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Martialart; to sport or not to sport… that is the question?

Hi iainabernethy.co.uk! Now its my time to start my own blog - and i want to share my ideas and thoughts with you guys, since we usually share the same thougts on topics 

Here is the full article posted 

Martialart; to sport or not to sport… that is the question?

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Nikolaj

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”


Jigoro Kano (Founder of Judo) to the right, with Kyuzo Mifune

Within the martialarts society, this is a topic that is certain to create debate. In this post we will explore a little about the history, the context and the pros and cons.   What defines a martialart? Wikipedia defines martialarts as:

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defensecompetition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.”

CODIFIED - as i interpretate it, a martialart has to have a given style-set or curriculum-like practice, a specific and reasonable way of performing a given action, in one way of another, hence randomly fighting without strategy, practice and solely per intuition, can never be categorized as a martialart – and is probably more related to violence.

COMBAT - as i interpretate it, a martialart has to have an aspect of fighting one or more individuals with or without weapons. Combat can be any aspect of physical confrontation, but it refers to a fight. Again Wikipedia neatly describes combat: Combat or fighting is a purposeful violent conflict meant to weaken, establish dominance over, or kill the opposition, or to drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed.” Where we enter the discussion is the general variety of reasons that people practice martialarts for.

Why is this topic interesting at all?

In order to optimize my own training and teaching, in order to be as effective as possible, i am interested in the different training methods and what output each method produce. As many prior to me have stated, it all comes down to context! So first of all you have to define, what you want to achieve?

Sport fighting


If your goal with your martial art practice today is to win MMA fights, win Judo or Taekwondo tournaments or even Kumite (Karate) events etc., you have to practice for that – meaning that you have to acknowledge the context of the fight-setting;

1 – the rules

2 – the awareness that you are going to fight

3 – the ability to prepare yourself physically and mentally

4 – the fact that fighting is the only way “out”

5 – the fact that you can “tab-out”

6 – the fact that doctors etc. are standing ready to avoid serious after-injury,

7 – the fact that your are fighting 1-on-1 with a guarantee

8 – the fact that your wielding protective equipment

9 – the fact that you are most likely facing an opponent in the same weight and size class,

10 – the fact that you know that you have to fight

11 – the fact that you are dressed or wielding clothes suitable for fighting,

12 – you will be more calm and be able to control the adrenaline

13 – you don’t tend to be hit by tunnel-vision etc.

Many fighters who compete in sport are extremely versatile, skilled and dangerous opponents, mostly in a great physical shape as well! – but practicing and training that way has a lot of limitations; short span of practice due to injuries, physical capabilities diminish through age, condition plays a great part and i have even experienced the “too competetive mindset” or what you could call the big EGO, that comes into play here.

To practice for competition, you need to have competitions – the “problem” arises, when we move to the talk about martialarts and the aspect of self-defense, how can you practice for self-defense, if your not assaulted and put into those situations?


american kenpo

Ed K. Parker, practicing a self-defense technique against multiple assailants.

So if your goal is to practice self-defense, should you practice a “sport-martialart”? The difficulty of practicing self-defense effectively is that you can only achieve real experience, from real self-defense situations. If you want to achieve real self-defense skills, then you have to practice for real self-defense situations, but it is impossible to create a true copy of such a scenario. Often in debates, there is the mention that:

“there are no rules on the street”

oh but there is -

1 – there are the rules of society, ethics and your own conscious – in theory, gouging out an eye, seems like a great strategy. But in real-life, this would lead to a lawsuit, if your conscious allows you to perform the action of squeezing the eyeball.

2 – You have no idea about if you are attacked or assaulted by one or more persons and

3 – Whether they are armed or not

4 – The location plays a big role as well

5 – Even the time of the day due to the lighting.

6 – Size, weight and strength difference is highly likely

7 – as well as your assailant(s), are most likely well prepared, and have done it before – so they won’t get the same stress, psychological as someone, who gets “jumped” and surprised.

8 – Its allways a good idea to be physical fit, but you don’t know, when to peak, since you’ll never now “when” (if!) you are ever going to be in need of your self-defense skills.

9 – Often when practicing self-defense, your pulling your techniques, your never truly hitting the target – meaning that your never actually testing what you have been practicing to see if its functional. How would you ever now, how it is to punch someone in the face, (and to be punched in the face) by a fist, if you never experienced it?

10 – How can you learn to cope with the effects of adrenaline and fear, if your not able to provoke these emotions in training?

So, my only advice is, find out why do you train and train for it – if you have no specific purpose of training other than you just like training – then keep training and don’t worry about questions like this

you can find more here http://wp.kensei-ryu.com/martialart-to-sport-or-not-to-sport-that-is-the-question/

Paul_D's picture

Thank for sharing.  As you say it is important to understand what your are trainig for.  I started training (in the msot part) for sefl defence, I now reaslise that physical tecniques have very little to do SD however as (9% of SD is avoidence,  awarness, target hardening and de-escaltion.

So now I only train in the dojo for fun, and my SD training is done sepratly, at home.  Some of what ui do in the Dojo might be useful for SD, but very little. The problems start when you are training for one thing, but think your are training for another.