What is MMA?

Discussion in 'MMA' started by Flying Crane, Mar 15, 2006.

  1. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    OK, I am asking this question in all honesty. Then name itself give a big clue, but I would like to get some more information, as I have no involvement with the MMA community and I would appreciate getting on board enough to understand where this comes from and what it is all about.

    I understand it is Mixed Martial Arts, taking the best (hopefully) techniques from many styles and using them in heavy-contact competition.

    What I don't understand is: what makes it MMA? Is anyone who practices more than one art considered a Mixed Martial Artist, whether or not he competes? Has MMA evolved into an art with a somewhat standardized curriculum, at least within a certain group, or is it recreated with every individual who begins by studying more than one art?

    A little enlightenment would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Michael
     
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  2. Phil Elmore

    Phil Elmore Master of Arts

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    MMA is simply a catch-all term for martial arts that have become sporting competition.
     
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  3. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Well, it is a name, and nothing more. As soon as you start trying to define it into a "styl" you have missed the point entirely. It is not about following a specific style, or a specific instructor. It is about training the individual to be the best they can be, as an individual.

    In MMA the objective is not to look a certain way, or rely on certain techniques, it is not about memorizing terms or repeating "forms", no what it is about is improvement and performance in a live environment. There is no list of techniques, no terms to remember, no testing, instead there is just hard work, sweat and experimental learning.

    We don't wear rank, we don't even have rank, it just isn't necessary, or even compatible with what we do. Rank gives a hierarchy, it tells you who gets to tell who they are right or wrong in what they are doing. This is not the way we feel progress can be made, how can you work as a team when you have such a visible hierarchy? Why can't that white belt (that happens to have several years wrestling) contribute to the black belts understanding of takedowns?

    When you train with people regularly you learn very quickly who is capable of what, what strengths / weaknesses each person has, and who can help you get better at different things. 2 minutes of sparring can tell you far more about a persons skill then a coloured belt and stack of certificates ever could.

    So what is it we do?

    Well, we train, we learn, and we sweat. Instead of asking ourselves what techniques we need to memorize to get the next belt, we ask ourselves what we need to work on to improve ourselves, not in the eyes of a examiner, but on the mats, in practice, not in theory.

    We do this by constantly reassessing what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we can do it better. There is no 100 year old curriculum handed down from some old master on the other side of the world that has never been critically examined since. We wouldn't accept that in an applied science class, and Martial Arts training is an applied science.

    We don't progress according to a checklist and when an examiner says we do, we progress based on our own development and our own effort. There is a range of skill levels, you can think of it as a long line if you like. Everyone starts at a different point, and not everyone can reach the same point along that line. What is important is that as we train we move up that line, and keep moving up it. There are no preset roadmarks along the way, there can't be. Not without discouraging some and limiting the rest. We can't put speed limits on progress, and that is exactly what a belt system with time restricted / based testing does.

    We don't limit ourselves to what has been done, instead we are interested in what could be done. We are constantly looking for better ways, if we find a problem in what we are doing we work to fix it, not ignore as "Not a part of our style". Science was stuck in the dark ages for a long time because of this sort of thinking, and the Martial Arts should not repeat that mistake. Aristotle was brilliant, but his work has been improved on by many generations of scientists. Many of the old masters where undoubtedly brilliant martial artists as well, and their work has been improved on as well.

    One of the biggest concerns many who do not know much about MMA has is often safety, and how hard it is on the body, that it is only for young athletic people. But this is simply not true. What we do is about moving forward and finding better ways to do things. This is in all aspects of training, including staying healthy and not getting hurt. We do not restrict ourselves to sports training methods from 100 years ago, instead we look to modern sports science for training methods and healthy training practices.

    MMA training can be perfectly safe, and it can also be taken to a competitive level and into rings. But so can any other sport. Karate has bare knuckle full contact competitions, Tae Kwon Do goes full contact in competitions, Kung fu is the same. You can start with flag football and go all the way to the NFL too. Not everyone is capable of competing at the top level, in fact most people would get hurt if they tried, but this is the same in any sport. But everyone is capable of training, learning, exercising and having fun in a very safe environment.

    The other objection many have is with the restrictions of competitions. No multiple attackers, no weapons, etc. But that is competition, not training. All of those things can be brought into the gym and experimented on. Playing basketball is not restricted to 5 on 5. Games get played all over the world with different numbers, uneven numbers, only one net, etc. MMA training is no different, just because it isn't a part of competition does not mean we are somehow magically prevented from doing it in training.

    The last objection I want to look at is the "mental" aspect of training. Which again comes from those that are programmed into a certain way of thinking. If your doctor is not using herbs and leaches is he not practicing medicine? So why is it that if we aren't talking about mystical energies we are not talking about mental training? Sports Psychology is a large field that goes into very great depth on mental training, has been subjected to tests and built upon those "traditional" methods.

    The mental aspect of what we do is huge, in fact it is as important if not more so then the physical parts. It is the reason a much smaller, weaker person can consistently defeat larger, stronger, more aggressive ones. To say that it isn't there is silly.

    The other thing is as I have been explaining MMA is about growth and improvement. These things require critical thinking skills, without them they are impossible. What we do is not just mindlessly memorize and repeat patterns like drones, it is about constantly and critically evaluating everything we do.

    I hope this helps to clear up some of the questions out there on what exactly it is MMA is about, and what we do. We are plagued by more myths and misconceptions then truths it sometimes seems.
     
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  4. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    Dunno Phil, seems a bit, simplistic a definition to me.

    The little I know about the concept is it sounds similar to JKD, but without the Bruce Lee influence.

    Wiki defines it this way:
    "Mixed martial arts or MMA is a term for the combat sport in which two competitors attempt to achieve dominance over one another by utilizing three general tactics: striking, finishing holds, and control. The rules allow the combatants to use a variety of martial arts techniques, including punches, kicks, joint-locks, chokes, takedowns and throws"

    Which, doesn't tell me more than I already knew.
     
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  5. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    Thanks Andrew. :cheers:
     
  6. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Thank you Andrew, that was pretty helpful.

    I have another question that might help put it in perspective for me.

    If a complete newbie walked in, someone with absolutely no experience in the martial arts, no base to draw from, how would that person begin his training? Is there some kind of approach to teaching the "basics", however that may be defined? Are there techniques or drills that they would start working on at the beginning stages of their training?
     
  7. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Just about everyone starts with no training.

    Basics would include things like

    Seperated - footwork, jab, cross, hook, front kick, round kick, catching punches, covering up, checking kicks, Shooting, Sprawling, etc.

    Clinch - Digging for underhooks, controlling the head, arm drags, duck unders, body locks, shucking, controling the hips, backsteps, back arches, etc

    Ground - Mount escapes, side mount escapes, getting back to feet, passing guard, sweeps, defending strikes from bottom, submissions, etc.

    Weapons (If those are part of the curriculum) - Footwork, targets, parries, crashing to clinch, settip up, protecting and attacking the hands, etc.

    "Mixed Martial Arts" is probably not the best term, as it is rather missleading, but it is the one that stuck. You don't need to have experience to start, it's more about how you train then anything else.
     
  8. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    So, 1 school could have more of a ground approach, while another might focus more on weapons, etc?
     
  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    So basically there is some standardized curriculum, but perhaps it is a bit more loose and fluid in how it is trained?
     
  10. RoninPimp

    RoninPimp Brown Belt

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    Andrew Green summed it up nicely.
     
  11. CrushingFist

    CrushingFist Blue Belt

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    Sounds good.
    Anyone can help me find a MMA school in NYC?
    I know there might be tons of commercials gyms and definately pricey.
     
  12. RoninPimp

    RoninPimp Brown Belt

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    Tons of choices in NYC. If it was me, I'd go to Renzo Gracie's school. It aint cheap though.
     
  13. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    No, not a standardized curriculum really, I think that would be the wrong way to put it.

    The idea is that anything can and should be replaced if something else is found to work better. One beginner might learn a scissor sweep and work that, another might get a hip bump, another a flower sweep.

    The curriculum is very loose, and to think of it as "standardized" I think would be a mistake. It's not so much the "what" but the "how" and the "why" that are important in understanding what MMA is.

    Let's take teaching a jab for example.

    1 - Learn it on a pad, get the basic idea standing in place.

    2 - Add some footwork, feeder moves around a little, puncher has to follow and jab as the target gets presented.

    3 - Loose the mitt, both go boxing gloves, Add a defence, either a catch or a cover or even a slip depending on who's coaching (I'd go against the slip for a beginner though) Nice and slow, back and forth. No real rythym, moving around throwing at will.

    4 - Keeping things slow break the taking turns habit, just move and jab. A very slow, very isolated form of sparring.

    5 - Slowly work up speed and contact level, not to a hard level of contact on someones first day, but enough speed to challenge them and some contact.

    All 5 steps will be reached easily within 15 mins or so.

    This baisc method would go for teaching a beginner anything. If it's a mount escape do it a few times no resistance to get a feel for it, top person slowly adds resistance. If they can't hold mount teach how to do that and then continue.

    But everything revolves around sparring, and is taught through isolated sparring. Once enough basics are learnt, the limitations are stripped away. So by the end of the first class people might be rolling for position, or sparring for takedowns, or even doing striking sparring within limits (for example straight punches only)

    The goal, is to put everything into sparring, and this can include "fouls". Want eye gouges? Get some goggles and go.

    But when I think "standardized curriculum" I tend to think "List of techniques" which is not what it is, and is what it should never become.

    Some techniques may become standard, but not because of the technique being on a list, but because of its high success rate in sparring.

    So while a "Jab" may seem standard, if it where suddenly to loose it's usefullness it would be dropped without thought.

    And at the same time ANY technique can be brought in, if someone can pull of a spinning hook to the head, great, they can use it, no questions asked. Karate Kid style crane kick? If you can make it work, go for it.

    The "standard" techniques are standard because the majority of people can make use of them on a consistant basis. Some people can pull of spinning jump kicks, most can't. I've not seen anyone do it as one of there primary techniques, so it isn't focused on.
     
  14. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    OK, so SOMEBODY has to have some training in the proper way to throw a sidekick, for example. If somebody in the group has this experience and mixes it into the group and everyone shares what they know, is that essentially how people learn material to work with?

    When I referred to a curriculum, i didn't necessarily mean to imply it was a long list with belt requirements and such, but rather the nuts and bolts like how to properly throw a jab, or an uppercut, or an elbow, or a front kick, what kind of stances to use, etc., stuff that most people would have in their toolbox in some form or other.

    I guess that is what I am most curious about, is how MMA people acquire the material that they work with. I suppose at some point somebody had training in an art, and brought this material with them into the MMA group. If this is how it is done, then every MMA group could potentially be radically different from the next, depending on the background of its members.
     
  15. Marvin

    Marvin Black Belt

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    My background is Yoshokai (Yoshinkan) Aikido, Judo, Modern Arnis, and FMA/Jeet Kune Do Concepts. I am not a very good kicking, so as a result I show what I know and bring in someone who can kick and or instruct better that I to help those that are more likely to cultivate kicking in their game( I also do the same for all the ranges). But because in the kicking range I am more likely to close for clinch or take down, my expression of mixed martial arts has very little kicking. Now on the other hand one of our guys is a kicker and puncher, he hates going to the ground! So if someone shoots on him he tries to sprawl and if he gets taken down he does whatever he can to get back up.
    Same class, two different approaches.

    And to add onto Andrews post about standard techniques, most of the standard techniques are the fundamentals. Jab, cross, body lock, guard, side-control, roundhouse or Thai roundhouse etc.
     
  16. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Well, a lot of skills are transferable, and you can look to experts in those areas.

    So if you want to learn punching you can look at boxing, if you want to learn takedowns you can look at Wrestling and Judo.

    The other thing that makes MMA work is experimentation and adaptation that come with live drilling. It's a very common thing in MMA gyms to "invent" techniques... and then 3-days later see someone else do the exact thing you "invented" do on a tape, in a magazine or on the internet...

    What it seems to come down to is that if you set the conditions under which to train, and train under them, everyone will eventually reach more or less the same conclussions.

    Same thing happens in traditional styles that do point fighting in competitions. If you took away there uniforms would you be able to tell who was karate, who was TKD and who was Kung fu?

    Probably not, there style of fighting is optimized for the conditions. Combine that with lots of "borrowing" of each other, a huge inclination towards sharring (Look around, there are 1000's of techniques and strategy articles online) and eventually everyone ends up heading towards the same place, which is a optimal method of fighting under the conditions.

    Different body types and mindsets will change where that place is for different people, and the place is ultimately unreachable, but as everyone tries to approach it they are going to start looking very similar.
     
  17. Cujo

    Cujo Blue Belt

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    Good answers Andrew. Where I study my instructor has a third dan in JJJ with alot of BJJ training and is a black belt in TKD. His wife also teaches and she is a fifth dan TKD. We also have alot of guest instructors from surrounding schools. We have a good relationship with a kickboxing school and a Muay Thai school and train together alot. Also we have monthly seminars with guest instructors. Last month was Chris Lytle (UFC) and we are hoping for Mark Coleman in a month or so. (Both of my instructors are licensed promoters and do pro MMA events), next one is April 15th in Auburn Indiana. Should be a commercial on Spike tv soon and I get to be a judge. I'll be ref for the next event in JUne.
    Pax
    Cujo
     
  18. MardiGras Bandit

    MardiGras Bandit Green Belt

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    Where are you in NYC? The Jungle Gym in the Bronx is a great place to trian. It's a brazilian jiu-jitsu school, but has a heavy focus on standup wrestling (both are big parts of MMA). The instructor, Justin Garcia, was an Abu Dhabi (the grappling world championship) competitor and devestated his opponent in his MMA debut a few months back (he is fighting again on the 22nd in Sportfighiting 3 in Jersey City if you want to check him out). I think he offers a free week to try classes.

    1st post!
     
  19. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Welcome to the site, keep making posts ;)
     
  20. MardiGras Bandit

    MardiGras Bandit Green Belt

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    I tried to add this to my post but the time limit expired.

    MMA is a combination of styles proven to work in real fights. Most prevalent are BJJ, Muay Thai, wrestling and boxing, but there are others as well. Some criticize MMA (as a style) for being the product of rule bound fights. It is true that some aspects of fighting are ignored, but the fact is a well rounded fighter will defeat someone relying on a "death touch" to win a fight. This is what MMA (as its own style) is all about.

    Rule bound fights are also the only way to consistently analyze fights and therefore be able to draw factual conclusions about what works and what does not. This can't be done with stories about street fights that happend to a friend of a friend. MMA tournaments have provided a means to this end, and have led to big advances in fighiting styles.
     
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