It is of vital importance that a martial artist have exposure and training in both soft skills and hard skills as both play a vital role in self defence. Many confrontations can be defused with the use of soft skills and the ones that cannot will rely heavily on hard skills. We brushed briefly on the topic previously but this article is a little more in-depth.
What exactly are soft skills and hard skills?
These are the terms given to different techniques used in a self defence situation. A soft skill has to do with awareness, observation information and verbal communication where as hard skills relate to your response during the physical state of a confrontation. Most schools teach you about hard skills but very few touch on soft so why is it important?
Self defence does not begin when the first strike is thrown. Very often if you implement a soft skill then you may find yourself not needing to rely on hard skills at all. For example you are aware that a particular popular bar has a reputation for violence so when your friend suggests visiting this bar you state why it could be a bad idea and offer alternative venues.
Another example of a soft skill is if you are walking down the street and a stranger seems to be approaching you quite quickly. You observe that their hands are in their pockets as if concealing something and are aware that there is no one else around. You could enter a shop and see if the stranger leaves and if they do not then you could always call the police from the safety of the store. If no stores are open then you have several seconds to decide whether or not to continue on your current path or cross the street, either option is only possible with keen observation.
A large part of soft skills also involves communication with the possible assailant however this is something best practiced at the dojo (role play scenario) as it would be too long winded to cover in a short blog post.
Hard skills are exactly what people expect when they join a self defence class. How to defend against different attacks using that particular style that the instructor ensures you will work. It is highly recommended that you ask the instructor why the technique works and how the technique could be altered in case the assailant varies in height and weight – when in doubt, ask questions.
Remember that hard and soft skills are also useless if they are not practiced and if your mindset is not constantly prepared. This does not mean you need to go around being suspicious and paranoid of everything but rather it means that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. It only takes a little extra observation to be safe and after awhile it becomes second nature.
Roughly 70% of situations can be resolved with soft skills (more if you do not work in security/law enforcement) so it is a skill worth investing your time into learning. Hard skills come in handy when soft skills fail and this is not on you as some people cannot be reasoned with due to personality or intoxication. Learn both sets of skills for the most optimal chance of remaining safe in any situation.