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Art, Sport or Defense. What are you training for?

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

You, or your child, wants to get involved in a martial art. What's available to you is often determined by where you live. It could be a local YMCA "Karate" program. Many towns have a Tae Kwon Do school available. More and more locations are now seeing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA as an option. Getting martial arts instruction can even be done online or through distance learning.

However, why are you training? After meeting many prospective students over the years I've found the reasoning can be summed up to basically three choices: art, sport or defense. Let's look at each category for what it truly is and expound on each a bit.


Expressing the techniques of any martial art can be truly awesome to perform and amazing to behold. Moving in space, with or without a partner, while conducting technical movements shows a "deadly" elegance that can impress most people viewing the action. Often it resembles a dance or fluidity of motion that implies the practitioner is highly skilled and perhaps a master of their craft.

Known commonly as forms, combinations, sequences, or even kata or jurus, this side of training demonstrates a level of knowledge and skill that is impressive. Watching variations of this either leaves the viewer in awe, or in speculation as to the efficacy of what is being done.


Any functional martial art has a combat sportive aspect to it where mainly two individuals square off and engage within the rule set of the martial art they practice. Examples include wrestling, boxing, Judo, kickboxing, BJJ and MMA. Travel the world over and you will find competitions like these for many martial art systems.

Combat sports, as many of these systems are commonly known, test an individual's skill, conditioning, athleticism, and strategic know-how against a resisting opponent. This is considered by many as a martial art's true effectiveness, and whether or not it would hold up "on the streets".

Yet, most combat sports have rules and someone to intervene such as a referee. When things go too far the action is normally stopped. However, this doesn't take away from the blatant effectiveness of combat sports.


Of all the individuals interviewed over the years, this is the most common reason for someone getting into the martial arts. Words such as confidence, discipline, ability, strength, fitness and self-defense are typically what someone divulges as their reasoning for beginning their training. All are valid as these are what many people are conditioned to state due to their upbringing, emotions, feelings, fears and rationality.

Overall, and over time, the martial arts can give a student all of these things. This has been witnessed time and time again. Actually this empirical data shows that when someone's "confidence, discipline, ability, strength, fitness" improves their ability to defend themselves also improves. Spending time, in some cases decades, learning and training to fight and defend oneself against resistance or various attacks will definitely improve an individual's chances of success in these endeavors.

So, what are you training for? Be honest with yourself. Each aspect has its merits, but it's easy to confuse one area with another. If training the art side of things is your purpose then do it. Your technical abilities will improve exponentially. If the sport side is more to your liking then get after it and start competing regularly. Being an athlete is admirable and your skills will become formidable. If self-defense is your why, then train with resistance, in all ranges, with and without weapons, and against multiple opponents to get a full understanding. Nothing exists in a vacuum when it comes to defending yourself.

In my next blog I'm going to dive deeper into the defense aspect of training and offer some information that may enlighten many who have chosen this path as their reason. What I have to say may be unpleasant to some and leave others dismayed, but know I will be truthful and state facts as I understand them. Stay tuned.

Coach Chris

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