CAN MMA GRAPPLING AND THE TRADITIONAL MARTIAL ARTS HELP EACH OTHER?

I remember that in the early 90’s, cross-training became the buzz word the world over. For Traditional martial artists, often fed-up and bored with the way that their styles were being taught, or frustrated that there seemed to be nothing beyond black belt bar some more patterns. For some, this route took them into Freestyle martial arts whilst others started to look at the UFC and how grapplers like the Grades were coming to the fore. At this time, however, there was still a very large distinction between the stand-up (and therefore largely percussive) school of thought and the grapple and submit school of thought that was starting to gain momentum.

Gradually however, both schools of thought realised that they did not have the answer to everything. A puncher or kicker was at a disadvantage on the floor and a grappler was at a disadvantage in a stand-up fight. An evolution took place. Fighters started to follow more of a martial concept than an actual art. They took techniques that suited them and their way of fighting and which enabled them to counter techniques not usually found within the more traditional martial arts. The mixed martial artist was born.

Gone were gradings, gone were dojos, patterns, line work and, in most cases, Gis and Doboks. In were gyms, shadowboxing, partner work, weight training, running, grappling, striking and high intensity training. More and more martial arts either converted (often completely eschewing their martial background) or came direct off the street. Unfortunately, as with any new school of thought, some of the mixed martial art practitioners were somewhat evangelical and forceful in their praise of mixed martial arts, often to the detriment of traditional martial arts.

The lines were drawn. Traditional martial artists leapt to the defence of their respective arts. Your style wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for our style, Mixed martial art’s aren’t any good for the street due to the rules were some of the most common arguments and statements flying across the discussion lists and forums. Mixed martial art counters were, in some ways, very much like those of Jeet Kune Do. You practice dead patterns, None of your training is alive.

The most disturbing thing about this was that both factions were ignoring each other’s strengths and entering into mindless rants that did neither faction any good in the eyes of the other. Mixed martial arts often use some of the most modern training techniques available.

Practitioners are combat athletes, especially those who compete in the ring, and are open to any and all methods of training that help them improve their game. Traditional martial arts also have a lot to offer. Basics are covered extensively both in line work (a structured form of shadow boxing) and patterns as well as on the pads and during sparring (at whatever level of contact is deemed suitable within that style).

Patterns, however, do contain some very useful techniques that can be and are applied within mixed martial arts/grappling. Take Walking

Stance/Gunnun Sogi/ Zenkatsu Dachi for example. When in the side choke, your ‘lead’ hand is often under and around the opponent’s neck with your lead leg checking up by their shoulder. This leg is usually at a 90 degree angle. The back leg is splayed backwards with the inside of the heel touching the mat and the ‘rear’ hand is used to bring your opponent’s other arm as far back to your hip as possible.

Now, if a traditional martial artist is honest with themselves, most would admit that they would not have thought about how walking stance, low block could be applied other than standing up and (God forbid I know) blocking a front kick of whatever kind. Taking away the opponent, you can see that the stance is very similar (bar some very insignificant differences) to the upright walking stance.

From the traditional viewpoint, mixed martial arts and grappling seem to ignore some very valuable tools. Quite simply, pressure points are at the core of patterns. Whether your viewpoint is that Traditional Chinese medicine is the best or Western medicine or indeed the ‘Just Hit Here’ theory is the best it does not matter. They can and do work in these situations.

Take the point just behind your ear-lobe. If you find yourself backed on in a position where your opponent is able to choke or headlock you, pressing your finger into the recess and then towards their jaw will give you breathing space. Do not expect miraculous results. Whether the moon is full or not will not cause a delayed death, you will not even get a knockout (unless you hit hard of course). What you will get is an opening to move and a breather as they try to clear your hand away. For those in the know, even this small gap this can be invaluable when trying to get an advantage.

In summary, it should be clear to all concerned that mixed martial arts and grappling arts can help traditional martial artists find new avenues to explore when looking at their patterns. However, it should also raise the question as to whether mixed martial arts are an evolution or a devolution, I.e., are they merely returning to the source and original purpose of the martial arts before they were outlawed and practitioners often had to study alone in their houses? And if yes, is the fact that they are often bound by and train to rules to their detriment?

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