With so many views on what Martial Arts is, you may be thinking ‘Is Martial Arts Violent?’
This is a pretty complex question, and not one that can be answered with a simple yes or no. There are so many factors which come into play here. But the main one comes down to the individual.
In this blog we will explore everything from the origins, risks and benefits and even how Martial Arts develops within an individual. So you can decide for yourself if Marital Arts is violent.
Just like any contact based activity, football, rugby, and even hockey you might get hurt, you may even get aggressive. But the thing that sets Martial Arts apart from the rest is the mental development side. This allows any student to balance the hard and the soft. Whether they choose to follow through with this in their daily life is up to them.
Martial Arts is not about fighting. It is about mastering our mind, body and spirit to ensure we reach our full potential.
“The purpose of all our training is to find peace within ourselves.”
Shifu Yan Lei
Origins of Martial Arts
The term ‘Martial Arts’ originates from Latin. It means ‘arts of Mars’, referring to Mars, who was the Roman God of war. Others have dubbed it the ‘Art of War’ after the ancient Chinese military treatise by Sun Tzu, which was created around 5th Century BCE.
Its military connotation, ‘kill or be killed’. It is a philosophy that lingers on in many forms of self defence around the world belonging to different traditions, cultures and religions. Martial Arts in its modern sense has become an all-encompassing title describing combat systems which have been practiced for millenia.
The earliest evidence of Martial Arts (as a specific practice) is through illustrations of fights. As an example, an ancient Egyptian Fresco depicts the art of Wrestling during military training at Beni Hassan.
Contrary to popular belief, Martial Arts are not just from ancient Asia. They are both past and present, universal to most cultures and societies worldwide. In Europe for example, Pankration and Boxing were a part of Greek Olympic Games.
Media Portrayals of Martial Arts
Professional Mixed Martial Arts has become popularised in the media. TV shows, movies, and live fights make Martial Arts seem like a way to gain fame, money and stardom.
The media glorifies the more dynamic/violent moves for the entertainment factor. Kicking your opponent to the head will always gain more attention than calmly walking away from the fight.
Violence in Video Games
Video games also glorify the violent aspects of Martial Arts. There is usually an emphasis on the injuries, blood and even the success in killing your opponent.
In these cases it is the media that is encouraging the violence. Watching and participating in violent games can desensitise adults and children, therefore increasing their violent behaviour.
Historical Portrayal of Violent Martial Arts
History, more overtly accounts for the harder more war like forms of Martial Arts. And that is because many elements of Martial Arts were used for war. But that’s the type of training that is used in combat, and shared with the world.
Included in many types of Martial Arts, (harder styles included) there are many softer practices and teachings. These have a very spiritual, artistic or health conscious purpose.
Throughout human history, there have been multiple uses for Martial Arts. This has brought about multiple styles, each with their own purpose or outcome.
Over time various forms of Martial Arts have been born. Some softer, or more health based, others harder and more combat based. Many of which have elements of both hard and soft. What describes which Martial Arts are or are not, is a truly a subjective topic.
Which Martial Arts Are Violent?
Just like anything that develops over time, variations are formed, outcomes are altered, and intentions changed. Martial Arts are no exception to this rule.
Striking Martial Arts
It’s in the name, striking arts can of course on the surface be seen as violent. When you’re learning how to kick and punch it can be impossible to explain how it is not violent to some.
There are some forms of Karate which will focus on forms, and katas, and have very little contact between students.
Whereas in Kickboxing you’ll find that many schools will have sparring as part of their curriculum.
Maybe you have watched MMA or Boxing which have really risen in popularity. Again, these sorts of fights result in bruises, cuts, broken bones and various types of bodily trauma. However, it is important to understand that these are trained professional athletes.
Not only do they know how to give a punch, they know how to take one too. Years of conditioning means their bodies and minds are more prepared for a higher level of impact, compared to the average person. They fight with skill, not violence. Pure violence would not win titles, tactics, skill and determination is what gets them there.
Depending on what you consider violent, this kind of contact training may be seen as more aggressive or violent. Some other popular examples of striking arts are Taekwondo, Wing Chun, and Boxing.
Grappling Martial Arts
BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) is a grappling art well known for advocating that they train in a much safer way. This is due to the non striking efforts of their submissions.
This is done by mixing in elements of throwing, locking, and using your opponent’s force, and weight against them. This weight manipulation and energy transfer however is not for the faint hearted (unless your ready to learn something new).
Grappling arts have great impact and create great force when used correctly.
More modern styles of grappling arts include Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While more traditional ones include Judo and Wrestling.
Armed Martial Arts
Nothing screams violence like a weapon.
It is thought that Karate came into existence when weapons were banned in Japan. It is no secret that the Samuai sword was used for little more than attacking.
However, in modern times many weapons are used to perform artistic performances. They can also be used in self defence when needed.
All around the world a whole host of weapons are used in various Martial Arts, including sticks, swords, knives etc.
Health & Spiritual Martial Arts
This group of Martial Arts is a very broad and wide reaching set of practices. Everything from the well known Tai Chi, to Bone Setting and Chinese Medicine fall into this category.
It is arguably more difficult to categorise these Martial Arts as violent.
So you see, Martial Arts itself is so broad and diverse that it is hard to categorise. And to categorise the whole as violent would be difficult to justify.
It’s much harder to justify Chinese Medicine as violent than a contact sport such as MMA.
There are some with some more violent themes than others, but it is important to look at the whole rather than of specific elements.
Read our blog Which Martial Arts Style Should I Choose to explore your options.
For a fun spin on learning how Martial Arts can be taught without violence take a peak at the FitRoots comic. Just click the 👇👇👇 button below 👇👇👇👇
Risks and Benefits of Martial Arts
Whether it’s for yourself, your child, or someone you know, Martial Arts skills bring a whole host of benefits. But, just like anything they come with their own set of risks too.
Here are just a few of the mental benefits of Martial Arts:
- Conflict Resolution
- Higher Self-Esteem
Here are just a few of the physical benefits of Martial Arts:
- Self Defence
- Great Physical Outlet
Apart from the benefits listed above, Martial Arts is a great way to set goals for young children, teens and adults. Goals may start with achieving your next belt, but quickly become a transferable skill that can be applied to all areas of life.
Risks of Martial Arts Training
Like any physical activity, Martial Arts comes with a set of risk of injury. This is increased if the appropriate care, guidance and strengthening does not occur.
Reduce the Risk of Injury
Just like with anything, the more informed we are, the better prepared we are. And that means we could potentially reduce the risk of injuries in Martial Arts.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the risks:
- Find a good school for you: Some schools will cater more for fighters, they will spar harder and the risk of injury may be higher as a result. There are others that won’t spar hard but they won’t teach you how to strengthen your body and your risk of injury will be higher. To avoid these types of schools read 5 signs of a Bad Martial Arts School.
- Start with a level of contact or pace that suits you: Go at your own pace, but make sure you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Speak with the instructor about what you are comfortable with and let your partners know too. If you are not comfortable with head contact be very clear about this.
- Have the appropriate safety equipment: If your are sparring make sure you are wearing what is appropriate for the level of contact you are training at. For stand up contact sparring we recommend gloves, shin pads, gum shield, and groin guard.
The Art of War Vs The Art of Peace
There should be an emphasis on the art and not the violence when training.
Many are hesitant about enrolling themselves or their children into Martial Arts because it may promote violence. This is important to bear in mind. Particularly for your child. You don’t want to hear they have been beating others up at school, or their siblings at home.
But, just like anything they will find their path with the guidance of their peers, instructors and parents.
The Art of War text so accurately depicts how the Chinese military used Martial Arts for their military strategies and tactics.
It became part of the syllabus for military candidates and is said to have given inspiration to Takeda Shingen (1521-1573) for the famous battle standard “Fūrinkazan” (Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain), meaning fast as the wind, silent as a forest, ferocious as fire and immovable as a mountain.
Put simply, we cannot categorise and box such an age old human practice which is something so tied to our history and development.
We rarely question whether music is relaxing or energising in favour of one over the other. It is both and neither, depending on the time of day, setting and mood.
Why People Start Martial Arts
There are a whole host of different types of Martial Arts, which provide students with both similar and very unique skills from one and other. Let’s consider the style of Martial Arts a vehicle to what a student is aiming to achieve, and explore the reasons they begin their journey.
Undoubtably violence related due to the nature of being attacked. This however does not mean you will learn to defend violence with violence. There are many techniques that can be learnt in Martial Arts that do not use striking force, but rather redirection of an attacker’s force.
When you train in Martial Arts you will develop a better sense of awareness, giving you better judgement. This will teach you how to distinguish a threat from something worth dismissing. This heightened awareness will also allow you to maneuver around your attacker and redirect their force in your favour. Manipulate their own moves to work against them. These are skills heavily used in grappling Martial Arts.
That being said, these tactics will not always be the best call of action. There may be scenarios where you will need to strike your attacker to ensure your safety.
Skills – Life skills and physical skills
When you are on your path to self development you embark on a personal journey. While many start their journey with a combat or contact based Martial Art, fighting is very rarely the intention.
In fact many are unsure when it comes to the contact, sparring elements of training initially. Understandably of course, this is where you know you could get hurt. Sometimes the thought of getting hit is much worse than the reality, or most times actually. Providing that you’re at a school where the existing students know not to knock a newbie out.
Ironically, it is the sparring element which really brings students to get to know themselves and understand the purpose of their training. It is through this practical application of all the theory and skills learnt that many learn how to connect the dots not just in Martial Arts but in life too.
Focus and Discipline
Ask most parents why they have enrolled their child into Martial Arts and you will get most saying that they want to develop their child’s focus and/or discipline. This runs true for adults too even if they don’t say it (or know it yet).
The repetitive nature of Martial Arts, and the accomplishments of achieving perfect technique and form take time. This can only be achieved by practicing over and over again, and developing the self patience and discipline to stick with it, even when its not going your way. Through this practice you will develop ‘empty mind’, or ‘mushin’, a mental state free from anger, fear, or ego.
With mushin Martial Arts becomes a way of life.
Physical Fitness and Strength
Fitness classes are popping up everywhere, ladies kickboxing and boxercise are the new ‘in’ trend.
It must be mentioned that while on the surface you may ‘feel’ you are Kickboxing or Boxing in these classes these are not transferable or practical techniques. These are more branded aerobics classes with a twist.
However, if you do decide to find a genuine Martial Arts class that teaches the likes of Kickboxing or Boxing, you will learn transferrable skills as well as get fit, build strength and lose an extra pounds.
Higher intensity Martial Arts such as MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, etc will push you to your limits while engaging your mind as you really need to focus to get the techniques right. You’ll burn a sweat without even realising it and the time. And if you really give your all you will feel it the next day. Martial Arts works your body as one unit and not your muscles in isolation.
Expect to see your physical fitness and strength reach a new level if you train consistently in the right Martial Art.
Stress Relief/Channeling Energy
Many adults see hitting pads as a great stress relief (which it is). However, the more you practice the more you realise that the stress relief eventually comes from focusing your mind and putting it into a sort of meditative state as you train. This is not only the case with Martial Arts, many activities can have this affect you just need to know how to tap into that focus.
Similarly, we find many parents coming and asking us to help their child who has ‘too much’ energy and to burn it off. When kids have no outlet for their energy this can usually turn into frustration at home and challenging behaviour. Martial Arts is known for helping kids and their parents with this. Kids with lots of energy burn it off and more importantly learn how to channel it in a positive way, using it to enhance their skills.
One of the most essential by products of learning Martial Arts is improving confidence. Quite often this goes unnoticed by students as this happens at a much slower pace than learning how to kick and punch. Naturally, training our minds takes more time than our bodies, and training our spirit takes a little longer than that too.
Watching students grow in confidence is one of the reasons why so many instructors love what they do, and why so many parents value their child’s training. This is especially true for those children who start Martial Arts because they are being bullied. Ending bullying is so much more about building confidence than learning how to physically defend yourself. The aim in Martial Arts is to diffuse the fight before it happens.
Find out more about Stopping Bullies with Martial Arts here.
No matter what Martial Arts you choose, rest assured you will develop confidence. This comes as a result of joining a community of students all working to better themselves, the combat aspect and also the improvement in your own skill.
So, How is Martial Arts Violent?
With all these self-development reasons for people starting, it would make you question why so many deem Martial Arts violent.
And it’s not crazy to question such a claim.
Many Martial Arts schools will train hard, maybe a little harder than needed despite having intentions of self development. And a lot of the time the are a few people there to let off some steam, and that could have another student on the end of it.
If this is a concern of yours, these types of students or schools can definitely be avoided if you do your research properly.
Read our 5 signs of a bad Martial Arts school before you start your school search. Save yourself time and money by choosing the right school the first time around.
Are you looking for a way to learn more about how combat doesn’t have to be violent?
Take a look at what can happen when the right mindset is applied.
How Martial Arts Develops Within The Individual
When some people take up Martial Arts they find the develop laser sharp focus, others feed their ego. Just like anything Martial Arts can bring the best and worst out of us. This should be understood before any student begins their journey.
Martial Arts, even though you learn from others is very much a solo journey. It is not a traditional team sport where you can rely on your team and therefore those who choose to develop both mentally and physically will eventually learn to Master their Lives with Martial Arts both inside and outside of their training.
It’s important that you have an open mind when it comes to Martial Arts. You never know what you could be missing out on. Very few realise that it may be that the school they tried or the style they saw on t.v. just wasn’t the right fit and put them off.
Martial Arts is a physical activity, however there are immense amount of mental and spiritual training involved too.