“80% of fights go to the ground”
“70% of armed assaults involve a knife”
Did you believe these common self defence claims? If so you’ve been misled. We have no idea percentage of “fights” go to the ground or what percentage involves a knife (or any weapon) for that matter.
These statements should sound like what they are: statements made up to help market martial arts styles that have certain strengths such as grappling or knife defence.
The reality – which is that you have no idea how an assault might unfold – is messier. This should be the core assumption you build your martial arts training on. In Ninjutsu, which is an art without any sporting influence on it, our aim is to survive a fight or assault. Here is how we go about it.
We acknowledge that being martial artists does not make us invincible. Our opponents may be strong, fast, cunning, armed, experienced and skilled, whether trained or not. There are no guarantees. However, proper dojo training can increase your chances of surviving a fight and acknowledging the above reality can do the same.
We prioritize staying safe. If you can avoid injury, you increase your chances of surviving. We don’t “block” attacks, we evade them. We move in a way that keeps us safe if an opponent turns out to be unexpectedly armed. We think staying safe even when we are “winning” such as subduing an opponent on the ground and we think about how we are going to get out of the situation and to safety as our ultimate goal.
We train for all sorts of situations. You don’t need to be the world’s best grappler but you need to train to survive grappling encounters, likewise for punching and kicking and another martial arts skill. Doesn’t that make you a jack of all trades and master of none? No, the master skill here is surviving.
We rely on brains over brawn. Martial arts are a physical endeavour and there is no escaping that fact but there is always someone bigger, stronger, faster and crazier and that is especially true if you are a small person. We rely on time-tested use of balance, distance , timing and angling to overcome stronger opponents. We are willing to fight but we’ll do it our way.
There are psychological and emotional aspects of self defence in terms of dealing with the fight, freeze or flight responses, understanding what you are willing to do protect yourself and dealing with the emotional aftermath of an assault.
The bad news is that there is no simple answer to the complex questions of martial arts training and self defence. But the good news is that the ninja and samurai arts of old Japan have been asking these questions for hundreds of years – not a few decades – and have got some solid answers.