The Difference Between Fighting and Self-Defense

Posted: June 24, 2011 in Attitude

Photo by marcobdz via Creative Commons License. http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcovdz/

I had a controversial discussion with a Red/Black Belt the other day and I have been pondering it on and off since.  During my stretching routine we struck up a conversation that somehow led to other martial arts styles and how they differ in philosophy from Krav Maga.  This is how it went:

Them: Krav Maga is all about self-defense, not necessarily about “fighting”.

Me: What do you mean?  What’s the difference?

Them: See, most other styles have a strict emphasis on form and katas.  Not to take away from any of these styles but sometimes their philosophy is that martial arts is a sport — competitions, points, trophies won in fights.  Krav Maga, on the other hand, is about self-defense and “making it home safe”.

[Poses in a fighting stance]

This is fighting. [Moves around, does some forms, and bobs and weaves]. This is self-defense [Moves in rapidly for the takedown].

Other styles can be really devastating in their own right but they have a very different mindset from Krav Maga.  Krav Maga is instantaneous and designed to end the situation as quickly as possible with no flair, no trophies, no points, no hesitation.  This is probably why it isn’t in tournaments. It’s designed as a practical street self-defense and not as a sport.

Interesting perspective.  Now, don’t take this too seriously; I am not saying this is the school’s or KMW’s position on the topic — or mine for that matter — but it was an interesting and somewhat controversial thought. I can imagine someone from another style reading this and blowing a gasket (maybe being justified in doing so).  In either case, food for thought.

“Fighting vs. self-defense” turns to be a pretty rich topic with a LOT of legal implications and different facets. For example, another completely different angle to it is thinking about self-defense vs. fighting outside the dojo or ring.  If you are on the street, self-defense is employing your skills when you are the victim of an unprovoked attack.  This is 100% legal. Fighting, on the other hand, is not legal and could be defined by a layman like me as being engaged in a physical altercation with someone as a result of an escalation of a disagreement between two or more parties.  Someone named Shawn Miller on KarateForums.com said that in his mind, “Fighting is something done for ego, pride, or honor. Self defence is life protection of you, family and friends. No rules, no care of repercussions.”  Well said.

If you want to read a little more about it do a search on the web and you’ll see many pages that discuss this, like here and here.

Back to the main point made in the post, what do you think?  Agree or disagree?

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