Martial arts are not just about killing the other person

There is a common misconception amongst fencers that the purpose of martial arts is to kill your opponent as quickly and as efficiently as possible. But in a real fight your goal is avoid injury while “winning”, which does not necessarily mean hurting the other person at all.

There are various laws, rules, and social conventions that dictate what you can do. Consider, for a moment, that you are a 16th century soldier or journeyman in the Holy Roman Empire.

If you get into a argument with someone at the pub and it escalates into a sword fight, then you don’t immediately start trying to kill the other guy. No, you start by trying to slap the other person with the flat of your sword. He’ll get some scrapes and maybe a concussion or broken bone, but he’ll probably live.

Next week there is the big shooting and fencing competition. You’ll use the edge to draw blood, but merely breaking the skin is enough. If someone gets seriously hurt they’ll cancel it like they did last year. Also, you need to put on a good show. If you play it up for the crowds they’ll toss in more coin.

Sore over some trade disputes, your city later finds itself engaged in a war with a neighboring town, then you use the edge. You’ll kill the other guy if you have to, but if you can wound him enough so that he stops fighting that’s even better. Remember, this guy may be your vassal during the next war, or at least be worth a small ransom.

Coming home, you find someone breaking into your house. As this carries the death penalty in most towns you have every right to use the point. So you kill him quickly before he can harm your family or property.

Martial arts isn’t just about being able to kill as efficiently as possible. It is about being about to deal with a wide variety of situations.

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