Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mixed Martial Arts vs Jeet Kune Do - Is This Even a Legitimate Question

In 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was unveiled to the world, and along with the UFC, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (specifically, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu). In the first UFC, along with a host of subsequent others that would soon follow, one was privy to watch the seasoned jiu-jitsu stylist, Royce Gracie, beat all comers. And he beat them easily to boot. No matter the martial artist’s size or style, they all went down.

Many in the martial arts community were shocked and their universe seemingly crumbled about them as the striker was continually felled by the grappler. Many threw in the towel and stopped training in the striking-oriented arts (e.g., Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing) altogether and took up grappling as their martial art of choice. Obviously, grappling was a much better—a more effective—system than the other systems. A grappling craze soon ensued and took the world by storm.

Fast forward to 2007. The UFC is still going strong alongside a number of other mixed martial arts (MMA) venues. And yes, grappling is still a mainstay. However, today, we are witnessing the reverse of what we were watching back in 1993 and to follow. Today, we are seeing the emergence of better strikers and thus more striking in such tournaments and less dependence, for the most part, on grappling. Why this reversal?

The analysis of this particular situation is rather simple. For one, most striking arts, traditionally at least, focused entirely upon striking and ignored the other ranges of combat, i.e., trapping and grappling. The grapplers, early on, were able to capitalize on this weakness in the striking game and thus win match after match, at least for a good while.

After a short time, everyone was on the grappling bandwagon and most of the fights became but mere wrestling matches. As the playing game leveled among the fighters as more and more incorporated grappling into their arsenal, striking would again reemerge as something more was needed to “get an edge” over the competition. The result—more well rounded fighters fighting in such venues and thus the emergence of the phenomenon referred to as mixed martial arts.

Some interesting changes took place in the MMA community due to this. The initial UFCs for example were, effectively, no holds barred tournaments with no weight divisions or time limits. As fighters became increasingly more skilled at both the stand-up and ground games weight divisions had to be implemented along with a timed round scheme.

Today, thanks to the UFC primarily and other like fight venues (Pride Fighting, IFL, etc.) one can train in the “new” martial art, MMA, as schools are springing up all over the world, especially in the US, most taught by actual MMA sport fighters.

What is MMA anyway? Well, at base, MMA is a combination of kickboxing and grappling, though this varies from one proponent to the next. Some emphasize the kickboxing aspect of the art and others the grappling. The kickboxing can be either eastern or western or both and the grappling a mixture of jiu-jitsu and wrestling most typically. In either case, the combination provides for some very well rounded sport fighters.

In the minds of many, MMA is itself considered the ultimate martial art. This is, no doubt, in large part due to the effectiveness of MMA and to the many successes of its proponents in both the octagon and ring. It is indeed effective and this can’t be called into question. But, does this effectiveness in the ring translate into effectiveness in the street? More pertinently, is MMA an art for the average individual concerned with self-defense as opposed to prize fighting?
These questions will be considered more fully in the next installment…stay tuned!


M. Shane Huey is a Jeet Kune Do practitioner and freelance author. He makes his home in South Florida where he lives with his wife Kelli. To learn more about the art of Jeet Kune Do, please visit Sifu Lamar M. Davis II's Hard Core JKD.
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