In this short article, I’d like to share my definitions of three (3) common terms used in martial art circles. By doing so, I aim to clarify how I use these terms. Here they are:

1. Self-defense
2. Martial Arts
3. Combatives

I define self-defense as “A method of personal defense against unsophisticated attacks that does JUST ENOUGH to extract oneself from harm’s way.

For some, this involves using verbal skills to persuade and/or de-escalate a situation before it becomes physical. For others, it involves employing physical defense to thwart an assault that has already begun. After neutralizing the assault, the goal is to create distance and decompress.

Next, let’s examine the phrase “martial arts.” Here are some basic dictionary definitions:

– The word “martial” refers to being warlike.
– The word “art” refers to the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Therefore, when I use the phrase “martial arts,” I am referring to:

Visually appealing, warlike movements that are practiced and trained against sophisticated attacks and have a punitive and/or injurious mindset attached to it.”

Due to advancements such as the internet, DVDs, airplanes, and cell phones, the world of martial arts has become smaller – more people know about martial arts from various countries than ever before. This has brought diverse areas of emphasis into the global community, including:

– Artistic expression
– Community
– Fitness
– Self-defense
– Sportive fighting
– Street fighting
– Arrest and control

Although all these aspects are beneficial, it’s unfortunate that marketing and financial interests have sometimes led to confusion. For instance, sportive and artistic styles of instruction have often been mislabeled as “self-defense” to appeal to the desires and egos of potential clients.

Finally, let’s discuss the term “combat.”

When I use this term, I am referring to a violent encounter where the likelihood of all combatants ending up severely injured or deceased is very high.

For me, I reserve the word “combat” for scenarios involving police officers, deputies, federal agents, and military personnel – thereby distinguishing it from what I refer to as “sportive fighters” like MMA fighters, who compete under regulated conditions with rules, numerous safety measures, spectators and promoters.

Now, I would define “combat” as:

The intentional engagement in a violent encounter with a high risk of being shot, stabbed, maimed, dismembered, or death; where the primary objectives are to survive and win at all costs.

I have taken the time to define these words to help bring more clarity to the topics. I do so because of today’s martial art marketing. See, because there are so many martial art academies and instructors competing for the attention of the same people, some academies/instructors use these words interchangeably – and end up confusing a lot of people.

I hope this article has been helpful and enlightening. I invite you to contact me at for private lessons tailored to your individual needs.

Thank you for your time,

Roy Harris

P.S. Do you have questions or comments about this post? Let me know in the comments below, by sending me an email, or by clicking on the social media icon above and writing to me there!

Copyright © 2024 Roy Harris. All Rights Reserved.

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