A lot of people ask this question, what is MMA? I am yet to find a good answer out there, although it should be very clear since it is time that we all realize that it is here to stay. You could sure look it up on Wikipedia, but to me, that wikipedia article is missing the whole point of MMA since it just simply talks about where it came from. I’ll take a stab at it, we need to refer to it as to what it is, A SPORT. Yes, MMA is Mixed Martial Arts. I see it as a proven reality. A reality formed by experience. MMA is a SPORT that formed because the participants of the original Ultimate Fighting Championship realized that they needed to make their fighting styles better by adding techniques from other martial arts disciplines, and the promoters tried to make it more acceptable for main stream America by having athletic commissions regulate it and added more rules to make the fighter’s safety the number 1 priority. That is MMA. That is Mixed Martial Arts. A SPORT that consists in the regulated hand to hand combat of 2 athletes trained in various forms of martial arts. An MMA Fighter is an athlete that trains himself to learn and use the best techniques from different martial arts (Muay Thai, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, and Sambo) and conditions himself with the best strength and conditioning methods to enter the octagon or cage and compete against another athlete under similar conditions to see who the best is. At the end of the bout, the athlete that learned the most techniques and was able to apply them correctly and was better conditioned will prevail. That to me is a SPORT. Similar to football, were the NFL athletes have to study playbooks, conditioned themselves, come up with a game plan and apply their knowledge on the field to win a game, MMA athletes do the same to win a bout. Today it would be ignorant to think otherwise, MMA is a Sport and has become a lifestyle as well. Clothing lines, training gear, training facilities, nutrition are all now part of the sport’s culture.
Now, like anything else, it is important to know where it came from. We all know that we have many different styles of martial arts out there: Muay Thai, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, Sambo, Kickboxing, Kung Fu, etc. even those crazy big guys – Sumo. These styles have fought against their own members, but no one ever thought of putting them to the test against other styles. Not until the Gracie family brought the UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championship to the USA. Although we have to mention that before The Ultimate Fighting Championship, as early as the 1920’s, there have been Vale Tudo matches in Brazil and some other parts of the world. But never until the UFC has it been clearly shown martial art style vs. martial art style to determine which one was the most effective. In the early days of the Octagon, you could easily see that a Boxer would go against an opponent who was a Karate master or a Kun fu expert. Or a man weighting 250lbs go against one weighting 170lbs. This was the early days of the UFC were the Gracie family showed that Jiu Jitsu was the best martial art style to know by winning 3 of the first 4 UFC tournaments. Although, in my personal opinion, it would have been a little different if Bruce Lee had been around or maybe even happened sooner. Not saying he would have defeated Royce, but even though he was older when the UFC came around something tells me he would have gotten involved somehow or even had a protégé compete. Bruce Lee in his days was one the first ones to talk about MMA by insisting that a fighter should be well rounded, know a little bit from every style and how to defend it. He developed techniques to fight standing as well as some ground and submission techniques. That is why he used to say he could defend any style.
Here is where the reality kicks in: only those who master different styles of fighting, both stand-up and ground techniques, close-up and long striking techniques, would be become successful, long term, inside an Octagon. Fighters realized that they couldn’t compete just knowing one style and then: Boom! – That is where MMA comes in. Mixed Martial Arts. You had to be a great kick boxer, judo, boxer, Kung Fu, to be successful. Initially, most fights were fought standing up, except the ones involving Jiu Jitsu fighters. Nowadays, fights can end on both ways because everyone is aware of every aspect of the game.
I understand that some people out there are calling MMA as Modern Martial Arts. No offense, but I believe that it is too early to start coining that phrase. I think that after centuries and centuries of teaching from grand masters of the different styles – it is unfair to state, in only two decades that we are to move to a new Modern Martial Arts. New styles will continue to evolve from this continuing evolution, and once consolidated, proven, experienced we may see ourselves in a new era for Martial Arts. To add to Bruce Lee’s story. He openly and publicly mentioned that he had developed a specific style which he could use to defeat any opponent what-so-ever. Of course, this caused a tremendous burden to him, as challenger after challenger continued to present himself to disprove his remarks. Hey – I still think that even today, Bruce Lee’s could kick some nasty behinds out there. I am sure that, even he would eventually find an opponent that would defeat him. But talk about a perfectionist, a master of martial arts. Not one specific martial art, but many: Mixed Martial Arts. Today, those who enjoy this sport, the intricacies of every technique, and the detail of every move being made standing up and on the ground, are proud to see how it has grown to become mainstream. This explosion, led by UFC, and closely followed by great organizations like ProElite, Maximum Fighting Championship, Bellator, Strikeforce, and even smaller ones like King of the Cage, Titan Fighting Championship, Championship Fighting Alliance, have created a complete culture around it.
Technology for fighting and training continues to improve. Nowadays fighters use very specific training “mma gear“, equipment and “mma clothing” to complete their daily routines. Everything from shorts, rash guards, gloves, mits, and even special straps. Special masks have been designed to improve a fighter’s endurance, simulating high altitudes, lower oxygen content during training. We also enjoy now with new MMA style training facilities. Organization like American Top Team, Gracie Academies, are paving the way for new fighters and those who just plain enjoy training a variety of martial arts styles.
Please come back often, as we continue to evolve this article.