I have a gym instructor that was in karate and half year in boxing. He sparred in boxing against someone who weighs less and shorter than him and that guy was 7 years in boxing and even so my instructor easily beat him. He said that martial arts are useless because you can run away from the attacker. I want answers not opinions only real facts that martial arts are effective or ineffective.

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    I am not sure this is going to lead to any good answers - people think all sorts of things and often won't be swayed. What makes a martial art useful or effective? (as students gain fitness, confidence, awareness - which might help them in a fight - but I'd be happy if none of my students ever has to fight - confidence may help land them a job or SO which to their life is much more important than winning a spar/fight). side note - I haven't met a martial arts instructor who hasn't said the best self defence is to "not be there" and even TV martial arts teach it
    – Collett89
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 12:54
  • Follow-up question for the instructor - what if you can't run away? Commented May 2, 2023 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


Useful or useless for what?

Plain sentences like "XYZ is useless" do not make much sense since they do not specify what the use in mind is.

If your only goal is to get home without being harmed in most realistic situations, running may indeed be more useful to attain that goal. If my goal is to beat every bigger and stronger person out there, nothing can help me (not because martial arts are bad per se but because the goal is not attainable by whatever means). Most people mean "active self-defence in situations where I cannot escape the situation without harm other than through fight" when they talk about the usefulness of training martial arts for self-defence, though. Running will not help you much there.

Thus, the question should always be what is your goal? For that, it helps to formulate SMART goals:

  • S - specific
  • M - measurable
  • A - attainable
  • R - realistic
  • T - timely

There are many goals of this kind that martial arts (in general) are very useful for. Most people who say such things as "martial arts are useless" have traditional arts for "self-defense 4 da streetz" in mind. And yes, a lot of martial arts have problems justifying or showing empirical results when it comes to "becoming better at self-defence". Others are pretty good for that. The more transparent they are about the caveats and the timeframes it needs to become proficient, and the more free sparring at full speed and strength they have with as few rules as possible, the better they tend to be for learning self-defence. The question of martial arts and self-defence is discussed e.g. here in more depth and I broadly agree with the linked answer.

The takeaway should be: Do never believe simple sentences about complex matters, especially from someone who obviously never cared to really get a grip on how complex the matter really is (e.g. through dedicating a lifetime to it).

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