Isn’t all Chinese Martial Art (CMA) really Mixed Martial Art (MMA)?

20 Mar

Chan Tai San catches a kick and sweeps the supporting leg

Chan Tai San catches a kick and sweeps the supporting leg

One of the best aspects of the internet and especially Facebook is the ability to reconnect with old students. I recently reconnected with a student from the early 1990’s.

Chan Tai-San's public class from early 1990's

Chan Tai-San’s public class from early 1990’s

After twenty plus years, it is easy to lose perspective. People ask me how I got interested in all this “fighting stuff”? As if one day I was just doing pretty kung fu forms and the next day we were fighting professional MMA matches? In one sense, of course, there was evolution. But in quite another sense, what we were doing even when we were Chan Tai-San’s kung fu school was VERY MUCH about fighting! To quote that student in a recent post he put on facebook.

I like to say when I trained With you back in the day we were doing MMA. We just didn’t get deep into the ground game.


I’d argue that all legitimate Chinese martial art (CMA) really is Mixed Martial Art (MMA). Chan Tai-San was having us drill kicks, strikes, clinches, throws and takedowns. We were sparring quite a lot actually.

Sparring in Chan Tai-San's school

Sparring in Chan Tai-San’s school

To quote another classmate who was also there back in those days, the classes were very much about conditioning, followed by technique drills and then partner drills. Forms always came LAST. And there were days it wasn’t there at all.


So when my student, the first one mentioned here, says “All we were missing was some BJJ” they are EXACTLY ON POINT.


I didn’t see the first three UFC events live. I was given them on a video tape as a gift and watched them all in one night. I was fascinated in several ways, watching Royce Gracie win all those matches, wondering why so many so called martial artists seemed so limited in skill. I was definitely interested in this thing called “Gracie Jiujitsu” but I also felt that a major problem was that the other participants really did not have the proper skills for the format.


Not long after I was given the UFC on video tapes, someone also gave me a tape of Japanese shooto. BOOM! There is was. Those guys were doing that ground fighting stuff, they knew submissions. But they also had what I considered the necessary stand up skills of kicking, striking, knees, and stand up wrestling. THIS is what I thought martial art should be. I only had to learn some ground stuff and some more stuff to link it to my existing Chinese martial art based stand up training.


My interest in Shooto subsequently led me to learn about Erik Paulson. Paulson, a walking encyclopedia of martial arts knowledge, challenged me not only to look for “ground fighting” stuff but to expand my knowledge in every area. The rest, as they say, is “history”….


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