Can martial arts be considerd an art form?

 This is a piece I have written for my Gold arts award, exploring if martial arts can be considered an art form.

Can martial arts be considerd an art form?

This is a question that I admittedly am quite bias on as I am someone that has trained in martial arts for almost my whole life and as someone who knows the time and focus it takes to get good at one of theses. I have watched martial arts demonstrations and many professional fights and from my personal opinion I can say I view all martial arts as an art form from boxing to Kung Fu. And I just want to see if my view are shared or opposed by the generally public.

I first started by getting up the basic definition of a martial art which is ‘various sports, which originated chiefly in japan, Korea, and china as forms of self-defence or attack, such as judo, karate, and kendo. Now this wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for if I’m going to be honest it has made no mention of western martial arts and it has at no point acknowledged them as an art form. I think this may be due to their origins as purely self-defence or combat tools but because of this I have also found sources to challenge this definition. 

I have found that this is a very split subject online especially on dissuasion websites such as www.quora.com. Back to the definition this generally goes against my opinion and the more I look I find that this is the clear argument against my view that is that martial arts practically western martial arts are considered sports and not art. One point that was made by Mcfeely.areavoices.com was ‘fighting isn’t art it’s fighting. It’s at times brutality.’ Well to this I say why fighting can’t be art. I do not agree with this statement but the more I looked the more it seemed to come up it’s a brutal sport and that can in no way be art. I put this exact quote in my survey I conducted to see if people I knew actually agreed with this. What I found was 78% of people agreed with this statement where as only 65% of people agreed with a statement I found that describes martial arts as on art form. So, for this point the general view of people is martial arts are defiantly a sport and most people agree it’s pretty brutal at times these statistics from online and my own survey defiantly make me think harder on my stans that martial arts are definitely and art form.

A factor that I have found from my research that I didn’t first anticipate is the fact that western martial arts are viewed as a lot less artistic then Asian or south American martial arts. From what I found online a long quote by Mr. Nolan Ternura who was a as he calls it martial artist and says his work is comparable to that of a painter or dancer with his hands and feet being his paint brushes. This fully supports what I feel but the way he describes it does seem like he is more talking about Kung Fu or Capoeira and does not really seem like he is talking about say Boxing or wrestling. Although from his statement I can see how much passion this man has for martial arts the same passion I share, and I know this can cloud your judgement, so I decided I would target this with my survey. I asked targeted questions first I simply asked do you consider martial arts to be an art form 74% of people do agree that martial arts are and art form but only 43% of thought western martial arts are art but then 100% of people thought of capoeira as an art this being a south American form of martial arts. Now I think I know why this is if we just for a second compare western martial arts to others from around the world it is clear to see western martial arts have a pure focus on fighting and trying to hurt the other person. Whereas if we look at say Kung Fu or Capoeira they both have more of an artistic side to them are more stunning to watch and it could even be argued that they are a form of dance as many dances I have personally seen have taken moves from them such as the jinger step from capoeira. I can also see from my study that women are far more likely to consider western martial arts to not be art I think this may just be due to the fact that woman are statistically less likely to take part in a martial art especially here in the west seen on mainemartialarts.com. I think you really have to have practiced a martial art to know why someone could consider it art. From all this and what I have seen on message boards online I can see that a lot of people view some martial arts as art but not others this is much more of a mullite layer question then I originally thought It would be. 

Another question that comes up is can something be an art if it has guidelines which most martial arts do in fact have lots and lots of guidelines. Basically all martial arts have competitions to see who is the best at that martial art, such as Kung Fu test which are meant to see if someone can go to a higher belt. Theses test are regulated and have lots of rule moves you can’t use things you can’t do and an agreement I have seen used. Can something really be art if it has limitations? This is seen in that same article I showed earlier where he uses the definitions for art and sports to try and prove this point. Now I would argue that this is just not the case look at something like ballet even though there is no regulations per say you wouldn’t see they start going into a traditional jazz performance in the middle of a ballet piece. As someone who dances myself I know this is just not the case and when you go to see a ballet show you go to see ballet, just as when you go to see a Kung Fu demonstration they know what they are seeing it’s more similar then at first glance. There is another article I looked at which was about mixed martial arts mainly talking about the UFC on evolve-mma.com it said that it is extremely creative as in MMA there are only basic guidelines for safety reasons someone can be so creative this is an event where people of all different martial arts mixed together and combine and change their styles it’s almost like a dangers duet of dance. Even though it has guild lines it is still creative and therefore an art form as the definition of art is. “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”

Lastly I want to look at the audience prospective on martial arts, in my survey I asked do you consider martial arts to be an art? Form which I got 74% of people agreed so the majority does agree. But then the more and more I looked people were all saying martial arts is a sport and as someone who does and watches it I can say I definitely see why someone would say this martial arts are very physically demanding. They require lots of practice and time to become good at but I’m not sure they can be considered as just a sport. So I also asked the question “do you consider martial arts to be a sport or an art form?” and because so many people asked I had to put an answer for both. I found that the majority of people 65% think it is both an art form and a sport and I thought can something be considered art and sport? Then I thought dancers which I am one of, they train incredibly hard they are athletes just the same as any other sport such as football and if these athletes can be considered artists why martial artists can’t be considered this as well. So I do think I can be both as even in my negative quote to martial arts they said “There are certainly artistic elements to any athletic endeavour.” So if even the ones against it being art say this then I think I may be able to be considered both. 

In conclusion after everything I have found in my research I honestly thought I wouldn’t change my view in the slightest but I was wrong my view has defiantly been affected. But it has not necessarily changed my view just added on to it. Because of the clear athletic qualities and the simple fact that there is competitions means martial arts are a spot. But martial arts also fits into the definition of art so I guess if it fits both outlines it can be both. In conclusion It can be both though I believe fully that it is an art but I can understand someone else not seeing this all I can say is practice a martial art and then decide for yourself is it art.       

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jack taylor

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6 Comments

  • Emma Del'Nero Williams

    On 7 November 2018, 10:58 Emma Del'Nero Williams commented:

    I know very little about martial arts but found your article very interesting. I have seen films containing martial arts and would definitely agree that it is art due to its choreographed movement. However, I would never think of boxing as an art form, I feel it has technique but not creativity. It may be due to my naivety of the subject. A good article and research, well done.

  • Bee Snellen

    On 7 November 2018, 14:56 Bee Snellen commented:

    Hi Jack! We recommend adding an image to the articles you post as it helps illustrate your article!

    I've never really thought about whether or not martial arts is an art form. Comparing it to boxing, for example, there is definitely more fluidity and movement to it rather than just punching. Perhaps it is very closely related to dance, and that's why you can define it as an art.

    But look at WWE: is it a sport? Is it entertainment?
    Perhaps it's all about context. When martial arts is in a competitive setting, it is a sport. When it is featured beautifully in a film like The Raid, you could consider it an art form.

    Do you think context and setting has something to do with it?

  • jack taylor

    On 8 November 2018, 11:16 jack taylor commented:

    Yes I do think context matters. I did not really consider if it could be classified differently depending on if it is a competitive or in say a demonstration. I personally don't think the WWE is not art but instead entertainment but I do consider wrestling itself to be art as it is a complex way of moving to try and shift someone's weight.
    Thank you for your comment Bee.

  • Antony Hoadley

    On 8 November 2018, 11:29 Antony Hoadley commented:

    I agree with both Emma and Bee. This is because I believe it is heavily decided by the context or how it is shown. If it is shown in a film it is most probably choreographed and then I see it more as art. However, if it is a professional or 'real' fight I wouldn't class it as a art as much as I would have.
    This was great to read and I could tell how much you truly cared about this issue.

  • Daniel Stokes

    On 8 November 2018, 11:48 Daniel Stokes commented:

    A great article of which clearly talks about the opinions of others on the subject. As someone who has done karate for about six years I found that what you said about having to experience it to understand was a valid point. However, when addressing marital art competitions like Kung Fu, I would have liked to have seen more about how even in these competitions, it is very controlled as you are not there to severely hurt your opponent, you are there to show your skill in the art and the control, of which takes years of practice, for you to not severely hurt your opponents. But apart from that I really enjoyed your article, well done.

  • Mia Hammond

    On 8 November 2018, 12:08 Mia Hammond commented:

    I personally feel that martial arts is an art form. Even though it may not be the first thing people thing of when they say 'the arts' I do believe that it takes a lot of skill and training to be good at it. I know only a small amount about martial arts and this topic and found it slightly hard to understand the difference between the different kinds. It would be nice to know some differentiation between them all as I feel I would get to know what you're talking about much more.
    However, overall I completely agree with you as I think it comes under both sports and the arts. I really enjoyed reading it as I found it interesting and nice how passionate you are about the topic.

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