In an effort to draw a distinction between training and competing in sports martial arts and the reality of self defense, I make the analogy: training for sport is to self defense as NASCAR is to parallel parking.

I did sport karate when I was in college, and it was fun. But I stopped because I believe I was developing bad habits which would score in the ring, but make me more vulnerable in self defense. MMA and any other sport martial art fits.


While no analogy is perfect, this one holds up pretty well. Here’s how I break it down:

Training for sport / NASCAR self defense/ parallel parking
Environment Highly controlled, well known, controlled for safety Completely unpredictable
Oponents Well known, known numbers similar equipment and training, behavior is controlled, similar skills / physical characteristics Unknown opposing factors, unknown numbers, differences in equipment / weight / skill
Rules Known, set for safety, numerous None except the law in the aftermath
Objective Accomplish a well defined task in a given timeframe, with well known goals No given timeframe, immediate goal is secondary to long-term goal
Training Very easy to train in an environment and under conditions which will replicate the arena of performance, the conditions, and the rules Almost impossible to replicate every given scenario
Anticipation / preparation You know exactly when you will be asked to perform in the future and can prepare for a single event You knever know when you’ll need to perform
Endurance requirements Long-term endurance required as well as skill Short-term action, endurance less important than skill
Intercession If you’re in danger there will be several professionals ready to intercede on your behalf Most of the time, you’re on your own

I’m sure you could keep going with comparisons of your own.

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