I feel like I just opened up a can of worms. Well, let’s let them all out, then. To properly answer this question, I would like for you to take into account two variables: the martial art style being learned, and the goal for learning this martial art. These answers can range from a stay-at-home mom wanting to finally reach black belt in shotokan karate (because she had to stop at blue in college), to a police officer wanting to increase his personal knowledge of self-defense for true on-the-job application with krav maga. And everything in-between.
So, let’s break this down. Many critics would immediately claim that all martial arts are combative in nature, and thus need hands-on sparring practice in order for the style to be properly learned and mastered. This is not entirely true, with some martial arts teetering more on the “arts” side, or even “movement arts” side of the spectrum. We can see this with the rise in martial arts demonstrations, tricking, tournament competitions, and movement arts like tai chi or qi gong for health revitalization.