There is big a difference between self defense and martial arts. You can pick up a plank of wood and defend yourself with it. Or use a handgun. That (can be) self-defense, too. The problem with that kind of ‘self defense’ is that it usually has irreversible consequences.
A martial art can teach you other things, like a host of unarmed defensive (or even offensive) techniques, but there should be more to martial arts than just that.
I used to devote time on a regular basis in my Aikido classes for what we called ‘situation techniques’. These were our self defense techniques, most of them directly pinched from the old style Aikido and Jujitsu katas we had been shown.
And just as my instructors had taught me, I in my turn, taught my own students to react confidently and quickly to a whole selection of grab attacks … from the front, the rear and both sides.
We did grab attacks because most martial arts concentrate on defense from kicks and punches, with a bit of weapons work as well.
Most attacks on men involve kicks and punches, but on women, girls and children, the attacks are very often grabs and holds.
Practise these regularly – in a class, or with a friend
One wrist grabbed and held from the front. (Be sure to practice right-on-right, left-on-left, left-to-right and right-to-left.)
Both your wrists grabbed and held from the front.
Front strangle – where your attacker stands in front of you and wraps fingers around your throat.
Front bear-hug 1, held tight under your arms.
Front bear-hug 2, crushed over your arms (which are trapped).
Single Lapel Grab: One hand grabs your jacket, the other makes a fist ready to punch you in the face.
Two hands grabbing both lapels. (Be ready for a head-butt to your face.)
(One or two) hands pushing your chest. (The hand trap and self-defense move to this one can be quite nasty when done really fast.)
Rear choke. Where your attacker locks a forearm across your throat from behind you.
Both your wrists siezed and pulled back from the rear.
Bear-hug from the rear 1, pinioning your arms to your sides.
Bear-hug from the rear 2, leaving your arms free to do anything. (Hmmmmm….)
Hair-pull from behind.
There were many variants to these self-defense situations as well. But the key is to practice regularly.
Teaching the students to:
(1) Break your attacker’s balance, and
(2) Throw them to the ground, and
(3) Take control with an Aikido lock or a Judo type choke hold. Or just be prepared to ‘kick (effectively) and run’. That means you inflict damage, not pain, so the attacker is unable to get up and chase you.
That’s atemi, or the Art of striking (or attacking) the body’s weak points.
Just remember, in a civilized society you may have to answer to a court of law for your actions.
The damage you inflict, even in self-defense, must always be minimal…
Just enough to do the job and allow you to escape, but no more.
This is where training and practice is needed to give you enough skill and self-confidence that you know when enough is enough.