In 1973, I enrolled in my first martial arts class because I wanted to learn to defend myself even better than I already could. Growing up, I was frequently picked on by older, bigger bullies. Although I never lost a fight, by age 20 I felt that if I could defend myself even better, it would be a good thing.
I did not realize that I had already been in my last fight two years before this. I have not been in a fight now since 1971, and that was a very short fight against a bully who backed down after he was hit in the nose a couple of times.
During the past 40 years, I have practiced, trained, and repeated techniques thousands of times. I have won dozens of tournament matches against black belts. I have learned to watch quickly for weaknesses and counter effectively.
Young men talk about how unrealistic the traditional martial arts are compared with MMA or grappling. If you are going to study a real martial art, they seem to believe, you have to "get real."
It just is not true. It is not really possible to get as ugly and unpredictable in a training situation as a violent encounter on the street, in a jail, or in the workplace. Remember, even tough MMA guys are often put down with one good punch or kick.
I have put a video on this post to illustrate how real violence works. It is brutal, a little shocking, but it is a video that all martial artists need to see. Some of these people had plenty of warning that violence might occur. Some of them had no warning.
When practicing martial arts, regardless of style, there is much more involved than simply the practice of form and technique. You must also train the mind to be aware of your surroundings, and you must train yourself to remain calm under stress. One way to do that is to spar. Another way to do that is to practice stressful scenarios when you are attacked without warning.
Another important method of training is to practice awareness when you are out in public. Who is around you? How are they behaving? Is there the potential for danger? If so, leave the area. Or better yet, don't put yourself in the area to begin with.
This is not training you can master in a dojo or kwoon. You must practice mental awareness and preparedness on your own. Practicing and training with partners is one important step, but being mentally alert and prepared at all times is the real training, and only you can do that -- no teacher can do it for you.