When people think about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), they typically think about the combative sport that was popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and is practiced in a specialized Octagon, Cage or Arena. Starting in 1993,UFC introduced full contact martial arts competitions that allowed the use of both striking and grappling. Those competitions were originally “no holds barred” competitions, with very few rules. As the sport evolved, additional safety rules were introduced, so as to reduce the risk of injury to contestants. While true “no holds barred” full contact fighting is very realistic, it also results in very short fights (which don’t make a good spectator sport), and often results in life-debilitating injuries to the contestants. As the old Chinese proverb goes “when two tigers fight, one is killed and the other is injured”.
MMA allows for combative sports athletes to compete in a relatively safe environment. MMA’s popularity is also tied closely to the popularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (jujitsu) or BJJ, as members of the Gracie family brought Vale Tudo competitions from Brazil to the US, and helped popularize UFC and MMA. Famously, in 1993, Jiu-Jitsu fighter Royce Garcie won the first UFC tournament using BJJ techniques to bring three opponents to submission in less than five minutes. Obviously, this led to a very high level of interest in BJJ among MMA practitioners, and BJJ and ground fighting is now very prominent in MMA competitions.
At Full Potential Martial Arts
If you are looking to train and compete in MMA-style events, you will probably benefit from attending a dedicated, MMA-style gym. At Full Potential Martial Arts, our focus is on studying the martial arts for practical self-defense and self-development. For these reasons, we frequently train in techniques that are very effective in getting you to safety, but are barred by the rules of MMA. It makes little sense for a woman who is being assaulted to “play fair” and not use eye gouged, groin strikes, small joint manipulations, or any other techniques that can help her get to safety. There is no “playing fair” when the safety of you or your loved ones is concerned. We sincerely hope that our students never find themselves in a position where they have to fight, but if they have no other choice, we prepare them to use everything they can to their advantage, so they can end the fight quickly and escape to safety. At Full Potential Martial Arts, we also study weapons such as escrima sticks and knives. Those are often excellent weapons of opportunity, and understanding them can make a huge difference in a self-defense situation. Understandably, such techniques (and weapons) are barred by the rules of the MMA ring, as they introduce a high risk of injury to the contestants.
It is sometime popular to think that MMA introduced the concept of “cross training” in martial arts, that is, training in multiple martial arts to produce the “best” fighter. It is common among today’s UFC contestants to train in boxing to improve striking abilities, and Muay Thai to perfect kicking — all helpful in stand-up fighting, as well as fighting from the clinch. UFC contestants also train in BJJ, Judo and submission wrestling to enhance grappling skills. However, this is not entirely true. Beyond combative sports, an additional definition of Mixed Martial Arts / MMA is as it applies to comprehensive martial arts. I.e., martial arts that seek teach effective fighting at long range (kicks, strikes), close range / melee range (elbows, knees, grappling) and on the ground. Such “mixing” of martial arts — MMA — has deep roots in Okinawan and Chinese martial arts, going back several centuries. Throughout history, it is common to find prominent martial artists that have trained in many styles, to round up their skills. As an example, Matsumura Sokon (“Bushi Matsumura”), considered to be one of the original karate masters of Okinawa and lived in the early 19th century, is documented to have trained in Japanese Jigen-ryū, in Chinese Fujian White Crane Kung Fu from the Shaolin system, and in the Okinawan Karate system of Sakukawa Kanga. This is because martial artists have always recognized the benefit of broad knowledge and competency — especially for the old masters, such knowledge was the difference between life and death.
Combative sports athletes deserve the deepest respect and appreciation. MMA fighters are some of the most fit, most well rounded athletes in the world today. MMA also helps increase the public’s awareness of empty-hand martial arts, and help the martial arts community grow. Whether, and how much of your martial arts training should include combative sports versus self-defense training is up to you to decide. You are invited to try a free martial arts class in our San Diego (Carmel Valley) studio, and give us a try.