A Parent's Guide to the Martial Arts  p. 2


In order to understand why I have divided the martial arts into these different branches, let us refer again to noted martial arts historian, the late Donn F. Draeger.  "Draeger's position was that unless a system was developed by professional warriors for use in actual warfare, it is not a martial art." (Morgan, 7)  "Unfortunately, Western misrepresentations of the martial arts have corrupted the proper conception of what genuine martial art is to be." (Shim, 59)

"The most dangerous of these distortions characterizes the martial arts as synonymous with sport." (Shim, 59)  In fact, some dictionaries define martial art as “a sport.”  In those same dictionaries, however, a sport is defined as “a physical activity for diversion, recreation, or entertainment involving competition between opponents under specific, mutually accepted rules.”  When you consider that martial deals with war, and war is defined as "a state of conflict, struggle or combat between opposing forces," can we honestly say that war is a sport for diversion, recreation, or entertainment?  I think not.

What this means is that "sport applications of combative systems, such as competitive taekwondo, karate-dō, and jūdō, are not martial arts.  Putting a combative system in the competitive arena requires an array of rules to be placed on it, constraining its maneuvers and detrimentally modifying its technical application.  In time, as 'players' are trained in how to work within the rules to best win the game, the system evolves to fit the framework of those rules.  What is effective in the constrained, competitive environment is often worthless in the no-holds barred world of actual combat, and what is effective in combat, being illegal in sport, gradually fades from the training program and is lost." (Morgan, 7-8)

It should be noted however, that some styles continue to be taught in a traditional manner with the emphasis on combat effectiveness or character development, or both.   While on the other hand, as we have just seen, some styles have shed their martial applications in favor of pursuing excellence in sport competition while at the same time still claiming positive character development.  It must be pointed out however, that one may excel in sports or competition without necessarily possessing an admirable character.  Just look at the current headlines and you will invariably find some sports figure who is in the spotlight for drugs, marital infidelity, or some other immoral behavior. 

Case in point is the recently announced retirement of the U.S. Taekwondo Union's president and the resignation of that organization’s treasurer amidst a U.S. Olympic Committee's investigation of financial mismanagement and misappropriation of money.  In addition, recent headlines detail the suspension of the International Olympic Committee’s Vice President, Kim Un-yong, who is under investigation for suspicion of corruption and embezzling funds from the World Taekwondo Federation, which he has been heading for three decades, and from the World Taekwondo Headquarters, a Seoul-based institute that issues taekwondo credentials, as well as accusations he took bribes and kickbacks from former South Korean Olympic officials. (Associated Press, New York Times, L.A. Times, MA Success)   

As you can see, although positive character development is possible in sport related activities, it is not a prerequisite for advancement. "The fundamental differences between the martial arts and competitive sports go right to the marrow of what it means to be a martial artist." (Shim, 59)  It is for these reasons previously mentioned that I have differentiated between martial art and competitive sport.  Don't misunderstand me, I have nothing against martial sports or those who choose to train for and compete in them.  There are positive aspects in those activities, and in some cases, participants in those sportive applications are tremendous athletes, but those who choose to train for and compete in martial sports should not deceive themselves into thinking they are practicing martial arts or The Martial Way. 




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