Lots of gyms propose self-defense classes as a mean to attract people in doing something “more real” or as a mean to respond to requests from existing customers who are concerned for their safety. I gave for over 2 years both Muay Boran and Krav Maga trainings in a gym in Sydney that also gave Muay Thai, BJJ and MMA classes.
Like with many bespoke training programs, you end up with a core team that will be there, no questions asked and seemed to be willing to follow you to your grave if you asked them to. I am serious, some of the training we did only appealed to a few. Be it Krav Maga and Muay Boran, the uncut version.
I think the reason why you get a different crowd between a combat sport and proper self-defense is that self-defense needs to cover the physical conditioning and sparring as much as the psychological side of confrontation; really nurturing discomfort most of the time. It should put you in a space where you have no control, unfair in every way, where you do not want to be, all that to get you over your fear of the confrontation. It is that constant psychological stress that will in the end develop the feeling that abnormal is the bread and butter of your day, so when you are finally confronted with a real issue, you head can relatively think clearly how you will get out of it. Effectively learning that the most effective way out of a conflict situation is to face it. Not everyone desires the psychological confrontation and will remain in the combat sport zone. It is fine, it is just something different from self-defense.
Self-defense does not necessarily means using violence as a first line of response. The basic of self-defense is actually to avoid the conflict in the first place, whenever possible. There is a gamut of actions that can be taken to avoid a conflict, starting by looking around and avoiding possible stressful situations. From there, a whole escalation path is available, including how to de-escalate an altercation. In short, the best self-defense is the one that will teach you to choose between all these options all the way to fighting to the end, if that’s needed.
So how does Muay Lert Rit stacks up as a self-defense option? In reality, not so well. Much like the metal saw my father-in-law gave me with a great smile, it is a very efficient tool…if you have to cut metal. For the 21st Century law system of our modern society, Muay Lert Rit lacks moderation, to say the least.
The effectiveness of Muay Lert Rit is based on the premises that you are going into a survival situation with the only escape route is where your opponent stands or that you are the one attacking the other individual to do him harm (aka, you are the aggressor). This means that all the techniques, training, striking points are designed for inflicting as much damage as quickly as possible in order to be as lethal as one can be. In a glamorized way, it might sounds “cool” and exactly what you want for self-defense, but really, in most cases, you are signing up for an appointment with the court, ahead of time.
Muay Lert Rit does not cover all the aspects of self-defense, rather it is focused on the final aspects only. It serves as a very effective striking tool because it covers aspects of hitting as effectively as possible, as unpredictably as possible, as deadly accurate as one can be, all that with a very intense body conditioning for cardio-vascular exercises, pain conditioning and a scale of strangulations, bone breaking techniques and deadly throws. For all that, Muay Lert Rit has a bespoke methodology to cover all the grounds.
This doesn’t mean Lert Rit is bad overall as a self-defense instrument. For one, people who want to perfect their striking techniques in the scenarios of a no-escape or where it is required to try to eliminate multiple opponents very quickly out of fear of being overwhelmed will find suitable ground for learning. In a sense, it’s a fairly easy martial art to learn.
Only a few ground principles that are found in a variety of combinations are used, reducing the time to learn and minimizing the risk of injuries to oneself. For example, open hands, elbows and hammer punches will be favored above close fist strikes; whereas the characteristic Muay Thai Tae Dtad Glan (middle kick) will be minimized in favor of Tae Chieng (diagonal kick) or Tae Dtad Laan (low kick), as the risk of self-injuries and slipping is lowered.
In many ways, Lert Rit is the trunk of Muay where Muay Thai, Muay Korat, Chaya, Muay Lopburi, Muay Wanorn source their knowledge and blossomed over the centuries into expert sets of techniques to achieve a particular purpose such as sport fighting or to use in specific combat situations. In contrast, Muay Lert Rit is fairly simple and straight-forward with a much shorter learning curve to acquire the basics.
This may be the reason why on the complete other end of the spectrum, individuals with little knowledge of self-defense who just want to survive a situation, can quickly get a working methodology and principals of combat that will suffice to deter an assailant. Women tend to be very suited to follow this path, where they tend to enjoy the technical aspects as well as the effectiveness of the striking techniques, despite the strength and weight difference.
That said, the bulk of people who train Muay Lert Rit fall in none of those categories and view the style as the core of their existing knowledge of Muay Boran, a specialization of some sort and that’s fine of course.
So learning Muay Lert Rit is really a question of personal objectives and dealing with the situation where you are in. We live in the 21st Century, not in the 18th Century in Ayutthaya during the Burmese raids. Most of us will luckily enough never have to fight to the end, saving our families bare handed against hordes of foreign aggressors.