Is there a word or short phrase describing sports such as football, tennis, fencing, martial arts in which the competitors act directly against each other? I would like to distinguish these sports from others where the competitors try to do some activity better than their rivals (running faster, lifting more, throwing further, shooting more accurately). In the "doing better" sports, competitors are not supposed to interfere with rivals and may get disqualified if they do so (tripping a fellow runner, blocking a cyclist, ramming a race car). In the "act directly against" sports, the whole point is to prevent the rival from doing something and do it to them instead (subject to some rules of the game).

The phrase should include contact sports, may or may not include team sports and non-physical contests (boardgames, video games).

  • ...like physical contact?... contact sports? Jun 4, 2019 at 21:45
  • Contact sports are a subcategory - volleyball and badminton competitors have no physical contact. Many sports that have some physical contact (football, basketball) are not classified as contact sports. Jun 4, 2019 at 21:49
  • Would this include video games? They seem to be gaining in popular recognition as a sport. Perhaps you should include some kind of list of games which you would consider part of this group. Jun 4, 2019 at 21:51
  • I would be happy either way - whether the phrase encompasses video games or not. Similarly for chess, go, checkers. Jun 4, 2019 at 21:53
  • Most of your examples seem to be one-on-one...should the question include teams of players? Jun 4, 2019 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


Adversarial sports could describe a sport where competitors must react directly to the actions of their opponents. Example of usage:

Choreographies of routine-oriented sports that are similar to dance (like figure skating or synchronized swimming) or that represent significant aesthetic value (like gymnastics or occasionally even extreme sports) differ heavily from adversarial sports, where the actions of athletes are random, unpredictable and depend heavily on the reaction of their opponents.


Representing and predicting multi-agent data in adversarial team sports. This thesis addresses the theoretical challenges of the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the domain of sports. The key contribution of this work is a new data representation that allows AI algorithms to understand real world sports games such as basketball and soccer. The theoretical advances that this thesis has contributed has the potential to make a significant impact on many aspects of sport analytics, such as prediction, retrieval and simulation. Intelligent systems have been developed based upon this method which enables active spectator engagement in sporting events and more effective coaching of athletes.


mano a mano

in direct competition or conflict especially between two people So the two men decided to try the table out by arm wrestling each other, mano a mano. — Martin E. Comas, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Lake County chief deputy 'sick to my stomach' after breaking opponent's arm in friendly arm-wrestling match," 7 May 2018

(Merriam Webster)

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