This is about combat sport and martial art. Self-defense is a huge topic that goes beyond this stuff.
More and more, I’m seeing less and less of a distinction between combat athletics, martial arts, and any other kind of physical activity. Sure, there are differences in the way the game is played, but there are differences between all sports. You don’t play baseball the way you play football. You don’t play Judo the way you play Muay Thai. But those are details.
Combat athletes and martial artists often seem to think they have some kind of lock on using physical activity to inspire or induce psychological change. There is the assumption (more common among martial artists than combat athletes, but in both) that they are somehow tapping into something more pure or noble than the simple football or baseball player. That only through the martial art/combat sport can you truly experience some kind of profound transformation, overcome your deepest fears, or whatever.
More and more, I think that’s bunk.
I have a friend who is using bike riding as way to challenge herself and her fears (and frankly, riding a bike through Boston is probably WAY more dangerous than jumping into a ring or cage.). Look at some videos of Parkour runners and tell they don’t understand how to deal with fear. Ask a serious weightlifter about the mental fortitude required to make yourself do ONE. MORE. REP.
Physical activity as a vehicle to a mental or spiritual transformation is not exclusive to any one sport, or even any one activity. It is how you approach/use the activity, not what it is.
At least, that’s my thought at the moment.