Reality Based Self-Defense

Reality Based Self Defense (RBSD) or Reality Based Martial Arts or Reality Fighting refer to systems of self defense that focus exclusively on reality based self defense scenarios and conditions. Hence the words “reality based.” Unlike mixed martial arts and traditional martial arts styles like karate, reality based self defense is not a hobby or sport and it does not participate in tournaments of sport combat competitions. It’s all about learning how to fight.

“Reality based self defense refers to specific systems of self defense that focus exclusively on real world self defense scenarios.”

What Makes a Reality Based Self Defense System?

For a martial arts or self defense system to be considered “reality based” it must only focus specifically on pragmatic solutions to modern day problems. Each and every action taught in a reality based self defense system must be utilitarian. There is no room for ceremony or tradition practices. The impractical techniques and training methodologies found in most martial arts styles must be far removed from a reality based self defense system. It simply cannot exist! What follows are just a few essential components that make up a legitimate reality based self defense system.

Reality based self defense must also address self defense from the following broadly related perspectives:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Tactical
  • Legal
  • Moral

Reality based self defense must also address the three distinct stages of human conflict. They include:

  • Pre Conflict Stage
  • Conflict Stage
  • Post Conflict Stage

Therefore reality based self defense must include a broad range of training curriculums that address the many complex issues of modern day conflict and crime. As a result, reality based self defense must integrate numerous sciences and disciplines into its training curriculum. For example in my Contemporary Fighting Arts (CFA) system we teach a broad range of subjects: police and military science, criminal justice, criminology, sociology, human psychology, philosophy, histrionics, physics, kinesics, proxemics, kinesiology, emergency medicine, crisis management, and human anatomy. As a result, Contemporary Fighting Arts is a complete reality based self defense system geared specifically for modern conflict situations.

“Each and every action taught in a RBSD system must be utilitarian.”

It Must Teach Verbal Self Defense

Reality based self defense must also teach de-escalation or verbal diffusing skills. Some people will refer to this as “verbal self defense”. In Contemporary Fighting Arts, we refer to de-escalation as the strategic process of diffusing a potentially violent confrontation with the use of both verbal and non verbal skills. Its goal is to eliminate the possibility of an agitated individual resorting to physical violence. Remember, not every showdown justifies responding with physical force. There might be instances where you might be required to talk someone out of a fight. You can learn more about de-escalation skills by reading my book, When Seconds Count: Everyone’s Guide to Self Defense.

It Must Teach Use of Force

Since reality based self defense focuses exclusively on self defense there is no escaping the critical importance of understanding the legal and moral aspects of using physical force to protect yourself or a loved one. Developing a deadly capability to protect yourself carries tremendous moral and social responsibility. It also involves the risk of civil liability and criminal jeopardy.

As I have mentioned in many of my self defense books, there is an interesting irony facing most martial artists or self defense experts. The more highly trained, knowledgeable, and skilled you are in firearms, knives, unarmed combat tactics, martial arts, and other self defense skills, the higher the standards of care you must follow when protecting yourself and others. Remember, if you act too quickly or use what others might consider “excessive force” in neutralizing an assailant, you may end up being a defendant in a legal process.

Reality based self defense must include a use of force continuum with their program. When I say “use of force” I am referring to the amount of physical force (non-deadly or deadly) that is legally warranted for a particular self defense situation. While you don’t have to be a law professor or lawyer, you must understand how to select the appropriate level of force for a particular emergency self defense situation. Remember, not all combat situations end in a desolate alley. Many are dragged into the court room. In America, anybody can sue anybody for anything. Even your assailant can find a legal basis for suit. Martial artists, self defense experts, and firearms instructors should be particularly careful when fighting. If you’re not careful, you can be financially ruined or thrown into jail.

“Reality Based Self Defense training must adequately address aspects of the law and use of force.”

Reality Based Self Defense Must be “Reality Based”

Reality based self defense must be realistic and must replicate the true nature and characteristics of real world self defense. Realistic role playing scenarios is a staple of RBSD training. For example, in my Contemporary Fighting Arts system my students learn how to street fight by participating in full contact self defense scenarios against fully padded assailants in a variety of realistic scenarios. Full contact sparring is a regular staple of our training because it toughens and conditions my students for the rigors of street combat.

My students also train with a variety of martial arts equipment, including the heavy bag, double end bag, punching mitts, striking shields, mirrors, clubs and sticks, training baseball bats, grappling dummies, body opponent bags (BOB), kicking pads, training knives, mock pistols, body armor and realistic environmental props. They also workout in the rain, snow, summer heat and frigid winter months.

Combat conditioning is also an integral part of reality based self defense training. If you are not in shape you are not going to stand much of a chance against a vicious criminal. As a result, weight training, stretching, body weight exercises along with lots of cardio exercises are a regular part of training for my students.

Reality Based Self Defense and Weapons Training

Reality based self defense must also teach and address the use of hand held weapons for self defense. For example, students must possess the knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to master the complete hierarchy of modern day hand held weapons in the event of a home invasion. The hierarchy of self defense weapons include the following:

I am truly astonished by the number of so called “reality based self defense” teachers who don’t teach their students handgun self defense as well as other weapons like the knife, club, kubotan and improvised weaponry. The truth is very few RBSD systems teach the knowledge skills and attitude necessary to safely handle and use these practical modern day weapons. To make matters even worse, some reality based schools don’t teach their students how to defend against such weapons. To be blunt, you cannot call yourself reality based self defense if you do not thoroughly address weapons. Period!

“If a self defense system claims it’s reality based but doesn’t teach weapons training, then it’s not a reality based self defense system. Period!”

Like I said earlier, these are just a few essential ingredients that make up a functional reality based self defense system. There are also many other elements that are necessary for this fine tuned machine to work properly.

Good luck in your search!

Sammy Franco
Founder & President
Contemporary Fighting Arts