Military martial arts? The role of unarmed fighting on the battlefield?

21 Sep

In Chinese martial arts circles, we often hear how kung fu is a combat art, for the battlefield. It is a serious, life and death matter. It is not a “sport” and “sport” is not real combat. But perhaps the issue is not so black and white?


Boxing is not used on the battlefield, it is to train hand and feet movements and coordination. This is trained by initiates of various schools. This ix why its legacy is long lasting and has many branches. The student of boxing must have fast changing body, accurate hands, and light feet; easily advance and retreat, the legs can fly high; the most ingenious: sudden rising reverse throw. the most fierce: chopping and hook fists. the fastest: leg take down. the softest: dodging groin punch.

The quote is from General Qi Jiguang, a Ming general who authored two legendary texts on military strategy, containing unarmed techniques as well. Please re-read the statement; “boxing” is NOT for battlefield application. It is physical training designed to prepare the soldier for combat.


Anyone remotely familiar with modern military training is probably familiar with pugil stick training as depicted in the picture above. Of course, only a minute’s consideration should reveal that there is probably not an expectation that a soldier will NEVER engage in anything like this sort of drill on the real battlefield. Pugil stick, like General Qi’s 32 unarmed tactics, is designed more for physical training. It is also very much abut two other things; creating mental toughness and the “Esprit de corps” (“spirit of the corp”). These are the same reasons military around the world engage in “sports” such as Russian sambo, boxing, Judo, etc.,

Those who attempt to dismiss “sport” as irrelevant to “combat” frequently miss the point. “Sport” is not a perfect recreation of “combat” but it isn’t intended to be. It is intended as physical and mental training. It is intended to create the physical attributes necessary for combat. And it is a PROVEN METHOD of preparing soldiers for combat, dating back at least 500 years.

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One Response to “Military martial arts? The role of unarmed fighting on the battlefield?”

  1. Philip Michael Hugh Lawson October 14, 2014 at 1:15 am #

    Do you believe that actual Hand-to-Hand ability is just as unnecessary in covert and candestine operations?

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