Train to survive – Not to compete

Effective Martial Arts

De-compete! Survival is not a sport


Sports are competitive games with rules. To succeed is to win in competition with others by being the best while still following the rules. Sports – and games – are wonderful and valuable. I strongly believe, however, that martial arts cannot be both “sport” and “practical.” It is an either-or statement.

To think of martial arts as sport places an artificial or imposed set of rules to follow. To engage in training for a sport, you train under rules that all participants respect or are at least aware of. These rules can be explicitly listed, or simply implied from Tae Kwon Do sparring to cage fighting. We train and learn to identify when we “win,” and also, when we “lose.” We learn what we can do under the game’s rules of engagement to win, and what to avoid doing to stop a loss. Under pressure, we will do what we train to do. If we train to “win” with a rule-set oriented around another person, we will perform according to this rule-set under duress. Losing is an equal state to winning. It is certainly not preferred, but ultimately, both the winner and loser of a game go home.


This rule set, however, is not practical. To truly “fight,” to truly engage in self-defense, we cannot train to be a “winner” and leave behind a loser. There cannot be a rule set that governs your available responses, as the attackers will not follow such constrictions. The attackers certainly have no plans to engage in a win/lose conflict according to a rule-set. If you train with this focus and base your response to attack on winning a competition, you will likely be unable to move or respond as needed. When faced with multiple attackers, you will not be able to “win” a series of moments and leave behind equal “losers” of each attack.

To compete is to enter a social contract with your fellow-competitors to follow basic rules of engagement that determine how you move, what you use, and what constitutes winning or losing. The more competition is trained, the harder it is to recognize this social contract. The rules and movements become assumed. When faced with a non-rule abiding attacker or a situation of aggression that is unfamiliar or outside the scope of your competitive training, you will not have time to figure out a response. In a moment of aggressive, raw, violence, there can be no time for competition.

There is no time for winning or losing.

There is no time to compete.

There is only time to survive.