There Are Other Reasons To Train In Martial Arts Besides Competitive Fighting

        There are all kinds of reasons to train in martial arts besides competitive fighting. In the old days of Karate nobody was concerned with sport fighting or winning points. The Okinawans and Japanese only cared about fighting in general and staying alive. Likewise, in Taekwondo’s infancy nobody was thinking about how they can create a popular sport, but how to promote a Korean way of fighting more perfect than Karate itself.

Besides fighting in general and self defense martial arts in my opinion are the ultimate fitness and health activities anyone can do. It is better than dancing, better than gymnastics, and better than just lifting weights alone. Martial arts combine everything into one. Movement of the joints in various ways, moving the body in every possible way it can move, and development of serious cardio and blood circulation. Martial arts also offer healing by strengthening the body and systems of the body. Many martial artists, including myself age pretty well. We look younger and are more fit than average people. We can last longer and have a better quality of life. On top of this is of course our self defense skills that will keep us alive longer if we are attacked. Martial arts are ultimate self preservation.

Martial arts help mental health by inducing stress relief, intense focus of the mind with forms and meditation, coordination skills, and give enjoyment and pleasure to practitioners. It keeps people busy who otherwise might be bored if they did not know a martial art style. Traditional martial arts also offer great ways for solo training such as forms that can be performed anywhere which also sharpen the mind and develop masterful techniques.

Of course with anything, martial arts also provides a way for a competitive spirit. Competition is a way to test skills and see how someone holds up with another human being. Combat sports are always there for people to participate in but are not the main goal. There are ways to compete inside the dojo with friends without entering huge tournaments or serious combat sports such as full contact kickboxing and MMA. But even so some people want to participate in MMA and see how they do. That is fine, but it should not be the sole purpose of a life long martial artist. There is so more more you can do and the toll that MMA and full contact fighting events takes on the body can be a negative force in your personal martial arts journey. There is a time to retire and a time to understand to take training slow because of injuries. Over the years your body will wear down immensely and basic martial arts skills will suffer. The nature of MMA is hurting another and avoiding being hurt. It is impossible to not get hurt yourself as every fight you will get hit. Over time it can cause brain damage and serious joint injuries and arthritis. I believe it is possible to regress physically and regress as a martial artist with too much combat participation.

Frank Mir, ex-UFC heavy weight champion mentions very profound things about MMA:

Almost everybody at the UFC level can fight through an injury. We’re all hurt by the time the fight comes. I’m starting camps off with the injuries that I haven’t properly addressed and that’s affecting the way I train, movements we’re using and what we can do on a certain day. I’ve got Forrest Griffin making jokes about it like, ‘It’s time to retire when I train like Mir.’ I’m like, ‘what are you saying?’ He’s like, ‘Well you walk in the gym, what doesn’t hurt?’ So I was like, ‘well, you’re right.’ So I was like, let me take time off, address these issues and train healthy – relatively speaking for what we do in our sport – then I’ll keep fighting. But it’s to the point where I’m only 35-years-old and you know, the quality of life. I’d like to play a pickup game of baseball with my kids…So that’s kind of the decisions and why I did what I did.”

Frank Mir understands that having a high quality of life is important, not just for himself, but for his family. It is a fact that someone who trains hard in a martial art style who does not have injuries or brain damage can train harder and better than someone who has such injuries.

If someone only participated in a minimal level of combat sports, or none at all except dojang training, he possibly will have better technique, better health, better cardio, better power and proper body mechanics than an old retired MMA fighter with 50+ fights. In self defense who will do better at this point? Obviously combat experience is important to factor in, but with enough combat training in a dojang or dojo a person can still master a martial art and effectively win a street fight. He can also train in martial arts longer during his life and benefit his martial arts style and community longer than someone who has too many injuries.

Being a life long martial artist also has the duty of promoting that martial art, teaching it to new students, developing new techniques and keeping the art alive. I often find it strange many MMA fighters who retire have nothing much to do with teaching martial arts or starting a martial arts gym business afterward. Some simply just do other things and walk away. Even professional boxes. I don’t see Mike Tyson running a gym or promoting his boxing to new generations. Maybe he does in a way that I do not know, but he is basically in movies, doing 1 man Broadway shows, developing an animated TV show, writing books etc. But he is not being a boxing instructor. The professional fight scene seems to exist for personal glory more than enjoying a martial arts community and making training and practice a life long journey. There is no end to training and practice for a Taekwondoin. We will go until we are 100 years old until we die. We should be teaching and passing on concepts and martial arts to new and younger people.

Benson Henderson said it best after his fight with Nick Diaz in 2012 when he claimed there is more to life than fighting. He said,

Fighting’s cool. I love this guys, thank you guys for all of the support. Seattle, I love you, but fighting is just a small part. There’s a lot more to life, guys. There’s a lot more to life. Hug on your loved ones, cherish them. These moments we have together, they’re a lot shorter than you think.

Simply just to fight in a sport, I believe, is not the sole reason to train in martial arts. Living life and enjoying other things is important too and martial arts themselves, even without competition, help a person achieve a higher quality of life than if one was not training in them. There is much benefit also for people who train without fighting.

There is a current and ignorant trend that says the only reason to train in any martial art is if you compete. If you do not compete you are somehow a deficient martial artist and doing something that is pointless. Also, you are not a real fighter. This is bogus. Anyone who trains in a combat art with the intention of fully embracing it’s self defense aspects while enjoying its other benefits is literally a fighter in their being. The attitude of a fighter is not only displayed in combat sports or street fighting. Does a soldier in the military only become a soldier when fighting in a war? What about during times of peace? Are they not real soldiers unless they become combat veterans? That would be absurd. Of course they are still soldiers. Someone who trains to be a soldier is a soldier whether or not they ever fight in a war their entire life. A martial artist is likewise a fighter whether or not they literally fight people in combat or self defense or not. The fact is they are seriously training.

There are many good reasons to train in martial arts besides competitive fighting and they are just as valid as one who has a quest for MMA glory. I plan to teach Taekwondo and practice it for the rest of my life. I also plan to train in other styles as well until I can no longer do it. I plan to always be involved in the martial arts world through teaching, promoting, and training. Too many injuries from too much heavy sparring is detrimental to a martial arts lifestyle, but it is necessary to train with sparring to truly encompass the full range of martial arts perfection. It all depends on your attitude. There is nothing wrong with MMA, but trendy MMA hipster culture is full of ignorant people who have never learned what being a true martial artist is. A few intelligent fighters do understand this as well as MMA students, but the popular trendy culture surrounding it needs to be ignored while true martial artists become masters and perfect technique into old age and never quit.

 

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Comments
  1. Jonathan says:

    Awesome blog post. I whole heartedly agree with every point you made.

    “Besides fighting in general and self defense martial arts in my opinion are the ultimate fitness and health activities anyone can do. It is better than dancing, better than gymnastics, and better than just lifting weights alone. Martial arts combine everything into one.”

    -I have the same thoughts myself. I started Taekwondo at 24, I am now 26 and about halfway up the belt rank to 1st dan black. The first week I started, I was in relatively good shape, but I was so sore after! I had worked out and stretched parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed before. I think my first week of training I laid in bed most of the time because of the pain! It really IS the ultimate health activity anybody can do. It really does combine so many good things into one complete package: mental, physical, and spiritual!

    “Many martial artists, including myself age pretty well. We look younger and are more fit than average people. We can last longer and have a better quality of life.”

    -I work in an Emergency Room and I can’t tell you how many people I see that are young like me, but have so many health problems. Obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, etc. Martial arts, especially, Taekwondo, forces us to explore and push our range of motion and movement of our joints, tendons, muscles, and body to the max! A lot of these huge societal health issues would be greatly alleviated if people moved their bodies more, like we do in Taekwondo training. Like you said, movement has a lot to do with preventing health problems, as it promotes proper digestion (GI), blood flow (cardiovascular), and metabolism! Poomsae does an excellent job of teaching us HOW to move and master control of our bodies, through accurate, precise, and controlled power and grace in stances, kicks, punches, and blocks. I really believe there is no greater lifelong exercise routine than Poomsae! Young, middle aged, and old people can do it. It is easy on our bodies, but it works up a good sweat, elevates the heart rate, and requires laser-sharp concentration to do well! Try doing your forms in a sauna suit to really work up a good sweat!

    “…some people want to participate in MMA and see how they do. That is fine, but it should not be the sole purpose of a life long martial artist. There is so more more you can do and the toll that MMA and full contact fighting events takes on the body can be a negative force in your personal martial arts journey.

    -One thing that I think is unfortunate is how when I tell people I train in Taekwondo, one of the most common first responses is “Oh cool! Are you going to do MMA?” Combat sport, while entertaining, is just one tiny bit that composes the greater whole of the martial arts. I think sparring and competition is definitely valuable in itself, but for it to be the sole focus of somebody will result in an unbalanced practitioner. At that point, I don’t know if the term “martial artist” really applies anymore… One that is solely focused on competitive fighting is more of a “pugilist” or a “fighter” than a martial artist. I may draw some heat for saying that, but martial arts, above anything else, I think is intended for health and wellness. Preservation and development of the mind, body, and spirit. So, I think while Combat Sport is a small component that makes up the greater whole of Martial Arts, it cannot be equated to Martial Arts, because the focus of either is completely different.

    “Being a life long martial artist also has the duty of promoting that martial art, teaching it to new students, developing new techniques and keeping the art alive. I often find it strange many MMA fighters who retire have nothing much to do with teaching martial arts or starting a martial arts gym business afterward.”

    -The way I see it, is combat sports like MMA really feed the ego. Real martial arts are supposed to drive you towards suppressing the ego and becoming more humble. There is much fame and glory to be taken in the ring. But like you said, how come these people don’t continue to teach after their time is up? A real martial artist treats martial arts like a lifelong pursuit, and lifestyle to be lived, and sees the responsibility to preserve and share their tradition with others who are willing to learn. A real martial artist is concerned about others while somebody who is only invested in his or her own ego will only be thinking about themselves and their own glory. While somebody may have trained in particular martial art at one point in their life, once they shift their focus totally to only being a fighter in the ring, I think there is a huge portion of their development that gets cast away for the pursuit of a title.

    “There is nothing wrong with MMA, but trendy MMA hipster culture is full of ignorant people who have never learned what being a true martial artist is.”

    -I don’t think there is anything wrong with MMA, either. But over the course of time, I believe that traditional martial arts, like Taekwondo, will continue to grow and capture people’s loyalty for a lifetime, while things like MMA will most likely only attract and hold onto a small segment of the population, for short segments of time. Taekwondo is overflowing with concepts, techniques, forms, history, and all sorts of things to learn and master over the course of a lifetime. It is great because young and old can participate and enjoy it equally. It makes me smile when I see an 80-year old man going through a poomsae routine alongside a teen. Wow, what a great way to preserve one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health! MMA is quite the opposite in the sense that it only really caters and serves a particular demographic and population. Since MMA’s sole focus is for one to fight in the ring, once one becomes too frail or worn out to do that anymore, it quickly loses its appeal or relevancy. In Taekwondo, while Olympic-style Combat Sport TKD is much more safe than what goes on in the UFC, once somebody decides that they are too worn out or frail for that, it’s okay, because TKD offers myriad other things to master and learn as well! Combat Sport TKD is just one small aspect of the overall picture.

    I truly think that if more people seriously trained in traditional martial arts, the world would be a better place. I have seen the positive effects it has had on my life. Besides the physical benefits, TKD has given me direction, focus, awareness, drive, and as time goes on I feel more and more I am learning what it means to have an Indomitable Spirit.

    Tae kwon!

    • White Dragon says:

      Hey man I really appreciate your thoughtful comment on my blog post. That is really encouraging.

      You make some really good points and extra thoughts on the topic for this article. Im glad you posted.

      And yes, I LOVE MMA and watching it. I dont fight in it because of some severe injuries. I may have in the past if I had 100% health and was younger. But i appreciate what MMA did for martial arts in making people think more about real fighting and full contact. But I also hate what it has done with its trendy, hipster culture that surrounds it where everyone is such a martial arts snob and elitist. They ignoraintly said stupid things about TMA’s. But lately TMA background fighters are dominating the sport. It is encouraging.
      I think MMA is a great persuit for a real martial artist, but the real martial artist needs to know when to hang up the gloves and remember to pursue the FULL art of their style.

      It is the same for Olympic sparring althetes. Many only focus on how to score points and knockout with spin kicks. Constantly you see these types lack in skill in poomsae and hoshinsool techniques. So awful it looks like a joke, yet they have very fast kicks and countering skills. But then they only think about rules and weight classes. I believe most Olympic fighters lack a full martial arts lifestyle. And when they retire, they might want to teach but then their skill assesment in other areas will suck so bad.

      What you said about joint health and everything else is so true. Taekwondo will also help you not get sick as easy because it helps the immune system, but of course you need to eat good too to make it work. exercise makes the entire body stronger and of course martial arts are the ultimate work out in my opinion as stated in the article.

      All martial arts styles have their benefits similar to Taekwondo. Even Judo or Ji Jitsu or even Muay Thai.

      With TMA’s, especially from Asian cultures they kind of take a holistic approach to being a warrior. There is always a moral phislophy is most TMA styles. Some maybe not as much. But Taekwondo especially has the 5 tenets which promote proper ethics and morality in students.

      For me the spiritual aspect of training can be summed up as a psychological and mental health aspect. I do not combine Taekwondo and religion, I leave it up to the individual. But for me I am a Christian.

      The Poomsae does develop concentration and mental health because it is moving meditation and you are to practice with intense focus thinking of nothing but the techniques. Even zoning out and doing it without thinking. Once you complete you come back to normal and its an amazing feeling.

      I agree that combat sports or titles do feed the ego. but a true martial artist can handle that and be a good representative and remain humble. MMA simply just attracts people who want self glory because its a competition and naturally poeple want to be “the best” and dominate others etc. Yet the true martial artist would use competition as an avenue to better himself, for himself and not to impress. But is ok to celebrate a good victory and enjoy it.

      I think hard sparring and realistic training is vital to being a real martial artist. One cannot simply do poomsae and experience the full aspect of Taekwondo. They need to drill for realistic combat and when they become teachers they can make sure Taekwondo progresses and does not become something like Tai Chi, where hardly anyone teaches or practices its combat applications and people assume martial arts are not about fighting but about some hippy culture.

      But one does not HAVE to compete in combnat sports to experience all of this. It is not neccesary to fight in MMA or even olympic sparring. Just make sure you do it in your dojang during training enough.

      I love Taekwondo and I will always train. It helps my arthritis. I will do poomsae till i die as well. And still drill hoshinsool and spar but of course I can always fall back on poomsae.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the kind words! Yes, I definitely agree that realistic sparring/training is an essential component of the martial arts. How else can we be sure of our technique? There is a psychological component to this as well that reassures us that we can function under stress or duress, or wakes us up to the need to further develop our minds so we can do so.

    Unfortunately, you are right about the some of the Olympic TKD athletes. Don’t quote me on this, but I hear in Mexico there are schools that ONLY teach the Olympic TKD competition. Ranking up in belt only depends on Olympic sparring skill progress–nothing else. Not forms, breaking, hoshinsool, etc. It kind of made me sad to hear that, as it is robbing a huge part out of TKD. When I peek into the Kukkiwon manual, holy crap, there is soooo much to learn in there that I realize the Olympic sparring techniques, while awesome and fun in their own respect, are just one aspect of the overall picture.

    I hope you know I have nothing against the MMA/UFC thing. I just agree a lot when you say that there has been a lot of arrogance and ignorance spread regarding the TMA’s. One only needs to take a quick peek on the comment section of certain YouTube videos to see people spewing vitriol. I also think it is awesome how people with traditional training backgrounds are showing their ability to win in the octagon. Wow, that can only be good for TMA. I really like that Benson Henderson guy, he seems like a class act.

    • White Dragon says:

      Benson Henderson is a class act and one of my favorite fighters. The only thing is many of the MMA traditional martial arts guys grew up in mcdojangs. So they are the exception to mcdojangism, or got it through their heads to go beyond the mcdojang and learn to really fight. They are also natural athletes. But Benson Hendeson at least went back to Korea and connected with his Korean roots. He is half black and half Korean. He put on an official dobok as well and not his mcdojang uniform.

      If there are gyms in mexico who only teach olympic sparring thats pretty sad. They are being dishonest in ranking people, especially if they are applying for kukkiwon rank without knowing the forms. I would hate being a part of such a school.
      For me I teach TKD as the martial art, and I do teach olympic rules sparring but I focus on more free range sparring like MMA stand up with Taekwondo techniques.

      Yes when BJJ came around in the 90’s it was that TKD and any other art sucks. Then MMA got big and it was still MMA sucks, and Muay Thai is better etc. You will never hear the end of it on the internet. But if people saw you in real life they wouldnt be so quick to act tough.
      I feel that MMA onlyists really miss the big picture of martial arts. MMA started the whole new uniforms thing especially with “no gi grappling” and evenb some olympic sparring athletes do it too and never wear their dobok when they train. Just the pads and shorts. I find it annoying. For me I happen to train a lot outside in public so I do not always wear my dobok, but inside a gym I always wear it or when im teaching Taekwondo.

    • White Dragon says:

      And yes he Kukkiwon textbook is full of a ton of things! Most dojangs dont even teach it. Its annoying.

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