“Martial art” is not the same as “self-defense.”
There seems to be a common belief among martial artists that martial arts training makes you “know self-defense.” And on the other side, many non-martial artists who specialize in other tools seem to think that you can learn effective self-defense without learning any bare-hand technique used in martial arts classes.
It is amazing how wrong both of these people are.
Awhile ago, the NHA held a Close Quarters Tactics – Firearms (CQT) course at the dojang, working on defensive tactics at close quarters with an emphasis on the use of a firearm as a self-defense tool.
Students worked under assumptions of lethal force situations, distances of 5 feet or less (in many cases, from the clinch), and often versus weapons at these close ranges. Partner drills included passive and active resistance techniques, and the class ended with force-on-force training with AirSoft weapons. (First time you get shot 3 times in the torso and twice in the face mask of your helmet wakes you right up, particularly since the torso shots hurt.)
As students progressed, they quickly learned that many CQT situations aren’t “gun-solvable”---quite the contrary. Under these close quarters, immediately going for a weapon consequently immediately gets you killed. Throughout, the concept was taught that self-defense for this case means giving yourself space to access a better self-defense tool safely—which for this meant causing your attacker to either give you space in distance, or space in time, so you could access your firearm and apply it without getting killed in the meantime. Mostly, this means that CQT tactics often start with a serious amount of bare-hand technique, because you must create that space to work in.
For most people, it takes easily over one second to access and engage a target with a firearm from concealment. If you are 3 feet from an attacker who is actively engaging you, one second is about 0.8 seconds too long. Trying it means that your attacker (or attackers) gets in their first several attacks relatively unopposed—and if this is a lethal force situation, that means you are dead.
At these close quarters, it is necessary for the defender to stop/stun/off-balance/turn/jam/move their opponent in some way. Either creating enough space through distance (so the attacker can’t reach you before you access your firearm) or creating enough space in time (you have stunned/turned your attacker, and are currently jamming their weapon hand so they are temporarily unable to attack you) gives you the ability to access a better tool for lethal-force levels of self-defense.
Trying to access it without that space—gets you killed.
So how does this all relate to the beginning of this post?
I was discussing my CQT class with a fellow shooter after a competition one day, and it was interesting. When I first mentioned to fellow shooters that I was going to teach a CQT class, a number of people volunteered to help teach it—and I wondered what experience made them qualified to help teach?
This fellow shooter was one of them, and when we discussed what had actually occurred in the class, he stopped then said, “Oh, well, I didn’t think it was going to be a martial arts class, I thought it was going to be a shooting class.”
I had no idea what to say.
The entire point of the course was defensive tactics at close quarters—and while we assumed that we would have access to a concealed firearm, that was merely one of the tools that we had available to use. The entire point was to learn how to stay alive in close quarters lethal force situations—and thus knowing when the gun wasn’t the right initial choice was important.
It wasn’t a “martial arts class,” nor was it a “shooting class” – because describing it in that fashion loses the point completely!
Self-defense means doing what is necessary to keep yourself safe. Having tools to better enable you to do this is handy—but you have to be careful that you don’t turn every situation into a “this is a hammer, so everything is a nail” reaction. Thinking that a self-defense class is a martial arts class OR a shooting class means that the student isn’t thinking about realistic self-defense tactics, they are thinking about drills for specific tools. There isn’t anything wrong with this, UNLESS thinking in this fashion makes you practice drills that are unrealistic. At close quarters, if you don’t stop the attacker and create space, you will get killed. In most cases you can’t do that by starting off with drawing the gun.
Our CQT class is about tactics to keep you alive in lethal force situations. You will learn plenty of drills to help you access your firearm quickly, and engage targets accurately. But that certainly isn’t what the class is about, and if you ignore the parts of training that keep you alive until you can access your firearm—then it doesn’t matter how much you drill the “shooting part”.