Technique vs. Tactics in Self Defense: It’s Not Just How, It’s When and Where

When you step into a martial arts gym, you will learn techniques, even methodology of fighting in that style. Any good instructor will provide a solid base in these techniques and the methodology to apply them on an opponent. Many of these martial arts and fighting styles have long storied fighting traditions: Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai, Karate, etc…

These styles tend to lend themselves to primarily ONE facet of unarmed combat. Grappling or Striking, while some also have a clinching phase. Their methodologies are based around rule based combat: Pin, Submit, Knockout, Technical Knockout, Points, Judges decision. Some critics will say that some were developed for “street fighting”. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu routinely makes this claim. However social rules constitute rules for fighting, namely that 1 on 1 challenge fights while technically ‘street fights’ were governed by strict social rules of unarmed combat. There were no weapons and no second opponent. Violations of these social rules were severely punished by other bystanders.

All of these arts and styles provide relevant techniques and strategies to varying degrees. However what they rarely discuss are tactics relative to the self defense enthusiast. What this means is if you are a grappler, your goal is to close distance and bring your opponent to the ground or at best apply a standing submission. If this is your rubric for success in combat, it leaves much to be desired from a tactical perspective.

What is needed in self defense, and specifically Krav Maga, is a broad set of skills which range across many styles, and the tactical knowledge and judgment to be able to apply one or several of these techniques, at the right time, in the right place, to the right person.

Krav Maga provides not necessarily the specific skills, rather it provides a rubric for using these skills tactically. Namely, does the situation call for striking, use of an improvised weapon, grappling, a chokehold, a joint lock? What factors are at work? Environmental factors, weapons, number of opponents, etc…

Blindly applying technique because it is what you are good at can be a recipe for disaster. If you are serious about self defense, it is best that you are looking at your tactical needs, then begin all your martial arts training with the goal of applying learned techniques and methodologies according to your tactical needs.

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