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What is the difference between martial arts and self defence?

Written by Hannah

Martial Arts are systems and traditions of combat practised for several reasons such as competition, spiritual development; entertainment; and preserving a nation’s cultural heritage.

Here are some examples of martial arts:

  • Karate,
  • Boxing
  • Ju-Jitsu,
  • Taekwondo,
  • Judo,
  • Wrestling
  • and more.

Self defence is a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm.

Self defence is for real-life scenarios and is a non-competitive sport. Self defence is helpful for:

  • Bullying; emotional and physical, 
  • Headlocks, 
  • T-shirt grabs, 
  • Restraints, 
  • Multiple attackers, 
  • Manipulations,
  • Sexual assault,
  • Weapons,
  • and more.

The goal is to teach people how to avoid conflict by using mental and physical skills to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations when necessary. And if required to defend yourself or your loved ones physically.

Self-defence focuses on function over form, whereas martial arts is often about form over function. That means that it doesn’t matter how messy the self defence technique looks as long as it works.

Are martial arts helpful for self defense?

When people want to learn self defence, the first place they often turn to is Martial Arts. Martial Arts often promote themselves as being great for self defence, but not all of them are. 

Some Martial Arts are based on sporting skills, and others may not have the proper techniques for a real-world attack. The value of some martial arts for self defence is disputable. But if you want to know what’s best for you, ask yourself why you want to learn self defence?

The benefits of self defence

Self defence includes soft skills such as verbal aggression management, body language, attack awareness, avoidance, crime prevention, threat management and de-escalation.

Most martial arts are all ‘go-go go’, whereas self defence is more than often slower-paced and gradual.

Physical skills involve multiple attackers, close-range combat skills, upright grappling, open and closed fist strikes and kicks.

While these techniques will get your heart beating and sweat pouring, they are not designed for that purpose. Fitness is a by-product of your learning. 

Self defence is not an activity but an education. You learn things that you can apply in real life scenarios.

The classes will help you become your strongest version, and we will help you:

  • Create a strong mindset
  • Build up your confidence
  • Help you relieve stress
  • Have fun
  • Build resilience
  • Set boundaries

And these are skills that will help you stay safe and keep your loved ones out of danger.

StandStrong ethos

StandStrong is to help people grow and develop in a fun, friendly and judgement-free training environment. 

We are not an average self defence organisation. We are an academy built on results-based programs to help people to StandStrong. Whether that is becoming proficient in self-defence, building up your self-esteem and confidence, improving your mental health, meeting new friends, or improving your fitness, we are here to help you achieve them. 

We built StandStrong on these 3 values:

Self belief

StandStrong in your character. We teach you to be confident. To understand and accept who you are and believe in your abilities. 


StandStrong in respect. We teach you to set your boundaries and respect those of others. We identify and understand your feelings.


StandStrong in your bounce back. We create an environment on encouragement, camaraderie and improvements.

Come try us

Get 7 day access to all our self defence and fitness classes for £14.99. Experience our academy and decide for yourself if this is for you.

If you are a parent, check out the blog about the benefits for young adults.

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