Is American Football a Combat Sport? (Yes, It Is)

I can’t shake the thought that football is a combat sport. I take to My MMA News to sort of flesh these thoughts out and why I believe so. Football is a unique sport among other popular sports like basketball, baseball and soccer (football). American football is voilent and hard hitting with the best athletes in the world. But, football is simulated war essentially.

Football Is a Combat Sport Explained

So here’s where we will start: the definition of combat sport. According to Wikipedia, “A combat sport is a competitive contact sport that usually involves one-on-one combat. In many combat sports, a contestant wins by scoring more points than the opponent or by disabling the opponent.” It continues on saying that “Combat sports share a long pedigree with the martial arts.”

So first, a combat sport must be a competitive contact sport. Football is the only major sport that has contact on the more violent side of things. Tackling and blocking are major focuses in football. Next, combat sports usually involve one-on-one combat. Football doesn’t check that. But team sports are not absent in martial arts. QUINTET and team MMA are real things and utilize a team method. Wrestling has teams but they only compete in one on one matches and those matches determine the winning team, it’s not a free for all. Lastly, the victor is determined by scoring more points than the opponent or disabling the opponent. Football doesn’t deliberately aim to disable players, or they’re not supposed to. Instead you have a set time and you have to outscore the opponent.

The most important part, however, is that combat sports share a long pedigree with the martial arts. This says that basically, martial arts and combat sports are similar but not exclusive to each other. A combat sport (in our case, American football) can be considered a combat sport but not a martial art.

The Combat of Football

As I said earlier, football is basically simulated war, but with a ball. The offensive line and defensive line is the main war front. The line is arguably the most important part of a football game, protecting the quarterback, giving the running back and full backs room to run, and more.

The quarterback is your general. He commands the players, making the most important plays with the ball. He delegates to the wide receivers, tight end, running backs, blocking assignments from all positions, play calling, audible, and all. Running backs, receivers, and tight ends are your skill players. For the most part, they’re responsible for scoring in a variety of ways.

Defense is the same boat. An defensive line is the front. The linebackers are the generals. Secondary protects the endzone. All have similar goals to the offense, just the opposite.


The tactics are very similar to war as well. Divide and conquer = open a hole in the line for the running back to run through. Tactical retreats = screens. Trickery like releasing a tight end off of a block. The parallels are never ending. Even terminology like “throwing a bomb” calls back to war.

All of this leads me to believe that football is, in fact, a combat sport. It checks all the boxes. Like the old adage goes, “Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck.” One thing football isn’t is a martial art, but that’s okay. There are other combat sports that aren’t martial arts like capture the flag and paintball.

Anyhow, thanks for reading. I had to get this out on print!

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author avatar
Blaine Henry
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.