Not All Martial Arts Work Because They Are Not Combat Arts!


A lot of people get into martial arts due to bullying or simply due to wanting to learn how to protect themselves should an issue arise. Yet you should be aware that self-defense training differs, as not all martial arts are created equal here. Not all martial arts deal with training that prepares someone for combat, sometimes in any form whatsoever.

Some martial arts are for exercise which is a part of non-combat art such as Tai Chi. Therefore, being a martial artist in non-combat arts will not prepare anyone for real-world fighting. Yet there are plenty of others that will involve combat training. Those can adequately prepare someone for a real-world fight that the previous type cannot. For this reason, it is incorrect to assume that all martial arts are designed to make you a competent fighter.

In this piece, we’ll discuss the idea of combat vs non-combat style, the martial arts that work well in a fight (and those martial arts that do not work), combined with the best self-defense martial arts to look into. After reading this article, you will understand much better as to why not all martial arts work in combat situation.

Understanding Combat Arts vs Non-Combat Martial Artists

Martial arts can be separated into two different categories. The first category is Combat art. Combat arts are designed to teach people how to defend themselves and fight. A popular martial art such as Karate was created to prepare people how to fight when attacked.

The second category is non-combat martial arts. There are some martial arts that are for a person’s well-being, such as the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi. It’s a health-based martial art. Of course, it does simulate fighting stances but you are not learning how to fight. Therefore, it is not designed to be a martial art that you could actually use in a proper fight. Great for meditation, not for self-defense. Therefore, Tai Chi falls under non-combat martial art.

While we often loop everything under the “martial art” name these days, the big thing to remember is that for it to be a true combat oriented martial art, one needs contact. If no contact is performed, it is then can’t be labeled as “combat art.”

The Hybrid Art:

There are some hybrid versions of non-combat martial arts and combat arts. The best example of this can be seen among the Shaolin monks. Many are trained at the infamous Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple in the Henan Province of China. They are known for being a peace-driven group of monks that choose to abstain from any form of combat outside training unless they have no alternative.

They will train on the health side of their martial art, even using some forms of Tai Chi. They are often known for their numerous hours of meditation. There is scientific evidence that proves they are able to move heat and energy to specific parts of their body through these impressive meditation techniques. They mix in combat art and even some religious aspects to this.

However, the Shaolin were known as protectors in China for centuries too. The same fighting style and techniques taught hundreds of years ago are still taught there today. Combined with this, they have added other techniques as time has gone on. Most of the monks even learn how to use a weapon and become experts with it as part of their training. While a lot of these can be seen as a performance, they can really do damage to someone if they want.

Therefore, you have some hybrid martial arts like this. Yet the depth at which the Shaolin go into things is relatively unique.

Martial Arts That Don’t Work In A Fight

Sumo is not very useful. The reason is not just that sumo is typically done by larger people. Rather, it is based on really just trying to get your opponent out of the specifically designed fighting area they are in. This can be a ring, square, or something else. Therefore, it’s a lot like the tournament problem where you’re training to know how to fight someone inside a rule-based, controlled environment.

Aikido can work in a certain situation, but only when you have a weapon to use. It is rare that one will carry their Aikido weapon around with them, making this martial art essentially useless most of the time for people. Shin-Kicking is another martial art that is pretty useless. It is exactly as it sounds, and thus heavily controlled.

One martial art often confused for being useful is Capoeira. This is likely thanks to Eddie from the Tekken video games who helped to really put the martial art on the map. It involves a person who dances around, often performing break-dance style moves. It was actually designed by Afro-Brazilian slaves to come off as a dance to confuse their enslavers. In reality, they were using the dance to cover up that they were practicing fighting techniques.

The problem with Capoeira is not that it cannot be effective at all, but that it does not often help in regular surprise fights. This mostly comes down to the fact that you often put yourself out of proper positioning to be effective against a person who is not employing the same fighting style. It would be pretty ineffective in regular combat. Although masters of Capoeira might be okay, this is a rarity.

Read all about the worst martial arts to learn.

Martial Arts That Do Work In A Fight

The martial arts considered most effective for fighters are Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate (and its many variations), Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Sambo, & Judo. Even fighting styles that people do not always consider a martial art but certainly are can be useful too, like boxing and wrestling. These are contact martial arts that prepare you with various fighting techniques to defend against an assailant.

Self-Defense Art That Works

The most popular self-defense martial art today tends to be Krav-Maga. This is a martial art that was formed specifically for the Israeli Special Forces and ended up being used for the entire Armed Forces later on.

Krav Maga

Krav-Maga is designed to help a martial artist understand numerous ways to hurt or even kill a human being if needed. The idea is that you can be completely unarmed and manage to still have a solid chance to defend yourself against a person of any size. The best martial artists in this territory tend to be considered some of the most dangerous fighters on the planet.

Of course, it cannot be used in the world of MMA due to the numerous rules involved. This is also why you do not see a ton of Krav-Maga tournaments like you do for other martial arts. It is not meant for performance or sport, but rather, for combat needs entirely.

Muay Thai began the same way as the others referenced. It was developed at some point in the 16th century Siam kingdom as a peace-time martial art, often practiced by the soldiers of King Naresuan. It prepared them for potential issues long-term but this martial art was not used as much until the 19th century when Siam King Chulalongkorn made it a national martial art and made sure it was practiced in schools across Thailand for kids to learn.

It would become a useful physical exercise and even developed into tournaments we see today. Yet Muay Thai entirely came together for soldiers to implement in combat, when needed. Thus, it is known for being a very useful self-defense martial art.

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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