Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a style of fighting which has existed for centuries, but only popularized recently. The concept is simple: utilize multiple forms of martial arts to create the most realistic self-defense/combat skills possible. Unlike most other martial arts, MMA utilizes a combination of grappling and striking techniques, drawing from influences ranging from all over the world, including Thai kickboxing (Muay Thai), Brazilian grappling (Jiu-Jitsu), and more. MMA epitomizes a style of combat with relatively very few rules, and the result is a very brutal showing of competition. Recently, MMA has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, made popular by professional fighting organizations, most notably the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It has been classified as the world’s fastest growing sport.
MMA has been, to an extent, very controversial since its commercialization. Many people applaud it as a more realistic fighting style, while others condemn it for its emphasis on brutality and high rate of injuries.
So, does MMA stay true to the ideals of traditional martial arts?
Supporters of MMA have a very good point. The whole idea behind the sport is to bring together the best aspects of each individual style and use them to be the “whole package” fighter. These athletes train for any possible combat situation, including fighting from a distance (akin to such styles as kickboxing and karate), fighting in the “clinch” (influenced by Greco Roman wrestling, Muay Thai, and more), and fighting on the ground (mainly drawing from Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission wrestling). Professional bouts usually encompass periods in each position, and fights can end in either a knockout or submission hold. In order to be successful, fighters train in each style, honing their abilities to eliminate holes in their technique repertoire.
Criticisms of MMA usually come from people renouncing its brutality and departure from the original ideals of martial arts. The argument is that traditional styles of martial arts put just as much emphasis on mental training as physical training, teaching the philosophies of respect, discipline, humility, and conflict avoidance. These people reference many aspects of MMA that depart from these values, including pre-bout hype videos, in which the athletes taunt and jeer at their opponents, growing more and more disrespectful as the fights approach.
Another criticism is that modern MMA has left the classical emphasis of technique precision behind. The claim is that MMA fighters instead try to simply become stronger, faster, or better-conditioned than their opponents, rather than primarily develop better technique. Boxing officials have renounced the boxing in MMA as crude, and the rivalry for Pay-Per-View sales has been prominent since the UFC’s inception.
Overall, both sides have valid points to enhance their opinions on the topic. MMA is certainly a departure from the tradition of historical fighting styles. However, it is simply foolish to say that MMA isn’t a martial art, because its intention of creating a realistically effective fighting style is very evident, and its ability to draw popular interest is clear, based on its exploding popularity over the past few years.