Sunday, May 8, 2016

You Call That Art?

Anyone who has spent time in the martial arts knows that practitioners love to debate the merits of their style. It's typically a very logical, calm discussion lacking any emotion or misunderstanding. Participants always enjoy the conversation and they finish feeling incredible respect for every point of view.

Ok, it's time to stop laughing. In this post, I don't intend to argue for the superiority of one style over another. However, I do want to share a thought about how we classify the styles we practice.

This post was inspired by the excellent Off the Centerline Podcast, which features three martial artists from Florida. Episode 20 asked the question "Self-Defense, Fighting System, Or Martial Art?" and mentioned my current style, Krav Maga, several times.

The consensus seemed to be that Krav Maga is a "fighting system," although its self defense aspects were also discussed. In March I blogged Is Krav Maga a Martial Art? which argued for the self defense angle. Here I'd like to expand on this idea, which I plan to share as a comment on the OTC Facebook page.

When I read self defense, fighting system, and martial art, I think of the following, which adds the category of sport combat:

"Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: as self-defense, military and law enforcement applications; as competition, physical fitness, mental and spiritual development; as well as entertainment and the preservation of a nation's intangible cultural heritage." Yes, this is the Wikipedia definition, with which I agree!

A fighting system teaches students to win physical confrontations. When the practitioner physically fights, the ultimate goal is to achieve victory by submission, knockout, or some other measure that renders the opponent unwilling or unable to prevail.

Sport combat teaches students to win physical confrontations within the rules set by an athletic association. When the practitioner physically fights, the ultimate goal is to achieve victory by submission, knockout, or some other measure that renders the opponent unwilling or unable to prevail, including cessation as ordered by a referee.

self defense system teaches students to identify, avoid, and, if necessary, win  mental and/or physical confrontations. If the practitioner must physically fight, the ultimate goal is to escape to safety. It may be necessary to render the opponent unwilling or unable to prevail.

For me, the reason Krav Maga is more accurately a self defense system, and not primarily a fighting system, is that we learn Krav Maga to survive and escape to safety. We do not learn to stay and fight, as one would in a mixed martial arts octagon or boxing ring. If we have to fight, we do so until we can escape to safety.

You might consider martial arts to be broad category encompassing all "codified systems and traditions of combat practices," with fighting systems a subcategory. Sport combat and self defense draw on elements of fighting systems, but they have different purposes: sport combat teaches students to stand and fight in order to improve their record, while self defense teaches students to escape physical confrontation.

When discussing self defense in his book Meditations on Violence, on page 77 author Rory Miller writes "It is better to avoid than run; better to run than de-escalate; better to de-escalate than fight; better to fight than die." This captures the Krav Maga philosophy perfectly.

What do you think?

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