An idea that occurred to me today, but undeveloped so far, so forgive me while I wonder around it. Why does Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) frighten so many traditional martial artists? I think it is frightening because it presents such a massive challenge to what you’ve already done for so much of your life.
I know someone who was a great stand up fighter. They tried a few Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. Immediately you could see they were uncomfortable with being a beginner again. In Kickboxing they were a god, people looked up to them, they had all the answers. In Jiu Jitsu, they were getting tapped left and right. A little later, they tried a Mixed Martial Arts match and lost in the first round when they were tapped out. They gave up not only fighting MMA but Jiu Jitsu classes.
In MMA, people complain when someone just takes down a fighter and controls them without doing damage or finishing them. It’s often called “lay and pray.” I can understand the frustration of having landed some hard punches, kicks, knees or elbows, of having done damage you can clearly see, not having a scratch on you, but still not having a “win.” However, for me that is exactly what I think is GOOD about MMA. It is “pure”, you are allowed to do “your thing” no matter what it is, and you have to defend against the other person’s thing, no matter what it is. That is, if you get taken down and controlled, you know what you are weak at and what you have to work on. Don’t get mad! Get EVEN!
Dan Gable, famous wrestler and wrestling coach, was quoted as saying “losing creates adversity, overcoming adversity creates character.” In the martial arts we talk about character building and humility but the two above examples are actual cases where that is necessary.
Another thing I like about the MMA approach is that you know where you are on the “food chain.” I’ve been training most of my life, I have a lot of knowledge, but I still understand that I am not a pro fighter. I am not the world’s best amateur either. And you know what, that’s OK!
Too much of our society is obsessed with winning, with being champions, with being the best. You have to be the strongest, the fastest, the most dangerous. And please note that these trends exist in the MMA community itself, often to absurd extremes. A lot of people think the only place they can learn is under a champion, when in reality often the best fighters make some of the worst teachers. But MMA as a community is still young. It has yet to develop “traditions” and it is overwhelmingly young in demographic. I still think it has a lot of potential. And I think it is a great challenge to the traditional martial arts paradigm