I remember when Kickboxing was becoming popular in 80’s and early 90’s many of the Karate, Kung Fu and TKD schools converted to become Kickboxing schools. Now with popularity of MMA, I am seeing more and more schools are converting to become MMA schools or at least offer MMA classes.
But there have been instructors and schools who have been and are proud of their traditional martial arts and have no intention whatsoever to abandon their art. But what do these traditional masters think about MMA? Are they against it? Do they think MMA popularity is a threat to their art? And are traditional martial arts effective in a real life situation?
When MMA started being sanctioned again in Vancouver, one man did not sound happy and he was pretty vocal about it in the local media. Joel Posluns is a 6th degree black belt in Aikido. When I saw his interview on a local TV regarding his negative opinion about MMA, I did not jump to any conclusion about him. Instead I went and met him at his school and sat down and talked to him about his opinion.
He was nice and humble as I could expect from a real martial arts master and was actually not against MMA concept at all. He admires the skills of MMA fighters and truly believes that traditional martial arts and MMA can coexist. In fact his school is one door away from one of the biggest Kickboxing and MMA schools of Canada and he has been running the school successfully for three years.
What Master Posluns is concerned about is the image many people get from the bloody sport (let’s face it, it is a bloody sport!), antics of some athletes and inappropriate behaviour of athletes on shows like “The Ultimate Fighter”.
Well what kind of image you can get from what you see in the ultimate fighter? I know you would say the bad behaviour exists at any sport, but remember MMA is still a new sport fighting for legitimacy. Nobody questions the legitimacy of soccer, football or hockey even if there is a fight at every single televised match! We know that right?!
Another argument is when sport becomes a profession and when you fight for living, a lot of the values of martial arts and sportsmanship can go out of the window. I kind of have the same point view and appreciate where he is coming from.
But is the popularity of MMA a threat for traditional martial arts? Is MMA more attractive and effective than traditional martial arts?
There is no doubt that MMA is getting a lot of publicity and we all know MMA is here to stay. But I have no doubt traditional martial arts and MMA can coexist. No matter how much you try to promote MMA as a legitimate sport, there are and will be people who would never like the violence part of it, especially older audience.
Now are traditional martial arts as effective and reality based as MMA? As someone who has trained Karate, Kickboxing and MMA extensively I can say anybody who questions the effectiveness of traditional martial arts, does not have in depth knowledge about the arts.
I recently had an opportunity to train in one of old school Okinawa Karate styles, Shintokukai, under Master David Walker at North Vancouver. I would call the style an old school MMA style; striking techniques, grappling techniques you name it. I was really impressed what a complete art this old Karate style was.
Critics of traditional martial arts forget where all the techniques of MMA have come from! All the striking techniques are derived from old striking arts such as Karate, Muay Thai etc. and do I have to write about history of BJJ and its roots from Judo and Japanese Jiu-jitsu?
With a popularity of MMA, there is a school and a MMA fight night everywhere these days. I see lots of fighters who are just not ready to get in to the ring or octagon because they just don’t have the skills. There is a wealth of knowledge in traditional martial arts that any MMA fighter can take advantage of.
All those forms and techniques which may look boring and ineffective to some people are created to improve balance, leverage and power. Traditional martial arts may only look boring to some people because they don’t understand them. Remember there would be no MMA if there were not any traditional martial arts.
Alireza Fadaie is a Vancouver Based 2X Canadian Martial Arts team member and published martial arts journalist. He teaches Kyokushin-kan Karate and Kickboxing/Muay Thai at Richmond Sports Club. Visit his website at www.warriorsclub.net