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Martial Arts as a Sport


Martial arts as a sport is widely practiced throughout the world, due to the several benefits that it provides. But what is martial art and what is sport? Can martial arts be treated as a sport? If so, then what are its benefits? An attempt to answer these questions is presented in this article.

What is martial art?

Since the beginning of time, living organisms had to fight in order to obtain food, and therefore, the very act of living in itself was a continuous fight to obtain food. Perhaps this primal instinct to obtain food for survival, led humanity to fight. Initially, the fighting was limited to hunt animals and over time, the hunting techniques of fighting were improvised for the battlefield for conquests or self-defense. Subsequently, the experience gained in the battlefield led to further improvisations and were codified into different forms of fighting arts, which is now collectively known as “martial arts”. A brief history of martial arts is shown in the following video.

Martial Arts Journey video “The History of Martial Arts of the Entire World โ€ข Brief Martial Arts”:

What is sport?

The term “sport” is a shortening of the word “disport” which in late middle English meant diversion, pastime, or entertainment. Sport can be physical like swimming, or mental like chess, poker, etc. It can also be an individual sport like skiing or a team sport like football.

Oxford Languages video “What makes a sport a sport?”:

Can martial arts be treated as a sport?

From the early hunter/gatherer economy to the current knowledge-based economy, stupendous technological and economic advances have taken place. Nowadays, the pursuit of martial arts is largely not fighting for survival, but rather for personal growth in terms of development of self-confidence, health, physical fitness, mental awareness, and overall well-being. Thus, in these modern times, martial arts can be treated as a sport meant to provide entertainment by the display of physical skills.

When martial arts is treated as a sport, then the potential violence in martial arts is significantly toned down, by banning certain techniques, wearing appropriate protective gear, and formulating rules and regulations. Martial arts as a sport can showcase human endurance, human achievement, and human skill, without seriously being injured or injuring others. A scoring system is employed due to which the martial attacking and defensive techniques are given points, and one scoring the maximum points is declared as the winner.

However, since martial arts as a sport is strict on rules and the scoring system, sometimes, it may happen that a survival technique like a knockout may not win the match.

HaveYouSeenThisChannel video “The WORST Gold Medal Decision At The Tokyo Olympics”:

Nonetheless, this concept of treating martial arts as a sport has been well-received by the global community, which has resulted in the inclusion of Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Fencing, Boxing, and Wrestling in the Olympic games, as a sporting activity.

Taekwondo as a sport

Olympics video “Taekwondo ๐Ÿฅ‹ Mens +80kg Gold Medal bout | Tokyo 2020 Replays”:

Karate as a sport

World Karate Federation video “Karate at Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: KUMITE | WORLD KARATE FEDERATION”:

Judo as a sport

Olympics video “Judo’s elite ๐Ÿ”ฅ | Men’s -73kg Final | Tokyo 2020 Replays”:

Fencing as a sport

Olympics video “Aron Szilagyi Szilagyi Wins Fencing Sabre Gold – London 2012 Olympics”:

Boxing as a sport

Olympics video “๐ŸฅŠ Men’s Boxing Super Heavyweight +91kg Final | Tokyo Replays”:

Wrestling as a sport

Olympics video “Electrifying action! Wrestling men’s freestyle 125kg final | Tokyo 2020”:

Benefits of martial arts as a sport

The same benefits that can be derived from sport can also be derived from martial arts, in terms of physical, mental, and overall health. The benefits extend to all age groups right from kids to senior citizens.

Pacific International Taekwondo video “Pacific Int Taekwondo – What’s In It For Kids”:

LivingHealthyChicago video “Karate Health Benefits | Living Healthy Chicago”:

Benefits to seniors

Martial arts schools normally focus on kids, teens, adults, and women classes; however, a worldwide trend is to start classes for seniors also. More and more martial arts schools, all over the world, are offering programs designed exclusively for seniors, so that seniors can also benefit by practicing martial arts.

Good Day Sacramento video “Martial Arts for Seniors”:

Judson Senior Living video “Benefits of Tai Chi Martial Arts for Seniors | Judson Smart Living”:

No Comment TV video “Norway’s Taekwondo for seniors”:

Benefits to differently abled persons

When martial arts is treated as a sport, then apart from kids, teens, adults, and seniors, even persons who are differently abled can also derive several benefits.

kuro-obi world video “Infinite possibilities of Karate”:

truly video “The Wrestler With No Legs | BORN DIFFERENT”:

nipponkandenver video “Special Aikido Techniques for The Wheelchair Confined”:

Conscious Warrior Martial Arts video “Disabled Martial Arts โ€” RESPECT!”:

The benefits of practicing martial arts as a sport are obviously numerous and are availed by different segments of the society all over the world.


Traditional martial arts are fighting systems designed to eliminate or incapacitate an opponent, by targeting soft tissues, pressure points, dislocating joints, breaking limbs, choking holds, and more. When martial art is treated as a sport, then all lethal techniques are removed, and the movements are focused not on fighting for survival, but rather fighting to score points. This toned down approach, along with the use of protective gear and other rules to follow, makes it possible for martial arts to be treated as a sport. Martial arts as a sport can effectively showcase physical and mental skills in an almost risk-free environment that is both competitive and entertaining.


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