Learning to protect oneself should be a basic life skill, like knowing how to swim, brush your teeth, cook a meal, read a map, or drive a car. Since there is a 1 in 3 chance a woman will be assaulted in her lifetime, and a 1 in 5 chance a man will be assaulted during his lifetime learning basic techniques to protect oneself is the very definition of a necessary life skill.
Most people believe self-defense is some kind of fight training, like boxing, wrestling or martial arts. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. A violent assault is completely different than a fight.
Martial Arts/MMA styles are sports or anachronistic. They have rules, they have judges who can approve or disapprove of techniques, they have moral, legal, and cultural constraints. They are by their very nature, contrived and controlled. Violent assault is NONE of these things.
In real world assaults most often victims are ambushed from behind. The assaults are never static; meaning that the assaulter is pushing, pulling, lifting or driving the victim to the ground. The assaulter is ALWAYS much bigger, stronger, and faster than the victim. The assaulter is usually armed. The assaulter is usually not alone. It is never a fight. The assaulter has no interest in fighting. If he thinks that a fight is even possible, he will bring more people with him, or he will bring weapons. It is never fair.
While any training is better than none, most people sense that traditional martial arts do not contain a reality-based self-defense component. Self-defense should train you to PREVENT being kidnapped, or sexually assaulted.
I believe Self-Defense training is twofold:
1) Gaining awareness—learning how to become more tactically aware of dangerous situations and how to use posture, voice, stride, eye contact to reduce the possibility of becoming a victim.
2) Learning techniques that are strength and size neutral; giving the trainee a better chance of escaping, evading and surviving an assault.
Personal self-defense training MUST be strength and size neutral. Traditional strikes & kicks take guidance, accuracy, and practice to properly employ. But when we look outside the rules of sport fighting styles (i.e. no eye gouging), we can see there are many techniques that require no strength, no specialized strikes. No matter how much someone gains strength and size, their eyes are still incredibly fragile. Self defense techniques that target the eyes are a strength and size neutral technique.
Self defense training must be realistic in how and when it it is applied. A person with real self defense training will be using their newfound awareness to find ways to escape, evade and survive assaults 10 times more than actually using the physical techniques. Additionally that same awareness will benefit them in being able to see and respond more effectively in their everyday lives.