I guess the answer most regular readers of this blog would give is, yes, martial artist. I would say it depends on what I am doing and its context. When I was growing up, I had easy access to Boxing, grappling (Judo/Wrestling) and fencing tuition. I did not consider myself a martial artist, mostly a sports person with some self-defence fringe benefits.
The Martial Artist
When I joined the UK military as a soldier in the early eighties, despite the fact I was training for warfare, including close quarter battle and even later as a freelancer in a full-blown war where the body count was high, I did not consider myself a martial artist.
We should also consider a section of our society that mainly focuses on self-defence and training for that situation. Many of my friends who train in Combatives prefer a stripped-down meat and potatoes approach and do not consider themselves martial artists. I tend to agree with them.
A person who is paid to train in or teach a martial art full time is a professional martial artist and probably a good person to base the criteria on. This person will probably be working out five or more times a week, with regular pressure testing.
When we consider people who train in actual martial arts, it gets even trickier to define. I would suggest someone who trains twice a week in a regular class is nearer to a hobbyist. Slightly different if the same person trains five times a week, either in or out of class. An extra level of commitment.
We have researchers, and with them, it really about what’s being researched. You may choose to study a martial art like I have and actively train in it. You may also explore the history of the art and never actually train a single technique. There are also the technique collectors, with folders full of techniques but zero practical hands-on experience.
The Role Player
Role players are another subsection; they tend to operate in a different or altered universe; this can take the form of dressing up or even mock battles or re-enactments. All good fun and hugely enjoyable.
I know and have good friends who fit in with most of the “types” above and even a combination. To be honest, as long as people are happy, I could not care either way.
The big drawback is when you don’t know what you are and why you are doing something. It’s very easy to be drawn outside of your level of understanding, especially on social media and become a spreader of martial myths.
Adam Chan is a martial artist I admire, the first half of this video relates to Wing Chun; in the second part of the video from about 06:40 onwards, Adam talks about some social media misconceptions and also what a professional martial artist is. The whole video is excellent, so please take the time to check it out.
Adam did an excellent job of breaking this down. It reinforces that you should consider who you are taking advice from regarding the martial arts because there are many people out there writing and giving martial arts advice who are not qualified to do so.
Things can go wrong when marketing meets inventive minds, and the main driver is making cash. The best advice I can give is to seek qualified hands-on tuition and use critical thinking to review everything you are told. Yes, you can and should include my writing and teaching as well.