The Australian Defence Force has recognised martial arts as an approved sport allowing personnel to compete in five chosen disciplines.
The Australian Defence Force Martial Arts Association includes the disciplines of taekwondo, karate, judo, jiu-jitsu and kung fu.
The first annual general meeting and training session took place at the Australian Defence Force Academy indoor sports centre on 21 November.
Patron, Commander Special Forces, Major General Jeff Sengelman said it was important to him the sport became established in the Australian Defence Force.
“I believe, previously, there was a degree of risk aversion, and the misconception these sports were dangerous,” he said.
“In a system that actually should be about understanding risk and living with it, which is one of the definitions of what a military is, I saw evidence of too many people shying away from the challenge.
“If you encourage your people through sports like this you can make them more self-confident and more comfortable with who they are.
“The authorisation for these sports to exist, and the growth of this program over time, will add a layer of richness to our defence force,” Major General Sengelman said.
Association Secretary Petty Officer Aviation Technician Avionics Byron Steele said the inclusion of martial arts represented several years’ hard work by a handful of people.
“The formal submission process began in April 2014 and before that I had spent the previous three years trying to develop the support base,” he said.
“The first time I applied to get approval to compete in the Go-Kan-Ryu state titles I was told categorically there was no way I was going to get approval.
“We have controlled contact, and in comparison with injury rates of every other sport that Defence allows, the chances of injury for us are small.”
Petty Officer Steele said martial arts developed self-discipline and confidence and improved physical awareness and mental acuity.
“It was a great feeling to see our first meet as we had all three services represented, and we had all of the main styles,” he said.
“I would like to see all the major bases in Australia with martial art clubs regardless of what style it is.
“From here, my long-term dream is to take a combined team from Australia to travel to some of our allied nations to compete in their interservice all-styles martial arts events,” Petty Officer Steele said.
With 63 registered members since April, and more currently going through their local administrative processes to join up, association managers estimate there will be more than 100 by early 2017.