Can MMA really be thought of as a martial art?

MetalBoar

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Late reply I know, but I have to say, yes, absolutely, it can be thought of and/or classified as a martial art. Many people obviously do think of it, or classify it, as such.

Now, is MMA a martial art? That's a mostly (maybe entirely) subjective question. We'd have to all agree on the definition of "martial art" and then we could decide whether it fit the definition. From my experience in general, this thread being a good example, we don't all agree on a definition for "martial art". Since we don't all agree, and at least in the US there doesn't seem to be any regulatory body who determines such things, I'm not sure that it's a useful distinction to make.

I say that it may not be useful, because I'm not sure what benefit is to be had from the classification. With MMA you generally know what you're getting when you sign up. For now, until it becomes significantly diluted by trying to cater to the lowest common denominator (which will likely happen at some point), most MMA schools tell you right up front that you're going to be training in fighting skills that fit a particular ruleset or sets, and that you may also be doing conditioning and strength training exercises to support that, and then that's what you do.

If MMA schools were selling themselves based on other criteria I'd have concerns, but they don't generally do so. I don't see a lot of MMA schools claiming to enable spiritual or character development or that they're going to provide you with the education in the traditions or other cultural aspects that may be associated with traditional martial arts. I guess some of them claim that they're giving you the best training for self defense, and that can be debated, but that's a common issue for all "martial arts" styles. I think that MMA schools are the best choice if you want to develop skills that are appropriate for MMA competitions. Since that's what they usually claim to sell, I don't feel that they misrepresent themselves significantly most of the time, as a class.

Now, I think it's perfectly reasonable to say things like, "MMA isn't something that I think of as a martial art (by my definition)", or, "I have no interest in MMA, whether it's a martial art or not", or "MMA is completely lacking in important, core, elements that I require in a martial art", or even, "MMA has degraded the overall quality of martial arts by sucking the air out of the room with a spectator friendly, but ultimately debased mockery of what a martial art should be!" These statements, even the inflammatory ones, can be discussed in a more useful fashion because you aren't trying to argue about what something, that we don't have a shared and agreed upon definition for, "is".
 
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Martial art is a strange term. There are many different approaches people take. We have the Asian styles and systems. We also have Western martial arts too. As you delve into the history of the martial arts it becomes clear there have been a lot which include competitive events. All of the major civilizations have used combat sport as spectacles to entertain the general public. And a lot of the systems where either designed for military use, or to get youngsters fit, strong and competitive enough for military service. Over time each culture changes and the combat systems and sports follow suit.

It is difficult to define a system as there are variations in all of the sports and arts, but still we try. If you are a fan of a certain system then you will defend it all day long. If not, then it is easy to dismiss. MMA is not a sport which appeals to my vision of the world. Over time it causes a lot of damage to the minds and bodies of those involved. Boxing is the same. Lots of physical and mental injuries which cause great discomfort as the athletes grow older.

A good point was also made earlier about all martial arts being mixed systems. The lines are often blurred and names rarely reflect the reality of the subject at hand.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Humans like to define and label things妃ost sciences are just that (All science is either physics or stamp collecting-Lord Ernest Rutherford). So in reductio ad absurdum, why label anything at all since it doesnt matter!

Martial arts is a term with certain connotations, agreed with slight variations from person to person, so perhaps we, as the relatively better informed, should protect the definition from being applied willy-billy to anything in order to give it a sense of inappropriate gravitas/credibility.

Personally, I am uncomfortable (no stronger emotion than that- foam remaining firmly in my mouth) with MMA being lumped in with my chosen martial art even though I enjoy watching MMA occasionally.
It's the 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin' argument. We humans seem to love to debate and argue and sometimes fight over things that *do not matter* in any way, shape, or form. If MMA is or is not a 'martial art', what of it? What changes? How is the world different? Are any minds changed?

It's like those "Help me prove a point" posts. The only guarantee is that there will be no proving of anything, and nothing will be decided.

I find it all difficult to process and silly but without the usual entertainment value that being silly sometimes brings. I usually ignore such discussions, but sometimes it overloads my senses.
 
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It's the 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin' argument. We humans seem to love to debate and argue and sometimes fight over things that *do not matter* in any way, shape, or form. If MMA is or is not a 'martial art', what of it? What changes? How is the world different? Are any minds changed?

It's like those "Help me prove a point" posts. The only guarantee is that there will be no proving of anything, and nothing will be decided.

I find it all difficult to process and silly but without the usual entertainment value that being silly sometimes brings. I usually ignore such discussions, but sometimes it overloads my senses.
MMA fits the certainly fits the bill as a martial sport. When I think of a martial art it includes the spiritual and self-development aspects, but reading all of the different perspectives on this thread has given me the opportunity to reflect and reconsider my own thought process.

Now, you may find it silly and pointless, you may even consider it a 'help me prove a point' kind of post, but I can honestly say that has never been my intention.

I would like thank everyone here for sharing their thoughts and offering me a new way of looking at MMA. It has inspired me to begin reading the book Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer's Journey by John Kavanagh
 

Gyakuto

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It's the 'how many angels can dance on the head of a pin' argument. We humans seem to love to debate and argue and sometimes fight over things that *do not matter* in any way, shape, or form. If MMA is or is not a 'martial art', what of it? What changes? How is the world different? Are any minds changed?

It's like those "Help me prove a point" posts. The only guarantee is that there will be no proving of anything, and nothing will be decided.

I find it all difficult to process and silly but without the usual entertainment value that being silly sometimes brings. I usually ignore such discussions, but sometimes it overloads my senses.
Well this is a message board for debates, points of view and conversation, otherwise Idve simply posted a No to the original posters question!
 

Tez3

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But at least it includes the foot and fist. Training for cage fighting without previous martial arts training does not include the mixing of anything.

Not all MMA is fought in a cage. The big promotions do but they are also held in boxing rings and on mats. Most MMA practitioners aren't professional either though many compete under professional rules. Many MMA fighters fight under amateur and semi pro rules too.
Too many people think MMA is just the UFC, when it's really not believe it or not some people just train without ever fighting.
 

Tez3

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MMA fits the certainly fits the bill as a martial sport. When I think of a martial art it includes the spiritual and self-development aspects, but reading all of the different perspectives on this thread has given me the opportunity to reflect and reconsider my own thought process.

Now, you may find it silly and pointless, you may even consider it a 'help me prove a point' kind of post, but I can honestly say that has never been my intention.

I would like thank everyone here for sharing their thoughts and offering me a new way of looking at MMA. It has inspired me to begin reading the book Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer's Journey by John Kavanagh

John is a very knowledgeable coach and martial artist as well as being a very charming man. He's brought some very good fighters over to compete in the UK, it's always worth listening to him. McGregor is Marmite though.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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When I think of a martial art it includes the spiritual and self-development aspects,
MA may emphasize self-development (long term health issue) more than MMA does. By constantly meet you fist on your opponent's head, it's neither healthy for your fist, nor for your opponent's head.
 

drop bear

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MMA fits the certainly fits the bill as a martial sport. When I think of a martial art it includes the spiritual and self-development aspects, but reading all of the different perspectives on this thread has given me the opportunity to reflect and reconsider my own thought process.

Now, you may find it silly and pointless, you may even consider it a 'help me prove a point' kind of post, but I can honestly say that has never been my intention.

I would like thank everyone here for sharing their thoughts and offering me a new way of looking at MMA. It has inspired me to begin reading the book Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer's Journey by John Kavanagh

How do you define spiritual development?
 
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Thanks for sharing the interview segment Drop Bear. The first of the four noble truths of Buddhism says 'life is suffering' and the two guys in the video above seem to recognize this truth. It is often heard in our culture as 'no pain, no gain' especially in gyms and weightlifting circles.

Your question is a good one - how do we define spiritual development?
 
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skribs

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Yes and no.

Most people are going to define a martial art by the martial aspect more than anything else. While MMA and many sports like it typically don't have an "artistic" component to them, one can use the second definition of artist, as provided by our lovely friends at Google:

  • a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
  • a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
With that said, an MMA fighter is a person very skilled at the task of martial application, and we can very easily say that they are a martial artist.

However, in the context of a thread, a study, or any other discussion, one may want to separate arts that have an artistic side from arts that don't. Or, one may define a "martial art" as an art with various criteria, and other styles as something else, such as "combat sport". If the terms are strictly defined for the sake of a specific discussion, then if a style of fighting does not meet the criteria to be considered a "martial art" within that specific discussion, it is not.

If I pop onto r/martialarts and say "MMA isn't a martial art" I'm going to get laughed off the page. If I go onto r/martialarts and say "What is the difference in how respect is taught in martial arts compared to combat sports? For the sake of this thread, a "martial art" is any art with an organized curriculum, and a combat sport is a style focused on wins in full-contact competition." In that case, I may get some great discussion on the differences between how Kung Fu or Karate teach respect vs. how BJJ and MMA teach respect.
 

Hot Lunch

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If I pop onto r/martialarts and say "MMA isn't a martial art" I'm going to get laughed off the page.
If someone tells you that they're an MMA fighter, you're going to ask what arts they trained in. If their answer is "MMA," then a real life Abbott and Costello situation is about to happen.
 

skribs

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If someone tells you that they're an MMA fighter, you're going to ask what arts they trained in. If their answer is "MMA," then a real life Abbott and Costello situation is about to happen.
There are MMA schools that teach "MMA Striking" and "MMA Grappling" classes. Those classes may be influenced by a variety of arts, but what that student is learning is "MMA".

Just like how I'm learning Taekwondo. I don't claim to train "A blend of Shotokan Karate and Taekkyon." I don't claim to be a Kung Fu master because if you trace the lineage of my style back hundreds of years to the Kung Fu Masters that trained the Okinawans.
 

Hot Lunch

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I think that may only happen if someone tells YOU that they're an MMA fighter. :)
This goes back to what we were discussing earlier with the fruit.

My original point wasn't that the blend of fruits in the cups were an unhealthy concoction sitting in preservative-laced HFCS. It's that you would refer to it as "mixed fruit" rather than "a fuit" as you would an apple or an orange. And that's how I'm looking at MMA.
 

Hot Lunch

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Just like how I'm learning Taekwondo. I don't claim to train "A blend of Shotokan Karate and Taekkyon." I don't claim to be a Kung Fu master because if you trace the lineage of my style back hundreds of years to the Kung Fu Masters that trained the Okinawans.
That's kind of my point. If MMA were to be codified into one art, then give it a formal name like Taekwondo has.
 

skribs

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That's kind of my point. If MMA were to be codified into one art, then give it a formal name like Taekwondo has.
You mean, "Foot Hand Way"?

Taekwondo is three Korean words that roughly translate to the above.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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You mean, "Foot Hand Way"?

Taekwondo is three Korean words that roughly translate to the above.
Funnily enough, I made exactly that argument a page ago. I'm not really convinced by the response "But at least it includes the foot and fist. Training for cage fighting without previous martial arts training does not include the mixing of anything."

Particularly as mixed martial arts is a clear indicator that the person teaching you learned from a mix of different martial arts.
 

Hot Lunch

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You mean, "Foot Hand Way"?

Taekwondo is three Korean words that roughly translate to the above.
Does "foot hand way" suggest that it's a generic mixture of other things, or an art that stands on its own?
 

skribs

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Funnily enough, I made exactly that argument a page ago. I'm not really convinced by the response "But at least it includes the foot and fist. Training for cage fighting without previous martial arts training does not include the mixing of anything."

Particularly as mixed martial arts is a clear indicator that the person teaching you learned from a mix of different martial arts.
What? You expect me to actually read beyond the first post of a thread?
 

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