From my perspective, personal protection and combatives are strictly based on raw survival or escape from the most dire of situations. The kind of situations where your life or someone else’s life is at serious risk of being seriously altered by another human being.

It has helped me to remember that every person I teach and share personal protection ideas with, is someone that is asking me to protect them vicariously.

To uphold that intense pressure on myself—because I just love stress—I remember my own family and consider that the information I will teach is only information I would teach my own daughters.

It is also worth re-iterating that as a teacher/coach/instructor or Grand Pooba, you won’t be there when everything goes bad. Also, as a student it is worth re-iterating that your teacher won’t be there when things go bad! Remember that as you move through this workbook of course, but also as you teach or learn. It’s critical that you learn to find your own solutions.

This to me is the basic difference between martial arts, combatives, and personal protection.

Which is which?

To be even more specific, I’d further delineate that Personal Protection is specific to the average person living a normal daily life. Basically that’s the majority of us who are punching clocks, forging businesses, raising kids, playing soccer, and going on vacations.

And even others who may be called upon to protect someone, some thing, or themselves in specifically critical and usually unknown but temporary situations like bouncers or security professionals.

Regarding Combatives I would personally define the difference as being one of a professional nature and most likely includes the use of firearms and military or law enforcement equipment on a regular basis. This could mean soldiers, police officers, security personnel, etc., specifically in critical and usually known situations for extended periods.

In contrast, Martial Arts as a methodology will usually have a broader approach and include a much higher degree of athleticism, spiritual development, and focus on a more holistic development of the individual—as well as the pajamas… You have to have the pajamas.

Deep is the Well

Another primary area of differentiation is the amount of time and level of skill that is required to be functional. A martial art can take years to develop skills of personal protection due to the more holistic approach.

Whereas most Personal Protection and Combatives systems have a focus on reducing the learning time to very short duration cycles.

Take for example the average soldier. They will receive 8 weeks of training and be fundamentally ready to be sent into battle as a foot soldier. They have no specialty skill other than fundamental survival in combat.

Are they fully prepared for every possibility? Of course they aren’t. They have only learned enough to deal with 80% of what they will likely encounter as a foot soldier. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The same can often be found in Personal Protection systems. They are meant as raw, unsophisticated, easy to implement systems that can deal with 80% of what they will likely encounter. The skills are not meant to extend beyond that, though it is possible they might.

For those pursuing Personal Protection or Combatives training then, it becomes important that they have specific skills to deal with specific situations.

In contrast, a martial art is meant to be a lifestyle of learning and growth that includes as part of its process, Personal Protection. And, when the weapons were swords, spears, shields, bow and arrow, they would also have included combatives.

It is my personal opinion that they do not truly provide any combatives training that extends beyond empty hand, or in some cases hand tools such as batons, knives, and similar weapons—unless there is time spent in improvised weapons adaptations.

Likewise, martial arts systems are designed to address far more than the 80% of what a person might need. Instead, the bulk of most curriculums are focused on the 20% that might happen. And for those interested in just making sure they stay safe, well, “Aint nobody got time for that!”

In Summary

To simplify then, Personal Safety and Combatives systems are focused much more on probability where a martial art will also include possibility, plus, holistic well-being, spiritual well-being, emotional well-being, etc.

Oh… and one final note. I don’t normally use the term self-defense. In my own experience it has led to a fundamental misunderstanding of what it actually takes to “defend”
yourself or a loved one.

However, in this text I switch back and forth between self-defense and personal safety and personal protection but erring on the side of self-defense because it is the most widely known an accepted term.

Defense is not ideal, preferred, and sometimes not even useful. The best and most practical methods involve strategic, disruptive, offense. To that end I refer to the training as Personal Protection or personal safety—just to be different, and by some who know me, difficult.


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