Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Martial Art vs Sport Debate

In Fighting or Playing? The Martial Art vs Sport Debate, Neil Ohlenkamp of discusses the dichotomy in views of which is more effective. I think I made my position clear in an earlier post on the subject. Excerpts from Ohlenkamp Senseii:

"Many people think of Judo and Taekwondo as sports because they are included along with other major sports in Olympic competition. Boxing, wrestling, Judo, taekwondo, and kickboxing are examples of martial sports. I often hear martial artists who use the term "sport" as if referring to a game with no usefulness. The implication is that a sport is only for "play" and cannot be effective for self defense, fighting or combat. Many martial artists think that the distinction between sport and martial art is that martial artists train for real life.

One of the primary differences between martial sports and arts is in the value of the training methods. Because of their alleged danger or lethality, many martial arts engage in artificial and even counter-productive training which involves "pulling" techniques, modifying the point of contact, and adding in a precautionary element of movement that, rather than training the body, can inhibit its natural action and the ultimate conclusion of a technique. Slow, careful, non-contact training is not an effective approach to prepare for actual fighting situations that require the opposite reactions. Typifying this approach is a student who falsely equates the ability to break boards with the ability to punch a person in the face. As another example, I have never seen realistic training in throat strikes or eye gouges in any martial arts class, even though these are often recommended for self defense. The teaching generally done for these techniques helps students to understand what to do, but does not provide effective results for fast, reflexive and accurate application of these
techniques against an unwilling opponent in real life combat."
This is a point which I also made in my post. One problem with "lethal techniques" are that you can't really practice, and if you have, you are probably in jail! Sport Ju-Jitsu, Judo, and MMA players are definitely effective in self-defense (esp. MMA), and even boxers are probably far deadlier than your average "lethal" martial artist because he/she can take and give a punch without pulling it or watered-down muscle memory.

"Sport, by removing some of the potential dangers, achieves the opposite. That is, sport more typically produces natural, fast, reflexive movement with full power application, achieving a result against a struggling opponent who is also utilizing full power while engaging in strategic and tactical resistance using all of his or her resources and training. Techniques that don't work are soon abandoned, and successful skills are honed against different attackers under a variety of conditions. "

Another, more important aspect to martial artists wanting improved self-defense, or "reality" skills, is that competition teaches you to deal with the stress of an unknown situation. I have had to use my skills only a few times, but I can tell you that I was more scared afterward than during the situation - shaking to be exact. Then I had the euphoria that some of you may be familiar with, of having dodged the proverbial bullet and lived to fight another day!

Please read the rest, it'll be worth your time. One caveat to my views on sport training - sport/Olympic TKD may be the exception, or at least, the least effective of the sport styles. Don't get me wrong, I believe a good sport TKD player could spank the average person (and maybe me) in many situations, but to be effective, you'd have to include some training to deal with head punching. I sparred once, with a very good sport TKD player who I couldn't touch, but he'd trained in freestyle and boxing, and was well-rounded.

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