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Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture
Fight or sport?

Since releasing my book I've had a few questions about the term 'fighting', some pointing out that combat sport is not 'real' so the term is ill used.

My personal definition of a 'fight' is any encounter where your opposition means to do you harm. As knockouts are allowed in knockdown and sabaki rules, as is busting someone up in general, I think that fits that definition.

My dictionary states: fight v. struggle against, esp. in physical combat or war: contend: strive to obtain or accomplish something or to overcome. n. fighting: a battle, a contest, a struggle, a boxing match.

Despite the above I still regarded myself first and foremost as a competitor, not a brawler. I'm curious as to how others view this?


JWT's picture

Hi Gary

Gary Chamberlain wrote:

 a contest, a struggle, a boxing match.

I think this says it all to me with regard to the context in which you've used the term.  I draw a distinction between what I view as competitive fighting and real fighting by qualitative adjectives, but they're both fighting.  In a book about your journey within a competitive fighting sport I'd see no need to keep using the word competitive though.

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

Thanks JWT

I think some terms are overused these days and I regularly cringe when I see the word 'warrior' used to describe someone enjoying their hobby.  'Fighter' can also be overdone.  I've had my moments but walked away quite happily before any bloodshed whenever I could, so I'd describe myself as a willing competitor but a reluctant fighter ...



Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture


There is also a big difference between Knockdown/Sabaki and Sport Karate/Freestyle "Ippon-Kumite" too.

Many situations involve many strikes not just looking for that single strike which "ENDS" it all

But Agree with Gary about what "Fighting" is all about.

I too am not a warrior or a Fighter; I'm just a KarateKa

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gary Chamberlain wrote:
Since releasing my book I've had a few questions about the term 'fighting', some pointing out that combat sport is not 'real' so the term is ill used.

In my personal terminology “self-defence” is where a person is having the violence of others forced upon them and is therefore “non-consensual”. “Fighting” is where both participants agree to be part of the exchange and it is there for “consensual”.

It follows that the objective in a self-defence situation is to protect the self from the violence of others, and this can be done by escaping, de-escalation, etc as well as physical conflict. In fighting, however, the aim is to win the exchange.

One thing that people always need to be aware of is that self-defence is legal; fighting in the street (“street fighting”) is illegal and you can go to jail for willingly engaging in street violence. Self-defence and “street fighting” are very different things.

So I would say that martial arts competitors are also “fighters” because they are mutually consenting to an exchange where there will be a winner and a loser. They are both “competitors” (because there will be a victor and a loser) and “fighters” (because it is a combative exchange that determines who will win and lose).

“Self-defence” is when we deal with the violence that we do not consent to; and we can do that is many ways, not just through the use of physical action. We in no way “want” or “consent” to that violence though.

“Street fighting” is illegal and stupid. Willingly consenting to engage in violence (my definition of “fighting”) in the “street” is illegal and can result in physical injury and incarceration.

Not official “Oxford definitions”, but it makes sense to me and I feel using clear definitions helps avoid confusion and gives clarity and direction in training.

In short, I think the term “fight” is perfectly well used in the context you describe.

All the best,


LC Stig
LC Stig's picture

A good thing about Iains definitions here is that they are 100% easily translatable, at least into my language. No misunderstandings.

If you get into discussions about the semantics of "fight" there will be all sorts of possible interpretations. English not being my native language, as far as I know you guys can be "fighting" everything from world poverty to your own cold or your neighbour, and I probably should be "fighting" my tendency to go into too much semantics.

Anyway, in my home there is a bookshelf filled with books on karate and self-defence. All the books are in English. Clear definitions are important, and maybe even more so because many readers of these books have English as their second or third language.

LCStig, Norway