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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

5 Ways To Tell If You're Watching a Martial Arts Demo (vs a Fight)

Judging by comments in social media and in other places, there's a lot of problems out there with people being able to tell whether or not the martial arts video they are watching is a demonstration, or an actual fight.

In order to help our community, The Stick Chick blog proudly presents 5 ways to tell if you're watching a martial arts demonstration (versus a fight).

"Demonstration" for this post includes something done for performance, entertainment or educational purposes, including storytelling, or in a seminar/instructional situation, where there is no intent to do any harm to the people in the immediate area, and/or there is no (or very little) resistance being offered.

"Fight" for this post means several different situations - a situation of mutual sport combat with all participants resisting each other (which carries considerable risk of injury or harm even if the intent isn't necessarily to do damage per se), or a situation where two or more individuals are being captured on video engaged in violent action against one another, with intent to harm or injure, or, a self-defense situation where a person is attacked and repels the attack with force and intent.

1)  Is there only one person moving around doing something martial arts-y in the video?

If the video you are watching contains only one person moving around doing martial arts type stuff - either by themselves, or with someone else standing nearby - it is probably a demonstration.

I know how crazy this sounds, but it turns out, not every single thing we do or train is done at full speed with full resistance 100% of the time, and we sometimes have to isolate specific skills to train them properly before we use them in a conflict.

And sometimes, when done in isolation, those skills we're training are fun to watch.

WAY. Click on the image to see the source.

If there is more than one person moving, see the next point.

2)  Are the people who are moving in the video moving at full speed, with power and intent, or not?

If the motion is slow with no power or intent to harm the person being "attacked", it's probably a demonstration (or at least a drill to work specific attributes or skills). This is especially true if it is choreographed so that nobody actually gets hurt.

If there is more than one person, and both are moving at each other at full speed with intent and force, it's probably a fight.

3) Is the person who is doing the martial arts movement talking while he or she is performing the technique?

Talking, typically to the camera, an audience, or to anyone who might be gathered around while the technique happens, is a sure sign that what you are watching is a demonstration.

If they are talking to each other, using curse words or yelling, it's probably a fight.

4) Is the person "attacking" in the video making contact with power?

If they are not, then it is probably a demonstration.

If they are, it might be a fight, but be aware that videos showing grappling, locks, and throws may require this sort of contact even if there's no intent to do harm - that'd make it a demonstration.

5) Is injury of any kind being inflicted in the video?

If there is no blood, injury, or heavy bruising involved in this video, it is probably a demonstration. There could be pain inflicted on someone, but usually it's very temporary in nature.

If there is injury or blood or someone getting hit hard enough to bruise, it's probably a fight (unless it's a demonstration gone wrong, which makes it a fail).

So, in the future, if you're watching a martial arts video, and it has all the hallmarks of a demonstration, it's probably unreasonable to expect a lot of resistance or 100% realism when you're watching it.

It's just a demo.


Do you get as annoyed as I do when people can't tell the difference between a demo and a fight? What are some other ways to tell the difference?  Let us know in the comments!

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