Traditional Martial Arts.. Do they have a place in MMA

Traditional Martial Arts.. Do they have a place in MMA

If you take a look back to the old UFC and how things were in the dark ages of Mma, one of the major things that stands out was that it wasn’t really MMA back then. Apart from a few guys along the lines of Ken Shamrock, there weren’t many fighters who were cross training different disciplines, it was all about style versus style.

I cast my mind back to the first UFC I ever watched, UFC 6 to be exact, I remember watching John Matua against Tank Abbot. It stands out so strongly in my mind because I got sucked from the off, by the intros where the fighters showcased their deadly crafts through shadow boxing and close up camera angles. I was trying to pick the winners based on these in-depth pieces. One that stood out was John Matua. I remember I whole heartedly decided to go with him as the one to win his fight, how did I reach this educated decision by simply watching his intro I hear you ask?.
Well, John had me at “the Hawaiian art of bone breaking”. I watched the screen in awe, looking at him throw a series of bone breaking elbows into thin air while I pondered what were the chances of my local social club doing a class on Hawaii bone breaking. I felt pity for this Tank fella and his poor bones, and wondered if he knew what he was in for.

My worrying was misplaced, well for Tank anyway, as he walked through Matua leaving him literally poleaxed. The realization started to dawn on me that you needed more than a cool intro showing you breaking bones in the sky, to be good at this Ultimate Fighting thing. It’s a good example, because it showed to me, that in order to be effective in Martial Arts you need to have more than just a cool sounding name that looks good on paper.

Looking back I see I was massively naive, but guess most of us were back then, and this is why I love MMA as it cuts through most of the crap. MMA can be one, or as many combat sports as you think would be effective. My girlfriend says its a ‘greedy’ sport as it combines several elements and while a somewhat a basic description.. she’s right.
The main disciplines in Mma that work are Thai Boxing, Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Ju Jit su & Catch Wrestling, but If a new Martial Art came along that really gave MMA fighters an edge (I’m not holding my breath) and helped kick everyone’s ass, then guess what? 99% of MMA fighters would be trying it.. simply because it worked.

We have the advantage of not having been brain washed since childhood, so that when their Sensei waves his hands in our direction we don’t fling ourselves across the dojo .
This is important because even though MMA guys love Thai Boxing, Boxing, Jits, Wrestling etc, they love them because they actually work, not because they’re chained to any one of them. That’s why MMA can’t be beaten, because it’s ultimately whatever works.

The more I watched back in the day, the more it became apparent that Traditional Martial Arts weren’t getting the job done. Karate, Taekwondo and Wing Chun practitioners were getting jacked pretty much every time they stepped in the cage. That’s why you don’t see a host of MMA fighters doing Wing Chun. Because when you step in there to fight, you really want effective shit in your armoury that works.
At the start of the UFC some Traditional Martial Artist’s drank their own Kool aid, you know this because there they were standing front & centre of the cage ready to put into acton their strong self belief of their misguided art. When they were smashed, beaten and spat out the other end, the excuses began to fly. I think a quote that I saw on the back of a old UFC video went something along the lines of ” I was in a bad position, I saw the chance to apply a move that can kill a man, but I didn’t come here to kill anyone” EYYY??!!?? the quote should of said ” I was in a bad position because I’ve wasted a lot of not only my childhood but my adult life on something that bears no relevance to fighting MMA” I can see how as a fighter, if you find yourself in this situation, how truly depressing it would be and that it takes a strong strong person to realise this and then carry on!

Here’s a couple of reasons why Traditional Martial Art’s are bound to fail. Let’s take Wrestling for example, Wrestling takes a long time to grasp and to say it’s hard is an understatement. Bristol is blessed with a couple of great Iranian wrestling teachers, I mean these guy are top notch. And guess what? Their classes aren’t half as busy as they should be. Why? Because people like the thought of doing something but don’t really want to sweat. Enter Traditional Martial Arts, some instructors see an opportunity to make some cash and start a T Martial Art that’s aim is to make people feel like their learning something without actually learning anything. All the while they’re making money I.E For Kit, Grading’s and Class Fees. So when some one achieves there 8th dan black belt in ‘Con Ing Yu’ they’ve learnt not a lot, but have definitely spent a lot. Why do I care? Well I don’t really, I’m not on a massive mission to open these peoples eyes because like the wfs/cfs they don’t want to see the light.

The biggest problem I have with Traditional Martial Arts, is that it’s dangerous and ironically NOT as a Martial Art.. but to the user. Let me explain, many years ago I was once asked if I’d like to go to a Ninjutsu class, I thought why not, I’m always open to learning a different style/twist on something. What I witnessed at the class truly horrified me.
Firstly, it was teaming with people all kitted out in the Ninjutsu team t-shirt and fight trousers.. all compulsive items. Next was the one and only technique I was taught, because after watching it i remembered I’d left an imaginary pie in my imaginary oven and I had to get home before an imaginary fire burnt my imaginary house to the ground.
So what was the this legendary technique?? First off, if a left hook was thrown, you were meant to block it by aiming both your arms at their elbow. Upon blocking this in-coming punch you were then to drop to one knee, and deliver a chop (to achieve this chop you fold your fingers to your palm) it was explained to me that you had three pressure points around the knee and when you delivered said chop with force ( which everyone was told not to do) it would collapse your victim to the floor.

I thought it was all a joke at first but with horror and dread I saw the sea of people having a go at this deadly technique, then with a mixture of excitement and zeal nod along in agreement at how very deadly this technique was. Now, I don’t know if there are three pressure points around the knees. Let’s say there are and when you chop one of these points you collapse on the deck. Let’s say all this is true.. In the real world were you ever called upon to use this move, in my opinion this is what’s likely to happen. First off, if you don’t get knocked out before blocking this one left hook with both your arms and you than drop down to your one knee to strike your victims knee, you have to be so so luckily to hit those 3 magic pressure points ( if they even exist) It’s not even like you can perfect your technique by practising this move as your told not to do it as it’s so dangerous and deadly.
Hence why I feel a lot of Traditional Martial Arts are dangerous, because what should happen on paper doesn’t always translate to real life. I hope no poor fucker has ever bent down to strike these famous pressure points while in a bar fight, because if they have, there teeth would have surely have been flying across the room as some random drunk booted them straight out of his mouth.

I can almost here the fans of Traditional Martial Arts shouting “but what about Bruce Lee” I would say Bruce Lee was in many ways the first real MMA Artist. He trained everything from Boxing to Wrestling, plus was amazingly dedicated and gifted!! MMA wasn’t around then so it makes it more amazing that he was training different disciplines (MMA), he was extremly knowledgable in that he realised one Martial Art doesnt cover everything. “So what then about Machida and Chung Lee? They’ve been at the top of the MMA food chain, They use Traditional Martial Arts”… explain that one Thompson!! Well ok I will.. It is true that both these MMA fighters have had great success in MMA using Traditional Martial Arts, but my friends they’re the exception to the rule because not only have they adapted the best bits of these Traditional Martial Arts to MMA they themselves have excellent timing and awareness of distance to put all this together.

Here’s a good example… My very good friend Zelg Galesic who I am sure has been doing Taekwondo since he was a foetus. Now.. I don’t care much for the Taekwondo, and that’s probably because I can’t even head kick a midget, but I do see a lot of effective elements in it. The spinning kicks, axe kicks and general hip flexibility are dangerous but translates that much better to MMA as you have someone like Zelg who only owns fast twitch muscles. Basically some of the moves are useful, if the PERSON using them is gifted anyway.

Summing it all up I’m not saying all Traditional Martial Arts are a waste of time and I’m not saying you can’t use some elements of Traditional Martial Arts in MMA. What I am saying is that you need Wrestling, Ju Jitsu, and Thai/ Boxing as your core and the rest is a useful add on.. If you’re one of the few who really wants to improve and advance but have just fallen into a joke Traditional Martial Art, you have to uncurl your chopping hand, burn those stupid fucking Combat pants and go learn some MMA.

25 thoughts on “Traditional Martial Arts.. Do they have a place in MMA

  1. Bret says:

    Nice work. I would however just make a few points regarding traditional martial arts…What about Lyoto Machida, George St Pierre and Anderson Silva? Here you have 3 traditional martial artists all using their craft very effectively.
    What I do think that traditional Martial arts teaches is discipline. Wrestling, Muay Thai, BJJ, are all traditional arts. What may be missing is that too many guys these days just train “MMA”…and there lies the difficulty. I think if you look at any top level MMA fighter and their respective training programme, what you will find is that they spend focused sessions on each area. What makes someone a great fighter is the ability to assess their current situation/position, look into their armoury and select the right weapon to use at the time.
    While I agree no one ever won a championship belt with a Dim Mak or old fashioned Karate chop…Silva did KO Belfort with a front kick….

    • jcolossus says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read. out of the 3 fighters you’ve mentioned, I did mention Machida. THe reason I didn’t mention the others is that I very rarely see them ring any traditional martial arts. I mean gsp comes down wearing some kind of traditional martial arts Gi, but other than that I can’t actually think of the last time he used some type of strike lock etc I am kicking myself because I forgot to mention the discipline side of trad martial arts as a positive for it, but it was a long blog and I forgot. Cheers pal

      • Bret says:

        Yes fair comment about GSP…I was just pointing out that he cam from a traditional back ground. BTW, this was a great read, as were your previous entries. just playing devils advocate :-) look forward to your next entry.

  2. Eirik says:

    GSP’s background is Kyokushin karate, which is a full contact sport that teaches you how to fight. Can’t really compare that to ninjutsu and its ilk.

    Anderson Silva has a Traditional background like almost everyone else in MMA, but he also supplies it with a great “sport martial arts” game.

    Lyoto Machida crosstrains extensively and mostly uses his karate for distance control.

    James said himself that “you need Wrestling, Ju Jitsu, and Thai/ Boxing as your core and the rest is a useful add on”, which is exactly what almost every successful MMA fighter does (including but not limited to the three guys you mentioned).

    Good to see you share your thoughts James, it’s always a entertaining read!

    • Johan says:

      Yep, several people have kyokushin in their arsenal (e.g. Bas Rutten), some even taekwando (Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson), of course with extensive training in other disciplines. Would be interested to hear on what James thinks of what’s best: being a specialist in one area with enough training in the others (Damien Maia – BJJ, Machina – Karate, Crocop,…) or being a jack-of-all trades?

  3. Kyle says:

    Enjoyed the read. I laughed out loud at the “can’t kick a midget” comment haha

  4. Big teddy says:

    You funny fucker Thompson! Excellent read! Is there anything in the rumour that you have signed to fight rolles Gracie at sfl?

  5. An excellent read indeed! Cheers to you Thompson. I just started following you today by the way.

  6. Ricardo says:

    Good read again mate, and i can agree with all points, i was going to say about discipline etc, but you have already addressed that. I started training late 80’s through the 90’s and into earl 2000’s in traditional MA, and to even utter the name of another MA was a sin as your Sensei, Coach or Black Belt would literally convulse at the thought of losing £3.00 a class, which is why i fell out of love with Traditional MA and just did boxing, as it was a bunch of scruffs having a laugh and training hard and fighting each other. The TKD was good though as it had loads of comps and events.
    You should fight bobby lashly next and do an article on Fred Ettish lol……

  7. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after going through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m certainly happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

  8. TonyB says:

    Great read,
    You mention the wrestling coaches in Bristol – can you recommend a few? Currently train with the excellent Pedro Bessa, but always interested in checking others out

  9. Check these videos..

    All pretty much support your view of TMA’s.

    I think one of the main problems with a majority of these TMA’s is the fact they don’t train with live opponents, training tends to consist of “Right, he will punch you here, then you duck there and deliver the deadly blow to his groin”. If you search youtube looking for TMA fights you will often only see choreographed performances.

    The exception to this is kyokushin which tends to train in a similar fashion to Muay Thai with live sparring sessions close to full contact.

    I recently trained in TMA for a short period and although I felt the limb conditioning, breathing exercises, flexibility and discipline aspects were all beneficial and worth taking forwards, there was a distinct lack of sparring and what I thought to be an overemphasis on forms.

    I have now gone back to MMA training (MT/BJJ) and but will continue with the additional flexibility training and breathing techniques etc..

    A question for you James, do you see MMA now as its own style now or as a ruleset?

    • jcolossus says:

      Yeah I agree, on paper it looks good he’ll do this you’ll do that. But in reality it not so simply.

      Not to sure what you mean by rule set. Mma definitely now a sinle fighting discipline made up of whatever works.

  10. Thunder Arms says:

    So true James. I’m a 4th Dan Renshie who has attempted to crossover into Mauy Thai (doesn’t help that I’m 50). The benefits from this background is as you mentioned, the flexibility and mobility coupled with experience with hard regular training. I’ve had to relearn to throw proper Thai kicks (as well as knees and elbows). I have always said a mad street fighter will defeat most black belts on the street. Being a ‘mad as’ black belt gives you an advantage. MMA / Mauy Thai takes little from traditional martial arts. Elvis Sinovic was an exception TKD / All Styles (semi contact) fighter while confined within his organization. It took him several years after he went to Japan to become a good fighter. His mobility and strict training regime certainly helped his transition.

  11. charles older says:

    Very intresting point the pic looks like a teacher of mine were did u get the photo from

  12. Lobo says:

    I’m yet to read someone that said it better than you. Perfect post.

    I respect tradicional martial arts, specially the ones with someone that works, like you said TKD, Karate, Judo. But..i’m tired of the stupid rules that make no sense and ruin the sport, and the so called “masters” that never got tested and don’t aprove fighting. I’ve been fooled by those “masters” when i was younger, good thing i noticed all the bullshit. Some guys are even to this day there, thinking they’re badass and lethal people. Oh well….

    Anyway, great post, JT. Keep the good job.

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