Are competitive Sport Martial Artists superior?

Hanzou

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This was a question asked in my other thread and I thought it warranted its own thread. There is a slight disdain for sports and competition among traditionalists within the martial arts. It even pops up in my style Brazilian Jiujitsu, despite the fact that what brought Bjj to prominence was sport and competition. There is a group of people within Bjj who dislike what competition has done to the art, and like to hammer in the idea that sport dilutes the self defense aspect of the art.

While there is some merit to that point, there is another inescapable fact; Competition and sport (particularly MMA) have kept Bjj "honest" in that it forces the style to never drift too far into having its own head up its ****. For example, after Bjj exploded on the scene via the early UFCs, numerous other grappling systems emerged to try to supplant it as the main grappling art of the emerging sport. At first, Bjj exponents (mainly the Gracies) pushed a sort of purity message and refused to embrace other grappling styles, saying that their system of grappling was superior to all others. However, after the Gracies got beat by grapplers who had cross-trained in Bjj, other Bjj schools embraced other grappling forms. Over two decades later, it would be hard to argue that Bjj isn't an overall better martial art than it was when it first exploded on the scene in the 1990s.

Beyond general MA improvement, it would be a bit silly to believe that your average MA hobbyist is a better martial artist than a professional fighter. Again, when I look into my own martial art, I look at guys like Ryan Gordon, Keenan Cornelius, JT Torres, Marcelo Garcia, Ryan Hall, etc. and recognize that they would absolutely destroy me. There are videos of competitive Bjj players who roll against entire schools and submit students in that school within a matter of minutes if not seconds. Even the black belt instructors are easily dealt with, and considering that I would struggle with the average Bjj black belt, the fact that these people are several magnitudes better than them is something to think about.

Which brings us back to the general question; Are competitive sport martial artists superior to non competitive martial artists? I simply can't see how they aren't. Beyond grappling, look at the various showcases of traditional Chinese martial artists going up against MMA and sport fighters. Universally, the traditional martial artists lose, and many of the people they lose to aren't even professional fighters. Pushing this up a notch, if Jon Jones or Khabib walked into your dojo, could your instructor beat them in a fight? Bringing this down a notch would your traditional karate instructor be able to stand toe to toe against an amateur boxer? These are questions to consider because we continue to run across people who say that since their style includes wrist locks, throws, kicks, and kata, they have an advantage over a boxer because "the boxer only has punches".

I would argue that the boxer has more than punches. They have conditioning, durability, endurance, and fighting experience.

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts.
 

RTKDCMB

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it would be a bit silly to believe that your average MA hobbyist is a better martial artist than a professional fighter.
It would be a mistake to assume that just because someone doesn't spend 8 hours every day training in a martial that they are just a hobbyist.
 

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I think any art that is calibrated based on actual performance is going to be better. For most of us, who don't work in a niche field where we get to be professionally violent, competition is the only context for application available.

We have had debates/arguments/discussions ad nauseum about the subtle differences between competing and not competing make on the overall learning and performance of the people who train in a style. You raise many good points, and I agree completely.

But the proof is in how reliably people can apply their skills within and outside of the context for which they train. I believe if you took 400 people in a study where their practical skills are evaluated at regular, the results would speak for themselves, and it wouldn't even be close. To be clear, I'm talking about evaluating relative performance within the specific trained context of the art, and also tested outside of the context of the art. Performance and application will always bear more consistent, reliable results than a perpetual training cycle.

400 people, all about the same age, all with average fitness levels and health, train x4 days per week for 2 hours each day:
  • Group 1: 100 trained 100 in any competitive style (e.g., muay thai, boxing, bjj, sambo, judo)
  • Group 2: 100 in any non-competitive style (ninjutsu, aikido, krav maga)
  • Group 3: 100 who trained in a performance based fitness program (crossfit, parkour, etc), and
  • Group 4: 100 who don't train as a control group.
I think after a year, I think Groups 1 and 3 would be most capable of defending themselves in a fight and would perform pretty similarly. Group 2 would, I believe, be functionally the same as Group 4.

After 3 years, I think Group 1 pulls clearly ahead of Group 3. Groups 2 and 4 would still be indistinguishable.

After 5 years, the lines keep going. Group 1 at this point would begin to display actual expertise in the area. Group 3 would be very fit, but would have plateaued. The only question at 5 years that I would be interested in is whether Group 2 performs better than Group 4. That's a real question.

And, you know what? I think we all know that this is true. I mean, does anyone question that this is how it would go?
 
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Hanzou

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They are better at competitive sports.

If the competitive sport is martial arts, wouldn't that mean that they're better at martial arts?
 

jobo

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This was a question asked in my other thread and I thought it warranted its own thread. There is a slight disdain for sports and competition among traditionalists within the martial arts. It even pops up in my style Brazilian Jiujitsu, despite the fact that what brought Bjj to prominence was sport and competition. There is a group of people within Bjj who dislike what competition has done to the art, and like to hammer in the idea that sport dilutes the self defense aspect of the art.

While there is some merit to that point, there is another inescapable fact; Competition and sport (particularly MMA) have kept Bjj "honest" in that it forces the style to never drift too far into having its own head up its ****. For example, after Bjj exploded on the scene via the early UFCs, numerous other grappling systems emerged to try to supplant it as the main grappling art of the emerging sport. At first, Bjj exponents (mainly the Gracies) pushed a sort of purity message and refused to embrace other grappling styles, saying that their system of grappling was superior to all others. However, after the Gracies got beat by grapplers who had cross-trained in Bjj, other Bjj schools embraced other grappling forms. Over two decades later, it would be hard to argue that Bjj isn't an overall better martial art than it was when it first exploded on the scene in the 1990s.

Beyond general MA improvement, it would be a bit silly to believe that your average MA hobbyist is a better martial artist than a professional fighter. Again, when I look into my own martial art, I look at guys like Ryan Gordon, Keenan Cornelius, JT Torres, Marcelo Garcia, Ryan Hall, etc. and recognize that they would absolutely destroy me. There are videos of competitive Bjj players who roll against entire schools and submit students in that school within a matter of minutes if not seconds. Even the black belt instructors are easily dealt with, and considering that I would struggle with the average Bjj black belt, the fact that these people are several magnitudes better than them is something to think about.

Which brings us back to the general question; Are competitive sport martial artists superior to non competitive martial artists? I simply can't see how they aren't. Beyond grappling, look at the various showcases of traditional Chinese martial artists going up against MMA and sport fighters. Universally, the traditional martial artists lose, and many of the people they lose to aren't even professional fighters. Pushing this up a notch, if Jon Jones or Khabib walked into your dojo, could your instructor beat them in a fight? Bringing this down a notch would your traditional karate instructor be able to stand toe to toe against an amateur boxer? These are questions to consider because we continue to run across people who say that since their style includes wrist locks, throws, kicks, and kata, they have an advantage over a boxer because "the boxer only has punches".

I would argue that the boxer has more than punches. They have conditioning, durability, endurance, and fighting experience.

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts.
well yes probebly is the answer, provided that they are completing at a reasonable level, their fitness alone gives them the edge

that allowing that thete are also a good number of non ma who will beat them up, unless they are at an elite level,, so competition good but not fool proof
 
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Hanzou

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I think any art that is calibrated based on actual performance is going to be better. For most of us, who don't work in a niche field where we get to be professionally violent, competition is the only context for application available.

We have had debates/arguments/discussions ad nauseum about the subtle differences between competing and not competing make on the overall learning and performance of the people who train in a style. You raise many good points, and I agree completely.

But the proof is in how reliably people can apply their skills within and outside of the context for which they train. I believe if you took 400 people in a study where their practical skills are evaluated at regular, the results would speak for themselves, and it wouldn't even be close. To be clear, I'm talking about evaluating relative performance within the specific trained context of the art, and also tested outside of the context of the art. Performance and application will always bear more consistent, reliable results than a perpetual training cycle.

400 people, all about the same age, all with average fitness levels and health, train x4 days per week for 2 hours each day:
  • Group 1: 100 trained 100 in any competitive style (e.g., muay thai, boxing, bjj, sambo, judo)
  • Group 2: 100 in any non-competitive style (ninjutsu, aikido, krav maga)
  • Group 3: 100 who trained in a performance based fitness program (crossfit, parkour, etc), and
  • Group 4: 100 who don't train as a control group.
I think after a year, I think Groups 1 and 3 would be most capable of defending themselves in a fight and would perform pretty similarly. Group 2 would, I believe, be functionally the same as Group 4.

After 3 years, I think Group 1 pulls clearly ahead of Group 3. Groups 2 and 4 would still be indistinguishable.

After 5 years, the lines keep going. Group 1 at this point would begin to display actual expertise in the area. Group 3 would be very fit, but would have plateaued. The only question at 5 years that I would be interested in is whether Group 2 performs better than Group 4. That's a real question.

And, you know what? I think we all know that this is true. I mean, does anyone question that this is how it would go?

I agree with this. I think some people get into the notion that since someone is doing a "sport", they can't apply those abilities to an actual self defense situation. Like RTKDCMB saying they're better at competitive sports, as if their competitive sport isn't kicking/punching someone in the face or twisting folks into pretzels.
 
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Hanzou

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well yes probebly is the answer, provided that they are completing at a reasonable level, their fitness alone gives them the edge

that allowing that thete are also a good number of non ma who will beat them up, unless they are at an elite level,, so competition good but not fool proof

Absolutely. A high skill level doesn't make someone invincible. However, it's fair to say that if you have elite exponents in your MA, those elite exponents are far more capable of defending themselves than the weekend warriors who train a few times a week.

Bjj is very illustrative of this. We have the elite competitors, we have the high level instructors, we have local level competitors, we have standard instructors, and we have standard practitioners who do Bjj for a variety of reasons.

I'm in the last group, and I wouldn't stand a chance against an elite competitor.

Boxing is like this, Muay Thai is like this, MMA is like this, etc. It stands to reason that pretty much any Martial Art would be like this if they had a professional sport component.
 

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I agree with this. I think some people get into the notion that since someone is doing a "sport", they can't apply those abilities to an actual self defense situation. Like RTKDCMB saying they're better at competitive sports, as if their competitive sport isn't kicking/punching someone in the face or twisting folks into pretzels.
I feel like a broken record, but transfer of learning is a real thing, it is unavoidable, and it's not complicated. How skilled are you? How similar are the contexts?
 

jobo

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Absolutely. A high skill level doesn't make someone invincible. However, it's fair to say that if you have elite exponents in your MA, those elite exponents are far more capable of defending themselves than the weekend warriors who train a few times a week.

Bjj is very illustrative of this. We have the elite competitors, we have the high level instructors, we have local level competitors, we have standard instructors, and we have standard practitioners who do Bjj for a variety of reasons.

I'm in the last group, and I wouldn't stand a chance against an elite competitor.

Boxing is like this, Muay Thai is like this, MMA is like this, etc. It stands to reason that pretty much any Martial Art would be like this if they had a professional sport component.
ive had this discusion with you before and db on countless occations

what you say has validly, BUT not everyone wants or needs to do that.

i dont want to get beaten up three times a week, so i wont get beaten up once every few years, it makes no sence to me, i did that when i was 28, when i didnt get beaten up that often i think its likely to end badly a lot at my age.

i do ma, largely coz i enjoy it, it giives me a focus for my fitness training and i belive it gives me an edge against most people who dont train and thats all good to me
 
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Hanzou

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ive had this discusion with you before and db on countless occations

what you say has validly, BUT not everyone wants or needs to do that.

i dont want to get beaten up three times a week, so i wont get beaten up once every few years, it makes no sence to me, i did that when i was 28, when i didnt get beaten up that often i think its likely to end badly a lot at my age.

i do ma, largely coz i enjoy it, it giives me a focus for my fitness training and i belive it gives me an edge against most people who dont train and thats all good to me

I never said that everyone needs to do it, or wants to do it. I'm simply saying that the professional athlete doing your martial art as a job is better at that martial art than you are. Again, I'll never be able to beat Ryan Gordan or Marcelo Garcia at Jiujitsu, and I'm perfectly fine with that.
 

jobo

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I never said that everyone needs to do it, or wants to do it. I'm simply saying that the professional athlete doing your martial art as a job is better at that martial art than you are. Again, I'll never be able to beat Ryan Gordan or Marcelo Garcia at Jiujitsu, and I'm perfectly fine with that.
thats just so obvious its not worth stating to be honest

every one who is profesional at anything is likely to be better than a hobbyist. and certainly so with sport.
as only a small % of people can be professional athletes, its leaves 99% of the population just doing what they can as they can to fit their needs, real or perceived
 
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Hanzou

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thats just so obvious its not worth stating to be honest

every one who is profesional at anything is likely to be better than a hobbyist. and certainly so with sport.
as only a small % of people can be professional athletes, its leaves 99% of the population just doing what they can as they can to fit their needs, real or perceived

You would think that would be obvious, but unfortunately there are people who think that if you're doing sport the art you're practicing is diluted. Unfortunately, that mindset has even permeated Bjj from certain segments in the community who hide within the "self defense" sphere and pretend like they're better than the competitive/sport sphere of Bjj. The current stance of the Gracie family is a prime example of this mindset. While I have a soft spot for "traditional" Bjj, and tend to train at self defense oriented Bjj schools, the reality that modern Bjj runs circles around it is hard to deny.

Thankfully, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Bjj school that doesn't participate in competitions, so those self defense schools are forced to teach the sport aspects of the art.

As I often say, things like pro Bjj and especially MMA keep the art "honest", and doesn't allow it to fall into looney territory. Unfortunately there are a host of other MAs who don't have those safety nets.
 

jobo

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You would think that would be obvious, but unfortunately there are people who think that if you're doing sport the art you're practicing is diluted. Unfortunately, that mindset has even permeated Bjj from certain segments in the community who hide within the "self defense" sphere and pretend like they're better than the competitive/sport sphere of Bjj. The current stance of the Gracie family is a prime example of this mindset. While I have a soft spot for "traditional" Bjj, and tend to train at self defense oriented Bjj schools, the reality that modern Bjj runs circles around it is hard to deny.

Thankfully, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Bjj school that doesn't participate in competitions, so those self defense schools are forced to teach the sport aspects of the art.
people are full if excuses and self justification,

someone who completes at even local level is going to be better at " fighting" than someone who doesnt,

the whole self defence is completly detached from that is nonsence, someone attacks you punch them on the nose, it doesnt matter what they are doing, if you tag them it should be over

my bug bear with sd ma, is the delusion that fitness is a prime line of sd, it not that they arnt training like profesional atheletes thats the bigest problem, its that they are not training like atheletes at all
 

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ive had this discusion with you before and db on countless occations

what you say has validly, BUT not everyone wants or needs to do that.

i dont want to get beaten up three times a week, so i wont get beaten up once every few years, it makes no sence to me, i did that when i was 28, when i didnt get beaten up that often i think its likely to end badly a lot at my age.

i do ma, largely coz i enjoy it, it giives me a focus for my fitness training and i belive it gives me an edge against most people who dont train and thats all good to me
Not everyone wants to work in a hot forge all day, and so they'll never be a farrier. But you wouldn't give them an anvil, a hammer, and a large piece of clay and lead them to believe they will someday be able to shoe a horse. Not everyone wants to learn higher level math, but you wouldn't give them some baking powder and vinegar and tell them that if they play with that long enough they'll be able to get a job in a laboratory.

There's nothing wrong with doing things that are enjoyable. But we make choices, and sometimes our choices and our goals will be in unreconcilable conflict. If the goal is to be a fighter, but you don't want to be a fight... well, that's not going to work out very well. There are a lot of effective ways to learn to fight, but they all involve fighting in some way. There are a lot of effective ways to become more fit, but they all involve some kind of exercise.
 

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This was a question asked in my other thread and I thought it warranted its own thread. There is a slight disdain for sports and competition among traditionalists within the martial arts. It even pops up in my style Brazilian Jiujitsu, despite the fact that what brought Bjj to prominence was sport and competition. There is a group of people within Bjj who dislike what competition has done to the art, and like to hammer in the idea that sport dilutes the self defense aspect of the art.

While there is some merit to that point, there is another inescapable fact; Competition and sport (particularly MMA) have kept Bjj "honest" in that it forces the style to never drift too far into having its own head up its ****. For example, after Bjj exploded on the scene via the early UFCs, numerous other grappling systems emerged to try to supplant it as the main grappling art of the emerging sport. At first, Bjj exponents (mainly the Gracies) pushed a sort of purity message and refused to embrace other grappling styles, saying that their system of grappling was superior to all others. However, after the Gracies got beat by grapplers who had cross-trained in Bjj, other Bjj schools embraced other grappling forms. Over two decades later, it would be hard to argue that Bjj isn't an overall better martial art than it was when it first exploded on the scene in the 1990s.

Beyond general MA improvement, it would be a bit silly to believe that your average MA hobbyist is a better martial artist than a professional fighter. Again, when I look into my own martial art, I look at guys like Ryan Gordon, Keenan Cornelius, JT Torres, Marcelo Garcia, Ryan Hall, etc. and recognize that they would absolutely destroy me. There are videos of competitive Bjj players who roll against entire schools and submit students in that school within a matter of minutes if not seconds. Even the black belt instructors are easily dealt with, and considering that I would struggle with the average Bjj black belt, the fact that these people are several magnitudes better than them is something to think about.

Which brings us back to the general question; Are competitive sport martial artists superior to non competitive martial artists? I simply can't see how they aren't. Beyond grappling, look at the various showcases of traditional Chinese martial artists going up against MMA and sport fighters. Universally, the traditional martial artists lose, and many of the people they lose to aren't even professional fighters. Pushing this up a notch, if Jon Jones or Khabib walked into your dojo, could your instructor beat them in a fight? Bringing this down a notch would your traditional karate instructor be able to stand toe to toe against an amateur boxer? These are questions to consider because we continue to run across people who say that since their style includes wrist locks, throws, kicks, and kata, they have an advantage over a boxer because "the boxer only has punches".

I would argue that the boxer has more than punches. They have conditioning, durability, endurance, and fighting experience.

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts.

Depends on what you mean by "superior".

What is clear is that sports martial arts offer an excellent way to safely apply techniques. That's pretty much unquestionable. And some TMA schools lack just that.

That said, depending on your benchmark, the answer might change.

Would Khabib beat my instructors if he walked into my dojo? Yes.
Would he win if he were their age? Don't know.
Would he fare better than them if there were weapons and/or multiple opponents involved? Don't know.
I've met masters who could easily break baseball bats with a kick. Would those guys be able to hit Khabib with that? Don't know. Would Khabib get hurt if he got caught by that? Don't know, but don't want to try it myself.
Would a karate master be able to maim Khabib with an eye/throat/groin strike coming from a weird angle (= one not used in MMA because regular strikes don't do much damage from there)? Don't know.
I've been on the receiving end of a lua technique that consists in throwing someone from a single or double "nipple grip" (like literally grabbing your nipple area and using it as if gripping your gi). Besides hurting a lot, it's a position that may not naturally happen in grappling, especially no-gi/MMA. And it's pretty surprising. Would it be enough to surprise and beat Khabib? Don't know.

How about we factor in the effects of competition? Would a punch-drunk boxer be "superior" to a healthy tai chi guy? How about someone who got a back injury from bad ukemi in competition? Muhammad Ali was an exceptional fighter for a few years but got diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at only 42. Was he superior to the master who could throw me around with ease in his 60's, a week before dying from late-stage cancer?

How about cross-training? Even if you train purely under one "karate" instructor, he may train you in light of his former judo experience.

I would argue that the boxer has more than punches. They have conditioning, durability, endurance, and fighting experience.

Those can be acquired by TMA practitioners as well. And yeah some traditional arts have a wider technical palette than, say, boxing.

The style vs style debate has too many variables to reach a definitive conclusion. Also I find the "TMA" vs "sports" dichotomy artificial.

What I can agree on, though, is that sports MA typically emphasise applicability in a live situation and that competition encourages innovation and quality control. Those are very valuable elements for any martial artist who trains with "fighting" in mind.

Also, sports MAists may have more possibilities to practice professionnally, especially at elite level and in popular sports. In aikido, for example, there's generally a dearth of professional practitioners.


Edit: I realised that it might look as if I'm saying that TMA is superior to combat sports. It's not my opinion, cf. bold part.

Edit2: additions.
 
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jobo

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Not everyone wants to work in a hot forge all day, and so they'll never be a farrier. But you wouldn't give them an anvil, a hammer, and a large piece of clay and lead them to believe they will someday be able to shoe a horse. Not everyone wants to learn higher level math, but you wouldn't give them some baking powder and vinegar and tell them that if they play with that long enough they'll be able to get a job in a laboratory.

There's nothing wrong with doing things that are enjoyable. But we make choices, and sometimes our choices and our goals will be in unreconcilable conflict. If the goal is to be a fighter, but you don't want to be a fight... well, that's not going to work out very well. There are a lot of effective ways to learn to fight, but they all involve fighting in some way. There are a lot of effective ways to become more fit, but they all involve some kind of exercise.
im lost steve your contesting points i havent made or even sugested, it like your having an imaginary conversation with yourself

every one can fight even a quadriplegic can head butt you, its only a question of how well they can fight,

so its a continuum, not a binnary can and cant, as id sugest is exercise, even if you only go to the fridge for another beer, its exercise
 
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jobo

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Depends on what you mean by "superior".

What is clear is that sports martial arts offer an excellent way to safely apply techniques. That's pretty much unquestionable. And some TMA schools lack just that.

That said, depending on your benchmark, the answer might change.

Would Khabib beat my instructors if he walked into my dojo? Yes.
Would he win if he were their age? Don't know.
Would he fare better than them if there were weapons and/or multiple opponents involved? Don't know.
I've met masters who could easily break baseball bats with a kick. Would those guys be able to hit Khabib with that? Don't know. Would Khabib get hurt if he got caught by that? Don't know, but don't want to try it myself.
Would a karate master be able to maim Khabib with an eye/throat/groin strike coming from a weird angle (= one not used in MMA because regular strikes don't do much damage from there)? Don't know.
I've been on the receiving end of a lua technique that consists in throwing someone from a single or double "nipple grip" (like literally grabbing your nipple area and using it as if gripping your gi). Besides hurting a lot, it's a position that may not naturally happen in grappling, especially no-gi/MMA. And it's pretty surprising. Would it be enough to surprise and beat Khabib? Don't know.

How about we factor in the effects of competition? Would a punch-drunk boxer be "superior" to a healthy tai chi guy? How about someone who got a back injury from bad ukemi in competition? Muhammad Ali was an exceptional fighter for a few years but got diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at only 42. Was he superior to the master who could throw me around with ease in his 60's, a week before dying from late-stage cancer?

How about cross-training? Even if you train purely under one "karate" instructor, he may train you in light of his former judo experience.



Those can be acquired by TMA practitioners as well. And yeah some traditional arts have a wider technical palette than, say, boxing.

The style vs style debate has too many variables to reach a definitive conclusion. Also I find the "TMA" vs "sports" dichotomy artificial.

What I can agree on, though, is that sports MA typically emphasise applicability in a live situation and that competition encourages innovation and quality control. Those are very valuable elements for any martial artist who trains with "fighting" in mind.

Also, sports MAists may have more possibilities to practice professionnally, especially at elite level and in popular sports. In aikido, for example, there's generally a dearth of professional practitioners.


Edit: I realised that it might look as if I'm saying that TMA is superior to combat sports. It's not my opinion, cf. bold part.

Edit2: additions.
easily break a base ball bat with their kick,??? now that id like to see
 

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im lost steve your contesting points i havent made or even sugested, it like your having an imaginary conversation with yourself

every one can fight even a quadriplegic can head butt you, its only a question of how well they can fight,

so its a continuum, not a binnary can and cant, as id sugest is exercise, even if you only go to the fridge for another beer, its exercise
I'm agreeing with you. ;)
 

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