Bushido is the way of the warrior—the way of Samurai life. Forged in feudal Japan, Bushido demands bravery and honor unto death. It's interwoven with the fabric of martial arts.
I've noticed that fans are quick to label MMA fighters as “warriors,” a delusion that fighters themselves believe. A fighter who fancies himself a “warrior” adheres to Bushido's ancient code: Never surrender. A Samurai's pride is swollen; he'll never acknowledge defeat until he's cold and limp. Neither will many mixed martial artists.
Many fighters brandish a Samurai's spirit every time they're locked in the Octagon. Bravery billows off of these “warriors” like smoke. They are revered as heroes, but that reverence can come at a price. Is Bushido archaic and reckless, or should we honor fighters who refuse to tap?
Guys like Enson Inoue, Chris Leben, Cheick Kongo and Urijah Faber among others have embodied Bushido. Inoue fell victim to monstrous beatdowns throughout his career, but he never submitted. Leben and Kongo have refused to tap, while Faber continued to fight Mike Brown at WEC 41 despite breaking his right hand in the middle of the fight.
Conversely, Georges St-Pierre and Mauricio Rua have each tapped to strikes, thereby shielding their health and future. Despite “giving up,” their accolades are exalted and their legacies are grand. You'll find few objectors to the fact that Georges and “Shogun” are gushing with pride.
Lyoto Machida is perhaps MMA's most hyperbolic "warrior." That's partially due to his extensive training in Japanese martial arts. Inheritor of Samurai blood, Machida would “rather die than tap,” as he stated during his post-fight interview at UFC 84.
Is refusing to tap brave or stupid?
Machida supported that claim by refusing to give up after Tito Ortiz wrapped him in a triangle choke, and again when Jon Jones dropped him to the blood-soaked canvas with a guillotine choke at UFC 140.
I admire Lyoto Machida. I think his stubbornness is visceral and charming. Lyoto's charm, however, doesn't cloak his dangerous choices. In fact, there are severe consequences that come with refusing to tap.
Martialarts.com expounds the dangers of not tapping: blood chokes cut off cerebral blood flow (CBF). When CBF is blocked, brain tissue can be damaged or even die. Moreover, windpipe chokes compress the trachea, which can cause permanent tissue damage among a slew of other health issues. The outcome of allowing joint manipulation is obvious: Bones will shatter.
A broken bone demands time to heal. Time is a precious commodity for fighters. By discarding months of time that could be spent training and fighting, a sidelined fighter limits his career prospects and his earnings.
If a “warrior” submits to an armbar instead of permitting his arm to be snapped, he's saving himself needless pain and months of inactivity. Alas, I'm afraid doing the sensible thing (tapping) comes at the expense of looking like a pansy.
By esteeming themselves as too honorable to submit, guys like Machida risk their careers, health and lives. Lyoto would be unable to purvey a warrior's spirit if he was brain-dead or crippled. Grave injury is a possibility that crawls closer to reality every time MMA “warriors” refuse to submit.
Machida and his fellow Octagon "warriors" would be wise to shed the gruesome aspects of Bushido from their lives.