I was having a conversation with a new student the other day and he was asking clarifications about sparring and competing in fights. We discussed the typical approach to fighting and teaching in Boxing, Muay Thai and then MMA, then I explained my philosophy of running my club. I consider myself a martial artist and a martial arts teacher. As it happens we specialise in kick boxing and we do spar regularly and train for fights that many of our members attend. Sparring is and should be a fundamental part of martial arts training and nobody should use excuses to avoid it. Sparring, however limited by rules, is the only way of testing whether your techniques can be really used against a non collaborative opponent. At the same time my martial art approach philosophy is that everybody should be trained and inspired to improve their skills but nobody should be discriminated against their, perhaps not great, fighting performance.
My main point about martial arts school like mine and the difference of approach compared to fight clubs is the emphasis and focus on fighting and fighting capabilities. In many Boxing, Muay Thai and MMA club they assess very quickly whether you could be a good fighter and will invest their time in you just in case of positive outcome. In my club the attention your will get from me, other instructors and senior members of the club is just proportional to you attendance and determination to succeed. Talented people will achieve results faster but the truly determined will succeed anyway.
In my pitch to new these students I simply stated: “I am martial artist and I teach martial arts; fighting is a result and a necessary consequence of training martial arts but not the only result”. Being a martial artist is much more than being a fighter. Fighters train and fight to win; for many this is a career that can have a beginning and an end; when they finish that career they retire and stop training. Martial artists train for, among other things, personal improvement and for them; there is potentially no end in their training, perhaps an evolution of styles, often dictated by their body getting older.