Challenges happen all the time. Life throws all kinds of obstacles at you. But the kind of challenges that I'm referring to in this article are the martial kind. Someone wants to fight. They want a fight with you. No-one else will do. They make it entirely personal and they won't take no for an answer.
Every serious martial artist must consider that if they achieve a good reputation, they may be challenged. The challenge could happen at any time - in a bar, at your place of work or where you practice. It could come from anyone - even your buddies that you train with.
Being a Tai Chi teacher means that I get very few challenges. The kind of students who go to Tai Chi classes are rarely into fighting. However, I do occasionally get someone turning up and wanting to test me. Let's examine the probable motives for someone wanting to challenge you. (I will refer to them as 'he' - just for speed)
1. He wants to test his own martial skill.
2. He wants to elevate his status at your cost.
3. He wishes to prove that his chosen discipline (usually different than yours) is better.
4. He is another teacher who wants to take your students.
5. He has a severe inferiority complex, and only pummelling you will relieve it.
6. You may have done or said something that offended him.
7. He wants a free lesson.
There may be no single reason, but a combination of the above. Never rule out number 6. By advocating your own techniques, people will become insulted because they believe you are rejecting theirs.
If you choose to accept the challenge there are many risks to consider. If they have no skill you may do them severe damage. If they have different rules of engagement you risk being attacked while you are going through any ritual preparations you may have. An unknown fighter without scruples may not quit when others with more sense would stop. The video below is disturbing, but illustrates what some people will do for the sake of their own egos:
As you can see, if you choose to make or accept challenges, you run the risk of escalating violence to the point of severe repercussions. You tube is full of people getting hurt in fights over which martial art is best. They are all missing a fundamental dichotomy within the martial arts contest.
All official martial arts contests are artificial in nature due to the imposition of rules designed to protect everyone involved. Contrarily, the very nature of martial arts is for defence only. Ergo if two true martial arts masters were to walk into a ring together, they would wait for each other to strike first, hence a stalemate and they would both walk out without striking a blow.
Respect for the diversity across the different martial arts will go a long way to reducing the friction between disciplines. Manners and respect for all go a long way to reducing friction between individuals. While you cannot always dissuade challenges completely, walking away from them will not injure anyone in the long run.