Lyoto Machida is many great things, but the one thing he is not is a karate fighter. Despite his vocal proclamation that “karate is back” he is in fact the epitome of the modern day mixed martial artists and ironically enough, the closest thing to the true traditional warriors of old, where function was of paramount importance and meant the difference between life and death.
What makes Machida unique in the ultra competitive mixed martial arts arena is the paradigmatic shift in interpretation of martial arts competition which he has employed to turn the tables on other mixed martial artists who utilise the predominant foundation arts such as Western Boxing.
Machida has taken a traditional karate points fighting strategy and adapted it to competitive mixed martial arts with the liberal addition of effective components of various other martial art styles.
The history of this point based, one strike at a time style is more than likely related to the use of bladed weapons in days gone by, where being struck came with the added risk of death, severe injury or possibly being maimed.
Over the ages this once practical approach has been misinterpreted and reduced to regimented mindless drills by many (but not all) “traditional “martial arts instructors.
Machida’s practical interpretation of this strategy results is a fluid, elusive fighter with accurate counter strikes fighting another fighter who has been taught to move forward, commit to punches in bunches ,stay in the pocket and whose aggression is promoted. Essentially, Machida is the matador to the bulls he faces in the octagon.
This paradigmatic shift has confused and nullified most other competitor’s game plans and techniques because he refuses to engage with them in a manner in which they expect. He does not throw punches in bunches (except when going for the finish), he eschews traditional Muay Thai and Western Boxing defence or offense for single precise counter strikes and instead opts for a fluid, elusive, hit and move strategy that all but frustrates his opponents.
His real attributes are his patience and discipline. Patience to wait for an opponent to make a mistake and is disciplined enough to stick to his game plan no matter what.
Machidahas submitted, knocked out and slowly mauled opponents with a combination of weapons from the arsenal of various martial arts, but it is his delivery system that is based on Karate, in the same way that his knee strikes are based on Muay Thai and his trips and throws on Sumo Wrestling. He is no more a Karate fighter than he is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. His fluid meshing of the arts and unique expression is what makes him so truly dangerous.
The irony of the debate is that the mixed martial artist of today is probably the closest thing related to the career warrior of old, more so that than majority of “traditional martial artists” currently practising robotic exercises and drills with a non resisting opponents.
The traditional martial artist of old has more in common with the mixed martial artist of today than he/she would with their modern day “traditional” counterparts.
Machida is even more of a martial artist, as he has finally closed the gap between old and modern, further revealing that the tradition of effectiveness has come full circle and is timeless defying inflexible terms such as traditional, modern and new.
It is admirable that he venerates and respects his Karate roots; however he is a mixed martial artist whose proficiency in karate, BJJ, wrestling, sumo and Muay Thai have led him to a perfect record and seen him ascend the mountain of a competitive weight class.
Lyoto Machida - UFC Light Heavy Weight Champion and Mixed Martial Artist.