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Fighting or Self Defense?

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Martial arts is a sport that encompasses a great deal of variety. Not only can you find varying styles and approaches that developed from various places in the worlds, but you can also find an assortment of reasons why people choose to train in the martial arts. Often, the main draw for people is that martial arts offers a viable way to protect and defend yourself. Self defense is an incredibly important skill to acquire in our constantly changing world, and more and more people are turning to martial arts to equip themselves with this skill.


Many times, people who are a bit more peaceful in their approach to life question whether they want to try martial arts because they don’t want to turn into someone more aggressive or someone who fights or tries to harm someone else. Fortunately, most approaches to martial arts and self defense do not include becoming an aggressive person who instigates fights. An aggression you might learn is typically in response to protecting yourself, your family, and your friends from someone else who is intending harm.


Fighting, however, is a very real sport aspect within martial arts. Just as some people start martial arts in order to learn how to defend themselves, others join martial arts so they can learn how to fight. It’s important to understand the difference, as your choice in martial arts studios might change based on what you are hoping to accomplish.


The big question is “what’s the difference between self defense and fighting?” In self defense, there are no rules. The goal is to protect yourself from someone trying to cause you harm. You do not engage flippantly, hoping to fight, but rather use your skillset in its entirety to try to avoid any possible altercations. You might be heavily armed with self defense tactics, while your attacker knows nothing.


Fighting, on the other hand is drastically different. In fighting, you will find two trained fighters who have mutually agreed to a bout, or match. They will both agree to a particular set of rules, which may vary based on the organization, martial art style, or even the governing bodies for where they live. There is a distinct, desired outcome to win, and a referee and judges are typically present to keep the match within the context of the fight rules and determine the winner.


Training in the martial arts rarely requires people to simultaneously become fighters, as they are effectively two very different pathways for training. Many styles offer tournaments for you to test your skill set if you so desire, but remember, this will always fall into the “fighter” category. While your skills might help you in a self defense situation, the mindset going into a fight or tournament will always be different than the mindset required for self defense.


If you are hoping to get into martial arts for the self defense aspect, be sure to pick a style and studio that will help you accomplish that pathway. Having competitions available to you is not a bad idea, and it will absolutely help you to develop confidence in yourself, but it is not required for learning self defense. If you want to remain your normal, peaceful self, self defense will aid you to accomplish that. After all, good self defense often starts by noticing the situation and walking away from it before it even escalates.


Fighting and self defense are both viable options within the martial arts world, but they require drastically different approaches to training. Be sure to find a gym that supports your goals and endeavors.

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