As I’ve written before, Taekwondo is a kicking and punching focussed art; Boxing, focuses on punching; Jujitsu concentrates on joint manipulation and holds etc. Partly due to the popularity of MMA, today many styles incorporate techniques that originated with other styles. There is less of an argument about which style is best, but more discussion of which techniques from the various styles make the best tool set. That said, there are techniques that are excellent for self defense and there are other techniques that are touted as self defense, but are very impractical in a real situation.
Let’s consider the truth of most self defense situations. 1) Typically, the attacker aggressive and not going to allow you much time to think or apply some self-defence techniques. 2) Most often the attacker will be larger and stronger. I have never seen a smaller, weaker person start a fight with somebody much larger, unless they are trained or under other influences. 3) Most attackers are not trying to gently take you out of the fight with techniques that can be countered. They will attack with the intent of incapacitation and causing harm.
What this means is that techniques that require very sophisticated movements are very hard to apply. I’ve often seen high ranking masters demonstrating flips and locks that seem effortless and send opponents flying. My experience is that this does not work so easily without substantial experience and with an aggressive opponent. Any technique that requires you to grab an opponent’s punching arm for example, or blocking a kick, is almost impossible. Any technique that requires finding pressure points, using chi, etc, is certainly non-sense in a self defense situation.
What is the answer then? First, learn to understand the environment and avoid dangerous situations. Learn techniques to de-escalate when possible. Learn to scream and shout and call for attention to scare away attackers. Also, focus on the basics. Simple kicks, punches and strikes to sensitive areas can buy enough time to escape a situation. Develop strength and athleticism which will let you escape given the opportunity. The basics can help develop the confidence that will deter an attacker. Attackers almost always look for easy victims.
Is Taekwondo a self-defence art then? The answer is yes. Many styles are great for self defense. Be careful however, of styles that promise amazing techniques. Self defense is mainly about the correct application of the basics.