Martial art competition point sparring may be compared to the “counting coup” of Native Americans. Sparring is when two martial artists spar, or play fight, against each other. In point sparring, points are awarded when an allowed attack comes close to a permitted target area and the attack is delivered with power, proper form, and precise focus. Focus is where all power is concentrated at a precise point that may be inside the target (to injure), on the surface of the target (to cause pain), or just short of the target (to warn). Some point sparring competitions may allowed the attack to “lightly touch” the target. This is what point sparring is, but what is “counting coup,” and how does it relate to point sparring? Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, warfare among the plains Indians, particularly the Lakota, was considered a rough "game" in which killing an enemy was not as important as "counting coup." Counting coup meant rushing up to an enemy, usually on horseback, and simply touching him with the hand or with a decorated wooden “coup stick.” In essence, the warrior was stating, "I could have killed you, but I did not, and there was nothing you could have done to stop me!" A coup showed disdain for the enemy as not being worthy of killing. To a warrior, to die in battle was the ultimate honor, so it was a huge disgrace to be merely touched by the enemy in a battle.
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