Sometimes, when martial arts, self defence and fighting techniques are discussed, a disagreement ensues about what skill set is best in a self defence situation. This argument, depending on those involved, and the setting in which the argument or discussion takes place, for example, the pub, can reach varying degrees of silliness and outrageousness. It has, however, caused me to ponder, yet again, about what differs these competing entities for the ‘practicality crown’? I have come to the conclusion, that what sets the skill sets apart is ‘The Objective’.


The Martial Artist

Objectives for martial artists vary. Self defence may well be one of their motivations for training, but there are grades to achieve, competitive achievement, fitness, health, stress relief and many more. Most martial artists pay a fee to train, and do so because they want to, not as a job.


Combat Sports

In combat sports, the objective is simple. Win. This is done by outscoring, submitting, knocking out or outperforming the opponent as scored by referees or judges. The opponent will have trained for the competition, and will have a similar skill set. There is a large overlap in combat sports and martial arts, as with self defence training. A ven diagram can be drawn with the three headings.


Door Work and Security

Door staff are there for the safety of the customers, and are employed or hired by the establishment. Their skill set is based around spotting and anticipating trouble, defusing conflict, ejecting trouble makers, splitting up fights, and managing the customers in the event of an emergency. It takes a certain mentality and awareness. They generally deal with people in a state of intoxication, mostly through alcohol, but also through recreational drugs. They are often the target of abuse and violence, just because they are there doing the job, and in some situations they have to defend themselves. Good door staff will look out for each other and minimise conflict, and most door staff qualify as this. It is a job which requires patience, courage and awareness, and most importantly, the mind set of looking out for each other and working as a team.



The police skill set is fairly unique. It incorporates some of the skill required of door staff, but the boundary does not end at the doors of a premises. They are required to head towards situations, like the other emergency services, that most members of the public avoid and head away from. When it is necessary for the police to use force, as well as separating combatants, they need to be able to detain and often restrain offenders, some of whom, do not come willingly. It is not enough to simply defend themselves. They might have to pursue suspected offenders on foot, before getting into a physical struggle with them. It is far safer, both for the detainee, and for the officers, for more than one officer to be involved in the arrest. This is often looked on as ‘unfair’ by some, usually the one being detained or their friends, but fairness doesn’t feature in the objective.


Armed Forces

The military application will vary depending on the circumstances, but if this happens to be a war time or conflict situation, then this can include attempting to kill somebody. Usually this will be from distance, with varying types of weapon, but occasionally it could involve close quarter combat.



Street Fighting

When somebody refers to themselves as a ‘street fighter’, it can often be a large tell tale sign of an ego, and wanting to impress. I don’t quite know what qualifies somebody for this label, or whether it requires training of any kind. I suspect strongly that the type of person who aspires to this label is either telling a story to ‘big themselves up’, or when on a night out, likes to get involved in scuffles and brawls. Most of the time, it is not a fight this person is looking for, but to hurt another, and brag about it later, adjusting the facts to make them look either aggrieved or increase their status within whatever social group they mix. Their targets will more often than not, be somebody either distracted, outnumbered, or that they assess as less of a threat, because, lets face it, if it’s a fair fight, they could get hurt! Quite often, this is the type of person described as ‘the attacker’ in a self defence situation.


Close Protection

Body guards are employed by those who can afford it, and who are perceived either by themselves, or another party to be at risk. For a close protection operative, their objective is to protect their client, as the title suggests.


Self Defence

Self defence is the use of avoidance, escape, or if necessary force to protect yourself, your family or friends. You cannot always anticipate or avoid a confrontation, but if you do happen to be attacked, then the objective is clear, escape, ideally without injury, or if are unable to, neutralise the threat by proportionate means. You have to remember that you may have to justify your actions later, so it is important to only do what is necessary in order to get away, or get those dear to you away from trouble. It is not to teach your attacker a lesson, or leave them unconscious and humiliated. This might be necessary in some cases, but your aim is not to impress.


In truth, all of the categories of skill set above have elements which can be applied to defending yourself, less so in the case of our friend the ‘street fighter’, but within the others, the only thing that varies is the objective. It is also worth pointing out that many of the techniques used and taught in the professions and pastimes employ the same principles as are taught in martial arts, just selected and adapted to the task in hand. At the end of the day, as humans we are only variations of the same form, and the laws of physics never change.