Martialism is an old word that is being used to describe an approach to self-defense promulgated by martial arts author Phil Elmore. Posited as the antithesis of pacifism, martialism is predicated on Elmore's claims that it is necessary to use force in self-defense and that the refusal to use force when necessary is immoral and self-destructive. Martialists, as defined by Phil Elmore, adhere to the doctrine of "fighting unfairly," of seeking every possible advantage in a confrontation in order to stack the odds in their favor.

This attitude contrasts sharply with those who practice martial arts as a means of personal development and growth, or who see self-defense as the application of the minimum force necessary (some of whom hold the life and well-being of an attacker as worth preserving) to escape from a violent situation.

While the dichotomy between pacifism (or passivism) and martialism (or total aggression) may be contrived -- it is rare for an individual to adhere completely to either philosophy and rarer still for such a philosophy to be workable in real life -- these concepts are central to a growing movement in many modern martial arts and reality-based self-defense (RBSD) systems. Increasingly, traditional martial arts (and especially commercialized, publicly taught East Asian martial arts in the West) are seen as less than effective for personal defense, rife with fraud, empty hyperbole, and New Age ritual mysticism. Martialists and those with martialist sympathies join other pragmatic self-defenese exponents in seeking practical physical effectiveness in self-defense, traditional arts, and (popularly) mixed martial arts (MMA).

Those within the movement often disagree as to practice and methods and can be divided into various factions. MMA exponents criticize RBSD practitioners as lacking practical application and "pressure testing" in their focus on techniques that might or might not work "on the street." RBSD practitioners, in turn, criticize MMA students as "sportfighters" who lack realistic context for the training and who foolishly minimize the degree to which realistic self-defense variables negatively impact MMA strategies and tactics (such as the perceived emphasis on groundfighting in MMA).

Phil Elmore, in his booklet on the topic of martialism, described his interpretation of "dynamic, assertive living" as the aggressive assertion and preservation of one's "personal boundaries" combined with the willingness to back this with physical force when threatened. Critics of martialism characterize it as a paranoid distortion of self-defense that could lead the would-be martialist to legal trouble, physical injury, or both. Martialism is in some ways an offshoot or amplification of survivalism and can be characterized positively or negatively based on one's perception of survivalism and its adherents.

1914 - Dictionary Definition

The quality of being warlike; exercises suitable for war.

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