Art is beautiful, fighting is ugly. Artists create. Fighters destroy. Artists make paintings and songs and dances that bring joy to our hearts. Fighters make blood and pain that damages our bodies and brains. Permanently. Using the word “artist” to describe a figher is an insult to artists everywhere, and demeaning to the word “artist.”

I was led to this line of thought recently by a discussion I heard on a sports talk radio show. They were discussing an upcoming mixed martial “arts” fight, and the fighters involved, and repeatedly referred to them as “artists.” I almost spit up my coffee.

I had heard the term “Mixed Martial Arts” before, and was aware of such ”sports” as cage fighting, promoted by the UFC league (Ultimate Fighting Championship). And I was certainly aware of using the term “martial arts” to describe the various, mostly ancient, mostly Eastern, fighting systems that use only the human body. These traditions have a long and mostly respecable history, and are used maily for self defense, fitness, and personal and spiritual growth. So I was willing to cut practicioners of these sports some slack and allow them the use of “arts” in their title, especially since I am a Zen Buddhist and have great respect for ancient Far Eastern art forms and schools of thought. Many of these fighting variations even have names that belie their intent. Judo translates as “gentle way.” Aikido is often translated as "the Way of harmonious spirit."

But to describe people attacking each other and beating each others brains out as artists is taking things too far. And it's been going on for too long. The first use of the name “mixed martial arts” to describe this type of no-holds-barred fighting occured in a review in 1993 by a television critic.

I am a traumatic brain injury survivor, so I am more sensitive than most people to the damage that is done to a human being by repeated blows to the head. Brain injury doesn't just damage the brain, it destroys lives and families. Muhammed Ali is a shambling wreck, suffering from Parkinson's syndrome from all the years of blows to the head. Many ex-football players are disabled, or have killed themselves after suffering from depression from repeated head trauma. I grew up in the inner city, and one of the local characters was Joey the shoeshine man, who lugged his shoeshine box from bar to bar, looking for work. He was a former boxer whose IQ had been reduced to the level of mental retardation by years of being bashed in the head.

So I do not view people who destroy other people's brains—and lives—as a good thing. They are not artists. Monet was an artist. Mattisse was an artist. Andy Warhol was an artist. Dancers, muscicians, poets, playwrites, authors: they are all artists. FIghters are not artists. They may be highly-trained athletes, but artists? No.

Sometimes words, good words, get misappropiated by marketers, politicians, journalists and others. Sometimes words need to be taken back by the rest of us and healed. Let us make sure that we use artist the way it should be used: to connote someone who creates things of beauty, not someone who destroys things of beauty, like the human brain.