A note from Master Michael Smith, Westside Taekwondo
It's important to remember that any student of Taekwondo is generally considered able to defend themselves successfully against a single opponent only once they have reached black belt level. By that time they will have become fluid, powerful and accurate. They ought to be comfortable using Taekwondo's formidable and recognized kicking skills, but should also be able to mix in a variety of hand, elbow and knee attacks. Many Taekwondo instructors will also teach at least some Hapkido techniques involving joint manipulation and/or take downs. That being said, I support the notion that our arsenal of Taekwondo kicking skills are indeed effective against physical assault. A well-chosen and accurately delivered kick is enormously powerful, and keeps the attacker at a range which is useless to him.
In my opinion, those who engage regularly in competitive sparring would generally fare better in case of a physical altercation. They will be used to the hard physical contact, and have had more practice adapting to a moving target, both in defense and offense.
One of the biggest factors in self-defence is the ability to swiftly make the decision to go into action, then press the attack overwhelmingly. Having made the decision to use force, the defender must not hesitate to use all the technical skills and power at their disposal, brutally and efficiently. A quick victory is always the best solution, and there is no place for half measures.
In theory, a well- trained opponent would be an entirely different proposition. However, unlike the Hollywood vision of such situations, I don't believe that there is much likelihood of a genuine martial artist initiating an attack on a victim. We are, by our nature and training, reticent to use our powers. I hope that we will always be on the side of the good guys.
Defence against weapons is also a special consideration. Even the clumsiest of untrained thugs can inflict devastating damage with nothing more elaborate than a big stick. Whenever a knife or gun is involved, one must assume the situation to be perilous in the extreme. Any reputable instructor will tell you that compliance or escape are the only sensible options. Your wallet and money are not worth your life. Do not imagine that you will dodge the bullet, or painlessly disarm an assailant.
While we have here considered the value of Taekwondo, I believe that on a larger scale, any person who has extensive training in many of the traditional martial arts will tend to have a better outcome than a person with no training whatsoever.
I love Taekwondo. Always have, and always will. But for me personally, the value of our art for purposes of self-defence is quite low on my list of reasons for participating. Fitness, flexibility, and the personal connections we make through TKD are what continue to draw me in. We all hope that we will never have to use our skills outside of the dojang, and in truth, very few people ever do. By all means practice those skills as if your safety depended on it, and remember your training if and when you must. But for the most part, just enjoy your time on the training floor. Use the confidence you learn and common sense to be your first line of defence.