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.


jc said...

Perhaps it is good that "new systems" make us question TMAs... re-examining why we study them... and ultimately re-enforcing our belief in them.

Dojo Rat said...

No problem with that.
I respect the MMA guys. They are tough, they can kick ass. But they have a limited shelf life and will burn out.
Good stuff none the less.

Charles James said...

Hi, DR:

I was going to pull some quotes from this but by the time I got to the end I just decided,

"To protect our beliefs and cherished ideals, we can do all kinds of mental gymnastics.While some will only go so far, others would make a monkey gulp in disbelief with the extreme gymnastics they do in their mental jungle gym. As humans, we can come up with excuses and reasons why what we are doing is okay -- even if it really is" - Marc MacYoung on Martial Arts are bullshit episode Penn and Teller Showtime!

Steve said...

First, I have nothing but respect for anyone who pursues mastery of an art. I read Dojo Rat diligently, even if I don't comment all that often, because I agree with much of what's posted here.

It just always comes across to me as disengenous and insecure when "traditional" practioners go out of their way to fictionalize MMA in an effort to validate their own training.

MMA has been around in some form or another for a long time. Vale Tudo matches have been going on for as long as some "TMA" styles have been formally codified. There are vale tudo fighters all over Brazil teaching and training in brazilian jiu-jitsu who are in their 50's, 60's and 70's.

Helio Gracie trained until days before his death and many of his bouts are very well documented.

In every competitive endeavor, people who are at an elite level will retire at some point (well, except maybe bowling). That doesn't mean they wilt away and retire from life. They continue to train and coach others and are active behind the scenes.

DR, I don't disagree with you in one sense, though. The way these guys train while actively fighting is unreal. At some point, the rigors of high level competition will take their toll. The question is, whether they will supplement (legally or not) to keep their bodies up or retire.

B said...


Amen, brother!

Dojo Rat said...

Hi Steve;
Thanks for writing in again.
I'm sure that if I was 20 years old today, I'd be bat-shit crazy for MMA too.
But I grew up in a different era, 1970's martial arts. Schools were still secerative and exclusive. I'm jaded by that.
Let me just say that much like the MTV show Jackass has encouraged extreme stunts with crazy young guys, MMA seems to have a similar draw.
That is not to say the fighters are not skilled and dangerous. They are. It's the kids that may not get the benefit of well guided training, especially if they are going at it in the backyard on their own.
We see it on YouTube all the time.