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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

We Are The Tribe

We martial artists are a minority in the world.  

In the US, at least, martial arts training is most popular for children, because in modern times, it's developed as an alternative to team sports. Even then, there are far more kids in team sports than in martial arts schools by a mile.

Most of these kids won't need a size 4 gi. Photo by GaborfromHungary at

The vast majority of kids who train drop out for other activities along the way, typically as teenagers or young adults. Martial arts becomes something they used to do.

Even fewer people are like me. I started training an adult and stayed with it through moves, job changes, family changes, etc. I didn't drop out due to schedule or inconvenience or letting other hobbies take its place.

To my knowledge there hasn't been a formal survey of us, but I'd guess that adult martial artists make up, what, maybe 1% of the adult population in the USA? About 3 million of us or so?

I can believe that number. Actually, that might be a little high of an estimate.

That means we're a pretty small community, even if we're spread out. It is not unusual for me to meet a new martial artist online or in person and in conversation discover that we both know a bunch of the same people, even if we're from different parts of the country and with very different backgrounds.

I'm not necessarily talking about famous (in our community) people, either. I'm talking about regular people like you and me. "Oh, you know George so-in-so in Colorado? I met him at a seminar last year!"

When I meet another martial artist in a non-training context, it's not unusual for us to instantly connect over the fact that we both train.

"Oh, you train? ME TOO!" Big smiles.

We instantly have something to talk about. We understand each other in a way that non-martial artists don't. We get the attraction of slapping on a uniform or training gear. We understand the thrill of risking getting punched in the face or getting forced to tap out on the mat.

We get each other in a way that non-martial artists can't and won't. Meeting another martial artist is like meeting your people. It crosses other boundaries in our society - race, religion, social status, and politics.

We are the TRIBE.

I have three million brothers and sisters in my tribe, in my country alone.

Isn't that nice?

Do you feel a sense of belonging with the larger martial arts world? Do you have any stories about discovering someone training that you didn't expect off the mat? Let us know in the comments!

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