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 / NASCARself defense/ parallel parking
EnvironmentHighly controlled, well known, controlled for safetyCompletely unpredictable
OponentsWell known, known numbers similar equipment and training, behavior is controlled, similar skills / physical characteristicsUnknown opposing factors, unknown numbers, differences in equipment / weight / skill
RulesKnown, set for safety, numerousNone except the law in the aftermath
ObjectiveAccomplish a well defined task in a given timeframe, with well known goalsNo given timeframe, immediate goal is secondary to long-term goal
TrainingVery easy to train in an environment and under conditions which will replicate the arena of performance, the conditions, and the rulesAlmost impossible to replicate every given scenario
Anticipation / preparationYou know exactly when you will be asked to perform in the future and can prepare for a single eventYou knever know when you’ll need to perform
Endurance requirementsLong-term endurance required as well as skillShort-term action, endurance less important than skill
IntercessionIf you’re in danger there will be several professionals ready to intercede on your behalfMost of the time, you’re on your own

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

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