MMA Articles

Mixed Martial Arts: An Introduction to MMA

The popularity of mixed martial arts competitions such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has been rising exponentially over the last decade. However, some people may be surprised at exactly what mixed martial arts are. Well, to a certain extent it’s just what its name implies. It consists of combining the various martial arts and incorporating these techniques into a repertoire of martial skills.

If there is so much demand for mixed martial arts (MMA), why not before. Actually, it’s done before. The ancient Greek Olympics had a sport called pankration and involved fighting and hitting and there were no rules. Pankration means “almighty.” Pollution was the unrestricted fight (NHB) in its day. Vale tudo competitions were very popular in Brazil during the twentieth century. Vale tudo also had a limited number of rules. Vale tudo means “nothing goes” in Portuguese. Vale tudo tournaments are probably the closest offspring to the UFC.

As you can see, MMA is not just new. But, it has been highly perfected and polished over the last few decades. When the UFC first started, it was just a contest to see which martial arts discipline was best. The Brazilian Gracie family believed that they had the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And, to some extent they proved that. Royce Gracie won UFC 1, 2, and 4 frequent fights against a larger opponent. I still love watching videos of Royce. Royce Gracie put Jiu Jitsu from Brazil “on the map.” However, the UFC arose from its humble origins. Weight classes and other rules came into effect. Contestants realized that they could combine warring, grappling, and striking skills. So the sport of MMA was born.

For More UFC History, Check Out The Books:

  • Blood in the Cage: Martial Arts, Pat Miletich, and Furious Rise of the UFC
  • Heart of a Fighter: One Man ‘s Journey Through the World of Fighting

Boxing and Other Martial Arts

When I was growing up, boxers were well known in America. I was familiar with the names Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Oscar de la Hoya, Mike Tyson, James “Buster” Douglas, and Evander Holyfield. But the popularity of boxing has declined over the years perhaps in part due to the growing interest in MMA. The only boxers I know very well now are Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Bernard Hopkins, and Manny Pacquiao. He likes boxing movies Rocky perhaps it contributed to his popularity. Even now, boxing movies can be as The Fighter.

The Karate Kid put some of us under the control of karate. And, the movieKickboxer Introduce me to Muay Thai. Steven Seagal did some interesting martial arts in his movies. Many of us have also seen kung fu movies. I grew up in the Midwest, so I was always interested in fighting. I took a Taekwondo class during college. I’ve seen kick-box contests on TV from time to time. There seemed to be a time when certain martial arts practitioners were not interested in learning other martial arts and many people thought that martial art was their favorite. MMA seems to have shown that a combination of fighting styles works best to achieve fighting dominance. Even the military and police forces use MMA techniques.

Primitive Mixed Martial Arts

Senator Bruce Lee acknowledged that traditional martial arts had limitations and were not always practical in real life situations. Bruce Lee studied and critiqued many traditional forms. Lee’s approach to martial arts and his emphasis on practicality makes him a forerunner of mixed martial arts. Gene LeBell “Judo” beat boxer Milo Savage in 1963 with a choke lapel in one of the first MMA-type tournaments. In addition, Muhammad Ali fought Antonio Inoki for a draw in 1976 in what would be considered a primitive MMA tournament.

Land and Pound, Sprawl and Brawl, Submissions

As I discussed earlier, mixed martial arts, the UFC, and other MMA tournaments came into being and showed that combining the martial arts can lead to a dominant fighter. Strategies were soon developed. Some better competitors were entering into relationships so they liked to use the “land and pound” strategy. Some were better at kicking and punching so they employed the “sprawl and brawl” strategy. And, other experts at submissions (locking and choking) had adhered to that strategy.

Fighting Background

Many mixed martial artists come from a variety of background backgrounds:

Royce Gracie – Jiu Jitsu from Brazil

Pat Miletich – wrestling, karate, kickboxing

Matt Hughes – fighting

Tito Ortiz – fighting

Randy Couture – wrestling

Chuck Liddell – wrestling, Kempo, Koei-Kan Karate-do, and kickboxing

Keith Jardine – karate

Lyoto Machida – karate

BJ Penn – Jiu Jitsu from Brazil

Kazushi Sakuraba – take up war

Fedor Elemianenko – sambo

Karo Parisyan – judo

These fighters, of course, combined other skills with their main fighting style to become complete fighters.

Mixed martial artists combine many skills from many disciplines including but not limited to freestyle warfare, Greco-Roman hurling, arresting wrestling, judo, sambo, Jiu jitsu from Brazil, Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing and karate.

Greek Basil

I read a book while in elementary school called The Great Brain. In one story in this book, the Great Brain (Tom) helps teach a Greek immigrant boy how to fight in America so that he is not bullied and selected. Tom notices that Basil is not very good at boxing but that he is very good at catching, especially head bells. Tom develops a fighting strategy for Basil in this regard.

Here is a tiny excerpt from the book:

Tom and Basil were waiting inside the barn. “This is going to be a rough tumble fight,” Tom announced. “Anything goes, lumberjack style.”

“Suits me,” Sammy said, grinning.

Well, Basil was able to grab Sammy in the back of his head and put him on the ground (la “land and pound”). Basil was able to neutralize Sammy’s pounds and win the fight. That’s how MMA works. A fighter can use his skills to neutralize the skills of another fighter. Combining skills works better than using one fighting skill exclusively.

You have it. I hope you enjoyed this introduction to mixed martial arts. And I hope that you will continue to watch and participate in this sport perhaps as it evolves and grows.

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