Often I rant about the superiority of MMA training when compared to esoteric and exotic pseudo-martial arts such as Karate, Aikido, Systema etc. This is becoming a more common thing to say than it used to be, when only the lonely figures of men like Bruce Lee, Steve Morris and later Geoff Thompson were shouting in the wilderness.
These days, websites like Bullshido have made it their stock-in-trade to advocate for all fighting arts other than those used by the current crop of MMA fighters, (e.g: muay thai, brazillian jujutsu and amateur wrestling) to be summarily abolished. A tiresome attitude in my view, but more intellectually defensible than the attitudes of many pseudo-martial artists who fetishize a kind of hippy-esque one-world inclusiveness, and value it over practicality.
People calling themselves “traditional” martial artists enter no-holds-barred competitions only to be either smashed, smothered… or forced into a position where they have to use their week’s worth of college wrestling experience from ten years ago instead of their beloved Hapkido/Drunken Gung Fu/Whatever.
It really is a brave new world.
On the other hand, MMA is a sport. And like any sport, it builds combative attributes like strength, endurance, controlled aggression and willpower. Because it’s a combat sport, it also builds the kind of iron-clad martial technique that can be transferred out into real-world fighting if necessary… but it’s not real-world fighting in itself. It’s not self-defence, it’s not combat, it’s a fighting sport.
Oh, it’s the best sport to train in to become a better fighter, there is simply no question about that. But it is still a sport. It’s merely conditional sparring with added force and commitment.
So what exactly are the pros and cons of training in MMA when you want to become a better all round fighter? here’s my view:
– Attributes like strength and stamina will be increased in a way that suits combat.
– One will gain devastating striking and grappling skill, far in excess of any esoteric pseudo-martial artist.
– One will gain a relatively complete picture of the different areas/ranges that might be encountered in a fight between two unarmed combatants (kicking & punching range, clinching/infighting distance, standing and ground submissions, positional control/wrestling, etcetera)
– It’s only a sport, therefore has rules. Rules which restrict one’s choice of technique, and in fact the way one thinks about the fight.
– In a match there is one attacker only, therefore practicing multiple attacker scenarios is rare.
– One might- should one be so inclined- become reliant on ground-grappling technique, and neglect standup fighting technique which is preferable in real-world combat. Paul Sass is a genius, but his tactic of pulling guard would not be advisable in a self-defence scenario. Not that I think he would try to pull guard in a bar brawl, I’m just saying… someone less intelligent might.
In all, I don’t think the cons matter much. One can fill in the gaps in MMA training with other training, and provided one stays mindful of the fact that MMA training is sport training from which combative skill can be drawn, one need not worry about losing track of one’s goal.
Besides, what’s the alternative?