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Combat Martial Arts vs Competitive Martial Arts

What’s The Difference?

Your reason for studying martial arts (whether it be for competition, fitness, or combat) influences what style of training you choose. In competitive martial arts, training is often focused on perfecting your fighting form, increasing your speed, and honing your delivery. Sparring is not fought with full force and most tournament martial arts do not allow blows to the head or groin.

If you are training for combat on the other hand, there is an emphasis on real-life fighting techniques, learning how to deal with situations that could occur on the street, and sparring is usually practiced at full-force with the fighters wearing protective gear.

Here at FightFast we train for real-world self-defense and combat, but before deciding which martial art you want to learn you need to be clear on what YOUR goals are.

Are you interested in learning how to fight to defend yourself in a street fight or do you want to enter into competitive tournaments?

Are you more interested in physical exercise, spiritual improvement, or improving your mental health?

These are the types of questions you must ask yourself before diving headfirst into any martial art.

Tournament Arts

If you’re looking for a martial art that will give you decent self-defense skills and also train your mind without putting your body on the line too much, then a tournament sport might be the right choice for you. Tournament arts are considered to be safer than combative arts because you are required to follow tight rules and regulations.

In a competition you are awarded points based on criteria such as best form, the number of hits you land, where you hit your opponent, and how you respond to your opponent’s attacks or defenses. The atmosphere of a tournament is generally relaxed and supportive.

Of course, if you opt for a sport martial art, it is not essential for you to compete in tournaments. However, doing so can enhance your response time and can help you learn which techniques work and which don’t.

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Combat Arts

However, if you want to defend yourself in real-life situations, you will want to practice a combat martial art. In combat-oriented training tensions are high. Your adrenaline is pumping and you are hopefully learning techniques that will save your life in a full-on fighting situation.

If you choose to practice combat arts, most styles do not even offer competitions. For example, Krav Maga, a brutal street fighting style created for the Israeli army, is designed solely for self-defense.

In contrast, Muay Thai, a full-on contact sport, is traditionally centered around the goal of winning competitions. However, I do find it effective for self-defense, too. Learning this combat sport will give you plenty of self-defense techniques, and it will also enable you to step into the ring!

Final Thoughts

In some cases the difference between combat and tournament martial arts can be unclear. For instance, Judo was originally created for sport as a derivative of Jiu Jitsu, but it was also used as a method of defense in combat situations by the Japanese police. While Judo tournaments are held throughout the world, it can still be an effective form of self-defense.

Basically, before you decide which martial art you want to spend your time and hard-earned money studying, figure out how you want to use your martial art skills. Once you know that you can choose the most effective art to meet your individual goals.

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66 thoughts on “Combat Martial Arts vs Competitive Martial Arts”

  1. I think its all good to know. Eachh one of us as individual take are training and with out notice come up with are own style. Of coarse all the fundamentals are still place but how we use them definately tells the story .

  2. I am a real world trained black belt. When I started (1956) there were no such thing as sport “fighting”. We were taught one very important fact, there are no rules in a street fight and no referee to save your sorry ass. We also were taught a theory that is alleged to have come from General George Patton: Inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest possible amount of time on your enemy..

  3. One, and main part of martial arts training, as you said, is intent. Dim Mak, also known as Kyusho, has been latent in most schools due to the it not having been taught in the first place. While there are many fine fine accomplished martial artists, what we were taught in the ’60’s, ’70’s, and up to the present lacked this important portion. Dim Mak, aka Kyusho jitsu, is not sport. This is the actual “martial” part of every style. Those “hidden” moves in the kata/forms we spent so much effort in learning is explained when learning Kyusho. I recommend getting in touch with Grand Masters Jim Corn and/or Mark Klein. Kyusho is part of ALL martial arts styles. It’s obscurity was brought to light by Taika Seiyu Oyata. Do your homework and find out more about Kyusho.

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  5. i read your email on combat vs sport fighting?
    I don’t understand your comparison as you are comparing apples to oranges. if you are going to compare, them compare apples to apples as the original intent of the comparison is to understand & explain different survival technology & methodology. Sport Fighting is just that, for the “sport” not for survival which sets a different presedent.
    Sport Fighters “compete,” they are not in a life & death struggle to the end, the winner takes all. My teacher Peter Urban taught that a real fight “must” include the option for death in order to be considered a “real fight otherwise it is just a competition in which any one under the right circumstance can win. This is not true of a real fight in which only one will live & survive, while the other will perish, permanently. So i would like to understand your intent for the comparison because in the end it is not just skill which determines the winner but also their intention, attitude and their personal philosophy & will to survive.

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  7. It must be typo error, but jiu jitsu derived from judo !
    The matriarch of the Grace family honed jiu jitsu in Brazil from Japanese Judo !

  8. Reverend Sensei Montalban I agree with you but the thing is that there MANY martial artists who practice the sport aspect of martial arts and think they are ready for combat when they really are not. Also, people are looking for arts, see a great looking demonstration and think if the study this art they are ready for real life self defense. You had a great teacher so you know that just isn’t so. So it is up to people like you and I to educate them on this matter. That is my intent.