For most of us, the martial arts are basically a hobby where we are studying techniques generally intended to help us should violent conflict arise. Sure, it's got a lot of practicality to it.
But to do that, do we really need to do everything we do while we study it? I'm talking about the social customs adopted from eastern cultures, the terminology and language, the costumes, the art, the social order... all of these things we do as well as studying how to be the face puncher vs. the face punchee.
There are plenty of martial arts styles out there these days that forgo ALL of that extra stuff, to just focus on the punching (or grappling or what have you) but they certainly aren't the majority of our community.
Nope, the majority of us are wearing funny jammies or protective equipment we can't wear out to dinner and a movie, learning foreign words, studying manuals written by people dead for hundreds of years, allowing people who might have a much lower social and economic status than us to be our bosses (and paying them for the privilege) in this esoteric hobby we pursue.
I submit that martial artists consist of a fandom, much like the fans of certain films (for example, The Lord of the Rings or The Avengers) or television (like Star Trek or Supernatural) or literary genres (big ones - now with films as well - are Harry Potter or the The Hunger Games) or music (Juggalos) or fashion trends (Steampunk) or model trains (The National Model Train Association), or vintage baseball (Vintage Base Ball Association) or glass collecting (Just Glass)... the list goes on and on.
There is literally a subculture for anything you can think of in this world. Anything at all.
Accordingly, much of what we do results in Live Action Role Play (or LARP).
Honestly, I don't think this image of a young man coplaying the anime series Afro Samurai:
... is so very different than this:
We might say, "Yes, but what we learn is meant to be used in real life."
Sure, okay. In real life. In YOUR real life. The one with the job, the family, the lawn, the dog...?
✔ Are you actively training to be in a sword fight?
✔ Do work hard on mastering techniques for use on a battlefield (and you're not in the military)?
✔ When are you actually going to get into a serious (non-tournament, non-sport) stick fighting duel with another skilled stick fighter (especially in North America or Europe)?
✔ Do you walk around everywhere barefoot?
✔ Do you own more than one pair of camo or tactical pants, and you are not in the military nor a hunter? Ditto combat boots?
✔ Do you own armor of any kind? Do you ever wear it?
✔ Do you study stealth and assassination and you are NOT a spy or a historian?
✔ Do you spend an inordinate amount of time mastering weapons that are blatantly illegal to own, use or carry outside of a training context?
Did you say "yes" to any of the above? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you're just another variant of this guy:
The truth is, most of us will never be in the situations we are training for, unless we deliberately seek it out (being in certain jobs in the military, or security, or hanging out in bad neighborhood bars...) and even then, only a fraction of what we study will apply.
We are no different than the guy sparring with padded weapons out at the Renaissance Festival. Actually, that guy has more practical fighting experience with weapons than a lot of us studying, say, Okinawan kobudo weapons do.
We martial artists are Live Action Role Playing much of the time.
Now, I realize when you read that, you probably cringed and said, "Not me! Not my school, not my style, not my teacher!"
Unless you're in a 100% sport art... yeah, you. And me, too. And all of us.
I know we think, somehow, that we are different. We don't want to believe that we're just dressing up in a costume and playing a game just like the folks out at the Renfest or the local Comicon. There are fantasy elements in the martial arts for each of us, as the odds of actually using 99% of what we learn in real life are slim at best.
So, I say, celebrate your LARPiness. Embrace it. It's the honest thing to do, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, if you enjoy it.
I'm a LARPer too, and I'm perfectly fine with that. You should be, too.