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Sport vs Application

applied martial arts Jun 23, 2023

When the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) occurred in November 1993 it was advertised as no rules, but in fact there were just three. The three rules were no biting, no eye gouging, and no groin shots. These were the same rules in the Ancient Greek sport of Pankration. Today in the UFC there are more rules, and banned moves. Every sport has rules. It sets limits of the behavior of participants.

In boxing attacks are only from punching with a clenched fist, and none below the belt, the neck, or the back of the opponent's head. The opponent cannot be hit when they're down, and the ring ropes cannot be used as leverage. 

In Taekwondo strikes must come from the foot or fist. Kicks to the head are allowed, but no force is required. Simply touching the opponent's head, guard, or face with the foot is all that is required. Punches are only allowed to the body, and not to the head. Participants wear chest protection, foot protection, head protection, and hand protection.

In Kickboxing opponent's can kick, punch, knee and elbow the head or the body. They can sweep the body with shins, but not the back of the legs. Gloves are worn, but usually not shin pads or headgear. Though some kickboxing may wears shin/foot protection. It depends on their federation. 

Each sport organization, will have general rules for their sport, and then more specific ones based on geographic, and insurance requirements.

It's easy to say that not all martial arts are equal, and that is true. But there's a whole lot of variables in that simple statement. Because, it depends what you're looking for.


When we look at martial arts, it should first be viewed through the lens of what it was intended for. A system to teach people how to fight. The next question is how do you want to learn to fight, and why? Each style of martial arts has a specific way it goes about learning fighting. Today some of those styles focus more on showmanship and sports specific rules, and others focus on realistic applications of fighting. Though they may have rules in their school to ensure safety, the true application of the style can still be shown and practiced.


We can generally see three different categories of martial arts.

One that are only good for competitive showmanship and low-impact sport. These ones have positive advantages for those who are looking for safe ways to build confidence in their body and focus, and may even develop positive values and character traits. Though their ability to actually fight may be limited. This also depends on their teacher's focus. Was it on scoring points, or teaching the student how to apply their styles to real life? This depends a lot on the teacher.

Second would be the martial art that is combative sport that has rules, and really shows people how to fight. These ones such as boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Kickboxing can be great to teach people how to move, fight, and control themselves safely in a ring and on the street. Yes, they may have rules of how to score points, but they can still learn how to defend themselves. If you're not looking to compete in a ring, or spar with other students these may not be the style for you. These styles have great teachers who are amazing leaders, and they also have those who are not good leaders. Choose wisely. I've been blessed to meet a number of amazing teachers in each of these styles. I've also seen some who are just unethical bullies. 

Third would be the style who does not focus on anything showmanship. No points for grace or style, and no competitions. They do fight in class with each other, they learn how to apply what actually works in their martial arts, and do not waste time on fancy moves that are ineffective in real-street fights. These types of martial arts have existed for hundreds of years. Inside the United States these are hard to find. Some of these systems have belts, sashes, and ranks, and some do not. The harder and longer it takes to climb through the rankings is generally a good sign. Those promising black belts would not fall into this category.

Unfortunately there exist a forth category. These are often watered down by teachers who lack confidence to actually teach, and are more worried about protecting their own status and revenue. These styles will have students achieve black belt status without every really knowing how to fight and defend themselves. Sadly this happens all too often.


Whether you actually can learn to fight or not really doesn't matter. Your choice to learn martial arts is your own choice. Just pick the school that will align with your values and beliefs. If a school does not, then there's no point in even walking through their down. If you want to know how to fight, and have a good place that develops you personal and physically, these are few and far between in martial art schools. 


Our school falls into category number 3. Students work very hard daily learning how to fight, and apply all they learn. We focus on values, ethics, conditioning of the mind, body, and spirit. We want students to be confident in their ability to fight, have been pressure tested, and know what they can do, and still have yet to learn. There are no trophies or badges of special status. Just a brother and sisterhood in our school of each person learning Wing Chun Kung Fu, where they understand what they're doing, why they're doing, and when and how to do it. Our students can fight, but know how to not fight. The art and science are valued as is the person practicing. 


When you pick your martial arts school, pick the one that best service your goal. 

 Check out our Adult Classes by clicking this link here: Adult Classes.

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