I am most frequently critical of the traditionalist mindset. It’s the community I come from and I have seen the many issues holding it back. However, I can also say without a doubt there are a few things the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community needs to work on.
When the UFC first started and MMA was first introduced in the United States, the people who started practicing with this mindset all had backgrounds in traditional martial arts. People like me, with backgrounds in Chinese or Korean or Japanese martial arts, started practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling and sparring with more contact and more open formats allowing more legal techniques. Most of us ran away from the more restrictive and ridiculous aspects of traditional martial arts, but we didn’t forget everything.
Today’s mixed martial arts (MMA) community often are people who have never done a traditional martial art. They watched the UFC or the “Ultimate Fighter” and signed up a facility dedicated to MMA. It’s cliche of course, but these guys show up in their “tapout” gear, their tattoos and do a few punches, a few kicks, some takedowns and some rolling. Today’s MMA facility is NOT a martial arts school and these guys never get that sense of tradition, structure or respect.
This is interesting, because the art that started this all, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, while an extremely effective and practical minded tradition also is VERY TRADITIONAL in many aspects. They have belts, boxing in before class, respect for their teachers, lineage, etc. You will still find all these things in schools whose base and/or focus in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. But there are also a lot of facilities now that are only MMA focused.
Personally, I think of my curriculum and school as a practical, hard working but also TRADITIONAL martial art. I have two primary martial arts teachers; Chan Tai San and Pong Ki Kim. We respect them and realize the core of what we do is based upon their teachings. We have kept ranking structure, lineage and respect and I am still “SIFU” in my school. I would say we have more in common with an art like Kyokushinkai than with the modern MMA facility.
Another thing that I think limits the MMA community is the perception that everyone has to be a 20-something A CLASS fighter. I was never a “professional fighter”. I was in fact probably a B CLASS amateur. Of course, since I was engaging in competition in the 1980’s and 1990’s I wasn’t doing MMA competitions. I have a mixed bag background. I am also WELL PAST my competition days.
I play and spar with my students. I can certainly demonstrate the techniques. However, my primary role is teacher and coach. The modern MMA person frequently fails to understand, it isn’t about how good I am as much as how good I can MAKE YOU BE.
Some of the best fighters in the world have actually made some of the WORST coaches!
There is also plenty of room for people who have no interest in competition / fighting in my facility. Honestly, in the larger picture I am more interested in “black belts” than I am in “fighters”. I want to train as many students who love and practice the system as possible. A competitive career is only a few years, but the practice and love of martial arts is a lifetime. Three of my highest ranking black belts are already in their mid to late 40’s. Two HAD competitive careers in the past, but all three are now beyond that point in their lives.
MMA should keep us grounded in reality and challenge us to improve our techniques and methods. Traditional martial arts (TMA) should teach us that martial arts is a lifelong pursuit and teach us the important lessons about life.
NOW GO TRAIN!