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Martial Arts vs Competitive Sports: The Pros and Cons

When it comes to signing up kids for their extracurricular activities (or even just choosing one for yourself!), there’s a choice to be made: martial arts vs competitive sports? They each have their own pros and cons, but one provides more paths for children to take!

What’s The Difference Between Martial Arts vs Competitive Sports?

man and woman performing Brazilian jiu jitsu in dojoThe difference between martial arts vs competitive sports is getting more blurred all the time. Some martial arts, like judo, karate, and taekwondo, have been included in the Olympic Games, showing that they certainly can be competitive sports themselves. The differences between “martial arts” and “competitive sports”, then, lie in why the practitioners are doing the activity. Martial arts are a solo activity that started in the ideas of fitness, self-defence, and self-improvement; competitive sports, including competitive martial arts, are about defeating an opponent in a head-to-head match.

Some practitioners of martial arts are hostile to the idea of their field being classified as a sport because they believe the definition of “sport” is based on play, and isn’t seriously defined beyond the competitive angle. This can be limiting in scope, and many people find competition adds another level of excitement.

While adding competition to martial arts isn’t necessary, what if a student would like to go competitive? What are the pros and cons of solo martial arts and competitive martial arts or team-based sports?

The Pros And Cons of Competitive Martial Arts

A big difference between martial arts and sports is in the training methods. Martial arts will often make sure that the training avoids all danger by creating artificial substitutes and even teaching counter training methods. You may have heard about “pulling punches” – this is stopping the hits just before contact, and it’s something stressed by many martial arts teachers. They will also add precautionary movements to the routines and limit the targets, providing a safe way to learn and grow.

This is the pros of this martial arts training for children. They’ll learn and understand that the lessons are about more than just real-world application of self-defence, men performing Brazilian jiu jitsu in dojoand they’ll devote more attention to the other parts of the martial art: self-discipline, concentration, and fitness.

One small negative to martial arts can be that students can find the lessons limited and boring as they advance. For them, there is always the option of taking this sport into a competition, though this would require different training. They can find this personally rewarding, though the focus on “winning” and “losing” can cloud the other positives, becoming too important and affecting the focus and intent of the training.

The positive of this is that any person who doesn’t like competition can simply choose what direction they’d like to take, because martial arts aren’t limited to one path! However, this can’t always be said for team sports.

Martial Arts vs. Team Sports

As we’ve explained, martial arts are more solitary in focus, whether done competitively or not. Team competition is an entirely different thing, and it has its own pros and cons. Two of the biggest positives of competitive team sports is their intense level of exercise and their ability to teach the value of teamwork.

Martial arts also provides high levels of exercise, though this exercise is not high impact like football or soccer; it’s also not restricted by seasons, meaning they can get a regular workout even in the coldest weather. As well, “teamwork” means that team sports won’t be for everyone, because many children do not feel comfortable with that kind of social environment. If they’re not at the same skill level as their peers, they might feel they’re letting down the entire team. Martial arts also let children move at their own pace, so if they need a little more time to catch up, they can take it without teammates moving ahead.

It’s also very hard to find a team sport that isn’t competitive in nature. If you have a child interested in sports, martial arts are a great way to begin, because they have more choice over whether or not they want to practice competitively. And remember, when considering the difference between martial arts vs competitive sports there are also many different disciplines to choose from!

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