Traditional Martial Arts.. Do they have a place in MMA
If you take a look back to the old UFC and how things were in the dark ages of Mma, one of the major things that stands out was that it wasn’t really MMA back then. Apart from a few guys along the lines of Ken Shamrock, there weren’t many fighters who were cross training different disciplines, it was all about style versus style.
I cast my mind back to the first UFC I ever watched, UFC 6 to be exact, I remember watching John Matua against Tank Abbot. It stands out so strongly in my mind because I got sucked from the off, by the intros where the fighters showcased their deadly crafts through shadow boxing and close up camera angles. I was trying to pick the winners based on these in-depth pieces. One that stood out was John Matua. I remember I whole heartedly decided to go with him as the one to win his fight, how did I reach this educated decision by simply watching his intro I hear you ask?.
Well, John had me at “the Hawaiian art of bone breaking”. I watched the screen in awe, looking at him throw a series of bone breaking elbows into thin air while I pondered what were the chances of my local social club doing a class on Hawaii bone breaking. I felt pity for this Tank fella and his poor bones, and wondered if he knew what he was in for.
My worrying was misplaced, well for Tank anyway, as he walked through Matua leaving him literally poleaxed. The realization started to dawn on me that you needed more than a cool intro showing you breaking bones in the sky, to be good at this Ultimate Fighting thing. It’s a good example, because it showed to me, that in order to be effective in Martial Arts you need to have more than just a cool sounding name that looks good on paper.
Looking back I see I was massively naive, but guess most of us were back then, and this is why I love MMA as it cuts through most of the crap. MMA can be one, or as many combat sports as you think would be effective. My girlfriend says its a ‘greedy’ sport as it combines several elements and while a somewhat a basic description.. she’s right.
The main disciplines in Mma that work are Thai Boxing, Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Ju Jit su & Catch Wrestling, but If a new Martial Art came along that really gave MMA fighters an edge (I’m not holding my breath) and helped kick everyone’s ass, then guess what? 99% of MMA fighters would be trying it.. simply because it worked.
We have the advantage of not having been brain washed since childhood, so that when their Sensei waves his hands in our direction we don’t fling ourselves across the dojo .
This is important because even though MMA guys love Thai Boxing, Boxing, Jits, Wrestling etc, they love them because they actually work, not because they’re chained to any one of them. That’s why MMA can’t be beaten, because it’s ultimately whatever works.
The more I watched back in the day, the more it became apparent that Traditional Martial Arts weren’t getting the job done. Karate, Taekwondo and Wing Chun practitioners were getting jacked pretty much every time they stepped in the cage. That’s why you don’t see a host of MMA fighters doing Wing Chun. Because when you step in there to fight, you really want effective shit in your armoury that works.
At the start of the UFC some Traditional Martial Artist’s drank their own Kool aid, you know this because there they were standing front & centre of the cage ready to put into acton their strong self belief of their misguided art. When they were smashed, beaten and spat out the other end, the excuses began to fly. I think a quote that I saw on the back of a old UFC video went something along the lines of ” I was in a bad position, I saw the chance to apply a move that can kill a man, but I didn’t come here to kill anyone” EYYY??!!?? the quote should of said ” I was in a bad position because I’ve wasted a lot of not only my childhood but my adult life on something that bears no relevance to fighting MMA” I can see how as a fighter, if you find yourself in this situation, how truly depressing it would be and that it takes a strong strong person to realise this and then carry on!
Here’s a couple of reasons why Traditional Martial Art’s are bound to fail. Let’s take Wrestling for example, Wrestling takes a long time to grasp and to say it’s hard is an understatement. Bristol is blessed with a couple of great Iranian wrestling teachers, I mean these guy are top notch. And guess what? Their classes aren’t half as busy as they should be. Why? Because people like the thought of doing something but don’t really want to sweat. Enter Traditional Martial Arts, some instructors see an opportunity to make some cash and start a T Martial Art that’s aim is to make people feel like their learning something without actually learning anything. All the while they’re making money I.E For Kit, Grading’s and Class Fees. So when some one achieves there 8th dan black belt in ‘Con Ing Yu’ they’ve learnt not a lot, but have definitely spent a lot. Why do I care? Well I don’t really, I’m not on a massive mission to open these peoples eyes because like the wfs/cfs they don’t want to see the light.
The biggest problem I have with Traditional Martial Arts, is that it’s dangerous and ironically NOT as a Martial Art.. but to the user. Let me explain, many years ago I was once asked if I’d like to go to a Ninjutsu class, I thought why not, I’m always open to learning a different style/twist on something. What I witnessed at the class truly horrified me.
Firstly, it was teaming with people all kitted out in the Ninjutsu team t-shirt and fight trousers.. all compulsive items. Next was the one and only technique I was taught, because after watching it i remembered I’d left an imaginary pie in my imaginary oven and I had to get home before an imaginary fire burnt my imaginary house to the ground.
So what was the this legendary technique?? First off, if a left hook was thrown, you were meant to block it by aiming both your arms at their elbow. Upon blocking this in-coming punch you were then to drop to one knee, and deliver a chop (to achieve this chop you fold your fingers to your palm) it was explained to me that you had three pressure points around the knee and when you delivered said chop with force ( which everyone was told not to do) it would collapse your victim to the floor.
I thought it was all a joke at first but with horror and dread I saw the sea of people having a go at this deadly technique, then with a mixture of excitement and zeal nod along in agreement at how very deadly this technique was. Now, I don’t know if there are three pressure points around the knees. Let’s say there are and when you chop one of these points you collapse on the deck. Let’s say all this is true.. In the real world were you ever called upon to use this move, in my opinion this is what’s likely to happen. First off, if you don’t get knocked out before blocking this one left hook with both your arms and you than drop down to your one knee to strike your victims knee, you have to be so so luckily to hit those 3 magic pressure points ( if they even exist) It’s not even like you can perfect your technique by practising this move as your told not to do it as it’s so dangerous and deadly.
Hence why I feel a lot of Traditional Martial Arts are dangerous, because what should happen on paper doesn’t always translate to real life. I hope no poor fucker has ever bent down to strike these famous pressure points while in a bar fight, because if they have, there teeth would have surely have been flying across the room as some random drunk booted them straight out of his mouth.
I can almost here the fans of Traditional Martial Arts shouting “but what about Bruce Lee” I would say Bruce Lee was in many ways the first real MMA Artist. He trained everything from Boxing to Wrestling, plus was amazingly dedicated and gifted!! MMA wasn’t around then so it makes it more amazing that he was training different disciplines (MMA), he was extremly knowledgable in that he realised one Martial Art doesnt cover everything. “So what then about Machida and Chung Lee? They’ve been at the top of the MMA food chain, They use Traditional Martial Arts”… explain that one Thompson!! Well ok I will.. It is true that both these MMA fighters have had great success in MMA using Traditional Martial Arts, but my friends they’re the exception to the rule because not only have they adapted the best bits of these Traditional Martial Arts to MMA they themselves have excellent timing and awareness of distance to put all this together.
Here’s a good example… My very good friend Zelg Galesic who I am sure has been doing Taekwondo since he was a foetus. Now.. I don’t care much for the Taekwondo, and that’s probably because I can’t even head kick a midget, but I do see a lot of effective elements in it. The spinning kicks, axe kicks and general hip flexibility are dangerous but translates that much better to MMA as you have someone like Zelg who only owns fast twitch muscles. Basically some of the moves are useful, if the PERSON using them is gifted anyway.
Summing it all up I’m not saying all Traditional Martial Arts are a waste of time and I’m not saying you can’t use some elements of Traditional Martial Arts in MMA. What I am saying is that you need Wrestling, Ju Jitsu, and Thai/ Boxing as your core and the rest is a useful add on.. If you’re one of the few who really wants to improve and advance but have just fallen into a joke Traditional Martial Art, you have to uncurl your chopping hand, burn those stupid fucking Combat pants and go learn some MMA.