Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Over the last few years, Mixed Martial Arts has been on a steady rise. Thanks to TV shows like The Ultimate Fighter, Mixed Martial Arts has really started to move into mainstream entertainment venues. But there’s still a lot of controversy around Mixed Martial Arts. What is Mixed Martial Arts really and is this controversy founded?
Pick up any news feed on Martial Arts in any community and you’re bound to eventually run into some dispute over a Mixed Martial Arts tournament. Many communities are afraid to bring such venues into their town. Some cite issues with insurance and securing the safety of the participants. Some do not like the violence promoted by MMA. Some feel it is not something mainstream enough yet to warrant an audience in their community. There are many reasons, all of which boil down to the same result: limiting MMA exposure.
There are many stories or beliefs around where Mixed Martial Arts came from, some dating the tradition back to Pankration and the Olympics. While some of the styles may find its basis in such instances, MMA encompasses a whole lot more.
The best way to describe MMA is to take the view of traditional boxing and kickboxing and combine it with the kumite sense you get out of that free-style, full contact tournament. It’s considered mixed because there are no restrictions to style or background. In the original MMA, there were no restrictions to what could be done in the ring. Many dangerous, even deadly blows, such as attacks to the head, groin, elbows, you name it, were available in the combatant’s arsenal of attacks.
For many years, MMA and MMA-like venues were held in small community halls and under local labels. The promotion of the events was poor and often events were called because they could not secure proper insurance for participants. While most fights weren’t deadly by any means, it would be very common to walk out of the ring with many injuries. The lifespan of these fighters were short due to the harsh combat they endured.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship came along, the organization moved to not only promote the sport but also provide some guidelines that could be seen as more acceptable to a wider audience. They have, so far, succeeded in bringing MMA to television and into larger venues, attracting a wide variety of spectators. This form of MMA has begun to attract both fighters and fans that may have once been into the professional wrestling or professional boxing arenas, both of which have more established entertainment attraction value.
Still, MMA is a fairly violent and rough sport. Thus, there are many that shy away from this sort of “no-holds bar” fighting. For some, this display isn't so much about the Martial Arts and tradition but rather a brawl and street fighting. For these people, MMA does not hold a great of appeal and they would turn to more established Martial Arts fighting forms, such as Muay Thai and San Shou. While these other styles don't have the wide public appeal as MMA, there is a different level of respect for training under these set systems rather than the free-form of MMA.
So Mixed Martial Arts derives more similarities to boxing and wrestling than its namesake, Martial Arts. It still requires a great deal of endurance and training in fighting skills that many Martial Arts disciplines provide. It is, however, very different from just doing forms or sparring.