Can Someone Be A Good Martial Artist Without Being A Good Fighter?

MardiGras Bandit

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I started thinking about this because of Jet Li. I always considered him a good martial artist, but he admits to knowing very little about fighting. This raises the question; can someone be a good martial artist and not know how to fight?

I don't think they can. Martial arts are about fighting. Philosophy, meditation, and things of that nature are not combative. They have value in their own right, but I don't see them as part of martial arts (outside of confidence building and developing mindset). Values like humility or respect have nothing to do with the martial arts. They make someone a good person, but there are plenty of good people who can't fight and plenty of bad people who can. All that matters is skill. Character may make the man, but it is skill that makes the martial artist.

How many people agree with me? On the true martial artist thread the general opinion seemed more or less the opposite of my view. Am I right, or is there more to it then skill alone?
 

Flying Crane

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You have some valid points that I can find some agreement with.

With regards to Jet Li: he studied modern wushu with the Beijing Wushu Team. While the Beijing team is the best in the world, Modern Wushu is recognized as a performance and competition art based in the traditional Chinese Fighting Arts, but no longer a fighting art itself. I recall reading that individuals like Jet Li and some others have been questioning Modern Wushu's deviation from the fighting aspects of the art. They felt that it is important to re-connect to the traditional roots of Modern Wushu so that the art is understood on this level, and can once again be a useful fighting art. If I remember correctly, some of these people are working to reclaim these skills that have been lost to Modern Wushu.
 

rutherford

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My opinion is that skill can only take you so far. There will be a limit to your skill both as a theoretical that you will probably never attain as well as a current optimal, at which you most likely don't regularly perform.

Being a Martial Artist, or a Fighter, encompasses much more than just this simple level of skill and can help you perform past your skill level in times of trial.

Finally, I don't believe Jet Li, or at least your representation of his comments. As often as he trains and has to deal with partners performing outside of the expected, I have to believe that he knows a great deal about fighting. I'm sure that if attacked suddenly, he would respond appropriately.

But Fighting as a profession or as something he has experiential knowlege about? Well, there he might have a point, and also little desire to gain this knowledge.
 
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MardiGras Bandit

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Thats what made me start this. I have seen Jet Li (and Jackie Chan, ect.) do incredible things that require enormous athletic talent. But Jet Li considers himself a performer and Jackie Chan considers himself a stuntman. They admit what they do isn't fighting (to be fair, they are talking about their movies).

My point is that if martial arts skills can be based of things like that then olympic gymnasts can be considered good martial artists. You have to draw a line somewhere and say this is what martial arts is, this is what performance is. The skills required to do either well are impressive but they are two entirely seperate things.
 

Flying Crane

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MardiGras Bandit said:
Thats what made me start this. I have seen Jet Li (and Jackie Chan, ect.) do incredible things that require enormous athletic talent. But Jet Li considers himself a performer and Jackie Chan considers himself a stuntman. They admit what they do isn't fighting (to be fair, they are talking about their movies).

My point is that if martial arts skills can be based of things like that then olympic gymnasts can be considered good martial artists. You have to draw a line somewhere and say this is what martial arts is, this is what performance is. The skills required to do either well are impressive but they are two entirely seperate things.

Again, I agree

I also believe that Jackie can fight. I've read interviews with him where he talks about it. He told stories about the street fights he would get into when he was a kid studying with the Beijing Opera.

Another example: Years ago he made a movie in which Benny Urquidez had a small part as a villian. Jackie commented that Benny was quite good, and he was not entirely sure he could have beat Benny if the two of them actually had a fight. I'd say that's indicative of a pretty high confidence level, if he thinks he could give Benny Urquidez a good run for the money.
 

OnlyAnEgg

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Honestly? I believe one can be a good martial artist without being a good fighter. I don't think it's very frequent that this combination can occur; but, I think it's possible.

Martial art can and does include strategy and theory, as well as the practical application of fighting. I know of several people that have advanced their chosen skills to a high level without actually practicing them. My biology professor in college, for example, hated being a biologist; but, he has excelled as a teacher. I know several people with MDs that wouldn't go near a patient; but, are fine instructors.

The upshot, to me, is 'Martial' means 'Of, relating to, or suggestive of war. Relating to or connected with the armed forces or the profession of arms. Characteristic of or befitting a warrior. '

Fighting is, simply, the most pronounced and notable aspect.
 

Danny T

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MardiGras Bandit said:
I started thinking about this because of Jet Li. I always considered him a good martial artist, but he admits to knowing very little about fighting. This raises the question; can someone be a good martial artist and not know how to fight?

I don't think they can. Martial arts are about fighting. Philosophy, meditation, and things of that nature are not combative. They have value in their own right, but I don't see them as part of martial arts (outside of confidence building and developing mindset). Values like humility or respect have nothing to do with the martial arts. They make someone a good person, but there are plenty of good people who can't fight and plenty of bad people who can. All that matters is skill. Character may make the man, but it is skill that makes the martial artist.

How many people agree with me? On the true martial artist thread the general opinion seemed more or less the opposite of my view. Am I right, or is there more to it then skill alone?

First you need to define "martial artist".

Martial is defined as; pertaining to, connected with, or suggestive of war or military operations. Warlike, characteristic of a warlike person.

Artist is defined as; one who is skilled in, or makes a profession of any of the fine arts. Any professional public performer, an actor, singer, etc. One who does anything particularly well, as with a feeling for form, effect, etc.

Using these definitions Martial Artist would be one who is skilled or makes a profession performing with good feel for form in warlike moves or suggestive war or military operations.

If one need only be good at performing warlike moves then one need not be a good fighter to be a good martial artist.

There are major distinctions between artist and fighter in my opinion.


Danny T
 

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I think it is easy to get wrapped up in definitions and semantics, but I think that diverts away from the original question.

The martial arts were originally developed for fighting and even killing. Some of them were used by the military on the battlefield, and needed to be effective in the extreme.

Others were used by citizens. They were developed during a period in human history when the average citizen had little chance of getting aid from police or other intervening authorities if attacked by bandits and ruffians. People were much more on their own, and had to take care of themselves, and had much less effective support networks to help if they were attacked. Being attacked may well have meant that they would be killed on the spot, or they would die later of their injuries. So the Arts were developed as a way to defend against these attacks, and they were meant to maime and kill. Period.

All the other stuff, the character building, fitness, meditation, focus, self-discipline, etc., is a side-benefit. And that is all it ever was until recently. It was never the main point of training until we entered an age in which the average citizens had much less liklihood to need to defend themselves. Our police force is much more effective, it is easier to get aid if accosted, our support networks are more extensive, our laws are stricter against fighting and violence in general. In our modern society, in general, the average person has a much much reduced chance of ever needing to use martial skills to defend their life. It is during this time that the focus of training changed to more greatly emphasize what were once only side-benefits.

So I think the question is aimed at this change. Overall, practice of the MA in society has moved away from the development of true fighting skills (I know, there are of course exceptions, probably everyone here on Martial Talk would feel that they are an example of the exception and that is fine, but I think the generalization still holds true). Many people THINK they are developing fighting skills, but they really are not. At the least, these fighting skill remain untested because of our modern society and the reduced need to use them for real.

The question, as I understand it: Without the ability to fight, are we really Martial Artists, in the truest sense, or are we just Movement Artists, who may have some questionable fighting skills?
 

beau_safken

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I good example of being a wonderful martial artist without fighting would be practitioners of Kyudo (Way of the Bow). Kyudo is completly out of touch with the reality of fighting in a modern sense, but it is still one of the most elegant and profusely wonderful arts in this world. It is literally poetry in motion. The masters of the art have great mastery over their whole bodies to get the perfect shot. The sound of the string at the release shows of the power in the body and the nature of the whole body. You aren't going to find people doing a driveby with a bow and arrow...but it is literally the most elegant thing I have ever seen. The sight of a man so focused and centered on his task...The perfect shot.
 

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Yes fighting is not always being the greatest Martial Artist, being humble loyal and courteous to me is more important than fighting.
Terry
 

IcemanSK

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I would say that both attitude (the mental/spiritual side) & the physical side of MA are important in calling a Martial artist.

It does beg the question that's been asked, "Can someone be an MA-ist without being a fighter?" I think of my late kickboxing trainer. He had been a great fighter then was struck down with a brain tumor that ate away all of his physical ability. Yet he taught daily until a week before his death. Many other honored instructors continue to teach when their physical capacity to fight has long past them.

I also know of very good instructors that have never had the physical gifts that their students possess. And they turn out great fighters, too. They teach both aspects without having physical gifts.

I also know some folks that are terribly talented fighters & could care less about how they treat people or how they act in society. They have the gifts...but not the .....graces, I guess one could say.

I wouldn't dare say what percentage of each part one needs, but I will say both are important to be an MA-ist.
 

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What is being a good fighter?

Is using one's skills to stop an altercation before it becomes violent being a good fighter?
 

Jonathan Randall

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Carol Kaur said:
What is being a good fighter?

Is using one's skills to stop an altercation before it becomes violent being a good fighter?

Touche!

Yes, I do believe so, and no, you don't have to be a good fighter to be a great Martial Artist. Did greats such as Oyama, Presas, Kano, etc. stop being great martial artists on their deathbeads because the could no longer toss students around like confetti? I don't think so.
 

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MardiGras Bandit said:
I started thinking about this because of Jet Li. I always considered him a good martial artist, but he admits to knowing very little about fighting. This raises the question; can someone be a good martial artist and not know how to fight?

I don't think they can. Martial arts are about fighting. Philosophy, meditation, and things of that nature are not combative. They have value in their own right, but I don't see them as part of martial arts (outside of confidence building and developing mindset). Values like humility or respect have nothing to do with the martial arts. They make someone a good person, but there are plenty of good people who can't fight and plenty of bad people who can. All that matters is skill. Character may make the man, but it is skill that makes the martial artist.

How many people agree with me? On the true martial artist thread the general opinion seemed more or less the opposite of my view. Am I right, or is there more to it then skill alone?

Good thread!

I'd have to say that its a fine line. You could have one person, who studies the arts for SD purposes. You'd think that if that was their goal, that they would want to be as well rounded as they could be, so if that was the case, I'd say that they should be a good fighter.

Then you have people who are in the arts for the other things that they have to offer, such as the spiritual side, a side activity, etc. They are training in a combat art, but that is not their sole focus.

And then there are people who are good in one area, but poor in another. For example, you could have someone who picks up material quick, is able to apply it, but can't teach it to someone else.

I would have to say that its going to depend on their goals.

Mike
 

bushidomartialarts

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absolutely.

to me, martial arts is about personal evolution. we choose to evolve through the study of combat techniques, but anybody who sees the fighting as the real goal is missing some important points.

since it's really not about fighting, yes somebody can be a good martial artist without being a good fighter.
 

still learning

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Hello, Another point of view...?

Good martials artist means he knows how to fight....but what is your thoughts of a good fighter? Age, injuries, will slow you down..yet these people are good martial artist. Ever heard of the " Peter Princple" the curve...in the beginning learning...than peak(at the top) as time goes on..you decline in life.

Everyone will go thru these stages in there life....a martial artist is the same...at one point..just learning ... then,your fighting skills are fast and strong...but age...takes alot away. But that person is still a Martial Artist, and may not be consider a good fighter(as strong and fast) as he was in the younger days.

A martial artist is measure in many ways...being a good fighter does not always mean a good martial artist.

Usually when we say a Good martial artist...means someone who is HUMBLE..A good person that trains hard, skillful, great technician,and is fast. (even for his age)....beating up a person..does not make you a martial artist.....

What is consider a "good fighter"? ..how do you measure that? ...Is it one who always wins? ...or sometimes? ...or just knows how?

Just my thoughts here ...........Aloha
 

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While I certainly respect the opinions given, I personally find some of the replies a little pretentious and bookish in suggesting fighting is *not* the keystone to the building of a good martial artist.

I find it hard to believe there are so many here who feel if they gave up fighting in their art, that they could still become great martial artists. If that were the case, why do we all practise fighting techniques at all? Why are we expending time and effort doing that? Do we train to fight purely for its own sake? I recall saying this somewhere else recently but surely when we dispense with the fighting we take the martial out of the art?

I truly fail to see how a anyone can develop good or great martial artistry without being a good fighter themselves. And no, I'm not specifically talking MA purely as in TMA. If we want to start dealing with the wider dictionary definitions then think of how few of the truly great military leaders from Temuchin to Ike have not had military [ie. fighting] experience themselves.

imHo, it comes down to this - fighting is nowadays seen as an unquestionably bad thing in society at large. And the fact that we engage in fighting as part of our interests and studies as martial artists gives momentum to the implication that we're nothing more than barbarians ourselves. Consequently, this has lead us to become increasingly apologetic over our love of MA and has gotten us forever stuck in these vicious circles of arguing amongst ourselves and eternally citing platitudes such as "we don't really need to fight" and "we can be great martial artists without fighting".

Ultimately, to each of you who holds views to the contrary, I'd ask of you, would you *really* be happy developing the non-martial aspects of your art to the exclusion of the "supposedly" unimportant fighting aspect? Would you believe of yourselves that without training to be good fighters that you can still become truly the best martial artists you can be? And if that's genuinely the case would you be prepared to walk that walk and waive your fighting training altogether?

Respects!
 

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I read this thread when it was first posted, and waited to read some other responses before I posted myself because this is a perpetual argument. I have my own opinion, but before I post it, I have a few questions:

- what is a martial art?
- what is a martial artist?
- what is a 'good fighter'?
- how do you compare a 'good fighter' from one art with a 'good fighter' from another?
- what is 'self defense'?
- how does self defense relate to fighting?
- is someone who was a 'good fighter' but no longer is, due to age, illness, or injury, still a martial artist?
 

TigerWoman

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Kacey said:
- what is a martial art?
It is the way you live your life-- training in skills, techniques of the art and holding to the values of life that makes it possible to use those skills if necessary against danger or war.

- what is a martial artist?
One who keeps to the way to the best of their ability. And that includes the ability to know when to walk away and not fight or to inflict force or injury as required.

- what is a 'good fighter'?
One who can apply his/her knowledge/ability to either defend or attack.

- how do you compare a 'good fighter' from one art with a 'good fighter' from another?
Each art has their strengths and weaknesses. If a TKDoin can apply his/her art before a grappler can make a fight go to the ground, he/she would be a good fighter.

- what is 'self defense'?
Using whatever means quickly to walk away. This is not a fight for fighting's sake to pound someone or to demonstrate technique or which "way" is better.

- how does self defense relate to fighting?
See above answer.

- is someone who was a 'good fighter' but no longer is, due to age, illness, or injury, still a martial artist?
Someone who was a good fighter but is hindered by age, illness, or injury goes back to the first question. He/she is still studying or retains at least some of the skills, can still apply what is left. Even if all that is left in old age is being able to teach.

You would never know when you get that poke in the eye. What is that saying, youth & skill vs age & treachery. Who would be the better fighter? Or is it better not to be just a fighter but keep to the "way"? I would rather be known as a good martial artist by my description than just a fighter.TW
 
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MardiGras Bandit

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Wow, good answer TigerWoman! I think you spelled it out perfectly. I give a little more leeway to someone who I was a good martial artist but had to stop because of age or injury then to someone I don't consider a good MA in the first place. Like you said, even these people can be great teachers.

I good example of being a wonderful martial artist without fighting would be practitioners of Kyudo (Way of the Bow)...
While something like this is impressive, I don't think it counts as a martial art. If anything, I'd group it with hunting skills. My dad is a good hunter, and though that requires its own important abilities I don't consider him a martial artist because of it.
Yes fighting is not always being the greatest Martial Artist, being humble loyal and courteous to me is more important than fighting.
Terry
Is using one's skills to stop an altercation before it becomes violent being a good fighter?
I can't agree. Outstanding character traits make someone a good person, but they have no relation to martial skills. Similarly, using non combat means to avoid a fight has nothing to do with martial arts, it is conflict resolution. Both these things might be important overall, but that doesn't make them important to martial art skills.

I see martial arts as a set of techiniques and concepts designed to protect oneself and to defeat ones opponents in a fight.
 
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