Hard vs. Soft self defense

Hard and Soft self defense methods mixed within every functional martial art. As hard methods are easier to develop to the basic functional level, they are forming foundation of generic self defense training be it based on Krav-Maga, karate, or anything else. For the same reason of initial simplicity striking is the core of modern military H2H training curriculum.

On the other hand soft self defense methods require longer training and higher level of skills to be practically useful. In well balanced styles of karate and kung-fu the soft skills considered to be advanced level of training and often missing altogether as instructors themselves may not be good enough in it to present those soft techniques to their students.

On the other hand Judo is concentrated on soft techniques and Aikido is built around soft techniques (with better preserved emphasis on striking – as throw preparation technique – than it can be found in modern Judo).

But what methods, hard or soft, are better suited for teaching civilian self defense courses?

When the first order of importance is seen to teach student to stay alive in the utmost life-endangering circumstances, the second – and at the end of day not less important – is to teach handling of (legal and social) aftermath of a victory in a violent confrontation. And there we need to refer to rules of self defense.

As legal definitions and limitations of acceptable self defense vary from country to country (in the US it varies even from state to state) it is no one-size-fit-all solution available. However, if we’re looking for the lowest common denominator, we can say that using force that is the same or less threatening than supposed aggression should keep you out of legal trouble.

And here the soft techniques are starting to play. If you attacked by someone why tried to hit you in the face with his fist and in defense you hit him back and broke his jaw, you both are seen as acting on the same level violence and he can try to sue you (even in a civil court for cost of the medical treatment). But if in self defense you just pushed him aside or throw to the ground without causing direct body damages he’s less likely to have probable cause to take you to a court and, in any case, you’ll be seen more sympathetically in the aftermath.

Does this means that hard methods shouldn’t be taught in civilian self defense classes? By all means no!!! The FIRST order of business is to give skills for a student to protect his or her life; dealing with an aftermath is the second. But it also means that hard techniques should be not only self defense skills included even in a basic civilian self defense training course. And there is advantage of Judo-based civilian soft self defense.


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