all who go into the combat sporting arena. I have been there many times myself. It is no doubt a hard and tough environment to be in and a tougher one to earn a living from. But at the end of the day it is just ‘fighting’, it is not combat. Barring something terrible and tragic you will walk back out of that arena again.
Self defence on the streets doesn’t guarantee you that. Neither does fighting on the streets. If you mistakenly bring a knife to a gun fight you will lose. If you have built a reputation for being a fighter on the street don’t be naive enough to think that the next person looking for you is going to be coming to fight you under the Queensbury rules or BJJ format. They don’t want a fair fight; they just want to beat you. So if a bat, knife or firearm will do the job they will bring it. So please be careful what you wish for you might just get it.

Save your ‘fighting’ for the competitive arena and try to live a good life outside of it and stay safe.

About the Author:
Kevin O'Hagan has been training and teaching Martial Arts for 37 years at present. He holds the rank of 7th Dan Full Master’s level in Combat Ju Jutsu. He also holds black belt ranks in Japanese Jujutsu and Karate Jutsu.  

He is a senior self protection instructor with the British Combat Association and was recently inducted into Martial arts illustrated magazine ‘Hall of fame’.

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