Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is MMA giving Muay Thai a Bad Rap?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Huggy Bear at My Muay Thai thinks so in Is MMA Counterproductive to Muay Thai?.

On one hand they are giving Muay Thai a lot more exposure by constantly talking about it but at the same time they are hurting it because either A. The fighters Muay Thai is garbage or 2. It isn’t even a Muay Thai technique that they are using. So yes, any exposure is good but misrepresenting the sport is counterproductive.
I hate to dismiss this criticism, or minimize it, but here’s my two cents:
Every sport based on a “pure” art is watered down. ALL of them. I’ve posted in the past regarding my feelings on what happens When Arts Become Sports – they change to conform to what the rules emphasize will win. For example, the Judo we see today would hardly resemble the art that was initially focused on self-defense and self-improvement. Pat Parker has posted before on the differences in Judo over time. Boxing itself had to change with the introduction of gloves, and restrictions on the contact area of the fist. The complaints in the My Muay Thai post are correct, in my estimation: in MMA, there is watered down, imperfect Muay Thai, but then, as the author mentions, all of the core arts in MMA are less than perfect when deployed in the MMA setting.
I had the same complaints in the early days of American “kickboxing” ( PKA full-contact karate) – it was bad boxing and bad karate mixed together (I am not capitalizing Karate on purpose). An above average amateur boxer had better technique than some champions in those days. While we’re on the subject of striking, the WKA added the ability to use leg kicks, but what they termed Muay Thai at the time was a poor imitation.
We see the same complaints by wrestlers or boxers watching MMA today: if only so and so used better _________ technique, then he’d do better against ____________. It’s true, but it’s also the nature of compromise in sports, especially combat sports. The more one focuses on a strength, the more opponents focus on the areas of weakness; just basic strategy. For a long while I remember hearing commentary about various world-class wrestlers or BJJ fighters in MMA lamenting the fact that those competitors weren’t using the skills that they possessed, but if they did, an opponent could counter it with another technique or tactic which was only exposed by that style.
Is it hopeless? Will we see good or great technique in a pure form from any of the styles making up MMA? Maybe – we’re getting closer and closer over time as fighters get better trainingin and are more well-rounded, but the days of the specialist winning it all in MMA have been gone for years, so none of us that are accused of being purists will be happy, I suppose.

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