Combat sport

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Combat sport
Boxing is a common fighting sport
Team membersNo
Mixed gender No

A combat sport, or fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport that usually involves one-on-one combat. In many combat sports, a contestant wins by scoring more points than the opponent or by disabling the opponent. Combat sports share a long pedigree with the martial arts.


Common combat sports include boxing (including many styles of kickboxing), wrestling (including Sumo wrestling), fencing, modern-era mixed martial arts (MMA), as well as many varieties of indigenous martial arts, such as judo (Japanese), savate (French), Muay Thai (Thai), Lethwei (Burmese), Sanda (Chinese), Tae Kwon Do (Korean), Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian), Brazilian jiu-jitsu (Brazilian), Sambo (Soviet), and Kyokushin (Japanese–Korean).


The Pancrastinae statue demonstrates the pancratium, which being similar to modern MMA featured a strong grappling element. This statue is a Roman copy of a lost Greek original, circa 3rd Century B.C. Arte romana, Lottatori, 1-100 circa da un originale del III secolo a.C. 02.JPG
The Pancrastinae statue demonstrates the pancratium, which being similar to modern MMA featured a strong grappling element. This statue is a Roman copy of a lost Greek original, circa 3rd Century B.C.

Tradition styles of wrestling exist in most cultures; wrestling can be considered a cultural universal. Boxing contests date back to ancient Sumer in the 3rd millennium BCE and ancient Egypt circa 1350 BCE. [1] The ancient Olympic Games included several combat-related sports: armored foot races, boxing, wrestling, and pankration, which was introduced in the Olympic Games of 648 BCE.

In ancient China, combat sport appeared in the form of lei tai. It was a no-holds barred combat sport that combined boxing and wrestling. There is evidence of similar combat sports in ancient Egypt, India and Japan. [2]

Through the Middle ages and Renaissance, the tournament was popular. Tournaments were competitions that featured several mock combat events, with jousting as a main event. While the tournament was popular among aristocrats, combat sports were practiced by all levels of society. The German school of late medieval martial arts distinguished sportive combat (schimpf) from serious combat (ernst). In the German Renaissance, sportive combat competitions were known as Fechtschulen, corresponding to the Prize Playing in Tudor England. Out of these Prize Playing events developed the English boxing (or prizefighting) of the 18th century, which evolved into modern boxing with the introduction of the Marquess of Queensberry rules in 1867.

Amateur boxing has been part of the modern Olympic Games since their introduction in 1904. Professional boxing became popular in the United States in the 1920s and experienced a "golden age" after World War II.

The creation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is attributed to the Gracie family of Brazil in 1925 after Asian martial arts were introduced to Brazil. Vale-tudo, wrestling, muay thai kickboxing and luta livre gained popularity. Modern Muay Thai was developed in the 1920s to 1930s. Sambo was introduced in the Soviet Union. Modern Taekwondo also emerged after the Japanese occupation of Korea and became an Olympic sport in 2000. Sanshou as part of modern wushu was developed in the People's Republic of China since the 1950s. Kickboxing and full contact karate were developed in the 1960s and became popular in Japan and the West during the 1980s and 1990s. Modern MMA developed out of the interconnected subcultures of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and shoot wrestling. It was introduced in Japan in the form of Shooto in 1985, and in the United States as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were introduced in 2000, and the sport experienced peak popularity in the 2000s. During this period, multiple brands and promotions were established. The most well-known promotion for MMA is UFC.

A photo of Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo, and Dana White at a press conference for the fight between McGregor and Aldo. This shows the two fighters posing for media, increasing revenue and interest in the fight. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor, UFC 189 World Tour London.jpg
A photo of Conor McGregor, José Aldo, and Dana White at a press conference for the fight between McGregor and Aldo. This shows the two fighters posing for media, increasing revenue and interest in the fight.

Popularity of combat sports by gender

Combat sports are generally more popular among men, both as athletes and as spectators. For many years, participation in combat sports was practically exclusive to men; USA Boxing had a ban on women's boxing until 1993. [3] A study conducted by Greenwell, Hancock, Simmons and Thorn in 2015 revealed that combat sports had a largely male audience. [4] Combat sport promotions such as UFC or Bellator MMA are generally advertised to men.

Modern sports

Combat athletes usually fight one-on-one. Different sports involve different skill sets and moves. For example, boxing only allows punches, taekwondo largely involves kicks, and both Muay Thai and Burmese boxing allow the use of elbows and knees. There are also combat sports based on grappling, such as both freestyle and Collegiate wrestling. Modern MMA is similar to the ancient Greek Olympic sport of pankration; Both allow a wide range of both striking and grappling techniques.

Some combat sports involve the use of weapons and armor, such as fencing, kendo, and the new sport SCA Heavy Combat; In Gatka and Modern Arnis, sticks are used.

List of combat sports

Unarmed sports

Striking sports

Grappling sports

Hybrid sports

Hybrid martial arts, combining striking and grappling elements:

Armed sports


The techniques used can be categorized into three domains: striking, grappling, and weapon usage, with some hybrid rule-sets combining striking and grappling. In combat sports the use of these various techniques are highly regulated to minimize permanent or severe physical damage to each participant though means of organized officiating by a single or multiple referees that can distribute penalties or interrupt the actions of the competitors during the competition. In weapon based sports, the weapons used are made to be non-lethal by means of modifying the striking portions of the weapon and requiring participants to wear protective clothing/armor.

Olympic combat sports

Protective gear and clothing

In combat sports, victory is obtained from blows, punches or attacks to the head to a point of physical injury that the opponent is unable to continue. [11] Different forms of combat sport have different rules and regulations into the equipment competitors have to wear. In Amateur boxing seen at the Olympics, competitors are permitted to wear head guards and correctly weighted padded gloves, mouth guards are optional and the canvas floor protection from a hard fall. [12] In sports such as Taekwondo, competitors are permitted to wear a trunk protector, head guard, gloves, groin guard and shin and forearm pads. [13] Professional boxing and MMA are two of the most dangerous combat sports in the world due to the lack of protective gear worn (compared to the protected fists). Competitors in these two sports have the option to wear a mouthguard and must wear suitable gloves. The lack of protective clothing makes competitors vulnerable to concussion and further traumatic head injuries. A scientific experiment, conducted last year by Dr Andrew McIntosh of ACRISP at the Federation University of Australia, tested the impact of 7 different head guards in combat sport. The results of the experiment revealed the benefits of the combination of a glove and headguard in maximising the impact energy attenuation. [14] A study conducted by Lystad showed that combat sports with little to no protective gear such as MMA or boxing has an injury incidence rate range of 85.1-280.7 per 1000 athletes in comparison to another striking combat sport like Taekwondo which has a large amount of protective gear such as pads, headgear, mouth guard and gloves, has an injury incidence rate range of 19.1-138.8 per 1000 athletes. This means that injury rates are drastically lowered when protective gear is used. [15]

List of protective gear clothing

Fighting area

  • circular layout or rectangular layout
  • with ropes around the fighting area
  • boxing ring
  • no ropes around the fighting area
  • No-rope ring (sometimes referred by fans as "the pit")
- A circle which is 27 feet in diameter, of which the inner 24 feet is colored blue. The next 3 feet is yellow, which is the caution area. When the fighter gets to the yellow area, he knows he's getting close to stepping out-of-bounds. The last edge of the ring is the red zone, which features a 30-degree upward angle. When a fighter steps on the red area, he's stepping up slightly, letting him know he's out-of-bounds.
- Can be round or have at least six sides. The fenced area is generally called a cage or more precisely, depending on the shape, a hexagon (if it has 6 sides) / an octagon (if it has 8 sides).
- Some replace the metal fencing with a net.

See also

Related Research Articles

Grappling Range of techniques used in many disciplines, styles and martial arts

Grappling, in hand-to-hand combat, describes sports that consist of gripping or seizing the opponent. Grappling is used at close range to gain a physical advantage over an opponent, either by imposing a position or causing injury. Grappling is a broad term that encompasses many disciplines. These various martial arts can be practiced both as combat sports and for self-defense. Grappling contests often involve takedowns and ground control, and may end when a contestant concedes defeat, also known as a submission or tap out.

Kickboxing Stand-up combat sports

Kickboxing is a stand-up combat sport based on kicking and punching, historically developed from karate mixed with boxing. Kickboxing is practiced for self-defence, general fitness, or as a contact sport.

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practiced for a number of reasons such as self-defense; military and law enforcement applications; competition; physical, mental, and spiritual development; entertainment; and the preservation of a nation's intangible cultural heritage.


Pankration was a sporting event introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and was an empty-hand submission sport with few rules. The athletes used boxing and wrestling techniques, but also others, such as kicking, holds, joint-locks, and chokes on the ground, making it similar to modern MMA. The term comes from the Greek παγκράτιον [paŋkrátion], meaning "all of power," from πᾶν (pan) "all" and κράτος (kratos) "strength, might, power."

Mixed martial arts Full contact combat sport

Mixed martial arts (MMA), sometimes referred to as cage fighting, no holds barred (NHB), and ultimate fighting, is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports and martial arts from around the world. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The question of who actually coined the term is subject to debate.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to martial arts:

Submission wrestling Fighting style

Submission Wrestling, also known as Submission Fighting, Submission grappling, Sport grappling, is a form of competition and a general term for martial arts and combat sports that focus on clinch and ground fighting with the aim of obtaining a submission through the use of submission holds. The term "submission wrestling" usually refers only to the form of competition and training that does not use a gi, or "combat kimono", of the sort often worn with belts that establish rank by color, though some may use the loose trousers of such a uniform, without the jacket. Not using a gi has a major impact on the sport : there are many choke techniques which make use of the lapels of the gi, thus rendering them un-usable and grappling in general becomes more difficult when the opponent doesn't have a gi to grab hold of.

Wrestling Form of combat sport involving grappling type techniques

Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. The sport can either be genuinely competitive or sportive entertainment. Wrestling comes in different types such as folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman, catch, submission, judo, sambo and others. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. There are a wide range of styles with varying rules with both traditional historic and modern styles. Wrestling techniques have been incorporated into other martial arts as well as military hand-to-hand combat systems.

Sanda (sport) Chinese self-defense system and combat sport

Sanda, formerly Sanshou, also known as Chinese boxing or Chinese kickboxing, is the official Chinese full contact combat sport. Sanda is a fighting system which was originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Kung fu and modern combat fighting techniques; it combines full-contact kickboxing, which includes close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes.

Clinch fighting Grappling position in boxing or wrestling, a stand-up embrace

Clinch fighting is the part of stand-up fighting where the combatants are grappling in a clinch, typically using clinch holds. Clinching the opponent can be used to eliminate the opponent's effective usage of some kicks, punches, and melee weapons. The clinch can also be used as a medium to switch from stand-up fighting to ground fighting by using takedowns, throws or sweeps.

Hybrid martial arts, also known as hybrid fighting systems or sometimes eclectic martial arts or freestyle fighting, refer to martial arts or fighting systems that incorporate techniques and theories from several particular martial arts (eclecticism). While numerous martial arts borrow or adapt from other arts and to some extent could be considered hybrids, a hybrid martial art emphasizes its disparate origins.

Elvis Sinosic Australian mixed martial arts fighter

Elvis Sinosic is a retired Australian professional mixed martial artist. Perhaps best known for his seven-fight stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he ultimately accumulated a 1-6 record, he also competed in the Cage Rage Championships, K-1, and Pancrase. Sinosic fought for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 32.

Fight Network Canadian television channel dedicated to combat sports

Fight Network is a Canadian English language Category B specialty channel owned by Anthem Sports & Entertainment. The network broadcasts programming related to combat sports, including mixed martial arts, boxing, kickboxing, and professional wrestling.

Erik Paulson is an American mixed martial artist. He is the first American to win the World Light-Heavy Weight Shooto Title in Japan.

This martial arts timeline is designed to help describe the history of the martial arts in a linear fashion. Many of the articles for particular styles have discussions of their history. This article is designed to help visualize the development of these arts, to help better understand the progression of the separate styles and illustrate where they interrelate.

Lee Hasdell English kickboxer, combat sport promoter and mixed martial arts fighter

Lee Hasdell is a British martial artist, promoter and former professional kickboxer and mixed martial artist. Hasdell is considered by many to be a pioneer of mixed martial arts in the United Kingdom, particularly in the 1990s, when he drove a great deal of innovation in the field. Hasdell promoted the first professional mixed martial arts events in the UK and helped develop many of the standards within the British MMA scene of today.

Andy Foster is the current executive director of the California State Athletic Commission (2012–present) and former Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission (2008–2012) and former professional mixed martial artist.

The World Combat Games is an international multi-sport event featuring combat sports and martial arts. The games were founded by SportAccord as a way of bringing various martial arts and combative sports to an international audience. The World Combat Games are also accompanied by a cultural program that reflects the ancient traditions and values of martial arts as well as their contribution to modern society. The games are recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

The traditional martial arts of the Mainland Southeast Asia are related to one another, and as a group to Indian martial arts.


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  2. Brownell, Susan Elaine (1990). The olympic movement on its way into Chinese culture. University of California, Santa Barbara. pp. 29, 63. In both ancient China and Greece, the most popular sports were probably wrestling, boxing, and combinations thereof (Greek pankration, Chinese leitai). The same might be argued for ancient Egypt, India and Japan. [...] In both ancient China and Greece, the no-holds-barred combat sport (Greek pankration, Chinese leitai) was probably the most popular one.
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