Sunday, June 11, 2006

MMAFighting: Hostility toward karate in MMA

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From's Jeff Harder. Read the whole thing before you form an opinion. I'd love to get some comments on this, and will comment back on it. Read on.

The climate toward eastern martial arts—specifically karate—is becoming increasingly hostile in the world of mixed martial arts. After a memorable KO victory over Rick Davis at UFC 60, Melvin Guillard took some time to proclaim the irrelevance of karate in the world of mixed martial arts. His comments come on the heels of Mike Nickels pep talk to Ed Herman on last Thursday’s broadcast of The Ultimate Fighter 3, disparaging fellow competitor Danny Abaddi’s job as a tae kwon do teacher.

How come karate gets no love?

Twenty years ago, though it may not have been terribly explicit, karate promised to make little kids into badasses, similar to MMA today. Look at Cobra Kai (not the Marc Laimon one). They did push-ups on their knuckles for God’s sake!

More importantly, it was flashy. Karate entered the public consciousness around the same time Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme started making some of the best/ worst movies ever. Find me a critic of karate in MMA that doesn’t love Van Damme movies and I’ll show you someone that doesn’t exist. Karate was seemingly a tangible way for kids to emulate the heroes of the R-rated movies they shouldn’t have been watching in the first place. Who cares if a horse stance ignores common sense? Who cares if tornado kicks leave you open for an elbow at the back of your skull? It looks cool!

But that’s probably the root of the animosity that still festers through the MMA community today: karate is at best an inferior fighting style, and the general consensus is that it has no reality application. You’ll be hard pressed to find an MMA fighter that didn’t do karate at some point, though, which makes me think the animosity toward karate stems from a sense of betrayal. It’s as though they had been duped out of learning the real way to fight and instead wasted years on developing skills in this martial art that wouldn’t count when a dude 40 pounds heavier would slam you on the ground.

Read the rest. Very interesting.

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mmabri said...

I could care less if someone trains in Karate, TKD, MMA, or even Tae Bo. But as a MMA practitioner I can tell you from my own personal experiences that most MMA people don't have a hostility towards karate in general. But I feel that most traditionalists have a hostility toward MMA. I lost count of how many times my friends and I would be in the gym training, minding our own business when some traditionalist comes in and either wants to fight or has to spout off his opinion on MMA. I believe most traditionalists are being defensive in nature, after all enrollment is down at their studios, and their fighting techniques are being called into question. So they lash out to the MMA practitioner. MMA has just responded back in kind. In the end I find this arguement the same as the old Karate vs Kung Fu arguement.

Nathan Teodoro said...

With the exception of Tae Bo, I agree (just kidding). I don't care either, and I don't consider myself a "traditionalist," other than I appreciate the purity, such as it is, for one's own art. In other words, I can appreciate the beauty of Judo, boxing, or fencing within it's own realm, but my concern personally is for what's effective training for self-defense. For my money (and time), the most effective means to that end is a mixture. Now, realizing that MMA isn't really a style or system, but is evolving as time goes on, that can change, depending on the rules of the sport. If it becomes too sport-oriented, like Judo, or too pure, as most Tai Chi or Aikido seems to be, then it becomes less valuable to me.
As far as challenges though, I've had people that claimed to be mixed/NHB fighting practioners come in and challenge me at my TKD school and then whine when things didn't go their way and claim I had no control (good point), but I'd have less patience for it now.
It was a thought-provoking article though, wasn't it. Thanks for the counterpoint.

Nathan Teodoro said...

One other comment - I'd like to know if MMA has adversely affected enrollment at "traditional" martial arts schools. I'd bet (if I had the money) that it hasn't. The reason I think that is that the mainstay of the industry is children. Parents enroll their kids for the same reason they always have- self-discipline, self-defense, confidence, etc. The traditional schools seem to be better at delivering those goods than ever, so I bet they're OK. The other thing is that actually practicing MMA is a hard-core thing, not what your typical student would want. My opinion, but I'd like to see real stats from an industry association. The other thing that may skew the numbers is gas prices, but it would do the same for MMA gyms.

Berin Loritsch said...

Funny. I've been studying a mixed martial art and because the system didn't really have a name as a whole we just called it Karate. I think the whole notion of what style is better than the other (your style of mix vs. mine) means very little when your only method of judging is a tournament. As soon as you introduce rules (for people's safety), you start removing tools in the practitioner's chest.

Imagine if you will, a Jiujitsu practitioner being told he can't grab someone or throw them (TKD tournaments are like that). Or like the UFC tournaments, you can't gouge an eye or kick the groin but you can grab. A Karate guy just lost his only options for getting out of a hold. It's no wonder they don't do as well in the UFC. But that's why many of us train in a mix of styles.

Bottom line is that you don't know how valuable or useful something is until you need to use it for real. Not that we should be looking or creating opportunities to use martial arts, but that the whole "my art is better than your art" debate is kind of pointless when you think about it.

Nathan Teodoro said...

I think what's actually liberating about this is that most serious, adult martial arts students are, at least, thinking about these things more now, rather than having their heads in the ground and thinking that their style is all they need to train in, or that they are really prepared for whatever will come their way. I agree, reference the eye gouges, etc., but what's important, within the rules is that, we learn how to deal when someone is on your back, or mounted (and you can't get to his/her eyes). My training partners and I work out with goggles on so that we can test these "sport" techniques out and see whether they can withstand "reality", but you also need to isolate a skill to improve it. Nice comments. thanks.