Combat sports are fighting practices brought into the realm of organized competition to serve mainly as entertainment and a source of fame and glory.
This dated back to around 2100 B.C. in Mesopotamia where forms of wrestling and grappling were recounted in the earliest literature ever found.
Conflicts were settled with these said practices in the early days. For instance, opposing armies would elect a “champion” that would represent them in a one-on-one combat to settle the score without a high death toll, much like the story of David and Goliath (but with full body contact, not throwing stones).
Martial arts, which are essentially what combat sports is made of, is also used to train soldiers for battle. Techniques such as strikes, grapples, kicking, choking, and using weapons like axes and swords are taught.
This is because during these days, battles were largely held on foot, in close range hand-to-hand combat. In order to win, soldiers needed to be strong, have great endurance, and able to dodge and deal deadly blows one after another until their death or defeat of the opposing troop.
But as the ancient Olympic games proved, the masses love a good, violent competition. Later on, wrestling, boxing, and pankration were added to what was basically a big event for running. The flauntation of strength, great physique, and domination earned warriors fame and glory, which were sometimes more important to ancient society than money.
In those days, combat sports athletes were also deemed intelligent. This is because they utilize ingenious techniques and exhibit quick on-the-feet thinking that allow them to overcome opponents. This is more emphasized when there is a size mismatch between competitors, which often happened due to the nonexistence of weight classes.
The bouts partly resembled a Royal Rumble match, but with only two opposing bodies in the “ring” at one time. A winner will have to face succeeding challengers until none were left, or the said winner is defeated. The last man standing would win the “crown”.
Because of this tournament style, athletes can use their physiques to intimidate future challengers. Of course, they would also prove their strength, endurance, and quick wits during their matches in order to survive for long.
While these athletes are highly prized and the epitome of health and fitness, not many of them live long either because of the brutality of their pursuit. Still, for many, it’s either win or die with honor in the ring.
With the passing of time came more innovations in the martial arts realm, and the sports were increasingly populated by Asian forms.
What were essentially fighting techniques for battle were transformed into sporting events due to weapons innovation that rendered hand-to-hand fighting in wars ineffective.
While wrestling and boxing survived the change of millenia, pankration was phased out of the competitions. These days, the term “combat sports” bring to mind practices such as taekwondo, jiu jitsu, karate, muay thai, kickboxing, and MMA.
Health and Fitness Regimen
These days, combat sports are increasingly used by non-athletes as a means to get fit and lose weight. Because of their innate purpose as forms of rigorous training, practicing these methods allow the people to reap the benefits of extensive movements as well as the stress relief that comes with hitting something without getting hit back.
The most popular for workouts is arguably boxing largely because of its sensational media coverage and abundance of boxing studios.