Are Martial Arts Sports?

Are Martial Arts Sports? (Explained)

Are martial arts sports or art, as the name says?

Martial arts can be classified as sports. Sport is defined to be an activity involving physical exertion and skill with a potential competitive angle to it. Therefore, most martial arts can be defined as sports or combat sports.

In this post, we will go a bit deeper into why martial arts can be defined as sports, as well as why they might not.

Are martial arts sports?

According to OxfordLanguages, the definition of a sport is following:

an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

We all know that martial arts do have at least some level of physical exertion and stress, depending on the martial art, so that checks the first box.

Martial arts also are heavily skill-based activities, checking the second box.

When it comes to an individual competing against another individual, at least some martial arts do have formal competitions, where you can compete against other practitioners. Those martial arts can be defined as sports.

The following martial arts can be defined as sports, according to the three factors mentioned previously:

  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu
  • Boxing
  • Karate
  • MMA
  • Kickboxing
  • Muay Thai
  • Kendo
  • Wushu
  • Taekwondo

However, even if a martial art does not have formal competitions to it, you might still gain merits based on your skills. That might or might not be seen as a “competitive angle”. Therefore, it is up to you to decide whether you count those martial arts as sports as well.

The following martial arts do not have official competitions, so they might not be defined as sports:

  • Krav Maga
  • Wing Chun
  • Aikido

What makes martial arts sports?

For something to be classified as a sport, it should fit into three categories:

  • Physical exertion
  • Skill
  • Competitions

Most martial arts do require physical exertion and skill, but not all martial arts have competitions. Therefore, martial arts that do have competitions can surely be defined as sports.

The rest of the martial arts, ones that do not have competitions are somewhat a grey area.

Are martial arts sports or art?

Martial arts that have competitions can be defined as sports. However, martial arts can also be defined as art.

Art is defined by the expression of the application of human creative skill and imagination typically in a visual form.

Therefore, martial arts can be defined as both art and sport.

Are all martial arts sports?

The definition of a sport is something with physical exertion and skill with a competitive angle to it. It is true that not all martial arts have competitions, but you can at least compare your skills and define them by different belt colors, or other merits.

Therefore, at least those martial arts that have competitions, in some way can be defined as sports.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with practicing martial art that does not have a competitive angle to it, as long as it is beneficial to you. Don’t let the formal definitions of a sport discourage you.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, what makes a martial art a sport is whether they have competitions or not.

The majority of known martial arts do have competitions of some kind. Therefore, most martial arts can be defined as sports.

Some of the martial arts that do not have competitions, and therefore might not be classified as sports are:

  • Krav Maga
  • Wing Chun
  • Aikido
  • Some other forms of Kung Fu

Hopefully, this clarifies whether the martial arts of your choice can be defined as sports. Do not let the definition of sport keep you from practicing a martial art that you find delightful.

Have a nice day and good luck with your martial arts journey!

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