“What’s the point of doing martial arts if you don’t compete?”


 This weekend I found myself in a couple of discussions with guys who didn’t understand why anyone would learn martial arts without competing.

 The first conversation started off in a coffee shop near my gym.  One of the staff saw my boxing gloves and asked me what I was doing and asked if I was a fighter.  When I told him I was going to Muay Thai he laughed at me and his response was “Muay Thai is a joke”.

That’s a huge insult to make about one of the toughest martial arts in the world.  I ended up asking him why he thought it was a joke and he asked me if I competed and I said no (I would love to but am unable to due to being diagnosed with a retina problem a few years ago).  That according to him was the problem, he said if you train without competing it’s a waste of time.  I ended up chatting to him (despite the fact I actually wanted to smash him in the face with my elbow!) because he told me he used to compete as a boxer.  I told him he should come down to my gym and give Muay Thai a go and he might be surprised that it’s far from a joke as he thought.  I told him we also have boxing and sparring classes if he didn’t want to try a martial art.  As I expected he gave some excuses as to why he couldn’t come and train.  I left with the parting shot of “You really should learn some respect and put your money where your mouth is before you insult people.  I would like to know if you would still find Muay Thai a joke when someone slams their shin into your jaw”.  He went very quiet after that and I left, I might have to buy my coffee from somewhere else next time!


I also ended up in an online discussion with someone who was a friend of a friend about the exact same thing.  He also thought that it was a waste of time learning martial arts if you didn’t compete or teach. 

I have to admit these attitudes annoyed me.  Whilst I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who fights or competes it doesn’t mean that people who choose not to should be viewed as wasting their time.  I respect everyone that I train with, regardless of whether they fight or not.  We are all there for our own reasons.  What are mine you may wonder?

I have been learning various martial arts for 14 years and it is a huge part of my life, I love it.  Thanks to martial arts I am strong, fit and healthy. It’s given me confidence, I am constantly learning new skills, I developed my intuition, it keeps me focused, has challenged me and pushed me beyond my comfort zone many times, taught me discipline, honour, loyalty and respect.  I travel abroad to refine my skills, I have been taught by some inspirational masters, coaches and trainers and made some great friends with the other students, we help each other in training.  I have met some of my favourite fighters, they inspire me to train hard and are shining examples of what hard work and dedication can lead to.  I have been honoured and blessed with the responsibility to teach others as an assistant instructor, I was given the opportunity to teach self defence to people who have been victims of crime.  It was a deeply humbling experience to see them gain their confidence back and literally blossom before us.

As a kid who used to be bullied and spending some of my teenage and early adult years in abusive relationships, my decision to learn martial arts came from me deciding to take back the power from those who had physically and mentally abused me over many years.  I didn’t want to be a victim, someone that people thought they could pick on.  I wanted to be able to live without fear and to be able to walk the streets with pride and confidence, not looking down at the ground because I was scared of people.  I want to inspire others who have been bullied or been a domestic violence victim, to show them that life isn’t always going to be that way.  That it is possible to break the cycle and claim back your life.  Not everyone will choose martial arts as a way of life, but I do.

Those are my reasons for why I practise martial arts.  Does that still seem like a waste of time to you?


  1. Veritas · · Reply

    May I ask what aspect of martial arts training you feel gave you the confidence to walk with your head up? I am very scared to go out and would love to return to karate in the hope that, amongst all the other benefits, it would improve my confidence .

    1. Hi Veritas

      Thanks for your response. I’m sorry to hear you are afraid to go outside. For me learning Kung Fu really opened my mind into seeing what I was capable of doing, on a physical and emotional level. However that particular martial art may not be suitable for you, it really depends on what you are looking for and on your Sifu. I suggest you go and have a look at a couple of different martial arts schools to look at other styles and give those a try until you find one that resonates with you. What style of karate did you do?

      1. Veritas · ·

        Hi there – I did Shotokan Karate and really loved it.

      2. I hope you will go back to it? 🙂

  2. jayjay · · Reply

    Interestingly enough I am in a similar school of thought. I don’t want to compete. ive had a lot of money go into fixing really crooked teeth growing up, and to be honest the stuff I train is more self defense orientated (like krav and Goju Ryu Karate) as opposed to MMA because I dont fancy mashing my face in, I just train for recreation and the fact it reduces the symptoms of my depression related issues. I just train for fun, learn something new and find it helps my wellbeing. I dont need to worry about getting into fights everytime I go out because I developed street smarts. Im also not into the whole competative fighting, and thats fine.

    Besides, what’s better? Learning to take hits or learning how to not get hit?

  3. Its quite simple. Competition and tournaments are all about being better than everyone else. Instead the focus should be on improving yourself from where you were the day before. Forget about where everyone else is at and just focus on yourself. This I feel teaches a much better life lesson. Life shouldn’t be about outdoing others, but a constant process of bettering oneself. Even if you are only getting one percent better each day, think of where you will be after a thousand.

    1. Thanks for your reply. I totally agree that my journey is about improving myself, not to compete with others

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