IntroAll animals fight. They fight for water, food, shelter, territory, mates, power, to protect themselves from attacks, and they play fight as a way of training for real fights. Humans are animals; therefore, humans fight. For animals, fighting is instinctive. Humans also have a fighting instinct, but we also have a conscious brain that is aware of its existence and can knowingly choose whether to fight or not. For humans, all fighting is voluntary; we can choose to fight, when to fight, and how to fight, or we can choose to not to fight under any circumstances.
Types of fightingThere are four major types of hand-to-hand fighting:
Fighting because it’s required
- Combat. Combat fighting is used by armed service combatants on the field of battle. These combatants may be volunteers or conscripted. Either way, they are required to fight the enemy and thus must fight, or they can be punished, even with death. While there are rules of engagement and rules of war that limit what methods may be used in combat fighting, the goal of combat fighting is to capture, incapacitate, injure, maim, or kill the enemy whenever they are encountered.
Members of most special forces groups are usually forbidden from describing their fighting techniques to prevent potential opponents from knowing what to expect in a fight. However, it is reasonable to assume they use the most effective, up-to-date, and well-tested hand-to-hand combat fighting techniques.
- Enforcement. Enforcement fighting is used by designated enforcement personnel to enforce the law. By their acceptance of the job, enforcement personnel voluntarily agree to fight when it’s required. The goal of enforcement fighting is to prevent crime, stop crimes in progress, and detain suspected criminals or take them into custody using as little or as much force as necessary, which may include deadly force.
Enforcement personnel aren’t taught to fight per sec; they are taught techniques to calm and control suspects to prevent escape, overcome resistance, and take into custody. Enforcement personnel don’t lose their right to self-defense so if they are attacked they can defend themselves, so they are also taught self-defense techniques. There is no national standard of custody and control techniques. Each law enforcement agency selects the methods it uses.
Fighting because it’s necessary
- Self-defense. Self-defense fighting is used by ordinary citizens to defend themselves or others from attacks. Legally, you must wait for a person to attack or have reason to believe an attack is imminent before you may act. You may legally use whatever force is reasonably justified under the circumstances to defend yourself, including deadly force. The goal of self-defense fighting is to stop the attack and prevent further attacks, not to punish the attacker. Although most all fighting systems and styles can be used for self-defense, some are more suited for self-defense than others and some specialize in self-defense methods, such as krav maga and jiujutsu.
Fighting for training
- Play. Human play fighting is like the play fighting of other animals; participants go through the motions of a real fight, but they don’t harm each other. The goal of play fighting is to refine and perfect your fighting skills so, if it becomes necessary to fight, you will be able to fight as the situation requires.
Since you cannot fight full force regularly and still have a life, play fighting, or sparring, is used by all the types of fighting for training. Training and competitions using no-contact or light-contact rules allow fighters to develop their skills while still being able to carry out the tasks of daily life; although, I’ve wondered how dim-mak practitioners practice their death touch.
Fighting for sport
- Sport. Sport fighting is used in sports fighting events where full-contact, full-force techniques are permitted with specified exceptions. Sport fighters want to continue to be able to fight so they don’t want anything to happen that would prevent them from participating in future fights.
In sport fighting, the participants mutually agree to fight and to fight according to the rules of the fight. The amount of force allowed is predetermined but doesn’t include that which may cause serious injury or death, even though these may accidentally occur. The goal of sport fighting is to win the fight according to the rules of the fight, either by the opponent submitting, being unable to continue, being knocked out, or by a decision of the judges.
Most martial arts have closed fighting competitions where only competitors from their style or even their organization are allowed. Some fighting competitions are open to any style of fighting as long as the techniques used by the style are permitted by the rules of the fight; although, some techniques may be ineffective or useless because of the rules.
Fighting between typesWhile a well-trained fighter of each type of fighting may be able to perform competently in each of the other types, they will usually not perform as well as a well-trained fighter of that type. Some reasons why this is the case are:
- Combat fighters are sworn to fight, and they’re required to fight. There are few rules for both participants and the ones that do exist are not necessarily followed. For both fighters, serious injury or death of the other is usually the desired outcome. The techniques of this type of fighting can be controlled for play fighting, but they are risky for use in enforcement or self-defense fighting. When you are in a stressful situation, you tend to unconsciously act as you have trained act, so you may accidentally or unjustifiably seriously injure or kill someone and be civilly or criminally liable for your actions.
- Enforcement fighters are sworn to fight, and, when necessary to carry out their duties, they’re required to fight. There are formal and informal rules for both participants in enforcement fights and while enforcement fighters are sworn to obey them, suspects usually choose not to obey them. For the enforcement fighter, the desired outcome of the fight is having the suspect in custody. For the criminal, the desired outcome of the fight is escape. For both fighters, serious injury or death of the other is usually not desired but either may occur. The techniques of this type of fighting can be controlled for play fighting, can be used in combat or sport fighting, and are useful in self-defense fighting,
- Self-defense fighters only fight when attacked and may only use the amount of force necessary to stop the attack. For the attacker, the desired outcome of the fight may or may not be serious injury or death of the victim and the attacker is not concerned with the legality of his or her actions. For the victim, the desired outcome of the fight is to escape or an end of the attack and the victim’s defense options are restrained by the law. The techniques of this type of fighting can be used in all the other types of fighting, but they are not that effective in combat or sport fighting.
- Play fighters choose to fight and know the rules of the fight beforehand. Although the fighters try to avoid injury to each other, minor injuries sometimes occur. Play fighting is useful for training in all the types of fighting, but it is useless other than for training purposes.
- Sport fighters choose to fight and know the rules of the fight beforehand. Although neither serious injury or death is desired by the fighters, either may occur. Although sport fighting techniques may be used in combat fighting, they may expose the fighter to serious injury or death under combat conditions. If the techniques are used in enforcement fighting, they may result in complaints of excessive force, lawsuits, or criminal charges. The techniques can be used in self-defense fighting, but their use may result in lawsuits or criminal charges if used unjustifiably.
Martial artsTraditional martial arts have refined fighting and made it an art form and a “way” of life where practitioners train to develop their bodies, minds, and spirits in an attempt to reach the unreachable goal of perfection. In the martial arts, the way a fighting technique is performed becomes just as important as its effectiveness. Martial artists train to avoid fights and become better persons for it, but they also train to fight to win when a fight becomes unavoidable. The goal of a martial artist is to develop a warrior body that is able to do what must be done, a warrior mind that is ready to do what must be done, and most importantly, a warrior spirit that is willing do what must be done—no matter the consequences.
All this may sound like a lot of esoteric BS and, for most modern-day martial arts students, it is. Most of them talk about it, but they don’t practice it. Some of them practice it, but they don’t live it. However, a few of them live it—and they live it until they die.