This essay from the folks at Bushido is a good overview of the personas of martial artists. As with any Behavioral Typing model, it can be a bit general; but I still think it hits the mark.
I feel most people can relate to all four in some way, but tend to fit into one primary category, with maybe another as a strong second. My comments show how I see myself.
How do you see yourself?
The Fight Personas
In the world of fighting arts, there has been an evolution of style and function to meet the needs of the modern enthusiast. Centuries past, there was perhaps one type of fighter – the one who is trained to kill. In 2021, there are far more benefits to training in martial arts than just the need for self-defense or competitive advantage. With the Fight Personas, we evaluate the common four – the prize fighter, the survivalist, the athlete and the monk. For some, a single persona may fit their goals in the arts. For others, they may feel a connection to many of the personas, if not all four. Explore below and find out for yourself.
The Prize Fighter
The Prize Fighter is an essentialist. If a technique or method works for them, they use it. If it doesn’t work or fit their personal style or body type, they throw it out. There’s pragmatism to being the fighter. You test theories in real time. Even with rules, the fighter is perhaps the most connected to the reality of what they do and do not know. The Fighter must also be versatile. Their experience may take them through multiple competitive arenas, each requiring its own degree of problem solving. The fighter must step into the psychology of the fight. You might be good, but are you good after you’ve been punched in the face? The fighter must endure and maintain their skill in the face of intimidation and potential defeat. The fighter also embraces the reality of the fight – that it is painful. You must debilitate your opponent before they debilitate you. The prize fighter, like fire, must be fierce to overcome its opponent and environment. The prize fighter shows no mercy in the name of winning.
The Survivalist explores the fight scenarios of life or death. The Survivalist uses anything at their disposal for defense – blades, blunt objects, environment and so on. To the Survivalist, it’s not about winning the match, but ending the threat. There’s no rules when it’s about making it out alive. If your goal is to simply learn self-defense, its important to explore scenario-based threats. Walking to your car, being grabbed a certain way, and so on. In reality-based fight training, the key is to see what is possible with just leverage and universal skills. Assume your opponent will always be bigger, faster and stronger than you. If a ‘reality-based’ technique requires you to have perfect precision, speed or strength, then it is not grounded in reality. There are no rules, no weight classes. The Survivalist must learn ways to level the playing field. The survivalist, like earth, is a foundation for everything. The survivalist is firm, their purpose exact.
To the Athlete, they use the fighting arts to transform their body – internally and externally. Whether it’s hitting a bag, shadow boxing, or solo grappling drills, the Athlete measures a technique’s effectiveness by the strain and exertion required to perform it. To be the Athlete is to challenge your performance output and measure your results. In many ways, the mindset of the Athlete is at the core of all Fight Personas. The athlete, like water, must be flexible and adapt to strain and pressure, to avoid injury.
To the Monk, the Martial Arts are a spiritual and artistic journey. Whether it’s meditation or a kata, to be the Monk is to seek internal and external balance. As the Monk, not every Martial Arts technique needs to be grounded in immediate combat validity. Some movements may be more interpretive, and aim to solely improve balance or personal discipline. To the monk, the fight is as much within as it is around them. With the mindset of the monk, we understand that there is more to the fighting arts than simply defeating your opponent. The monk, like air, focuses on the purpose that surrounds all things. To the monk, not all movements are made with the intention of violence. The monk may pursue a technique that is passive and fluid, focusing on distance over conflict.
Written by Josh Larson
I am first and foremost a Survivalist. From my earliest days of street fighting, I viewed combat simply as means of allowing me to live my life. I would never fight if I was never attacked. The goal of “ending the threat” is exactly what I was taught when I started training in BaGua Kung Fu: the purpose of the martial artist is to Stop the Fighting. And I will use whatever means are necessary. If life or death are really at stake, it’s either me or him.
I am also very much a Prize Fighter. I find combat exhiliarating. It’s a rush to overcome your fear and rise to the occasion to defend yourself. I enjoy the mental game – the challenge of thinking your way out of the fight. And of finding out what you are made of. Plus, I have learned from hard experience that threats can be anywhere, at any time. You have to be ready. I like living that way.
I have become more of an Athlete during the course of my formal training. I have always been into sports and working out. My weakness has always been attention to detail. I would just gut or push myself through. But in learning an internal martial art, I have come to appreciate the importance of proper form. I have seen how the most efficient and effective use of the body yields the best results – and minimizes wear and tear. It takes a helluva lot of work to get that precision, but then again, it takes lot more work to simply charge through your moves.
The Monk is my newest martial artist identity, and it may become the most meaningful. I have been on a “spiritual journey” for a long time – certainly since I started practicing yoga and meditation as teen. Even before then, as a young child, I prayed to God for help in winning my street fights. Now, as I advance in my BaGue training, I understand the critical importance of being “centered in the middle of the cyclone,” both in combat, and in life in general. And I see how that centeredness requires making peace with yourself. Then you can make peace with others.
SK Sept 2022.