Combative Activities: Planning & Safety

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we discuss several combative activities, along with potential dangers, and why it is so important that practitioners of these sports follow critical safety practices.

Combative Activities

Who has not been amazed when viewing a movie featuring all the martial arts moves of the legendary Bruce Lee? Combative activities, which are sports that involve two opponents attempting to defeat one another in face-to-face battle, can be exciting to watch or participate in. The aggressive and sometimes violent nature of these activities, however, requires that careful preparation and safety measures are taken.


The sport of fencing conjures up images of The Three Musketeers. Fencing is a one-on-one sport, also known as a dual sport, that features two opponents facing one another, trying to strike each other with one of three sword-like weapons - the epee, foil, or saber. The epee tends to lend itself to slow, patient defensive games, while the saber features fast, quick attacks. The foil bouts fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

The main goal in fencing is to score a touch in the opponent's target area (the trunk of the body). One fencer will attack the other to initiate the action, and the other player will defend, also known as a parry. A counterattack by the second player is known as a riposte. If one of the player lands a touch or hit, a point will be scored. The fencing area is a full fourteen meters long but a scant two meters wide, which encourages the athletes to move head on as much as possible, with limited lateral movement.

Obviously fencing requires quite a certain amount of safety equipment. Fencers wear metallic vests along with masks to prevent being stabbed by a blade. In modern fencing tournaments, the vests and masks are wired with electronics to record even the slightest of touches. Debatable calls can still be left up to a panel of judges. In a study of safety at the 2008 Olympics, fencing was deemed to be one of the six safest sports. This is a far cry from the days of yore when fencing was rooted in military battles or honor duels.

Fencing is a sport that combines speed and technique, along with the proper safety equipment.


Wrestling is a sport associated with strength, but technique and speed also come into play. In this sport, two opponents are either trying to pin each other, in which the opponent can no longer move and is defeated, or score more points than the opponent via various moves and takedowns. For example, the first wrestler may score two points for bringing his opponent to the mat in a takedown, but the second wrestler may score two points for a reversal by escaping from underneath and controlling the first wrestler.

Wrestlers wear special shoes for grip, mouthguards, headgear that protects the ears, and kneepads. Wrestlers compete in various weight classes, and to try and make weight, they will often resort to starving themselves, dehydrating themselves, and even taking weight loss pills. On occasion, wrestlers have died from these practices. By planning ahead, eating well, and exercising properly, a wrestler can usually prevent a need to try extreme, last-minute, weight loss measures.

Wrestling involves strength, skill, technique, and proper shoes. These wrestlers are wearing shoes that give good grip but still allow for flexibility of movement.

Martial Arts and Self-Defense

The martial arts are skills and techniques that originated mainly as a means of self-defense. There are many versions of martial arts for a person to train in self-defense. They include:

  • Jiu-Jitsu
  • Judo
  • Karate
  • Kickboxing
  • Kung Fu
  • Tae Kwon Do

Self-defense techniques must be done correctly.

Six Primary Moves

Many of the martial arts can be combined, as is shown in the current popularity of the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) that is seen on television. The six primary moves in martial arts are chokes, joint locks, strikes, kicks, throws and takedowns, and weapon techniques.

A choke also goes by the name chokehold or stranglehold. It is a very dangerous move in which the attacker puts an arm (or leg) around an opponent's neck and applies pressure. This can cause the person being choked to eventually lose consciousness, or in extreme instances, die. On the other hand, the person being choked can employ techniques to escape.

Joint locks are the manipulations of elbows, knees, and wrists to force the opponent into submission. In more extreme cases, these moves can result in dislocations and bone fractures. Once again, a person can try to score a reversal and escape a joint lock.

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