Again though, it depends on the Martial Art. Not all arts start out teaching people strict forms or fine motor skill based techniques, and the ones focused on real world application will do just as good if not better of a job of teaching people cerebral, verbal, and postural self defense skills. They will also likely do a far superior job of teaching the mechanics behind "simple effective" foundational self defense skills like basic linear and circular striking (be that palm smashes, punches, hammer fists, etc..,) because practitioners of such styles have most likely spent much more time and energy really fine tuning such skills and applying them against other highly trained fighters.
To be perfectly honest, the physical skills (or at least the level of instruction in them) found in most "self defense" courses are pathetic in comparison to those taught in good Martial Arts (be they Sport Martial Arts or Reality Martial Arts).
( How true this is)
Such courses also generally don't ever truly put pressure on the attendees/make them uncomfortable. This only serves to give them a false sense of security in the skills they have learned.
( One of the most common mistakes made, excellent point)
Yes, it's a good thing for people to gain a sense of empowerment and confidence upon developing self defense skills, but if that confidence is built upon a false foundation based on uncommitted/cooperative assailants, things working exactly how they are supposed to each time, and never really experiencing any pain, discomfort, or real struggle then their self confidence will be disproportionate to their actual skill, which is a bad thing.
( Yes, people should committ that statement to memory)
What those courses actually do a pretty good job of is getting people to realize the importance of actually fighting back, which especially in Women's self defense is something that many people struggle with.
( major,major point here, especially if you have ever worked with any rape victims).
Some also do pretty well with educating people on their legal rights in terms of self defense, and simple preventative strategies to help them steer clear of trouble before it actually becomes physical.
( a hallmark of of good course)
But again, good RMA's teach all of that stuff too, do a better job of teaching simple effective physical skills, actually expose their students to things like adversity, discomfort, struggle, and resistance, stress inoculation training, and fear management skills/strategies and thus do a much better job of preparing even beginner level students for real world self defense situations. Not to mention the fact that with RMA's you will eventually learn higher level "complex effective" skill sets, modern weaponry (both conventional and makeshift/improvised) skills, and be able to effectively deal with more dangerous types of assailants.
Finally, since prevention is often the best cure, the discipline, humility, moral compass, and self control emphasized by TMA's and good RMA's are among the most important/effective self defense skills that you can learn. Remember that most fights don't begin when the first punch is thrown, nor do they end when the last decisive physical technique is executed.
( everyone needs to read that statement twice, because, if you survive, and you are in the United States legal problems are sure to follow, especially if a firearm is involved. In the real world you are either dead, injured, or sued)
excellent post, Sento.