What is a Martial Artist?

Martial Artist

By definition: A Beautiful Warrior

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: as self-defense, military and law enforcement applications; as competition, physical fitness, mental and spiritual development; as well as entertainment and the preservation of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage.

Part of our ethos here at Xen-Do School of Martial Arts is teaching the art of ‘fighting without fighting’. To the untrained eye, this may not make much sense, but with the increasingly growing popularity of MMA and UFC in particular, it is truer today than it has ever been. Now, let me explain…

I recently read an article with Rickson Gracie, one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu fighters of all time. When asked about MMA and cage fighting he was incredibly disparaging in his analysis. He spoke about how MMA had destroyed the essence and spirit of martial arts. It had traded in the philosophy, discipline and technical ability in favour of explosion, force, speed and the ability to withstand impact, toughness. It has exchanged integrity for glamour and in doing so it has sold its soul to the devil. On this subject, Mr Gracie had the following to say:

‘In my opinion, that’s something that downgrades the image of martial arts. It’s something I just don’t believe is a reference for kids. What kind of father would like to see his son in MMA? At the same time, what kind of father would not like to see his son fighting Jiu-Jitsu as it should be taught, correctly, in line, organized, learning to respect, learning to fall and get back up, learning to be kind to your opponent. Every father would like to see his son learning to defend himself but with respect, with peace in your heart. That being said, I have no interest at all in martial arts being mixed, this thing without any doctrine or concept. Today, MMA has simply turned into a circus, extreme, violent, and sensationalist, which only attracts people who like barbarianism and all that blood.’

Undoubtedly, Xen-Do is a discipline which shows its students how to defend themselves. However, the spirit of our system is as much about training the mind, as it is the body. In every class we stress the value of control. Control not solely about physical form but also about psychological and emotional control. It is about learning maturity, respect as well as technical skill. Kindness to your opponent is what separates us from beast.

Martial arts is about becoming a beautiful fighter. Martial can be defined as ‘relating to fighting or warfare’ and so without fighting, there is no martial arts. However, it comes at our own peril should we forget that it is also an art form. The Oxford English Dictionary describes art as:

‘the expression or application of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form […] to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’.

It is this principle that cage fighting has forgotten. There is nothing beautiful in seeing Evangelista Santos’ skull caved in. The spattering of blood should be an inadvertent occupational hazard, a mistaken loss of control. It should not be the aim and purpose to be lauded and applauded by the bloodthirsty. Martial arts is about proficiency in a system. Victories should primarily stem from technical ability. Power and speed should supplement your technique, not supersede it. There is always going to be a fighter out there that is faster and/or stronger. If all you focus on is your own speed and strength, you will eventually be defeated. It is at this point where it becomes obvious that the mind is a fighter’s strongest ally. Fighting intelligence coupled with technical expertise is the key to overcoming a physically superior opponent. A martial arts battle should be comparable to a chess match (chess with violence): a battle of wits where speed of mind is your most powerful ally. As we all know, where the mind is willing, the body will follow. It is only once this is understood and appreciated that a good fighter becomes a truly great fighter. It is only with this understanding that martial arts can develop into something complex and beautiful.

Through the vehicle of UFC, the Roman gladiator arena still exists today. Cage fighting looks to appeal to the primitive side of human nature: blood lust and violence. This is the opposite of what we teach here at Xen-Do. Fighting with the purpose of causing pain and irreversible damage to your opponent is barbaric. Our methodology is a progressive martial art, in the purest sense of the term, intended to endorse the ideologies laid down by Mr Gracie. Or in a catchier slogan:

‘The art of fighting without fighting!’ – Bruce Lee’s renowned words in the unique martial arts film Enter the Dragon.

You can read the full transcript of the Rickson Gracie interview here.


This article is based on opinion:
– the author is not a qualified doctor or anyone who can dispense medical advice.
– any opinions stated are just that and people should consult a doctor before making any dietary changes or changes of any nature prompted by the articles published by or on behalf of Xen-Do.
– under 16’s please obtain parental permission before posting anything online.

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