November 17

Why Combat Sports Are Not The Ultimate Form Of Self-Defence


I like combat sports a lot.

I have trained in boxing, Judo, MMA and more.

Yet, when it comes to self-defence I am going to explain why they have their limitations using one video as an example.

Broken down so that any combat Martial Artist can learn and see why reality based self-defence systems exist. 

Ready, let's do this.

Group Attacks Nullify Martial Arts

Before we dive in, I need to tell you a story of how I found KFM and the teachings of Defence Lab and Andy Norman.

While working as a police officer in the early 2000's I was a fit, strong and young boxer, Judo player and actively training in MMA.

I was tough and fit.

Yet, one night I found myself surrounded by a gang, while on my own.

The gang wanted to kick my head in and it got physical with one of the gang members.

As I started to deal with him, I started to get attacked by the others.

Bouncers had to step in to help me or I would have been seriously hurt.

This lead to the realisation, that even with all my skills and fitness, with multiple attackers that skill level reduced to near zero.

This is the problem that exists with any group attack situation......your Martial Arts skills don't work.

Add 2 attackers and maybe you can win by dealing with them at an angle, 3, 4 or are going to have a near impossible situation to deal with.

Survival Not Victory Is Key In Group Attacks

In our ego, we think we can dispatch more opponents than we can.

In truth this is highly unlikely, but you don't need me to tell you this.

Defence Lab were one of the founders of looking at these way too common group situations and asking 'what can you do?'

The answer is you have to survive.

Our brains are incredibly fragile, and minor damage can have life changing implications, so we need to protect our heads as a priority in a gang attack.

Anyone that says otherwise simply hasn't seen enough real violence and spends too much time thinking the UFC is as real as it gets.

No.....reality is actually fighting for your life on a cold dark street.

Therefore, sensible self-defence is based around survival, not combat victory.

If you survive a gang attack, you are the victor because you survived the ultimate in cowardly attacks.

And survival comes from one act only.....protecting your head.

If you do not protect the head, you will not survive without significant injury.

Why, because if you get knocked out, nothing is stopping them from continuing the attack on your defenceless skull.

Real Fight Breakdown

At this stage of the article we are going to break down a real group attack, key moment by key moment.

We will examine the situation and look at the realistic tactical options available. This incident left a man with a bleed on the brain, but the breakdown is not an attack on their ability to protect themselves but a real world look at if combat sport Martial Arts could have provided any use.

The actual video is embedded at the base of the page, but please read the article first.

The situation is a family group of 3 males and 2 females are out for a night, when they are attacked in the street by a group of males.

The First Blow

The fight starts when one of the victims is struck with a hooking right hand punch.

This punch is powerful and he doesn't see it coming as he had previously been speaking to a member of his group and walked forward with his head turned backwards.

The Problem:

The victim walks forward onto the strike.

His body is walking forward but his head is backwards.

He never see's the punch coming and it hits him hard

The Solution:

No martial arts training would have helped here.

There simply isn't enough time to react to the strike.

Self Defence training would have helped because these things are addressed in a good class.

The Second Blow: From A Trained Martial Artist

After the first strike, chaos takes over and the groups intertwine. 

This is common in group attacks, a separation as people are naturally looking for protective space after the incident starts.

The second serious blow comes from a person who is clearly a trained martial artist.

They perform a switch kick style attack on the victim.

You will also notice in the right of the screen a failed punch. This is actually one of the 'victim group' trying to defend themselves by throwing a preemptive strike.

The man in the white shirt raises his hands in a defensive boxing posture and ducks under the strike easily and the person flies over, we will cover this second fight later.

The Problem:

In this situation we appear to have a group of trained or experienced fighters v's non trained ones.

The kick to the mid section area is a viscous one.

The kick is too powerful and high to 'check' the kick like a Thai boxer would with his shin

You will notice how the victim naturally reacts.

Stood up he bends over in a pain once the kick lands.

The Solution:

This kick can be defended against if you see it coming....which most would think unlikely.

By stepping back and blocking with the forearms you would take the sting from the kick.

This is clearly in the realms of Combat Sport Martial Arts to deal with because it is a technique seen in Thai boxing and MMA.

The Fight Splits Into Two 

At this point there are 2 small group fights happening and we will focus on the one on the left for now.

After the kick to the stomach, the aggressor drives the victim to the wall with one hand to the base of the back.

This is a sign of an experienced street fighter as the wall is a vulnerable place to be.

No only does this technique cause confusion in the victim, the wall is a weapon as it impacts against their body and limits the victims ability to leave/ run away and makes them an easy target.

This technique is something I have only ever seen taught by Defence Lab/ KFM which was added to their systems because in real fights it happens.

As the male is driven to the wall, the attacker lands a hook punch to the victim and he is joined by not 1 but 2 other assailants.

At this point he now has 2 people striking him and pushing and pulling him.

He is completely disorientated and due to the angle the attackers are striking him, he  needs a 360 degree cover to stop the damage, which sadly due to a lack of training he doesn't have.

The end result is that he is pushed to the floor having taken a large amount of punishment.

The Problem:

In this situation the victim is being battered by what appears to be an experienced group of fighters/ Martial Artists.

The numbers involved mean blows are coming from all directions and this is a situation that Combat Sport Martial Arts cannot deal with.

If he was trained in Martial Arts and started fighting against one of the attackers, he would simply take punches from the other attackers.

The Solution:

This is where the techniques of a Martial Art/ Self Defence System such as Defence Lab or the Keysi Fighting Method reign supreme and arguably the reason they exist.

Outnumbered and outgunned, no amount of punching power, throws or guard pulling is going to help you here.

Nothing works and you are in a life critical situation. 

The solution is a dynamic head cover, as taught and demonstrated in the next videos.

The shapes used in the dynamic head cover by Defence Lab allow for the rapid defence against punches coming in at all angles.

Of course, this is a percentage game, it is likely you will take punches but by using movement and a dynamic cover you now actually have an opportunity to throw some strikes back.

The primary objective though is to survive.

And to survive you MUST protect your head at all costs


After being kicked into a state of unconsciousness, the lady friend of the victim rolls him into the recovery position. 

We see one of the attacker run over and pull her to the ground (she is in the red top).

Before a male in the white top kicks the body of the male repeatedly.

We will now look at the second fight within this group attack.

The Second Fight: The Missed Punch

The second fight that occurs within this setting is a very different situation.

Because the victim here puts up a serious effort to fight back, but ultimately he ends up having the entire group attacking him.

The victim starts we a preemptive strike but it misses the target.

They then both fall to the floor and then jump right up into a vertical grappling situation.

It is here that a take down from an art such as Judo, Wrestling or Sambo.

However any take down must be one where you remain standing.

The Problem:

In this situation we have a classic one on one fight within a broader large fight.

The Solution:

This situation worsened because of the missed punch, so accuracy in street fights is key, along with balance.

If you wind up with a strike you are likely to go on the floor when you miss as your body is in motion.

Training on combat sports here would have probably gained the victim the edge and taken one of the attackers out of the fight entirely. 

Multiple Attackers

This victim is holding his own against the attacker, until the friends join in.

It then turns into a multiple person attack where he is driven backwards by punches until he stumbles into his friend on the floor and he too takes a tumble.

He does try to fight back but takes too many punches.

The Problem:

Now with more than one attacker, he is being driven backwards by impactive strikes until eventually he stumbles.

The Solution:

Again, the best solution here is a strong cover and to fight back from the cover.

Multiple Attackers Part 2

This victim manages to get back to his feet where again he is mauled by multiple attackers while being forced against a wall.

The wall again limits his motion and he takes a heavy blow to the face but does manage to escape despite the best efforts of the group.

The Problem:

Again we have a wall in play and multiple attackers.

With no head cover, the victim is at the mercy of these strikes. 

The Solution:

Yet again, we come back to the importance of using a solid head cover like the shapes in Defence Lab.

It is the only realistic option here.

The Pack Maul 

This victim engages with one of the group and they all combine to drag him to the ground.

It is here that he receives serious head kicks from repeated assailants and is kicked unconscious.

The Problem:

Multiple attackers means that the victim cannot offer any offence.

He is also suffering fatigue, this combines to result in the victim being mauled to then floor and savagely beaten.

The Solution:

There is no Martial Arts solution here and certainly not one in combat sports.

Outgunned and out numbered, the only thing you can do is to cover the head.

The Full Video

Now watch the full incident, armed with the knowledge of this breakdown

The Verdict: Combat Sport Martial Arts Have Gaping Holes In Self Defence

This incident was horrific, and it is likely that even with a lot of training no one else would have fared any better.

But combat sport Martial Arts simply do not, nor cannot address this situation.

Mutiple attackers nullify skills and as such you must protect your head at all times and learn to fight from this position.

Survival is the victory you need.

This is the very question that I asked myself years ago that lead to my training with KFM and Defence Lab.

And my advice is to add their training to your own knowledge.

Thanks for reading.


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