I am glad this spawned such a long discussion.
I see a lot of talk about technique and lasting. The thing is with self defense, a situation is going to be over within seconds. Not minutes. I think we all generally know that. So the best and most effective techniques are the ones that are going to give you clearance and distance. When I train kali I prefer to learn about how to defend against blades and sticks with empty hands. I will probably never need my gun, and it is less likely that I will have a knife or stick in my hand either.
I recently read a book about a member of the SAS. When he discussed close quarters combat, he refered to higher level martial arts as being unneccessary and too fancy. What they learned was quick effective brawling skills. That is basically what I am advocating now. These skills can be practiced by a man named Lucky missing a leg and an eye with 1 hand behind his blown out back. All you need to be able to do is put out 1-3 brutal shots out.
As far as PHYSICAL fitness being so important...if you are older and you should talk to your doctor about a good workout. Even if you are 40 you should change your workout routine to fit your aging body. I talked to my dotor around my 22 birthday about my workout habbits and what I should do. It isn't that I am out of shape or need to change, I just want to know the best things to do for my no longer rubber teenage body. But if you want something for ability...be able to simply do 3 minutes of difficult cardio(for YOU). Why? Because no REAL fight is going to last that long. And you can build to that 3 minutes. That is all I really have...the rest I say here is simply my $5(i talk too much for it to be $0.02) on my own training for hand to hand.
The tactics I am most likely to use in a fight that I practice most often are BASIC skills that take very little effort. In the end my FIRST goal is escape. That means proper strike points (eyes, philtrum, nose, jaw line, throat, genitals, knees, and ankles). You hit someone with a quick direct shot to these locations and you have just given yourself a big chance of survival. I also don't practice a punches and kicks with these really. I don't want to break my smaller fingers if I miss. I use the heel of my hand, elbows, and knees. I actually have taken it to the point that I practice headbutting someone in the nose(but that is just my curve ball...we all have those). As far as getting in close like that I have worked my Brazillian Jiu Jitsu into the game as well...if you are familiar with the art you know that standup is the same as Judo basically. My instructor is actually a champion Judoka from Brazil. At 55 he can still throw ME (a full 100 pounds more). So I try to keep the footwork, sprawls, and trips in my standup game. The trips are a REALLY good technique to have in that defense bag because they are easy to pull off on someone who isn't watching their footwork.
I would say if you REALLY want to learn what techniques are effective...find somewhere that teaches general self defense (even a women's self defense course can be effective for a man because the techniques will be almost the exact same) learn a few moves and practice. And remember....SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. We all know that, but just remember to look around. It doesn't take more than a few miliseconds to see who that person is behind you.
Faith Reason Fraternus