To most people ‘self defence’ is about warding off assailant(s) quickly and easily without attaining a single bruise or scratch. This is most likely due to assumptions that if one learns all these skills they should be able to defend themselves. Unfortunately, this is not always true because in the real world there are no rules, no respect, attacks are usually spontaneous, and the presence of fear and adrenalin will likely affect mental and physical ability etc. We are usually hard wired to avoid trouble which is another setback. The only way you may come out unscathed would be pre-empting the danger and reacting to it before it starts (fencing skills). Your martial art is your back up artillery if things don’t turn out the way they should.
Whatever martial art, you need to learn it as best you can but, to those who have very little experience in actual street confrontations, you need to learn from those who have the experience and hopefully that might be your Instructor. At the end of the day it is the simple and direct techniques that will save you and most of these may not look so fancy (thank goodness for that because showing off can get you into strife – please read on about my mate). These very few techniques required for these situations will only be as good as the level of skills you have attained through your martial arts training. Usually, the higher the grade, the better you should be able to use these skills successfully in a physical street altercation. I remember one of my colleagues in the cops, many years ago, a very good Karate Black Belt got himself into a bit of trouble and he spun around and tried to land a spinning heel kick; needless to say he got knocked down and hell was kicked out of him whilst he was in the gutter. I asked him, “You never do that in sparring so why on earth did you do that? He said he didn't know. In other words he did not have the correct weapons (techniques) available to him.
Of course, avoiding trouble is the best policy; if you see a pothole, you walk around it. If a beach is known to be shark infested you might consider building sand castles instead. Another factor which some people overlook is a good cardio workout because this is extremely important when all of a sudden you need that extra energy and breath. Our organisation ensures we equipe our students with the right 'arsenals' because 90% of new recruits will mention 'self defence' being their primary reason for taking up the martial arts. I personally don't want to feel like a 'used car salesman'; I want to make sure people get what they came for. We all want to enjoy life and we certainly don’t want to deal with any sort of trouble so we don’t go looking for it. Just watch out for the potholes.