Of the martial art styles that use sparring, some use no-contact sparring, some use light-contact sparring, while others use full-contact sparring. These contact classifications are related to the amount of force that is permitted while sparring. The level of contact used in sparring is important and should be considered when choosing a martial art to study so it is discussed in other TKDTutor topics.
Another type of contact to consider is personal contact. There are three classifications of the personal contact used in the martial arts: impersonal, semi-personal, and personal. These same classifications of personal contact may also be applied to the military.
During combat, most soldiers never see the enemy. They drop bombs from aircraft, fire missiles and artillery from a great distance, and fire their rifles from long range. Sometimes they must deal with an enemy face-to-face, but it relatively rare due to the massive amount of the aforementioned types of warfare that are used. Since most soldiers make little or no personal contact with the enemy, they may be classified as having impersonal contact with the enemy.
Snipers shoot from a long distance, but due to their powerful telescopes, they are able to watch their targets carry out their daily routines and they are able to see their bullets hit the targets and the effects the hits have on the targets. They see the results of their actions without have to make personal contact. Since they do not make direct contact with the enemy but have to deal with the results of their actions at a personal level, they may be classified as having semi-personal contact with the enemy.
The soldiers who deal directly with the enemy are the Special Forces soldiers who work stealthy behind the lines. Most of their killing is done hand-to-hand so they may be classified as having personal contact with the enemy.
Practically anyone may be trained to be a soldier, but it takes a special type of person to be a Special Forces soldier or a sniper. It is much easier to deal with killing a person if you have no contact with the person and do not have to see the person die, therefore, field soldiers usually do not have problems in dealing with the psychological aspects of killing the enemy. Even with their increased personal contact, Special Forces soldiers and snipers also do not have psychological problems in dealing with killing the enemy. This is because they have been specially screened to find the persons who can deal with the personal killing and they are specifically trained to deal with the psychological aspects. As related to the martial arts, it also takes a special type of person to deal with martial arts that use increased levels of personal contact.
Standup, hard martial art styles, such as karate and Taekwondo, and soft martial art styles, such as some styles of kung-fu, use impersonal contact. Students are taught to avoid contact if possible (such as by using evasion and long-range fighting), to make minimal contact (such as by using hard blocks, defecting blocks, kicks, and punches), and to disengage from contact as soon as possible (such as by using releases and strikes). Thus, while training, students have limited physical contact.
The evasion martial art styles, such as Aikido, also avoid contact but while training, their techniques make a more prolonged contact with opponents. Students grab and use locks and pressure point techniques, but the contact is only until they may evade or escape.
The grappling martial art styles, such as Judo, jiujutsu, and wrestling, purposefully make and keep personal contact. They use locks, pins, and submission techniques that require constant personal contact for them to be effective.
When seeking a martial art in which to begin training, you should consider the personal contact level that you are comfortable with using. Hard and soft martial art styles are opposites in their styles of fighting but they both involve very little personal contact. Evasion styles have increased personal contact but it is not close contact. In the grappling styles, you are in constant personal contact. You get the other person’s sweat and blood in your eyes and mouth, you touch their wounds, you feel their muscles and the energy in their bodies, and you hear their breathing and heart beating. If you are not comfortable with close physical contact, you will probably not enjoy a grappling style of martial art.