Are Martial Arts an Art Form?
Why I chose this issue
I am an MMA fighter and I have been involved in lots of martial arts. I am interested in whether the rest of the world considers martial arts an art form.
Research into this issue
To research this issue, I read the following sources:
Gathering Opinions about the issue
To gather opinions about this issue I created a survey on Typeform:
The survey should be embedded above but if it doesn’t appear, here are some screenshots from it:
You can see the results of my survey here:
My blog post on this issue
Are Martial arts an artform?
Art is hard to define, and it seems to have a different meaning to everyone you may ask, which is why questions such as these come up frequently, but martial arts also has the stigma of violence riding on it as well, which makes people hesitate to group it in with things like drawing, acting or sculpting as to someone who has never done a martial art before it may seem like thoughtless violence. Art is often seen as a way of expressing emotion, and to people who fear or hate fighting they may not see it in that light, however this begs the question of why fighting is not seen as a way of expressing emotions like anger or letting out stress and frustration. Of course there will be psychopaths out there doing martial arts with cruel intentions but if an emotionless psychopath were to create a painting would we still consider that art?
In a survey I sent to my teachers and classmates about whether fighting is art I asked this question, which was the only question in the survey with a clear one sided answer, all the responses were that art can be violent or unethical, which means that this logically cannot be the reason that martial arts are rejected from being widely recognised as an art.
So this brings up the question of why Martial arts wouldn’t be seen as an artform. If the violence cannot shake it from being art and as we have already established it is a form of emotional expression, then what could stop martial arts from being widely recognised as an artform?
This is not a question with much history behind it, so i shall have to refer to my survey for most of my points as well as people posing the same question to online forums, however there was one notable moment of the martial arts being rejected from being seen as art, which was in Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.
This was not so much a shot at martial arts, but mixed martial arts, however it has no real substance to it, and doesn’t have logic or reason to it, just a blank dismissal to make a point that, while it has a good aim, could have been done without dismissing football and mixed martial arts. While mixed martial arts is a separate entity from any single martial art, this is still an attack on martial arts as a whole as they are the source of mixed martial arts and all martial arts have left their mark on the sport.
So what were some arguments against martial arts being an artform that members of my school gave?
These responses beg the question of whether art has to be created for the purpose of being art, which if so disqualifies a lot of martial arts from being able to be considered an art. Here is the Oxford definition of art so we can compare the two and see if these responses are in line with what the Oxford dictionary would consider art.
So under this first definition there is something to the intention of martial arts stopping them from being an art, as most fights aren’t started to produce a work of beauty or emotional power, however this comes back to bite Meryl Streep’s point about mixed martial arts, where many fights have an aspect of emotional power, and a lot of people who work on their martial art techniques with the goal of perfection could definitely say they are working for the beauty of the move or technique. The 1.1 definition definitely fits martial arts, as they can be very creative and imaginative, as every performance is a new from the performer.
The other responses to my survey reached conclusions where martial arts could be considered as an art or just straight said nothing was stopping it from being so, meaning in the end there were 2 responses saying that martial art could not be art, 2 saying it was, and 4 saying it could be in some or most cases.
Next in my research, I found a Quora post asking if martial arts could be considered art.
The majority of responses said they are art, but one interesting point came up-
This response brings up some very interesting points but they are more concentrated on the definition of martial arts and the name arts, and as such does not provide a point as to why martial arts shouldn’t be seen as arts, more to why martial arts does not mean art.
In conclusion, while Martial arts do not mean fighting arts in the sense that other arts are tied into their definition, Martial arts can be used as an art as they provide opportunity for the required skills, creativity and imagination that make up classical art.
Evidence of sharing
My article was published in the school arts award that we made for unit two. We had a private view and launch party for the magazine at school with an exhibition. You can find out more about the magazine in unit 2.
Here is the title page with my name in the list on contributors.
Here is my article in the magazine: