I'm not sure if this question would be considered on-topic. I originally wanted to discuss this with someone in the chat, but that has been inactive for almost a month.

How does one deal with insults towards their martial art?

I think we've all heard these:

  • "Tae-kwon do is a SPORT, not a martial art"
  • "Everything they teach you is just for show anyway"
  • "Why learn insert technique here when it's useless in a street fight?"
  • "Who even learns martial art these days when you can just get a gun?"
  • "Your instructor is white? MCDOJO ALERT"

the list goes on...

I've even been in a situation where a man who claimed he had spent 30 years studying various forms of martial art only to ditch them all because of "impracticality" came up to me in a gym and told me to "stop practicing that bullsh*t" (and some other, more colourful insults).

As per usual I just smiled awkwardly and tried to change the topic, or responded with something like "perhaps, but I enjoy it". I'd never try to start an argument about this topic (unless it was with a close friend) but the more I hear "taekwondo isn't a real martial art", the more I start to subconsciously believe it is true.

Has anyone else encountered situations like these? If so, is the only course of action just to ignore and shrug it off?

To clarify: I asked this here instewd of on sites like IPS because this kind of "toxic BS" (thanks for the phrase, @Bankukei) happens way too frequently in the martial arts community (not sure if just a regional thing). People seem to take "oh, I do martial art x" as an opportunity for them to go on about how "no no no, that's not a real martial art, but martial art y (the one they're learning) is the one real martial art".

  • IMO this particular phrasing probably is off-topic, but something like "Is TKD an effective martial art" would be on topic. My experience is that TKD practitioners hear them a lot ("TKD is like ballet..."), and even other MAs hear critics from street fighters/MMA people. Sep 15, 2017 at 14:46
  • You have a wide array of questions at the end there, most off topic for a wide range of reasons. What is the concrete problem that you are trying to solve? Sep 15, 2017 at 15:07
  • @DanielReis Don't group street fighters with MMA fighters... MMA is a collection of martial arts that takes extreme discipline and dedication to pursue. I don't know what a street fighter is. An unstable person that acts out violently?
    – coinbird
    Sep 15, 2017 at 15:40
  • 5
    We've had questions about social spaces in martial arts spaces/scenes before. I think this is a valid topic. Navigating toxic BS is a common problem.
    – Bankuei
    Sep 15, 2017 at 16:15
  • 1
    @coinbird Thankyou for your suggestion, but I chose to ask this here as it's mostly targeted towards the martial arts community. If I wanted to "how to deal with insults", I'd defininitely go to IPS. It's just that (at least in my area) making stereotypes about martial arts is a very common occurence.(you just encountered one example, with the MMA streetfighting)
    – as4s4hetic
    Sep 15, 2017 at 22:13

4 Answers 4


If you want to find out if your art has value, you'll need to go test it under conditions that make sense for its context (don't expect the sword fighting art to work best in a grappling ring, etc.) and see if you feel it's enough.

However, the bigger issue you're looking at, is toxic male behavior (women don't really do this). These are guys trying to flex their ego. They may be insulting the martial art as a pretext, but mostly they're looking for someone to argue and belittle.

Pretty much the only thing you need to do is decide if: a) this person is trying to start a fight and if you need to leave, b) if they're going to keep harassing you, and what your options are from there, or c) if they can be safely ignored despite their bad behavior.

There's no point in arguing with these folks since they're not there to discuss, but rather, insult.

  • Thankyou for your answer, especially for providing the three different scenarios.
    – as4s4hetic
    Sep 16, 2017 at 11:56
  • Psychologically, such people believe they are right and will argue/insult for any length of time. You can exit the conversation at any point by pausing for a while, pretending to think about what they said, then say "yeah, you are probably right", and walking away.
    – Nav
    Apr 13, 2019 at 11:10

Best way to deal with it? Ignore it. It's not what someone else thinks that matters. You joined for certain reasons, with certain goals in mind. All that matters, is if those reasons are fullfilled and if you can work towards those goals. So, in short, if you're happy with your martial art, who cares what someone else thinks? Just ignore them.

  • 2
    This is exactly the right answer. People all have different reasons for doing martial arts. Most people have a bunch of reasons, and they've selected their martial art by looking at what makes them happy and what satisfies those reasons. They might be wrong about whether their martial art truly achieves what they're looking for, but that's for them to figure out on their own later on when they're ready to look into it. It will require more than just some random troll coming along telling them they're stupid for doing their martial art. Sep 16, 2017 at 3:46
  • Thankyou for the advice :) I've upvoted your answer, but I chose to accept bankuei's as they also mentioned how sometimes leaving the scene is the best option. I will definitely keep this in mind though!
    – as4s4hetic
    Sep 16, 2017 at 12:57


Be the adult in the room and walk away from confrontation:

Thank you for your opinion. I need to be somewhere else now. Good bye.

There is no point in arguing with someone insulting you. There's only bad things down that road.


This can be toxic drivel or it can be a genuine interest badly expressed or even ignorance. Most of those complaints can contain elements of truth. Your love for a style should never blind you to its short failings.

We see this a lot with Aikido. "It's a dance", "Shodokan Aikido is just sport", "It does not work in a real fight™", "If it were effective MMA would use it"… Are those insults or stereotypes or actual reflection of weaknesses in the style? It depends on the interlocutor. Some might be interested in learning more or having their preconceptions challenged others are just passive aggressive: it is your job to decide which is which and act accordingly.


I am going to answer your question in a strange way. Nobody can prove that 'art' as an entity exists. Not 'art' in any form. No painting is 'art'. No sculpture is 'art'. No music etc etc. And definitely no fighting 'art'.

The original word 'art' meant excellence. This changes everything. 'Fighting excellence' is something completely different to the imaginary 'fighting arts'. The world of fighting excellence is where you would find combat shooting and special forces training. Not Tae Kwon Do, Karate or MMA - they do not feature as relevant at all. They are all useless. (Special forces guy once asked me if I want to try blocking a bullet. Big lesson.)

In the big picture all the unarmed fighting stuff is useless - actually it has always been useless. This is the point. You train to become incredibly good at something completely useless. Does it matter which useless activity you train in? Not at all. You train so you can walk away from conflict with your own ego intact.

I am old now, bit slow, knife was hidden. So I pretended to be a zombie wanting to eat his brain. I am still laughing, think I am awesome. Thank you 55 years of Karate.

  • Hi! Thanks for taking your time to write an answer. Whilst I agree that unarmed combat is completely insignificant in what you call "the big picture", I believe we have different definitions of the word "art. As bankukei mentioned in their answer, it only makes sense to judge something for what it is supposed to do. Since I first walked into my dojang 5 years ago, my only purpose for learning taekwondo has been, should the situation ever arise, to be able to protect myself and my loved ones against physical harm. I have no intention of joining the special forces, or learning combat shooting.
    – as4s4hetic
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:06
  • "art doesn't exist" (by unsupported demand for definition) + "martial arts are useless" is a bit of an existential dodge and doesn't really answer the question? Also, I mean, security and police train unarmed methods all the time, so it's a fairly reasonable level of defense training for civilians.
    – Bankuei
    Sep 17, 2017 at 17:08
  • @as4s4hetic You cannot prove 'art' exists and you cannot define it in any logical manner - and nobody can. This is because it doesn't. There is no 'art' there is only 'the way' and 'the way' has nothing to do with self-defense or protecting your loved ones. It has to do with yourself. It is what you are. Train, train, train. That is all there is. And then your question is answered. Sep 18, 2017 at 18:45
  • @Bankuei You have bought into the great 'martial arts lie'. Paid a lot of money for a myth. The police in the US shoot unarmed people, never mind people with weapons. Where is the unarmed methods? Defense against whom or what? An unarmed homeless person dying of TB? Sep 18, 2017 at 18:55
  • @gideonmarx, I once knew a U.S. Vietnam veteran who was a black belt in Karate. He was dropped behind enemy lines by way of plane. Long story short, the military thought his entire unit was killed. He was left behind, stuck in the jungle with no ammunition. He worked his way out of Vietnam using his martial arts training and killing people with his hands when necessary. He died an old man in his bed, at home. That's right, when he ran out of bullets his martial arts training saved his life.
    – junfanbl
    May 24, 2019 at 15:44

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