Are you referring to my claim about the element of surprise? I suggested it because I see it as an environmental factor that is generally out of the control of the martial arts practitioner that also has a significant weighting on the outcome of a violent confrontation, and one that is not trivially compensated for with training. I don't base it on personal experience (I'm lucky enough not to have had to put my myself to the test like that), but it seems intuitive to me that should I be surprised by a blow to the head, I would not be confident that a few years' training would be enough to outweigh that disadvantage (though in a sport like boxing perhaps it would be).
The initial disorientation from an attacker's first strike would make it difficult to assess what was happening quickly enough in order to engage in an appropriate defensive behaviour before being struck again and then repeatedly. People that have not been trained to receive landed punches are generally not well-equipped to handle them, and attacks can happen lightningly quickly - before you know it, a person can be upon you, levying a series of blows that have left you injured.
I wouldn't identify the element of surprise alone in trumping a person's initial forays into martial arts, but also weapons, body-size, etc. In my opinion, it seems likely that it would take a fairly significant amount of training to surpass these relatively simple environmental advantages an attacker may have.
As I say, however, I'm not speaking from my own experience of being attacked, only from how confident I personally feel in my own self-defence. If I'm off the mark then at least I suppose it's better to underestimate oneself than overestimate, and I appreciate your views on the subject.
O.K.....A person training in a martial art inherently has as one of their goals the gaining of an ability to handle just such an event, one that is environmental and out of their control. In fact I would say that's why the thoughts of it always come up in the mind of the practitioner and the cause of debate by others and indeed this thread.
Those factors you identify in trumping a persons initial forays are no doubt true and so the overcoming of them is all part of training, bit by bit.
This however is also an initial look, an initial contemplation and conclusion.
The true test is not by peers therefor or in a ring or even randori of various kinds for these would still come under practice. The only true test is in life itself and the handling of the unexpected and real for when you can do that quite comfortably then the expected is in comparison much easier. This
is martial training.
Now contrary to mass popular belief this does not mean therefor that the solution is to dive into lots of doing this or that hard training or chasing ideas of super strength or inner power that will make you ready for the unexpected for that is a fools paradise. It's all useful, it's all beneficial, it's all part of different training methods but it's not the 'magic' solution
The unexpected by definition is not what you expect. Life will always give you that now and again.
In fact we will always give ourselves that too as we give ourselves unexpected lessons to learn and place ourselves in seemingly impossible positions and dangerous situations. Thus more masakatsu agatsu.
Most martial arts when you think about it are preparing and training for specific competition, specific fight situations and even if you go into the broader area of security forces and armies then it is seen as the same type of thing, scenarios and what ifs. This is not actually training for the unexpected but still is on the path of basic martial art and thus on the path of martial but still only initial, partial, limited even if necessary.
So it all boils down to getting eventually a better understanding of what truly martial is.
Now, to go back a bit to my question to you as to if you were talking from experience. I asked for a specific reason and yes you answered quite clearly thank you.
One of my first really great 'wins' and thus validations was precisely in such a scenario for only then did I know it really did work in such a scene. These things you cannot plan for for then they would be expected.
So part of the martial lesson here is to train well and learn the principles well and learn how those principles apply to all walks of life too and thus live those principles and only then do they become you and natural to you and most importantly have faith in them.
Only then when the unexpected happens will you find out that they actually work and that it was all worthwhile. Only life can give us these truly unexpected lessons. Only faith in what we are doing can lead to that accomplishment. Trying to train from fear of what might be will only lead to a paranoia about needing to do all kinds of everything in case of all kinds of imagined possible foes and an inverted martial attitude.
These are my thoughts on the matter and experience.