One of the many benefits that martial arts schools (including my own) claim to have is 'self-defense'. In fact just about every martial art claims that this is a benefit.

In the spirit of this question:

How much of a risk is assault occasioning actual bodily harm (or assault and battery if you are American)? Obviously, if you work as a bouncer or in the police or army or as a paramedic, this will increase. I'm not interested in gun violence for this question; I have yet to see a plausible gun disarm technique (yes, I have heard of krav maga and systema).

But for an average person going about their everyday life what is the probability of being assaulted? This can be Domestic Violence, bar fights, anything.

I asked before about comparing martial arts injuries to injuries from Assault both in terms of statistics:

For what martial arts is the chance of being injured while training less than the chance of being injured by assault?

And severity:

Are injuries from Assault more Severe than those Sustained During Martial arts Practice?

No-one here really seems willing to think about this, let alone answer numerically. However, I feel the question is important enough to warrant an answer.

So let's break it down and take the sports injuries element out entirely.

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    I feel that any answer to this question would be based on the situation too much. Like crime rate per city, life habits (going out and whatnot), day/night schedule, transport, urban or rural areas, family situation, etc. I don't think giving specific numbers would be possible. You could look at census data for assaults per inhabitant I suppose, but I think it is too situational. – Louis Aug 7 at 18:53
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    Nothing wrong with crime statistics. It might vary between cities, but the weighted average could be used. In the UK it's actually all in the same ballpark. I don't know about other countries which is why I am asking. – Huw Evans Aug 7 at 20:09
  • "Battery" is an offence in the UK, too. – Mike P Aug 8 at 7:35
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    It's not called battery. It's called assault occasioning actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm – Huw Evans Aug 8 at 7:45
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    If one claims to teach "self defence", that is a minimum of research that one should do. Otherwise, it's just fabulation. Personal experience (be it LEO or military) is just sampling data or just anecdotal… – Sardathrion Aug 8 at 8:50

I'm sure you could crunch numbers with a very in-depth research, but if you want a rough estimate of your odds of being assaulted over a 12 month period, you can check the following link for a crime risk calculator from BBC working with the Office for National Statistics in the UK.

Crime: How at risk are you?

This question has too many variables to be properly answered, but that calculator should give you a decent approximation as working with the Office for National Statistics. They have a good pool of data to work with considering age, sex, habitation status and employment status.

For the USA, there is the FBI Universal Crime Report .

Note that all countries will have such statistical data available. Local police offices might have the same information available for where you live.

The statistics in Louis' answer will be an undercount because it will not count situations where self-defense training results in avoidance.

If, like, you define "self defense" as not just fighting, but also...

  • Avoidance of dangerous situations through awareness,
  • Avoiding looking like a potential victimizable pushover,
  • Defusing confrontations,
  • Appearing self-confident and fit enough that your confronter reconsiders, or even just being fit enough to run fast and far,

...then I think that your training would be a lot more likely to be useful to avoid bodily harm. "Avoiding dangerous situations in the first place" is an element of self-defense that is frequently taught alongside the more obvious physical elements of a martial art. It may not be as cinematic as bravely grappling an attacker, but using what you learned in your martial arts school to avoid situations where you'd have to do that is still a valid application of what you have learned.

You make a mistake thinking that martial arts is equivalent to actual self-defense. Martial arts usually has some self -defense aspects to them but they do more that self-defense.

Most martial arts have some pure formal aspects: others have some sport aspect which differs than if done on concrete.

Kata is a formal part of many martial arts. This is controversial because the old school swears by them and the modern school thinks nobody truly fights that way. This is not self-defense, although many moves in a kata can be utilized for self-defense if one is sharp enough and skilled.

Sport techniques is another aspect of many martial arts. When the term sport technique is used it generally means or implies that such a technique is risky or dangerous to do on concrete or risky to use in a real fight against a seasoned opponent. You may end up getting knocked out for not knowing the difference. BJJ in particular is famous for this. The same goes for MMA and also competition sport fighting found in Karate and Taekwondo tournaments.

Self-defense is only a part of martial arts training and not the whole. Self defense has a goal of not getting into a physical match if it can be avoided. Furthermore self-defense does not focus on winning a match but going home safely: i.e., you hit me more than I hit you before I escaped the confrontation. I made it home without getting killed or serious injury. That is self defense as opposed to hunting for a victory. You should notice the mind set is distinct from each other.

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    Other than duplicating the sentiments of Amorphous Blobs answer in your last paragraph this does not answer the question. – Collett89 yesterday
  • Please elaborate why you think the answer is not there. I clearly distinguished aspects of martial arts that at times have no self defense. Is kata the same as self defense or tournament fighting? – Logikal yesterday
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    As per the question title. 'Suppose you know a martial art. How likely are you to get a chance to use it for self defense?' - whilst I agree with the majority of the points raised in your answer - it is not an answer to the question asked - nor does it try to be. Adding some figures with source citations - or adding to your answer that the reasons you give are why such figures would be misleading would go some way to making the answer complete. – Collett89 yesterday
  • I agree, but you can still use a martial art or aspects of it for self defense. This does not answer my question or make the question invalid. – Huw Evans yesterday
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    Comments are intended to help improve or clarify questions and answers, and the be nice policy still applies. Please avoiding insulting people. – JohnP yesterday

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