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Types of combat in martial arts

Combat is a conflict with a specific purpose.

In martial arts, combat may be broadly classified as:

— physical combat
——military combat
——self-defense combat
——security combat
— sports combat
— mock combat
— demonstrative combat
— psychological combat
— external combat
— internal combat

Physical combat

Here, the purpose is to physically harm or kill the opponent. Physical combat may be armed (with weapons) or unarmed (without weapons). Physical combat may be military combat, self-defense combat, or security combat.

Military combat

Here, the only purpose is to kill the opponent, for example, an army fighting to kill another army. This is usually an armed combat with usage of ranged weapons like arrows, guns, missiles, etc., and melee weapons like swords, batons, knives, etc. The following video shows military combat.

Scania Vikings video “Dunkirk – All Stuka Bombing Scenes”:

Hand-to-hand combat techniques is taught in the United States military and this is known as “combatives”, which features a combination of different martial arts techniques, both armed and unarmed, generally derived from Krav Maga, Judo, Eskrima, Systema, Defendo, Kali, Spear, Sambo, Karate, Taekwondo, Mixed Martial Arts, as well as boxing and wrestling. The following video shows the art of combatives.

Gung Ho Vids video “Modern Army Combatives Program โ€ข Hand To Hand Combat Cage”:

Self-defense combat

Here, the purpose is to defend oneself from the harm of the opponent. It may entail harming the opponent, but only to such an extent, which can safely enable defense of oneself. For example, Taekwondo is primarily a self-defense art and features largely unarmed combats. Self-defense combat may also include verbal self-defense, in order to de-escalate, or prevent, or end a potential conflict situation by using a low tone, non-angry and non-abusive words, along with polite behaviour. In order to counter an attempted assault, sexual or otherwise, self-defense combat arts like Taekwondo, Jiu-Jitsu, etc., are popular. Women empower themselves by joining women’s self-defense classes, which are available in almost all martial arts schools. The following video shows self-defense combat, especially women’s self-defense.

Cobra Warriors- Martial Art Academy video “Power of girl๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ/ perfect Self-Defense/ fight like a girl”:

Security combat

Here, the purpose is to disable the opponent with the least harm possible. For example, actions taken by the police or security personnel. They may be armed or unarmed combats. The following video shows a security combat tactic.

Samir Seif video “Security Tactics: Lesson 2 Wrist Lock”:

Sports combat

Here, the purpose is to enjoy a sporting activity. The following video shows Taekwondo as a sports combat activity.

Best Taekwondo Fighters video “Panipak Wongpattanakit ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ VS Adriana Cerezo lalesias ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฆ final Tokyo 2020 Olympic Taekwondo game”:

Mock combat

Here, the purpose is to provide training via a display of skill and prowess. For example, sparring in martial arts is mock combat. Mock combat can be realistic in varying degrees of no-contact, semi-contact or full-contact combat. It features hand-to-hand combat at close range and different parts of the body are used as weapons, for executing various striking and grappling techniques of clinch fighting or ground fighting or stand-up fighting. The following video shows semi-contact mock combat.

Pacific International Taekwondo video “Taekwondo – 3 Step Sparring”:

Demonstrative combat

Here, the purpose is to demonstrate skills and prowess for demonstration or gradings. The following video shows demonstrative combat.

ITF Taekwon-Do video “World Championships Germany 2019: Special Techniques Senior Male”:

Psychological combat

Here, the purpose is to psychologically control or break down the opponent. For example, subtle or gross mental manipulations are done by which one’s own will may be imposed on others. It may also involve physical harm targeted to a particular opponent, in order to set a psychological example to others, so that others readily submit without any resistance. The following video shows psychological combat.

THNKR video “Psychological Warfare: The POW Experience”:

External combat

Here, the purpose is to beat the opponent, who is anyone else, excepting oneself. One fights with others. External combat generally arises from comparisons. People tend to compare themselves with superior achievements of others and thereby attempt to achieve similar heights. Comparisons in order to motivate oneself is healthy, for example a student may compare one’s performance with others and try harder to achieve that desired level of performance. However, it might degrade to jealousy and frustration, especially if the desired object is unachievable in the present circumstances, and in such instances comparisons should not be done. The following video shows external combat arising from comparisons.

Make Me Better video “Stop Comparing Yourself With Others | Compete with Yourself ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ (Must Watch!)”:

Internal combat

Here, the purpose is to beat the opponent, who is only oneself. One fights with oneself. One tries to better oneself via constant application of positive thoughts, words and deeds. Internal combat is an ongoing process until the desired object is achieved. Achievement may lead to another object being desired and thus, this is generally a repeating process. For example, a practitioner of martial arts may go on resolving several internal combats in order to achieve higher coloured belts. The following video shows an internal combat.

TED video “To overcome challenges, stop comparing yourself to others | Dean Furness”:


Learning combat is important as it also teaches the value of non-combat or peace. Since Nature works in dualities, to understand peace one also has to understand conflict. Therefore, martial artists learn to fight so that they can learn how to maintain peace. The aim of all martial arts of the world is ultimately to teach how to live in peace with oneself and with others. Hence, martial arts is not just about fighting, it is essentially about leading a peaceful way of life.


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