Learning Martial Arts: A False Sense Of Security

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Learning Martial Arts: A False Sense Of Security

Editor note: This article was written by Agatha Marrama back in 2012. I republished it here because it makes some good points about self-defense. Effective self-defense starts with a “Mind-Set.”  A self-defense “Mind-Set” can be developed regardless of your age or physical condition or limitations. 

A friend of mine related this story to me once. He was out walking late one night to buy stuff at a nearby convenience store. He was approached by a man from the dark side of the street. The thief demanded money from him and he was frozen on the spot. He reached for his pocket and gave the man all his cash. It was good that he was just carrying enough money for the stuff he needed from the store. This may seem like a pretty ordinary story. But you know what the catch is? He is a brown belt in Taekwondo.

The story shocked me more than usual because I know my friend is a pretty good martial artist. He is often dubbed as “talented” by his colleagues and superiors. What’s wrong with that story? In theory, he could have wasted the thief in no time because he clearly had no weapon with him. According to him, he didn’t know what to do. He knew how he could subdue such assault but he just didn’t know what to do at that moment.

This kind of scenario brings back the age-old debate of the false sense of security that learning martial arts give us. Does learning how to throw, punch, kick and counter be enough to defend yourself when that time comes? Does winning in the dojo or the gym enough to guarantee safety?

I am pretty sure that the stalwarts in martial arts will agree with me on this one – The gym is nothing compared to the streets. Practice will do you good in sparring but it will never be enough for a real life situation. What you need is mental training. In the gym, you are taught that to do a certain move, you need to remember some steps in order to complete a move. But in a highly tense situation, your mind will be clouded if you are not mentally strong. In simple terms, you lose whatever you have learned.

So how do you solve this problem? Train your mind. Remember that physical training is one thing and mental training is another. One can be very good with the moves and the technique but lack the mental preparedness to use in real combat. If you do succeed in training your mind and body at the same time, you can use your skills anytime you want to. But do not forget that not every battle should be fought with muscles and brawn. You also need to discern when you have to fight and when you just have to give.

George Babnick
George W. Babnick, is a 34 year law enforcement veteran with an extensive background in physical security, criminal and administrative investigations, training, school policing, supervision and management, and criminal forensics. He recently retired as a Captain in the Portland Oregon Police Bureau where he managed the Training, School Police, and Forensic Evidence Divisions. He holds criminal justice degrees from Portland Community College and Portland State University and a law degree from Northwestern California University School of Law, Sacramento California.

Mr. Babnick is a longtime member of the Western Society of Criminology and is the author of articles on security and law enforcement, investigations, supervision and management, and risk management related to these subjects.

As a physical security expert, George Babnick provides private physical security consultations across the United States and consults with clients outside the United States. He specializes in assessing security problems for small and medium businesses as well as select individuals. He offers independent, honest advice and expertise, with the goal of providing all clients with practical and cost-effective security solutions to enhance security and effectively manage business and personal security risks.

Mr. Babnick is also a licensed Private Investigator and conducts investigations for attorneys, businesses, and individuals throughout the State of Oregon.

To learn more about security consultation and investigative services offered, please visit http://babnickandassociates.com

Disclaimer: Nothing in any article on this blog should be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice should seek the counsel of an attorney licensed in their state.
  • Andrew Patterson

    Martial Arts Training can lead to a false sense of security, just like carrying a side arm can. Proper training and application of either is just an added layer of security, and should not be viewed/used as an end-all-be-all to your safety and security. As a Martial Arts Instructor, I always tell my Students that it does not matter how many Black Belts you hold, or how much training you have in hand to hand combat, something can always go wrong for you and you can lose the fight. That being said, Martial Arts is great for an added level of training to benefit your own personal security. Martial Arts promotes healthy living, positive attitude, alertness, situational awareness, etc. The benefit of taking Martial Arts should not be weighed against whether or not it will stop 100% of whatever personal, physical attack that is directed at you, as then NOTHING would meet that standard, but rather, the decision to undertake Martial Arts training should be weighed in the positive benefit and added self protection that it will bring to your life.

    • Very well said. Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to post a comment. Be safe.

  • Alice

    Hey George,

    This is so true!

    I know some skilled “fighters” in various martial arts… but whether they would actually be able to apply those skills in a street fight or other “outside the dojo” situation, that all comes down to mental preparedness.

    It’s important to train your mind for situations – think through how you’d handle them in a quiet, non-stressful moment and prepare yourself for the possibility of needing to use your training in an unexpected moment.

  • Your point about effective self-defense starting with a ‘Mind-Set’ is spot on and the key point with this topic. Most people studying martial arts tend to study a ‘system’ of sorts, these systems tend to be rigid in their application and use and anyone who has had to deal with real life incidents in the street will know that those situations are unpredictable, chaotic and anything BUT rigid. If your mind-set is not one of situational awareness and you do not have the mental discipline to deal with a fluid and potentially dangerous situation (either way my belief is that fighting is the absolute last resort, diffusion of the situation being the most wanted outcome) then you will not be prepared, regardless of how much martial arts training you may have done in the relatively organized ranks of your schooling.

  • Brenda McCartney

    Interesting piece! Yeah mental preparedness is key but as you concluded, “it’s also important to be able to discern when you have to fight and when you just have to give.” Not all situations are cut out in black and white.

  • Antonio Sandra

    Martial art learning is only for self defence. Though to me, its false sense of security despite the fact that its also useful in many ways. Students now learn martial art for different purposes e.g for revenge, that shouldn’t be the case. lets use it to promote arts as a whole and use it when needed. My thoughts!