Sunday, July 11, 2010
The Controversy Continues: Chris Dow Weighs In
Today's guest rant is from fellow Dojo Rat and author of "The Wellspring; An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Chi", Christopher Dow:
I can’t help but believe that this issue, raised most often by MMA advocates, is really a nonissue. MMA is, indeed, a sport—a viewpoint that most of its advocates would not dispute. To quote Wikipedia: “Originally promoted as a competition with the intention of finding the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat situations, competitors were pitted against one another with minimal rules. Later promoters adopted many additional rules aimed at increasing safety for competitors and to promote mainstream acceptance of the sport.”
So, by definition, MMAs as they now are practiced are more limited than TMAs. While some MMA practitioners may be hell on wheels in the ring, where techniques are restricted, many could not stand up against a highly trained traditional martial artist on the street, where anything goes, including bone breaks, joint dislocation, tendon tearing, cavity strikes, and other debilitating and deadly techniques that take only an instant—and often no apparent effort—to accomplish. I think of someone like Yang Jwing-ming, whose expertise in chin na (not to mention several other TMAs) is so extensive, accurate, and fast that to present him with an antagonistic limb in any form or at any speed and power is to know instant pain and defeat—not to mention a probable hospital stay.
But let’s get to the reality of the situation. Mixed martial artists—and those who practice some of the more brutal combat arts such as Krav Maga—train strictly to fight a human opponent, and therein lies their failing no matter how effective they may be in combat. The truth is, the vast majority of us will never get into a fight, or if we do, it will be a rare occurrence generally against an opponent who is not well trained. Think drunk, basic belligerent jerk, or brawler. Against these opponents, the automatic trained responses of the average-to-good martial artist are probably effective enough to quickly end or divert a fight as most aggressors are interested in intimidation, not in getting hurt.
But all of us, whether we train in martial arts or not, do battle daily with some of our worst enemies: depletion of energy, ageing, illness, aches and pains, lack of direction, lack of concentration, stubbornness, laziness, and other ailments and negative proclivities of the human condition. Against these enemies, MMAs can’t hold a candle to TMAs—particularly the internal martial arts. Anyone who doesn’t believe this should watch the movies Requiem for a Heavyweight or The Wrestler. Both are realistic portrayals of the toll that ring combat sports take on the human body and spirit. Or, if you need real-life examples, think of Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson’s Disease was probably caused by too many blows to the head or Mickey Rourke, star of The Wrestler, disfigured and also the recipient of too many head strikes, forcing him to retire from the ring and return to acting (thank goodness!). Then afterward, watch any YouTube video of traditional martial arts masters in their seventies and eighties who move as if they are decades younger than their calendar ages. To put it another way, the “broken-down pug” is a well-known stereotype for a reason, but how may of us have an image of the “broken-down karateka,” or, even more ludicrous, “the broken-down tai chi chuanist?”
If you’re going into the ring against an opponent, go ahead and practice MMA. Even Ali could barely stand up—literally—to mixed martial artist Antonio Inoke in 1976. The bout was called after fifteen rounds because Ali’s legs were bleeding from the kicks Inoke administered, and later, his legs became infected and developed blood clots. But if your principal enemy is the toll that life takes in many and various ways, TMAs are for you. The fact that they most definitely train you to defend yourself should the rare occasion arise is icing on the cake.