There are three distinct athletes that seem to exist in the realm of martial arts, oftentimes a fighter and a martial artist seem to be construed from time to time. Often times we interpret Martial artists, Fighters, and Competitors under the same category. Although that may seem to be the case, here are the distinct differences between the 3 athletes that I’ve noticed over the years in my journey of Martial Arts.
The point scoring system of the sport heavily dictates what the competitor does. They train for the sport-specific scoring system — whether it’d be grappling or striking. Does a kick score higher than a punch? does a takedown score higher than a sweep? the scoring system and the athlete's ability to tailor their strengths and weakness towards the sport will heavily dictate how they will focus on conducting a game plan. Competitors often have tournaments frequently, in Jiu-Jitsu it may be every month, in Muay Thai it may be every couple of months. The frequency of competition depends on the promotions and organizations within the sport, and their focus is mainly tailored towards a concrete game plan. The goal of a competitor is to ideally compete under a set of rules and regulations.
Similar to a competitor, a fighter is always seen as an athlete who will do whatever it takes to win. Most who fight often choose this as an occupation whether it is professional or amateur, and if it means the technique isn’t as clean or crisp as a martial artist, the emphasis isn’t focused on the technique so much as if the job will get done. Fighters fight to win, since they choose this as an occupation it's what they bleed for, and they will do whatever it takes to get to victory. Most that fight professionally do this for a living.
The Martial Artist.
A martial artist is usually a perfectionist, they practice technique over and over again to reach perfection, a kick or a punch should aim to be flawless. Martial artists can practice a lot of flashy moves which might not be applicable in a scenario related to competition or fighting but is a viable option for the martial artist due to the fact that fighting or competing isn’t in their interest. They usually train to improve on technique or to coach, sometimes even creating their own movements and techniques. On a higher level, martial artists train for their mental and physical well-being. Practice for the martial artist makes permanent.
With this being said it’s not to say that one person can’t fit in all 3 of the categories listed above, these are just small distinctions noticed during my years of training martial arts.