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:

https://health.stackexchange.com/questions/3905/lifetime-cancer-risk-for-people-with-healthy-lifestyle/3977#3977

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
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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
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    Not an answer related to statistics or likelyhood of winning/losing fight. With 40+ years of Aikido teaching experience I can safely state that my training does nothing more or less than enhancing my chances. There are no guarantees whatsoever that any amount of training will make you "invincible". What martial arts training does, however, if taken seriously, is enhance your awareness of situations, your ability to "read" agression, and your ability to defuse confrontations. I've been asked by students in the past if I ever used my Aikido in the streets. My answer, to this day, is: "Yes, on a – John Goverts Aug 8 at 18:01

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 http://nononsenseselfdefense.com/, 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 Aug 13 at 14:00
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    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 Aug 13 at 14:04
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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 Aug 13 at 14:19
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    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 Aug 13 at 15:07
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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 Aug 13 at 15:31

I'm sorry, I must admit to not being able to answer your question, except to say "it's not possible to answer your question".

First, there is no formal definition of martial arts. In my book, MA involves M-16's, throwing hand grenades, driving tanks, and battlefield management - not self defense. But others don gloves and get in a roped-off ring; or don a singlet and go mano-a-mano without hitting the other guy, or maybe get onto a mat and only kick the other guy - and they all call it "martial arts".

There are those who take one- or two-day women's self-defense classes offered by a church and are given a myriad of lifestyle changes they can do to mitigate becoming a victim.

There are those who "say" they know a martial art and are complete charlatans.

There are those who "knew" a martial art, but gave it up decades ago.

There are those who are linebackers or bodybuilders and have the physique alone which can make potential perpetrators think about another mark.

A runner might be able to outrun an attacker.

An untrained mother defending her children is an absolutely formidable opponent to tangle with.

A Medieval Times performer deft with a lance, sword, and mace could make mincemeat out of a perpetrator with a rake handle, a baseball bat, or a length of chain (and who, in my opinion, are more of a martial artist than anyone in a dojo, dojang, kwoon, or gym even though their martial arts study is limited to historical context).

What about someone only trained to use a rifle or handgun?

What about someone who is an expert in ancient medieval or feudal-era weaponry?

What about any common soldier or officer?

What about any police officer?

All of these kinds of people (except the mother) have been trained in some way to deal with adversarial antagonists. The definition of martial arts is so overly broad that each of these groups of people, by someone's definition, are considered a "martial artist".

Along a different vein, much of what the self-defense community teaches is avoidance and managing lifestyle changes - that is often more important than managing a situation in which all of that is ignored or couldn't be avoided which necessitates a physical response. And here, how can you know you avoided a situation just because you took that advice?

My point is that every term in your question is so broadly defined and subjective, it is not possible to answer it: "suppose", "you", "know", "martial art", "how likely", "get a chance to use it", and "self defense" all mean different things to different people.

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    The question could be asked without using the idea or term martial arts at all. How likely are you to have the opportunity to use self defense? The definition exact of martial arts is irrelevant. Unless you carry a weapon around (unlikely if it's a Lance) the chance of using that weapon for self defense is 0. – Huw Evans Aug 16 at 7:33
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    I appreciate the effort you put into your answer, but I feel like this turned more into a digression on the definition of "martial arts" than an attempt to answer the question. – Sean Duggan Aug 16 at 11:43
  • @SeanDuggan - yes, it is a digression. I subscribe to the unpopular view that martial arts is "of, or about, war", and to that extent, I offered ideas as to why the common usage and definitions make this an unanswerable question. Many fight, but self-defense isn't about fighting, it's about self-preservation - of which fighting is but one aspect. – Wigwam Aug 16 at 13:29
  • @HuwEvans - yes, I think if you reworded "self-defense" instead of "martial arts", perhaps you can narrow the scope. You might even consider asking "what is the chance of you using your skills against someone - or some people - who want to physically harm you or a loved one (in a bar / with a weapon / domestic violence / etc)". On the other hand, you could also include in your question a request to mention the skills/style/philosophy/concepts you are taught. With this, you now have information instead of data. – Wigwam Aug 16 at 13:39
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    @Wigwam: I appreciate your stance, but I do still feel that this doesn't answer the question. – Sean Duggan Aug 16 at 13:59

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