Are Traditional Martial Arts Underestimated in MMA?

Discussion in 'MMA' started by JJMicromegas, Feb 21, 2010.

  1. JJMicromegas

    JJMicromegas Valued Member

    In MMA we generally have the big four MA's that every fighter must know: Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

    However, I think that there are aspects of other TMA's that are underestimated in their use in the octagon. For example, many kicking techniques in karate and TKD are underutilized IMO. Also many grappling arts from around the world get lumped in with wrestling whereas wrestling is just an umbrella term for a wide variety of arts, ie: Sambo, Judo and many regional styles.

    I guess in the evolution of MMA as a sport the most effective techniques were the ones that prevailed. I am not nostalgic about the early days of MMA where it was about style vs style. On the other hand, I'm wondering if MMA as a sport has pigeon holed a certain skill set and this prevents fighters from exploring other techniques that, when combined effectively, can be devastating and entertaining.

    Your thoughts?
  2. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    The sporting rule sets of the UFC and other MMA competitions favour a certain type of fighter and certain styles of training. That may mean that techniques from other styles are being marginalized, but we can at the very least say that over the years we've come to learn what does and does not work in MMA. Whether that's due to rules, trends, or the effectiveness of some techniques and training styles over others is up for debate.
  3. Kurtka Jerker

    Kurtka Jerker Valued Member

    The standard of MMA in the US is loose enough that the essence of just about any functional art will show through effectively, if trained well.

    It's just that the UFC was originally a sales pitch for Gracie BJJ. It was successful. The Gracies' takedown game (in the octagon) was heavily influenced by western wrestling, so that became popular as well. Muay Thai is just hard, and that appealed to the more or less ignorant fans watching early on. So, those things became popular.
    If you look at Pride FC it was never really this way. Pro wrestling (read: catch wrestling) was a big draw, especially with Sakuraba fighting, so it became a big deal. Other than that it was really down to the individual.

    At this point, it's becoming much more eclectic as the atmosphere of style elitism is slowly eroded by fighters like Machida.
  4. JJMicromegas

    JJMicromegas Valued Member

    This kind of gets to the heart of my point, by marginalizing other styles and sticking to what works are fighters also being complacent and ignoring the possibilities of certain techniques and styles because they are not considered part of the core MMA curriculum.

    To put it another way, is there a lack of innovation in MMA fighting because it is commonly assumed that the most effective techniques are already being used? All sports develop over time and generally there are innovators that bring the sport to a different level.
  5. callsignfuzzy

    callsignfuzzy Is not a number!

    1) Define "traditional martial arts". The ones you list as the "four big MA's that every fighter must know" (an statement that doesn't reflect what's actually occuring in the sport, BTW) could all be considered "traditional", depending on your definition.

    2) Underestimated by whom? Pick any random ten fighters, and you'll find martial arts like karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and Sambo being practiced. If those who are using said martial arts aren't underestimating "traditional" martial arts, who is?

    I'm going to point out right here that "the octagon" doesn't define the whole of MMA. Most fights around the world have historically taken place in rings; even those organizations that use cages don't always use an octagon.

    It depends on the fighter. Matt Hughes is primarily a wrestler with good submissions and solid ground-and-pound. He's not going to be doing any side kicks or spin kicks. Meanwhile, guys like Cung Le, Stephan Bonnar, and Anderson Silva use a variety of kicks. In MMA, fighters aren't cookie-cutter. They come from a variety of backgrounds. When they adapt their "core" style to MMA, they build their additional skills around their base. A grappling-oriented fighter has no need for all but the most rudimentary kicks.

    This statement confuses me. The term "wrestling" is an umbrella expression for grappling systems.

    As well, the skills outside of Western wrestling are noted by commentators of the fights. Lyoto Machida gets credit for his Sumo background; Dong Hyun Kim, Hiromitsu Miura, and Karo Parisyan are singled out as Judo specialists; Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski are well-known for their Sambo backgrounds.

    And it seems by your tone that you have a bit of a problem with that. If what's most effective is being used, why add something less effective?

    Given the variety of fighters and strategies in MMA, I'd say certainly not, has it become pigeon-holed. The breadth of skill required for MMA overshadows that of any other form of martial arts competition. You have to be skilled in kicking, punching, clinch control, clinch striking, clinch throws, takedowns from the outside, ground grappling, ground striking, and submissions. What "certain skill set" do you think is the most prevalent?

    You've yet to establish that "styles" are being marginalized. Also, you again make it sound like "sticking to what works" is a bad thing. And there is no set "core MMA curriculum". The curriculum varies from one gym to the next. The Red Devil team is a Sambo based team; the Yoshida Dojo is based around Judo; Chute Boxe is primarily a Muay Thai gym with BJJ and wrestling taught as a support system; the Miletich gym focuses on boxing and wrestling skills; Team Quest is largely a wrestling gym; American Top Team is primarily BJJ, with a solid boxing program; Sityodtong is primarily Muay Thai, with some BJJ coaches. There are common trends that pop up, but if you're focusing on "styles", they vary greatly from gym to gym.

    I"m sorry, did you say the lack of innovation in MMA?

    [ame=""]Anderson Silva caught flying scissor heel hook - YouTube[/ame]



    [ame=""]Cung Le - Fight Highlights - YouTube[/ame]


    [ame=""]The Original Crazy 20 second Capoeira MMA Knockout! - YouTube[/ame]


    Again, because there are all sorts of fighters from different backgrounds in MMA, we're constantly seeing new techniques. Why do you percieve a lack of innovation?
  6. kolya

    kolya Valued Member

    I'd agree with JJMicromegas that certain styles are indeed marginalised by MMA competitions. Take Chin-Na (the art of seizing and joint locking). The type of joint locks used by Chin-Na are not legal in most officially-sanctioned MMA fights, as far as I know. Holding an opponents' fingers and breaking them would be a crude example of Chin-Na. Therefore learning Chin-Na would have no practical use for a fighter in, say, the UFC.

    Most MMA competitors have to be muscle-bound, terrifically fit athletes, because to win within the rules, many techniques rely on pure physical strength (e.g. a guillotine choke, ground and pound, etc.). This approach means that there's no obvious reason for them to learn something like Tai Chi or Aikido, since they can use their strength to overpower and control an opponent. Besides, an MMA fighter cannot afford to spend learning a martial art that may take more than five years' dedicated practice before it can be used effectively. Their careers are quite short (usually no more than ten years), so they need something that offers obvious and somewhat quick results.

    Having said that, MMA fighters do have a huge range of techniques and styles to choose from, and they do keep evolving. However, they can only improve and evolve within the confines enforced by MMA competitions. They have no need to look outside of these confines in order to win.

  7. Kurtka Jerker

    Kurtka Jerker Valued Member

    This alone irrefutably proves that not only do you have no idea how MMA is trained or works, but have no idea how actual fighting works. If you spar, it is using severely restricted rules.
  8. kolya

    kolya Valued Member

    Yes, I agree that sparring usually involves severely restricted rules. Most MA tournaments have rules. MMA tournaments are no different. There are people who say that MMA fights are much closer to a "real fight" than some other types of MA fights. These people would have a point, since there are a lot more aspects to an MMA fight, than say a boxing match. I'm not sure what you mean by "actual fighting", but did you mean street fight? If so, I'm sure that you'll agree that there are no rules in a street fight.
  9. Kurtka Jerker

    Kurtka Jerker Valued Member

    It's not about rules. You dismissed what you consider to be "MMA techniques" because they "rely on pure physical strength". Grounded striking and other trademarks of MMA are integral to fighting in general, so being totally unfamilar with them would require someone to never train against pressure in a well-rounded way. The first thing you learn about movement, submissions, and grounded positioning, is that technique and intuition are the key. Using muscle in training is counter-productive to the development of fighting ability. In order to be unaware of this, you must be completely unfamiliar with these methods.
    Those that rely purely on strength will never even be considered mediocre. This is true whether it's in a cage, on asphalt, or in a point sparring match.
  10. callsignfuzzy

    callsignfuzzy Is not a number!

    You mean the types of locks that move against the joint? I've got quite a few books in Chin Na, and except for the finger locks, which are themselves a marginal part of Chin Na, all the joint locks are legal. In fact, I'm not sure how many "types" or joint locks there are. You're either putting pressure on the joint or you're not; they all work on the same principles, regardless of what martial art is being studied.

    Fit? Yes. Muscle-bound? Not at all. The definition of muscle-bound is the over-development of muscles; MMA fighters, in general (and there are exceptions at either extreme, ex: Jeremy Horn vs. Bobby Lashley) have the sort of lean muscle mass you'd find on any other athlete who must strike a balance between endurance, explosiveness, speed, strength, and flexibility. But they do not look like body builders.

    As well, the idea that "many techniques rely on pure strength" is pattently false. The techniques used in MMA draw from a variety of sources, but in order to be effective, they rely on leverage, kinetic chaining, proper placement, and so on. The guillotine choke is more about the placement of the forearm and the leverage against the back of the head than a simple squeeze. If the angle is off even slightly, it doesn't work. Likewise, ground-and-pound requires not only good tactical positioning and solid submission defense, both scientific processes in and of themselves, but requires a similar understanding of stand-up striking in order to generate correct force.

    The techniques themselves don't require a high level of fitness. Make no mistake about that. But executing them with a consistant skill level against a highly-trained, physically fit opponent requires more than just technical knowledge.

    Jason Delucia studies Aikido; Sami Berik studies T'ai Chi. I don't doubt there are others with similar backgrounds that I have yet to hear about.

    And the assumption that they use strength to overpower an opponent is a flawed one. You're equating a battle of strategy and technique to an arm-wrestling contest. If it was all about strength, the strongest guys would hold the titles. True, by virtue of striving for physical excellence, the champions tend to be very strong, but no was is BJ Penn or Shinya Aoki the strongest fighter at Lightweight, or Jose Aldo the strongest fighter at Featherweight, or Lyoto Machida the strongest fighter at Light Heavyweight. Your theory isn't supported by the evidence we have in the actual sport.

    And yet, many of them have been studying their craft for a lifetime. Randy Couture started wrestling at age 5. "Shogun" Rua picked up Muay Thai at age 14. Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, the Nogueira brothers, Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, and many more have been studying martial arts since they were children.

    And frankly, if it takes you five years to use your martial art effectively, it's not a very good martial art.

    Actually, there's no telling how long an MMA fighter's career is. There are guys who were fighting in the first few UFC's, back in the mid-90's, who are still competing.

    Unless they chose to move beyond those confines, like Bas Rutten, Greg Jackson, Rory Singer, Paulo Thiago, Royce Gracie, and more. MMA fighters are no more confined than any other martial artist.
  11. boards

    boards Its all in the reflexes!

    From an outsiders perspective it would seem there is a bit of underesitmating so called TMA like karate or kung fu. Look at the hype that was generated when Machida came in using karate and its evasive movements, or Cung Le with his spinning kicks and side kicks. Until recently you would often hear people saying these things were no good in MMA. Suddenly people are raving about these movements being used.
  12. callsignfuzzy

    callsignfuzzy Is not a number!

    Maybe you'd hear that from the casual fan, but guys like Guy Mezger, GSP, Jason Delucia, Jeff Curran, Stephan Bonnar, Kazushi Sakuraba, and David Loiseau had been using side/spin kicks for years. As for the evasiveness, nobody said it was no good, it's just that nobody tried it. What people have said is "no good" is the no-contact training methods found in many "traditional" schools.
  13. Yohan

    Yohan In the Spirit of Yohan Supporter

    No, I think the estimation is right on the money.
  14. kolya

    kolya Valued Member

    I used Chin-Na as an example because there are a lot of wrist locks and finger joint manipulations, which would not be legal in MMA fights. If you've learnt it and have some experience with it, and believe that many of its techniques are applicable to MMA fights, then I stand corrected.

    No, I didn't mean muscle-bound like a body-builder. I meant ripped muscles like a fit person who goes to the gym a heck of a lot. I do understand that too much muscle will hinder rather than help technique.

    I'll agree with you the day I see a skinny dude beat a guy like Brock Lesnar in the UFC. I guess Royce Gracie did it in the early days, when few people had clues about ground fighting. Lesnar was defeated by an ankle lock some time ago. It's possible that a properly-trained person weighing only 50kg could apply the same type of pressure on Lesnar's ankle and produce the same results, but I don't think that the 50kg person would be able to put Lesnar in a position to apply the ankle lock in the first place.

    I do realise that all the guys in MMA have been training for years and years. You don't get to their level of skills overnight.

    That's precisely this type of thinking that marginalises certain types of martial arts as far as MMA competition is concerned.

    Yes, and some of them shouldn't be allowed to fight any more! I watched Couture vs Coleman a few weeks ago. The way Coleman blocked with his face every punch that Couture threw wasn't a pretty sight. Coleman's way past it. Those things shouldn't be allowed. Coleman was a good champion (I've watched his early UFC fights), and doesn't deserve to take damage like that. It was awful to watch.

    Look, I'm not putting MMA down in any way. I have the utmost respect for them for the level of dedication and sacrifice they put in to get to where they are. I've watched countless UFC fights starting with UFC 1, so I'm a fan of MMA.

    I see and appreciate the techniques behind each fight, and it's pretty obvious it's not the physically strongest man who always wins. There's courage, tactics and all sorts of other aspects involved, as in many other sports.

    But despite being a fan, my point of view remains that MMA competitions in many cases favour the strong, where techniques and styles that are applicable to the rules of the sport are preferred over ones that do not appear to fit in.

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
  15. boards

    boards Its all in the reflexes!

    As I said I am a total outsider, MMA is on pay tv in Aus and I dont have it, thus my viewing of it is restricted to the odd sighting on the net, so I will defer to you on the kicking. From the evasiveness side of things I am under the impression that it is fairly standard movement in Karate (tho Machida is obviously much better than most). So if nobody is using it in MMA despite there being people who trained in Karate, then I think that qualifies as not taking Karate (a "TMA") seriously, ie underestimating it.
    As for the no contact training methods I totally agree with you.
  16. Aegis

    Aegis River Guardian Admin Supporter

    These locks exist in a wide variety of martial arts, and few people complain about them being banned because a) they are extremely difficulty yo actually pull off, especially if you haven't practised important techniques as much as the other guy (like being able to stop them from hitting or throwing you), and b) in the very rare cases where these locks work, they generally mess up the joint in question permanently but without necessarily finishing the fight. You can break a finger in training and still carry on (a little harder with a broken wrist, admittedly). Effectively it boils down to the fact that allowing them doesn't really introduce much else worth having in a match-up with another trained fighter, and the fact that in order to use such techniques you must already be better than your opponent at getting to a position where a lock is going to be effective.

    Most people who complain that finger and wrist locks aren't legal in MMA are kidding themselves about how much a difference it would actually make.

    With two people who are nearly equal in terms of all other skills, the stronger one will usually win. That's true of any style of fighting. The reason small guys don't win against the heavyweights is because the smaller guys aren't generally significantly better at martial arts than the big guys. MMA competitors are generally at the top of their game, so strength really starts to matter, and that's perfectly acceptable. Being stronger than your opponent is a huge advantage in a huge range of sports, which is why professional athletes tend to be stronger than us normal people.

    See above. By the way, your example perfectly shows what I was saying above: Gracie (a smaller guy) managed to defeat others who were bigger but less trained in the ground game than he was. It's much less likely to happen now because everyone trains groundfighting to such a high degree if they want to stand a chance in the ring. The advantage of unseen tactics is more or less negated by now.

    That advantage is generally what allows smaller people to defend themselves against larger aggressors in the real world. We generally assume that if you're going to be attacked, it's not going to be by someone highly experienced in all ranges of fighting, so the "trick" of training in stuff they've never seen before generally works ok.
  17. kolya

    kolya Valued Member

    Dunno about that! As a teenager, I once lost my temper and grabbed an overly-aggressive friend's thumb and bent it back. Luckily it didn't break, but it immediately stopped all aggression! I suppose that maybe with so much adrenalin pumping at fight time, some people won't even notice a broken finger until the fight's over.

    I just looked up UFC rules, by the way. "Small joint manipulation" is illegal, but it appears that this only refers to fingers and toes. It would seem that wrist locks ARE legal, which I didn't realise. I've never seen anyone attempt one, though. Probably, because as you say, they're very difficult to implement and/or are easy to defend against.

    Yeah, I absolutely agree. Luckily, there are some martial arts that cater especially to little people like me. :)

    It's good to know that Jason Delucia studies Aikido and Sami Berik studies Tai Chi. I've never seen them fight, and will try to find footage to see if I can recognise some of their techniques. I can't find much info about Jason. Unfortunately, Sami's fight record is something like 15-33-0 (1 NC)... not a good advertisement for Tai Chi! Obviously, he hasn't spent the requisite 25 years practising on a mountain top to make his Tai Chi effective. ;)

  18. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    I'm going to come with the "Its not what you train, its how you train" argument. And use myself as an example.

    I still have sneers when I meet new MMA practioners when I mention my main background is Chinese Kung Fu (Pak Mei). But if it wasnt for my KF, it would've taken me longer to learn Muay Thai and the flexibility it gave me, also gave my fellow wrestlers a frustrating time trying to turn me over.
    On the flip side, wrestling made my overall game stronger and MT improved my trapping and clinching in Kung fu.
    ( I also touched on vale tudo back in '97)

    Saying this, to compete in MMA under their ruleset, you would also need to train under that ruleset as well as against whatever your opponent's fighting style is at the time. Good, hard physical sparring and pressure tested techniques should be the norm in all schools. Which unfortunately cant be found in quite a few.

    ( I am aware I have missed out jits totally in this post )
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
  19. JJMicromegas

    JJMicromegas Valued Member

    Callsignfuzzy, thank you for taking the time to read my post and putting time in to a reply, I do disagree with some of what you said though:

    You are correct in that many fighters come from a variety of backgrounds, however, if you go to any MMA school or look at any MMA curriculum they consist of the ‘big four’ that I mentioned. Even in major MMA events like the UFC, fighters are for the most part categorized in their degree of competency in the big four. Also, the vast majority of fighters entering the sport just stick to learning the big four.

    I think it’s fair to say that it is generally considered that one only needs to study the big four MA’s to become a complete MMA fighter.

    I think that you exaggerate the variety of core MA skills in MMA by highlighting anecdotal evidence of a small sample of fighters. My point was not that TMA’s are not used at all but rather that their effectiveness is under-estimated. Take for example the statement made above:

    This highlights my point very well. TMA’s are so underestimated that when a fighter successfully uses techniques outside of the big four it is considered a novelty. Same goes for many of the fighters that you mentioned in your post and linked in your videos, they are exceptions to the rule not representative of the norm.

    In my post I defined the big four (MT, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling) and the styles that are not included in those as marginalized. To highlight my point further, you ironically just listed a bunch of world-class gyms that focus on the ‘big four’ for training MMA fighters. Note that they all focus on some mixture of the big four with the exception of two. This pretty much proves my point of the homogenization of MMA techniques.

    I am not saying that ‘sticking to what works’ is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, I think it is one of the innovations of MMA and changed our thinking about MA’s in general (you could argue that Bruce Lee’s philosophy was the predecessor to this). However, I am wondering if by sticking to what works too doggedly, as evidenced by your own list of world-class gyms and their curricula, are we homogenizing the sport and missing out on some truly effective techniques that various TMA’s offer.

    That is not to say there are not innovators in the sport, and I am happy for them, I loved your highlight reel of youtube videos. In fact I would like to see more such techniques, but I think it goes without saying that these are the exceptions to the rule, not the norm. There is a small contingent of fighters that are innovative and use a variety of techniques effectively, but for every one of those I could point out 10 times as many fighters that stick to the big four.

    Absolutely correct, I think what MMA and the dominance of the big four have taught us is that full contact full speed sparring (or almost at full) is the only way to truly learn the effectiveness of one’s techniques. This is a common feature of the big four, however, as you have highlighted there are a lot of things that other TMA’s have to teach us about fighting that would expand our fighting horizons.
  20. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Here's my take on this question: MMA gyms might make the suggestion that the "big four" are all you need to succeed. But the thing is that they're right. Not to say that other styles wouldn't also let you succeed. But it's accurate to say that people crosstrained in muay thai, boxing, and submission wrestling DO generally perform well in MMA. So it's not like it's a falsehood.

    The other thing I'd say is that it's not really the responsibility of the MMA community to go out and search for things in the traditional arts and bring them back to the ring. If they've got a formula that works, what's the issue? There will always be individuals who opt to innovate. And when they show the rest of the MMA crowd that something works, they'll start adopting it.

    That doesn't seem like a particularly unusual arrangement to me. I don't think that TMA is somehow "owed" a second look by the MMA community. If TMA practitioners are particularly concerned with their view by the MMA community, then it's their responsibility. And guys like Machida are willing and able to do that.


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