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Self Defense/What martial art is best for me?



I am 18yrs old male and am seriously looking at taking up a martial art for self defense in case i find myself in an ugly situation. Currently i am 6 foot 1 and still growing. I have incredibly long arms and legs in proportion to my body. The 'giraffe','daddy-longlegs' have been among my many nicknames. Haha. I enjoy Skiing, Tennis and basketball. For most of the time i have this pent up anger inside of me that i want to let out physically. What martial art do you think i should do?

Hi Charlie,

Man can I relate.  I was a tall and lanky guy at 18...the curse of having a freaky fast metabolism!

One of the advantages that I had with my long arms and legs, was a killer reach.  This became quite apparent when I was sparring with others and I could keep them at bay with my jabs and front kicks.  This was also of course, 20 years, a lack of martial arts schools, and 70 lbs. ago!  

You mentioned that you are looking at taking up a martial art for the purpose of self-defence, and I imagine that you added some personal details (ie, your somatotype), to see which one you'd pair up nicely with.  What I would be more concerned about, is the style, discipline, or system that would compliment my goal...which is self-protection.  On that note, I will proceed with my 'top 3 choices' and my 'alternative'.  

Number 1 - A combatives school.  
Pros: A good combatives school or system is only about self-protection.  You won't be learning kata (forms), you won't learn how to use a katana (sword), and you certainly won't be wearing a gi (traditional uniform with a cloth colored belt).  You should be learning about awareness, you should be learning about your priority options of avoidance and escape, and you certainly should be learning gross motor skill applications that will be effective when you are under duress.  
Cons: Not many around.  Combative schools are not very commercially available because not too many people are interested in practicing under harsh conditions and with non-compliant training partners.    

Number 2 - A reality-based self-defence school.
Pros: Very similar to a combatives school but the training isn't as intense.  Krav Maga is an example of a reality-based system that uses realistic training scenarios to prepare you should you encounter urban violence.  You should be learning about how to deal with more that one attacker, how to deal with an attacker who is armed, and how use improvised weapons or self-protection devises.  
Cons: Not that many around as well.  Some schools incorporate reality-based training, but it's either included or in addition to traditional martial arts instruction.  Reality-based schools are getting to be as trendy as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was in the 90's and it appears that everyone is hopping on the train.  Caveat emptor!

Number 3 - Jeet Kune Do.
Pros: I don't know too many reality-based systems or combative schools that haven't been influenced by JKD.  You should be learning about ranges, economy of motion, and ways of attacking.  Most JKD schools also include Filipino Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu concepts to the curriculum.  It is a progressive martial art that takes into account realistic self-defence situations.  
Cons: Doesn't take into consideration pre-conflict or post-conflict training.  Like most martial arts, JKD tries to address conflict via threat management (physical techniques), but falls short in threat assessment (precipitating stressors, behavioral cues, etc).  

Alternative - Judo and Boxing
Pros: You learn grappling and how to hit.  More likely to be available in your area.
Cons: Much like Number 3, but with the addition of having to go to two places rather than one (Judo is cheap but Boxing lessons may be a few quid more).  

So there you have it!  

There is more to learning about self-protection than just the physical.  Go to a few places and ask them about what they offer in terms of self-defence.  If they advertise that they are a self-defence school and they don't cover topics such as space management (proxemics), awareness, fear/stress management, improvised weapons, multiple attackers, or gross motor skill application...then move on to the next one.   

Hope this helps!

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Conor MacPhee


I am a fully licensed private investigator, security consultant, and bodyguard in the province of British Columbia. I am also a personal security management instructor with over 20 years experience in non-aversive and aversive physical intervention. I have a strong background in impact, edged, and aerosol weapons training; conflict resolution; crisis management; threat assessment and response training; stress/fear management; and personal safety awareness.

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