Many children, teenagers, women, and even some men think that since they train in Taekwondo, and may even be black belts, that they will be effective at defending themselves if they are attacked outside of class. For most of them, this is foolish thinking.
For most people, Taekwondo, and most other martial arts, are avocations—just hobbies or sports practiced for enjoyment or exercise. To make it so students may keep training regularly, and to guard against serious injury and possible lawsuits, everything done in training class is designed to protect the students as much as possible. Even in classes that use “full-contact” training, safety equipment is used and opponents are not using full-power; they do not have a desire to harm each other.
When I watch students sparring, be it in class or competition, I constantly see “black belts” stop fighting and dropping their guard at any excessive contact or the slightest injury or pain. Yet, these same black belts believe they will be able to defend themselves effectively in a self-defense situation. They may be better off than if they had no training at all, but not much better.
In class, while no-contact sparring a much larger adult, a young teenager may block attacks and score points with ease. The teen then thinks he or she would actually be able to defend effectively against an adult attacker. The same holds true for a woman sparring a man or a man sparring a larger, stronger man. I am hit the most and injured the most when I am sparring a teenager or a woman, regardless of their size. I am not a very large man but I am reasonably quick and very powerful, so, when sparring teenagers or women everything I do is less powerful and less quick because I do not want to hurt them accidentally.
They, on the other hand, think that because they are blocking my attacks or getting through with a technique that they could actually defend against my attacks and hurt me if I were a real attacker. I am a power blocker who was taught that blocks should be performed as if they were attacks, so sometimes I block their attacks with power or use power attacks to let them know that I have been allowing them to be ineffective and that they are not as good as they believe they are. The same holds true for me when I spar bigger and better fighters; they sometimes let me know they are just playing with me as a cat plays with a mouse before the kill.
Taekwondo training involves learning and perfecting Taekwondo techniques but it also involves strength building, and mind and body hardening. It does not matter how perfectly you perform a punch or kick, if it does not hurt the attacker, the attacker will keep attacking. The only thing that impresses a bad guy is pain—preferably his or her pain. You cannot inflect pain if your strength is weak, your body is not hard, and are you are not mentally capable of inflecting pain or injury. Likewise, you cannot deal with your own pain if your strength is weak, your body is not hard, are you are not mentally capable of dealing with your pain or injury.
If you spar, even in no-contact sparring, you have probably been “clipped” by punch or kick, and maybe even with relatively hard contact. You know that it was painful, and in the case of hard contact, maybe it even stunned you for a moment. Think how the contact would have felt had the opponent been a hardened, powerful guy that was very angry and intent on seriously injuring or even killing you. That one punch or kick would probably have injured you, maybe stunned you, or even knocked you unconscious. During that moment, you would have been helpless and the attacker would finish the job by beating you senseless or even to death.
When you are facing someone who is taller, bigger, stronger, or meaner than you are, you will not be able to defend yourself effectively unless you have:
- a strong, hardened body;
- effective defenses;
- powerful punches and kicks that hit hard;
- the ability to absorb blows, shake off pain, and fight while injured; and
- the mental hardness it takes for you to inflect pain.
So be you a child, teenager, woman, or a man, if you are not tougher than your opponent is, you will probably not be able to defend yourself effectively. The best you can hope for is that you can do something that will allow you to escape before you are incapacitated.
Real life attacks occur closer, more suddenly, quicker, and more powerfully than most students could ever imagine. Unless you are ruthless and able to react instinctively with deadly precision, you will lose the confrontation. Most self-defense drills are practiced at an optimum distance where the attacker must take at least a half step to reach you, which gives you time to block and counter. What happens if there is time to react and no room to turn or step? Criminals attack at their own time and when you least expect it. When they attack they are ready for the attack, and it will more than likely come as a complete surprise to you; giving you no time to react.
When sparring, few techniques are thrown and they come in spurts. Even during a flurry of attacks, the attacker is mindful of counter attacks and thus holds back soon. When a criminal attacks, it will be sudden, and he will throw as many punches as fast as he can, faster than it will possible for you to block.
With proper training, a martial artist can hit hard, but rarely do they ever get the opportunity to hit a live attacker. Criminals have been in many fights, with no gloves, cups, mouth protectors, etc., so they are used to hitting and getting hit. They may not hit as hard as a boxer or a martial artist, but they still hit hard and since they usually land the first blow or blows, they usually win.
Just as the amateur boxer finds out when he or he enter the ring for his or her first professional fight and faces an opponent fighting for a living instead of one fighting for fun—facing an attacker intent on hurting you is much different than facing an opponent in the sparring ring. Therefore, do not fool yourself into thinking you stand a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating a bigger, stronger, meaner attacker. If you have not specifically prepared yourself for this situation—you will lose!