Best training for self-defense

There are so many self-defense training options available today. There are traditional martial arts, modern mixed martial arts, BJJ, military combatives, reality-based self-defense and many more. The wide choice available, as well as the fact that each system claims to be superior to the other, creates a lot of confusion. It becomes very difficult to decide which option will be the best option to choose.  This article will explore the differences between some of the systems and how it relates to a violent criminal attack.

Training for competition vs training for survival

Many systems available today evolved from a traditional martial arts system that was originally developed for self-defense. Over time, many systems started to participate in competitions with other systems to determine who was the best. This required the establishment of competition rules. Certain techniques were not allowed as it posed a great risk of serious injury or even death. As time progressed many of the systems became unrecognizable from its original form. It still uses the traditional name to define the system but many, if not most, of the original techniques that were developed for self-defense became obsolete.

A fighter training for competition trains in a completely different manner than a person training for self-defense against a violent criminal attacker. The competition fighter gets to know their opponents very well and study the way they fight in depth before a competition. They focus on exploiting the weaknesses in their opponents fighting style.

A person  who is attacked by a violent criminal  does not have the luxury of studying his attacker in advance. The attacker controls the Time, Place and Method of Attack. This means that the attacker decides what is going to happen, where it is going to happen and when it is going to happen. The attacker controls most of the important things during an attack and sets it up so that everything is stacked in his favour, thus allowing him the best possible chance  of success.   

Adult Self Defense Training

Military combatives vs the civilian criminal attacker

When browsing the internet, one is overwhelmed with the number of military-based combative systems available. Most claim that they were used by some foreign army/defense force and some even claim that they were the preferred system of the special forces of that military.

Military combatives in its purest form is a “last resort” tool. Many soldiers never see combat and if they do, they are rarely involved in hand to hand combat. The nature of modern warfare does not really require hand to hand combat. The military relies on technology such as drones, artillery, ships and planes. Infantry soldiers rely heavily on assault rifles and are protected by kevlar body armour and helmets.

Many militaries do however offer hand to hand combatives training to their soldiers to round off their training. This training is very basic in nature. It assumes a certain level of fitness and teaches the most effective techniques the soldier can use, taking into consideration the gear the soldier wears. The training also tends to vary in content and quality between units and in many cases even change every year. Most of this type of training is outsourced to private contractors who are selected by procurement departments based on various considerations such as cost.

Like with competition based martial arts, the military carefully study the enemy in advance. Intelligence Officers ensure that the military has as much information about the enemy available as possible. Before striking, the military knows the weak points of the enemy and prepares to attack when the enemy expects it the least. Initial attacks are mostly done via air or artillery. When the infantry is used, they operate in platoons or sections meaning that they operate in organized groups using specific tactics and weapons.

Compare that to a criminal attack where you often have to protect yourself without any support against multiple attackers. You do not have the luxury of calling in an airstrike. You do not have protective kevlar or platoon members who may back you up and most of the time you do not carry a weapon. Criminals almost always select victims whom they think they can easily overpower. The older people, women, people who do not look as if they are in good shape, children etc. Their victims are people who typically cannot complete the physical training soldiers do.

Military training does not focus on dealing with criminals. It focus on warfare against armed military opponents.

Train for the reality of todays' violent society

When selecting a self-defense training system, it is very important to consider the following aspects:

  • Is the training based on the realities of a violent attack in today’s world or does it focus on violence in ancient times?
  • Will the average person who is commonly selected as victim be able to learn and execute the techniques? Where do they get their information from? Is it based on experience with real criminals over an extended period of time?
  • Do they adapt their training as the modus operandi of criminals change?
  • Is there a standard written curriculum with training manuals and other training resources such as training videos or does the instructor make up his own curriculum based on his own understanding of criminal behaviour?
  • Does the training rely on blindly following traditions and instructions or does it encourage students to think on their feet and adapt according to the situation?
  • Does the system focus more on the achievements and background of the instructor than on the student?
  • Does the system rely on military-style training and emphasize that only the toughest will be able to survive or does it actually teach conflict avoidance strategies the typical unathletic victim will be able to use? 
  • Does the system only focus on criminal attacks or does it recognize that there are various categories of attackers and that each require a different approach?
  • Does the system have an international footprint and can all the instructors teaching the system be verified?
  • Does the system have a proven track record of teaching a variety of audiences ranging from kids, to physically disabled people, adults of all ages and major corporations?


For more information on reality based self defense training:

C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense South Africa


Cell: 082 299 9117