Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Martial Arts Categories Part II

    Last week in part I,  I started discussing my own way to break down martial arts based on four main categories of goals of the martial art.  I presented this diagram last week, but I didn't discuss it.  It is a version of a four circle Venn diagram, which presents many different ways of overlapping the four main goals of martial arts.  Today, I'm going to talk about the overlap areas, what they would describe, and as much as my limited experience allows, give examples of martial arts that fit these in between categories.  By the way, I'm sorry my examples are Japanese, but that is where most of my experience lies.  If you have any other examples, from other cultures, please write them in the comments.  Also, I understand that all classification system are by definition, artificial systems, but they are none-the-less useful in breaking things up smaller bits of being able to think of things.  I have a fellow instructor who keeps telling me that aikido and jujutsu are the same thing.  I tell him, yes the movements may have almost no difference, but what the movements want to accomplish are different.

 Each of these letter designations are based on the overlap areas of the Venn diagram

A: Civilian/Sport

This category of martial art is one that blends a civilian self-defense art with some sporting aspects.  Kyokushin karate is the first one that jumps to mind on this one.  Though taught as a self-defense, they do have a competition aspect, with its own specific rules.   Brazilian Jujutsu, I think, has become this type of art.  Much of the training revolves around the "game" aspect of their art.

B: Military/Civilian

Police and other LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) have to bridge the gap between civilian and military.  They are required to remain in dangerous situations, whereas civilians self-defense says you should extract yourself from that same dangerous situation.  However, they cannot eliminate the threat, and in fact, must protect their assailant as much as feasibly possible.  So you can see the predicament for their martial arts.  They have to be brutally effective, reliable, and do the least amount of damage as possible.

C: Sport/Self-Development

These types of arts may have lost much of their martial aspects, but they origin lies in some martial history.  Kendo would be an example of this.  Although its main goal is self-development, it does so through the sporting aspect.  Many other arts fall into this combination of goals.  Sport Tae Kwon Do is like this.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this combination of goals.  What is wrong is to propose that these skills will transfer to self-defense or military situations.  Many good personal traits can be developed through these martial arts.

D: Military/Civilian/Sport

Some types of Filipino martial arts could belong to this category.  I mention them because I have seen schools that teach the knife aspect (military), and then change it over to empty hand (civilian) and then wear some protective gear and spar with it (sport).  I cannot say with certainty of any specific styles or schools that do all three in equal parts, simply because this is not my strength of knowledge, so if you do, please add a comment to tell me and the readers about it.

E: Civilian/Sport/Self-Development

Judo was developed by Kano Sensei as a way to build human character and spirit. It was done so by taking some of the battlefield techniques of the samurai past and adapting them for civilian situations.  However, Judo competitions were and still are a major part of this art.  Judo has enjoyed worldwide success because of that and has even become an Olympic event.

F: Military/Civilian/Sport/Self-Development

This should be the "ultimate" martial art right?  It does everything that is part of martial arts.  I can't think of an example of this, as any school that does everything would have the Jack-of-all-Trades problem.  They can do a little bit of everything, but not one aspect well enough.  

G: Military/Sport

I not sure about this category.  This category, even more so than D: military/civilian/sport, seems counter intuitive.  I think this would be weapons arts that practice with military uses in mind, but also have a side competition side to them.  I know there must be examples of this, I just wouldn't know what they are.  If anyone thinks they can give an example of a specific art that fits this section, please tell us about it in the comments.

H: Military/Sport/Self-Development

Battodo is a Japanese sword art of of drawing and cutting.  The cuts are often practiced against rolled tatami mats.  There is still the military application of this art, even if it is historical, yet they have cutting competitions, so there is a sporting aspect.  However, because of the lack of opportunity of use, one of the main purposes of these arts are in self-development.

I: Military/Civilian/Self-Development

 Some jujutsu schools that bridge the gap between "jutsu" and "do" would fit in this category.  They may still have some of the lethal or dangerous techniques in their system, but they also teach for a modern approach to self-defense, and as a result, they either directly or indirectly teach self-development.  As weird as it may seem, a real ninjutsu system should have all three of these goals in mind.  They should train to remove a threat when needed, they should train in true self-defense (awareness, avoidance, and then removal of yourself from the situation), and they should teach self control, and willpower as part of the system. 

J: Civilian/Self-Development

Aikido is a great example of this category.  Some of the more traditional forms of Taiji also seem to fall here.  This is a martial art that can be used as a self-defense aspect, again if taught in the correct self-defense format, but its main form of focus seems to be to try and make better people.  That seems to be the main goal of Ueshiba.  He wanted to use the training in this form of self-defense to make people better.  And I think it worked a little too well.  Much of the civilian self-defense aspects are taken out some school's teachings, and they only really focus on the self-development parts.  This is a shame, and I believe contrary to the methods of Ueshiba.

K:  Military/Self-Development

Most of the arts in this category, as I see it, are going to be historical weapons applications.  Most of the schools of kenjutsu will fall into this category.  They still have killing or disabling techniques, but again, because of the lack of everyday usefulness, the focus tends to be more of the self-development side of things.


    Many arts don't fit into any single category, they tend to straddle the lines between two or three of the categories.  The danger in these is trying to pretend that an art belongs to one category, say the self- defense category, when it doesn't train that way.  This can be dangerous in that it breeds ill-founded self-confidence in a situation where their art isn't as proficient.  This goes across all boards.  Aikido wasn't designed to work in a combat sport situation, and many of the military aspects have been taken out as well, leaving it as either a civilian or self-development part of the


  1. Thank you for your kind words, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. If you can fill in some of the blanks, feel free to add a comment.

  2. For Military/Civillian/Self-Development I thought about Budo. Amazing post by the way.

  3. Military is stupid cause I no think Creator of material no see material no stop creating sound but hears I talk 5 minutes in future of I person talk about smoke destroying it ( the material) and begins to resort to weapons and it is a word for a topic of discussion.

    1. I'm guessing English isn't your first language, and you went though Google Translator? I've tried, but I can not follow what you are saying. I'm not criticizing, I just don't know how to respond.

  4. Israeli Self defense Forces use Krav Magra. Given where they live and all residents must be in military 3 years, there really is no sport application or to better one's self, it involves save ur ass only. When u r attacked goal is simple block attack and counter strike at the same time. Knife attack, grab weapon hand and strike simultaneously,seize weapon use on attacker.

  5. For Military/Sport I would propose HEMA, specifically the weapon arts which were made for the battlefield (or civilian use, but that isn't really relevant for today's streets) but also sparred with.