|Royce Gracie vs Matt Hughes – one of the first UFC events I ever watched|
I have been a fan of MMA for a while, now–since some time in 2006 when I watched a UFC event and saw two young fighters battling it out with good technique, and having push-up contests between rounds and high-fiving and hugging each other afterward. Up until then, I had never been interested in it, and always just saw it as uncivilized brawling done by muscular guys with big egos. That one fight turned me around and showed me that MMA required skill and that at least some of the people that participated in it were good, respectful people. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked and watch as many MMA events as I can.
|Myself competing at the Midwest Regional Championships as a Shuri-Ryu practitioner|
2006 was also the year that I started training in traditional martial arts, practicing Shuri-Ryu karate at the Academy of Okinawan Karate. Just six months into my karate training, I started attending judo classes as well in order to learn grappling to compliment my striking. Since then, I have transitioned from Shuri-Ryu to practicing Shorin-Ryu karate at Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts, and I have been integrating my judo into my karate training since I started there, which is something I hadn’t been doing before.
|What MMA fans/practitioners think of TMA|
Over the years, I have found that most traditional martial artists do not like MMA, and most MMA fans/practitioners do not like TMA (traditional martial arts). This tends to be because traditional martial artists see MMA as brutal, lacking skill/technique, and generally not adhering to the tenants of traditional arts, while MMA fans/practitioners see TMA as impractical, unrealistic, and a money-making scheme. There is a grain of truth to each of those views, of course. There are often times where MMA fights, especially at a lower level of competition, devolve into sloppy slugfests between disrespectful, egotistical fighters. There are also plenty of traditional schools that teach things that simply don’t work if you try to use them on someone who is fighting back, but market them as practical and overcharge for everything. Still, for every bad example of TMA or MMA, there is a good example out there, somewhere.
|The cover for the video of the first ever UFC event|
As a TMA practitioner, but an MMA fan, I have a different perspective than most. I see MMA as entertainment, certainly, but I also value its role as a test for what striking and grappling techniques work under pressure against someone who is actively fighting back. It is definitely not the same as a self defense situation, but the techniques that work in MMA will also work just as well in self defense–a solid punch to the face is a solid punch to the face, as they say. Modern MMA really started with the Gracie family hosting the first UFC events to pit their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu against other martial arts, and the Gracies showed how important it was to be able to grapple. Since then, MMA has evolved to a well-balanced style of martial arts all its own, and it is still evolving.
|Motobu Choki demonstrating a simple defense against someone attempting a throw|
The concept of MMA, however, is much older. For as long as people have been fighting, they have sought out others to learn how to fight better. Within the realm of karate, as that is my chosen martial art, we even have written accounts of this occurring. Several Okinawan karate masters of antiquity trained with multiple teachers, and a great many of them also participated in tegumi, which was a native grappling art practiced for leisure/recreation in Okinawa that once included pins, joint locks, and chokes. That art has since evolved into a sumo-like sport called shima. The extensive grappling experience that they would have gained through tegumi practice would have carried over into their karate and make them a well-rounded martial artist. Many even participated in full-contact challenge matches to test themselves.
|Iain Abernethy – karateka, judoka, and practical karate proponent|
My martial arts goals have shifted and become more focused over the years, and I really want to bring my karate back to its roots. I want to pare down the number of kata that I practice and really dig into them and practice/teach practical, effective self defense techniques from them. I also want my training to be alive, with resistant opponents so that I have to make sure my techniques truly work. Cross-training is also a major factor in doing this, as my judo training has provided me a good base for grappling that I can apply throughout my karate training, but I have to incorporate them and drill them in an alive manner. As a test for myself, I have been intending to participate in an amateur MMA fight–a plan which was delayed due to an injury and then family issues.
|Gerard Gordeau – the first karateka to compete in the UFC|
I am certainly not the first “classically trained” martial artist to test myself through MMA competition, but other people doing it is not the same as doing it for myself. I would also be one of the (very) few Shorin-Ryu practitioners to compete in MMA–the only “mainstream” Shorin-Ryu-based MMA fighter that I am aware of is Mike Ciesnolevicz, and he hasn’t fought in over 2 years. Last night, I started working with my Sensei on MMA-focused training, and we plan to continue that training to help me prepare. The things we are drilling are based on our karate fighting methods, my judo experience, and my instructor’s eclectic mix of jujutsu experience, tempered with our knowledge of modern MMA. Will the traditional martial arts I practice be enough to beat someone trained with modern MMA methods? I believe so, but the only way to be sure is to do it.
|The MMA promotion I will be fighting in|
I have been in contact with a local MMA promotion called Rage in the Cage, and as long as they can find an opponent for me, I will be fighting in the Amateur Welterweight division on August 10th at the Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler, AZ. The fight should be recorded on video, so I should be able to do a post-fight breakdown of my failings and successes.