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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

In Defense of Sport Martial Arts

I think most of you know that I train martial arts for health reasons and for personal self defense.

While I'm certainly not afraid of being competitive, when it comes to martial arts training, it's really not my bag.

That being said, I'm glad that Sport Martial Arts exist, and I'm going to defend them not only as worthy, but as good for everyone, regardless of the reasons we all train.

So, let's define first what I mean by "sport" martial arts.  These include, but are not limited to:

✔ Judo

✔ Sport Karate

✔ Sport/Olympic Tae Kwon Do

✔ Boxing

✔ Wrestling (not the WWE - which is performance)

✔ Other grappling or grappling hybrids, like UFC/MMA

✔ Muay Thai or kickboxing (trained for the ring)

✔ Fencing

✔ Shooting and archery for accuracy or points

These arts might be considered an alternative to someone playing other sports, such as football, baseball, rugby, swimming, running, etc


Sport martial arts are great for the rest of us (combatives, performance and self defense martial arts) for the following reasons:

They make the martial arts more accessible to a wider audience.  Most cultures are into sports of one kind or another, so it's an easy way for a wider range of people to get into and enjoy the martial arts as spectators, and perhaps, as participants. It can be a "gateway" to the less flashy self-defense arts. Think of sport martial arts as good advertising for all of us.

They encourage physical fitness.  While not strictly required, I think all of us agree that the more physically fit one is, the better (from a self-defense point of view).  In fact, physical fitness is one of the major reasons many people begin studying martial arts (that's how I started), and get attracted to the sport versions of the arts.

They're fun. Now, I happen to also find getting locked up by an expert and forced to tap out due to the pain fun, but generally speaking, the sport arts are "gamification" of the martial arts, and that taps into a fundamental human desire to play.  Gamification is a hot topic in a lot of other industries and hobbies as a way to keep people engaged, and it works, because all people of all ages generally play.

So, while it's fashionable among the self-defense "true" martial artists to sneer at the sport martial arts as being inferior, I submit doing so is actually shooting yourself in the foot (and that, my friend, is a poor self defense tactic).  They are not inferior - they are just different, and sport martial arts events are good for all of us.

I would add that there are numerous examples of sport martial artists using their skills in a practical way for self defense.

Here's where a politician uses a judo technique as he fights a colleague (yes, really - our legislatures in the United States aren't nearly as fun as this):

Here's a quick classic TKD high kick in a "street fight" (literally):

Those are just a couple of examples, but if you search, you will see plenty of real world example of sport martial artists engaging in effective self defense in real life.

So, for those who claim the sport arts are no good "on the street", I'm sorry, there's too much evidence to prove that assertion wrong.

Do you enjoy sport martial arts? Do you think they're worthwhile compared to martial arts as combat or as self defense or as exercise? Let us know in the comments!

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24. Sept. 2019

I'm a huge combat sports fan. I don't think I've missed more than a handful of UFC or Bellator cards in the past 5 years. I also LOVE EBI submission grappling events and my daughter and I will make an evening of watching Brazilian jiu jitsu tournaments. If I were 20 years younger, I would definitely consider competing.

I agree with you.

Play is important, even in martial arts (and maybe especially so.) In play, you get to take chances and be bolder than perhaps you would (or should) in a real self defense scenario. And I believe that it's in that "play" that you find your marital expression. Plus, combat sports provide a high quality form of pressure testing.…

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