If you want to learn how to fight, you have to fight.
At MINIMUM, you have to spar.
When sparring is taken out of training, you are no longer learning in a martial art – you are learning martially inspired performance art.
Lack of a sporting component in a style is a huge disadvantage.
Lack of sparring means a school will not produce capable students at all.
All martial arts self-optimise to improve performance under specific rule sets and conditions. If those conditions include fighting under certain rules, the art will continue to evolve toward improved performance under those rules – as long as practitioners are permitted to modify their methods in response to the lessons taken away post-fight/competition. If sparring and sport/fighting are removed, all that remains is opinion and aesthetic preference.
The style will evolve to better fit these preferences, and away from efficacy in a real fight. It will probably look good as a demonstration, otherwise can be practically useless.
That’s all you need to look for – sparring and competitive sports. If the school you’re looking at does not have these things, move on.
00:00 – Intro – my experience
01:47 – How can we tell the difference between styles that work and those that don’t?
03:46 – Demonstrations are meaningless.
05:15 – Martial arts self-optimise to get better at what they are tested against.
06:37 – What tests are appropriate?
10:04 – Why sparring is essential
12:10 – “It’s not the art, it’s the practitioner”