The art and practice of fighting can be both positive and negative, often simultaneously.

It’s the opinion of some people that fighting, in all its forms, is awful, uncivilized and should be condemned by a polite, evolved society. The path this form of logic often follows is to then decry any form of self-defence training or practice, as this encourages or even creates violent individuals.

Then there is the opposing perspective, that fighting is good, healthy and even fun, so learning different techniques for inflicting pain is seen as ‘personal growth’. Is there a right answer? Let’s explore both sides and see where we land. But first off, let’s clarify. I don’t mean fighting as in a bar room brawl or back alley biffo. I mean combat between two or more equally prepared and willing individuals.

Anything outside of that is more like criminal behaviour and I certainly don’t condone that.

In favour of fighting

The concept of self-defence is positive. Acquiring the tools to protect yourself and those you care about. Boosting self-confidence. Improving fitness, dexterity and flexibility. Learning focus, intensity and tradition. The benefits are many fold.

Perhaps the best way I can extol the virtues of self-defence is through personal experience.

Up until I moved to Sydney, I practiced a form of traditional Japanese self-defence called Goju Ryu, from which I gained a great deal, both physically and mentally.I learned a form of mental and physical discipline that I had not experienced before. I absorbed the tradition behind Goju Ryu, the history, evolution and philosophy of self-defence. I gained focus. I found a way to release my anger and frustration in a positive way. My confidence and self-esteem grew as I trained and achieved. My fitness, agility and strength all increased. I grew as a person, thanks to the support and encouragement of my Sensei and fellow students.

In this context, I found that fighting, and learning how to fight, is a good thing.

In opposition of fighting

The various martial arts, if not encourage, can enable those with a predisposition to violence. There are certainly people out there who enjoy hurting others. Some of these people take up a martial art such as Muay Thai or MMA which gives them a cocky sense of entitlement. They enjoy inflicting pain, appearing strong and powerful. Self-defence is not enough, they want to learn how to hurt, injure or even kill. These people are mentally unbalanced and should really have a close eye kept on them.

Fighting is one of our base instincts, like eating, sleeping and procreation. It’s built into our psyche that when faced with physical conflict, our ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in. We either lash out and defend ourselves or attempt to escape the situation. Many consider encouraging this behaviour to be barbaric and even inhumane. It takes society back to the dark ages. As an activity, fighting is risky and dangerous, with potentially fatal consequences. Taking the body to its limits of pain and endurance.

The psychological ramifications of being in a fight often extend well beyond the fight itself, even years later. Whether you win or lose, the feeling of power, or loss thereof, can have detrimental effects on self-esteem and self-confidence that can last a lifetime. It can influence or even cause any number of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD, the list goes on.

The (attempt to be) balanced argument

After re-reading my for and against arguments, I noticed that my own perspective is skewed. When speaking on the positive side, I called it self-defence. On the negative, I called it fighting. Interesting.

I myself am a supporter of fighting, with conditions. I support learning the art and theory of defending yourself and others against physical attack, using physical means. However, a large part of most fighting disciplines is mental control. Learning how to approach a high-stress situation in the right frame of mind, and using de-escalation techniques to avoid physical confrontation is critical.

It’s not about the promotion of violence. It’s about having a wider range of tools at your disposal for the protection of yourself and those who are important to you. There’s nothing wrong with that.