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The Martial Arts in MMA

This week, I was reading a really good article by Justin Barracosa on ProSportsBlogging.com entitled We Lost The Martial Arts In "MMA" Long Ago.

In this article, Barracosa shares his view that the Ultimate Fighting Championship was started to see which Martial Arts style was the most dominate but has now degraded into just a fighting/brawling competition. The mma stylists have forgotten the Bushido virtues of honor, respect, benevolence and loyalty. They have lost their Martial Arts.

I have a slightly different take on the situation. Instead, I believe that Martial Arts is moving in a similar fashion to wrestling. Wrestling has two very different meanings depending upon whom you speak. There is the professional wrestler (pro-wrestler) a la WWE where you see a lot of the glitz and glam showcasing fixed matches. The idea is to entertain with violence and showboating. As my father had compared it back in the day, it's like soap operas for men. However, for die hard true wrestling fans, we are speaking about Greco-Roman wrestling. In Greco-Roman wrestling, there is none of that fanfare and flair. It's not about how big your muscles are or how outlandish your costume. The take down techniques and submission holds are true martial forms and teach even the smallest of fighters how to manipulate momentum to overcome their opponent.

The history of pro-wrestling is very similar to what we're seeing in Mixed Martial Arts today. It started as merely a way to distinguish those that fought for payment. The early fights often showcased different fighting styles. Within Greco-Roman wrestling, there were very defined rules of what was and wasn't allowed. In particular, the grapples allowed differed, with the pro-wrestling opening for more flashy holds. If you speak to a Greco-Roman wrestler, they will often make it quite clear that they do not do what you see on TV.

Mixed Martial Arts is moving in similar diversions. First off, one must understand that all of the Martial Arts we see today is "mixed" in some way. Some more than others. Some more obvious about their lineage than others. Ultimately there is no such thing as a "pure" system with only one origin. There can't be because as each generation has touched a style, they influence it and add to the style. Over time, techniques are tried and if they succeed they are added to the style. While true Martial Artists try their best to preserve what is passed down to them from their teachers, they cannot avoid absorbing influences around them and learning to adapt. That is the way of life and of Martial Arts.

There are those that have emerged as training in purely fighting styles. For marketing reasons, many of these schools call themselves "mixed martial arts". They are not incorrect in their nomenclature as explained above, but many are not just about the fighting. These fighters, who do take the time to learn more than just the pageantry will find themselves aligning more towards the Martial Arts of their style.

The lines are more blurred between mma types than they were for wrestling. When pro-wrestling was in its haydays, it had to share the stage with boxing. Gyms were more willing to explore training boxing over the more aerobatic wrestling. Thus, you saw locations crop up everywhere to teach boxing. MMA a la UFC style is closer to its namesake than pro-wrestling in the basics of technique. Those that train in a variety of fighting techniques can still find application within the UFC world; whereas with pro-wrestling if you didn't train for the pile drives and rope leaping you'd be hard pressed to find an audience.

The concept of UFC is not new just as the concept of pro-wrestling didn't start with the WWF. However, UFC should take special note on the progression to WWE and how to avoid the pitfalls that befell both pro-wrestling and boxing. People want to be inspired these days and have hope in the purity of the sport. Avoiding corruption and fixed results will be key to their continued success.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments either on the forums or on our Facebook page.

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