Self defense will always be a key reason for training martial arts regardless of the many other benefits that are gained from training. The real question most people ask themselves is, "How will I handle myself in a real fight?" The answer comes down to how you train. I have found that it is true that there is no such thing as an ineffective technique, their are only techniques trained ineffectively. However in order to apply certain techniques in a real combat scenary will take a great deal more of effort to perfect. My teacher told me that once you have done a technique a thousand times you have learned it, after ten thousand times it is effective, 100,000 it becomes powerful and one million times it is flawless. How many techniques have you practiced a million times? It is the reason hand techniques seem more effective at first. I can fnish a million hand techniques in a year if I work at it consistantly. A technique like a spin kick however will take a great deal more time to perfect. This is the only route however of having a technique effective enough to use during a real altercation.
After the technique is learned you have to train it against every possible technique. Against a grab, a kick, counter or anything that could happen. Also on different surfaces, smooth, wet, gravel and sand just to find the different balances of the techniques. Sparring is great to teach timing and focus but if you spar more then you train your indvidual techniques properly you will end up with a bunch of unclean techniques. Finally you need a partner who is willing to punish you with attacks when your not doing it right. A reminder that it is better take losses from your friends at home then to get beat in the street.