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Self-Defence is not Martial Arts

The first of a new column by Joel Huncar of Huncar Warrior Arts in Cranbrook.

Joel Huncar

Personal protection is something that has been part of my life for decades, but it has been more than that, it has been a personal mission of mine to pass these skills to as many people as I can.

Self-Defence and personal protection is not a hobby for me; it is a way of life. If I simply want exercise I would simply exercise. If I wanted to learn martial arts I would have simply learned martial arts.

However that is not what I did. I learned martial arts, but I also studied as much as I could about violence and crime in our culture and I made sure the arts I studied work under pressure.

Why would I do all that and not just simply take a traditional art and just stick to what was taught?

Traditional arts can be a very good base for personal protection, however most simply do not teach anything about the social aspects of crime and violence or even teach physical skills that will work under the chaos of real violence. Sport fighting styles such as MMA, boxing, Muay Thai, BJJ and full contact karate do make a good physical base, however these systems are designed to fight a prolonged contest that is enjoyable to watch. They do however teach you to work under real pressure.

Martial arts that embrace dirty tactics and close range fighting such as Wing Chun, Japanese jiu jitsu and Eskrima are also a good base, but you need to get into the psychology, tactics and social understanding that must go along with this to be an effective self defence system.

On the physical side you need to be able to defend against compound attacks, multiple attackers and weapons.  You need to face aggressive attacks that come at you with follow through and follow ups. Multiple strikes, clinching, grappling, dirty tactics and common street weapons are all part of the arena of real violence. If you don't do dynamic training you don't actually train for violence.

The psychological and mental side of personal protection starts with the knowledge of violence statistics within the culture that we share. Where does violence happen, where are people targeted for crime, where are you most vulnerable, when are you most vulnerable, what are the most common weapons used by criminals where you live. Build tactics of avoidance and awareness around this knowledge.

Another deeply important psychological training method involves role playing a bit in your training. Instructors and training partners need to be able to recreate pre-violence cues. Pushing, swearing, name calling and basically building up mentally to be violent is often a part of real violence. Threats and demands are often a part of violent crime. If you don't deal with aggressive behaviour in class you may fold under that pressure and panic in a real incident.

If you are not using this kind of scenario training you are not preparing yourself mentally and emotionally to deal with the reality of personal protection.

Without going into too much detail you also need to understand what is legally allowed in Self-Defence in Canadian law. Know the police model for the use force, although they have a different motive, they are motivated to control and detain where as you either are trying to escape and evade an attacker or protect others under your protection.

However, as a citizen of Canada you have the right to protect yourself from violence and crime, but you have to do this within the parameters of the law.  This is a right that is written within our criminal code.

There is much more to self-defence and personal protection than most people consider and many martial artists who claim to teach self-defence don't understand that what they are teaching martial arts techniques and aren't really teaching self-defence at all. If you are interested in self-defence, do some research, ask some questions and observe or try a few classes first and see if what you are being taught is self-defence or martial arts.  There are many great martial arts programs being taught but real personal protection programs are really quite rare.

If you look around enough you may be lucky enough to find one.

Joel Huncar runs Huncar's Warrior Arts in Cranbrook. Contact Joel Huncar