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I am trying to keep this question as on-topic as possible, so please comment anything that you think would improve it.

The number of people learning martial arts around the world is growing. Not at the same rate as before. The rate of the rate at which people are learning martial arts is going up too. This means that if the cycle continues, eventually everyone will have at least some martial arts experience.

If most people had martial arts experience, would martial arts become less effective for self defense? Or does the rule "in martial arts, you are not only trained how to fight, but not to fight" cancel out this idea? There are definitely some schools that don't teach that (my only reference is "Karate Kid", but I know for a fact that many don't). I realize that some people would still be better than others, but is my logic correct? Just to be clear, my logic is that if you were attacked, the chances of your attacker knowing martial arts would become higher and higher as time passes.

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    Question is very interesting, but maybe, it means a bit opposite - in such future world each and every would have to be experienced in MA, to prevent being an easy target.) – user2501323 Mar 25 at 7:53
  • @user2501323 good point. – LemmyX Mar 25 at 13:59
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Assuming that a larger fraction of the world's population is learning 'martial arts', you speculate that the base-level of 'expertise' will go up, perhaps nullifying basic strategies and tactics for self defense. I'm inclined to disagree with this statement for the various reasons. The context of what you mean by 'martial arts' is important. There are, roughly speaking, three facets to 'martial arts' - an aesthetic side, a sporting side, and a more practical, fighting side. If we limit our context to the last option only with heavy emphasis on 'self-defense' aspects, I will attempt to convince you that 'effectiveness' will not change much.

'Self-defense' consists of different levels/layers, with decreasing efficacy as we go down the steps in this list. These are 'situational awareness', de-escalation, altercation, and escape. Without going into the details of each, let's say that you've somehow failed at the first two steps, and are in a sharp, confrontational incident with aggressive tactics. If you've been 'properly' trained (as in striking, grappling, and escape against non-compliant opponents with the possibility of weapons deployment and multiple-opponents), you'll know that a lot of these concepts are optimized only if you get the first strike in - i.e. by surprise. Once your opponent realizes that you intend to retaliate, it's a very different, and complex game, logistically, and legally. It matters less that your opponent may be a black belt in some martial art if you surprise them.

Of course, if they have any serious training and don't let their ego into the picture, most of the time, they will know that a 'street-fight' is very unpredictable and best to be avoided. The most effective martial-art techniques will be simple, quick, and brutal - with a focus on robustness (does it matter if they are bloody, sweaty; or does it use only gross motor movements, do you attack until they are structurally damaged so they can't/won't want to chase you, is your technique sufficiently practiced that you can free up some brain cycles to look of other attackers or deployment of weapons during your attack, etc.). These tactics mentioned here (e.g. surprise first strike, attack until they are structurally damaged, escape) are probably 'future-proofed' in the sense that they are independent of their training. A more comprehensive primer that has a lot more references can describe in more depth some of the concepts described here.

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The number of people learning martial arts around the world is growing. Not at the same rate as before. The rate of the rate at which people are learning martial arts is going up too.

I'm not sure why you believe this. I'm willing to be convinced, but my prior and current understanding is that martial arts participation has remained at approximately 1 or 2% for several decades. The kind of martial art has changed, but overall participation is relatively constant as far as I know.

This means that if the cycle continues, eventually everyone will have at least some martial arts experience.

Even if the proportion of the population practicing martial arts multiplied by ten, which would be an enormous, mind-bogglingly improbable increase, that would still be a relatively small minority of everyone.

However, it is true that popularization of martial arts in movies and televised matches makes a difference. Now that the UFC has made BJJ and MMA into mass media, it's much more likely that some random untrained jerk will try to pull off a guillotine or leglock rather than a flying kick.

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  • Something else is that the number of KIDS and young people doing martial arts is going up, and I'm pretty sure that the number of older people doing martial arts is going down. – LemmyX Mar 25 at 14:02
  • Honestly, I'd rather have them try to put me in a leglock then try to kick me, because that is where my experience is. Also, I seriously doubt that they would be able to finish it, because there are so many important details. I even still have trouble finishing a straight-ankle-lock. – LemmyX Mar 25 at 16:07
  • A day-one noob who has seen Ryan Hall fight in the UFC can scare even a blue belt with a surprise heel hook cranked with full intensity. Not saying they'll finish it but they'll give you a scare and make you work. – Dave Liepmann Mar 25 at 16:17
  • Only if they can get my heel. Ashi-garami is my strong suit. – LemmyX Mar 25 at 16:22

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