The ground breaking martial art Jeet Kune Do has long been aclaimed as one of the most practical practices in the way of self defense. I have studied and practiced this combined "best of" hundreds of hand to hand combats for going on 15 years. The most important lesson to keep in that place where things that stick go is the same one that Bruce Lee himself almost always regaled every class with. "The best move is the one that works." A few key points that make this style stand out are as follow.
Whenever you strike, always follow through 2 inches behind your target. This does not mean you should be any more sluggish in returning to your stance, nor does it give you permission to lean in or commit bad form. It simply says that you should not attempt to make contact at full arm or leg length.Picture yourself punching or kicking a hole through your opponent.
Never telegraph. Telegraphing is leading with the shoulder, changing your leg stance to prepare for a kick or to add power to a lunge or rear cross. Only adjust your body to support the impact after you are close enough to the target area to determine whether or not you are going to make definate contact. Doing so beforehand allows the quicker of us to see what is coming. This has resulted in great injury before and will again.
You always want to practice as you do so that you can do as you practice. There is a system response in your body known as muscle reflex. This takes alot more conditioning that normal mental reflexs but will shave a good split second or two off of your reaction time and may one day save your life. If sparring with another student, do not aim slightly to the left or right of the opponent's pressure points so that you can hit him harder. I've seen it a thousand times and hopefully for the last time. Sure, you're sparring partner may know what you are doing, but the guy that just climbed in through your bathroom window will just look at you funny. This conditions you to hit that exact same spot in a real life or death scenerio. Always go directly for that "sweet spot" and tap lightly. The martial artist primary goal is to move by instinct. Instead of having your mind cluttered with every voluntary muscle action nessesary to execute the "Crane Lowers its Head to Drink" form to escape 3 muggers, it should be clear and focused, open to strategize and negate.
Avoid seeing forms as "one two three four" and try to see it as one. The simple visualization of linking each of the seperate moves into one complete action is an excersise that will greatly improve not only the fluidity of you forms, but will help you keep up stamina, waste far less energy, and discover the deadly striking power of water. Lee wrote,"I am like the Moon underneath the waves, ever rocking and sliding with the shift around me. Yet who can deny that I move independently as well?"
Spend at least a half an hour of each day (for the most serious of martial artists) or an hour a week (for those less devoted) exploring options when someone attacks. This requires a partner that does not mind the occasion sore arm (advanced) or going home in traction (less practiced). This is one of the most important practices because it teaches you to trust yourself as a reliable think tank in a not-so-pretty situation. You will see with time what so many instructors have removed from students of highly traditional martial arts. Sometimes the moves you were taught will not work to their full potential and you will have a gap between this and the next move you will get an opportunity to perform. You will have to be able and clear headed enough to think on your feet. Shock is not our friend. This practice will help you "feel out yourself". The best massage therapists are the ones that are educated and know their own bodies backwards and forwards. They know where it feels good but also why it feels good. The same for the opposite (oh get your minds out of the gutters and stay focused!) "Only when you understand yourself, can you attain self improvement." Learn exactly where your arm stops bending in certain holds. Find out just how much balance you have in that particular stance. See how much leverage you need to push off of this and decimate that. Feel yourself out.
Never assume that your opponent is honorable. You may have trained long and hard to fight an amazing, yet clean match, but seven times out of ten he'll have no hesitation is going for your groin or your eyes. Always be ready to do whatever it takes to stay alive. This does not mean emptying the ocular cavities of drunken-Joe-Shmoe-push-you-from-behind. Fear is the one thing that can push you to that, and it will if you give it half a chance. Fear is an acronym (False Emotions Appearing Real).
Always mold you martial arts around the fight. It will not work vice-versa. If your martial art is not flexible,you are probably engaged in a style that originated as a point sport such as Tae Kwan Do (this is not intended as an insult; it is a fact) and should start exploring other options if you are truely interested in defending youself.
All of that being said, I'd like to point out that this is my first node on E2, and I look forward to being constant user.
(Note: This has not been copied from anything, but is my intepertations of the teachings of the late great Sempi Lee.} :)