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Is Martial Arts Not Art?

The academy I study my art in.

Not only do I cover the sport of MMA but I have been a student of martial arts half of my life. For the site I write for I wrote a reaction piece to Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes comments here. However, I wanted to elaborate a little more because she seemed to confuse some people in her speech that was obviously politically motivated.

I’m not a political guy.

I don’t like to get into those conversations these days because it always seems like someone is fishing for approval or looking to offend someone. However, since Ms. Streep chose to be the authority on art, let’s look at its definition.

Art- noun the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

While typically in a visual form like a painting or sculpture, definitions evolve like everything else. Art has gone from being paintings and sculptures to include physical movements of human beings like ballet, acting, and yes; martial arts. The part that holds true when it comes to other forms of art is “the expression or application of human creative skill”.

Bruce Lee, who was an artist in the same business as Streep can probably go into more detail if you watch his interview with Pierre Berton from 1971. In the interview, he said it was not about fighting or self-defense but learning how to “express themselves” through movement. That seems to match the definition of what art is.

She targeted football and mixed martial arts (MMA) because Trump has been associated with them in the past. Trump tried starting his own football team that failed in the 80s and UFC President Dana White credited Trump for helping with the promotion’s rough beginning when he supported him during the Republican National Convention. So I understand where she was coming from when she chose those two things in her speech. But, in singling out two groups was she not doing some of what she was trying to speak against?

Why is she the one to say what is, and isn’t art? To many martial artists, what we train our bodies to do results in some of the best expression of the human spirit we are capable of and according to the above definition, that is art. Too much of the trash talk and injury reports of MMA make news and not enough of what truly makes the competitors martial artists. Every group has good and bad examples but like Dana White said in his reaction to Streep, “if you don’t like what you see, change the channel.”

Being a good actor takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Just like it does to master any martial art, so this is not to take anything away from what she meant. It is more to say, she should have thought a little more about what she said or at least research the people you are going to mention in your speech.

And, yes the same can be said for Trump but like martial arts teaches many people, sometimes it is better to pull when someone pushes and vice-versa. Meeting someone with the same force can result in damage by both parties.

There is a plus side. Regardless of politics and whether or not you follow MMA, people that weren’t into it are at least aware of it now.

Edward Carbajal is a contributing writer for MMA at Frontproof Media and a Verified Creator at You can follow Edward on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website Check out his YouTube channel.

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Originally published at on January 16, 2017.



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Edward Carbajal

Interests in Martial Arts, Literature, Civil War History, Horror. Contributor to; Sherdog,, One37 PM &