People often seek the aid of traditional martial artists to teach them physical methods of self defense against attackers. People can fear the unprovoked attack, the mugger, the argument that escalates, the drunkard, the bully, and many more situations where you feel like you could be physically assaulted and injured or worse.
Street defense and combat techniques can be taught in a series of lessons to the average person. Ordinary people can be made more alert, more focused, more aware and given some basic skills that might aid in their being able to survive a bad situation.
The reality is that most of the population, even with self defense training, will be hard pressed to handle situations in which they are attacked. Often the attacks come as a total surprise and you are in a vulnerable situation. Some attacks involve weapons such as knives and guns.
The brawl with fisticuffs in a bar where one or two punches are exchanged, often just to satisfy temporary anger or egotism, is a lot different than a calculated attack by a person willing to severely hurt you, even to the point of killing. Each requires a different set of skill levels and reactions in order to emerge unhurt.
Many people attend self defense seminars figuring that the course will make them invincible when often they find it actually is the tip of the iceberg. Most people are not given to harboring violent attitudes and are unwilling to inflict pain on others too easily. This alone inhibits one from being successful in self defense. However, having studied some techniques, the person perhaps feels more confident and capable, and that is probably more important to their mental well being.
The reality of actually being attack in life is pretty minimal. Unless you choose to hang out in tough bars, bad districts and dangerous places, the likelihood of such attacks is very low. That is one of the best tenets of the self defense attitude, try not to be there.
Traditional martial arts teaches direct self defense techniques over a longer period of time. Students are given more time to repeat and practice the drills until they get better at performance. Surviving a combat requires three things: spirit, power and technique. All are needed. In a martial arts program, a student will be developing all three over time. In a self defense short course, the student only develops techniques since time and repetition are required to develop true power through fitness and developing spirit requires a lot of mental forging. For example in training our military, there is no quick fix to developing these three items. It takes time.
In karate training, students are carefully taught about how to use parts of the body such as feet, elbows, hands, joint locks, throws, and much more in order to effectively combat someone. By practicing with partners over long periods of time, the student develops proficiency. It does not guarantee a success in every situation. For example, how much practice would be required to dodge bullets? That is not something you can train for. However you can learn mental aspects of keeping calmer, of hiding, of being alert, and other skills that may increase your survival odds.