The end of the world as we know it; is MMA killing off the traditional martial arts

18 03 2010

Due mostly to the huge success of competitions such as UFC, Pride and BAMMA more and more people are being switched on to the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), as audience figures continue to grow so do the number of people sitting at home and thinking ‘I wish that was me’ or ‘I could do that.’

The market is never slow to respond to such high levels of demand and as the movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan helped spawn the opening of  a huge number of Dojo’s and training halls worldwide so today there are plenty of instructors and teachers ready and waiting to help this latest generation emulate their own heroes in the Octagon.

A quick search on the net reveals that there are over 150 clubs in the mainland UK alone and these are just the ones that have gone to the effort to create a presence for themselves online. When you take into consideration that MMA has been relatively slow to catch on in the UK compared to countries such as the US or Japan this points to a staggering number of clubs and students worldwide and the number is growing rapidly, this is all very well and good as it helps ensure the continuity of the sport and indeed should help increase the quality of competition beyond that currently seen, many of the fighters that are around today never set out to be mixed martial artists and have jumped on the bandwagon along the way, in particular outside of the big competitions it is not uncommon to see a fight that has received top billing featuring two competitors who don’t have a dozen MMA bouts between them.

To the minds of many though the meteoric rise of MMA comes at a price and we aren’t talking about the sports many detractors who claim that it encourages excessive levels of violence and is contributing to the general downfall of society. Instead the cost of success is being borne by the very group that helped spawn MMA and propel it to its current lofty heights…Traditional martial arts.

The so-called traditional arts such as Karate, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do, to name but a few, have been around for centuries in most cases and certainly predate the Octagon, it is from the traditional disciplines such as these that MMA evolved. It took the punches and kicks of the striking arts and melded them with the chokes, strangles and holds of the more grappling dominated disciplines such as Jiu-Jitsu, throw in a sprinkling of take downs from Judo and Wrestling and you complete the mix.

The problem comes about as more and more clubs turn away from teaching the traditional styles in order to provide for the ever-growing number of people wishing to train in MMA,  on the face of things this might not sound like such a problem, it is simply a case of supply and demand. However for many people this is overlooking the fact that the traditional arts carry with them so much more than a set of techniques you can use to win a bout.

Many traditionalists worry that the spiritual focus of their styles is being lost or watered down and that specific forms and techniques that have been an integral part of training for centuries are being brushed aside , some even go so far as to say that with its glitz, glamour and mainstream appeal MMA might even succeed in marginalizing or killing off traditional martial arts as future generations of potential students will be lured in by the high-octane excitement conveyed by the televised events and pay per view specials.

But is it is all doom and gloom for traditional styles?

Some people within the industry are taking a more measured view in relation to the success of MMA,  they acknowledge that MMA is drawing away some people who otherwise might have become practitioners of the traditional arts but at the same time they realise that not everyone that turns up to train at a school specialising in MMA is going to like it; some people might not like the competitive element that is an integral element of the sport, others might find it too aggressive or just realise that it isn’t for them, of these people many might still want to learn a martial art and will turn to one of the traditional styles that better matches what they are looking for.

It is often said that a rising tide lifts all boats; hopefully this will prove true in this instance and far from sounding the death knell of the traditional martial arts the continued rise of MMA will actually highlight martial arts as a whole and encourage more people to become involved.

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