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  • Mma

    Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

    Although the concept of mixed martial arts has been around for millennia the terms ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ and ‘MMA’ rose to popularity in 1993 and particularly with the emergence of the United Fighting Championships (UFC). It is very difficult to pinpoint the founders of the modern MMA art form as practiced for use in the ultimate fighting championship.

    Many trace it back to the Gracie family and their work since 1920 in Brazil. Others pinpoint Bruce Lee as an influential figure because of his popularisation of the philosophy to absorb what is useful and disregard that which is not, along with his ultimate movement away from traditional forms of combat, which he deemed a classical mess, in favour of efficiency gained through full contact, sparring. The most likely beginnings of Mixed Martial Arts date back to ancient Greece and the Pankration fighters and championships which were no hold barred, full contact fights, often without the benefit of any form of padding. Grappling was heavily utilized and deaths were not uncommon. Successful Pankration fighters were legends in their own lifetime much like the mixed martial artist champions of today. Over the last 20 years Mixed Martial Arts have evolved rapidly from their groundwork Jujitsu base and now incorporate a range of powerful strikes.

    The ground and pound is a classic Mixed Martial Art technique whereby one opponent aims to knock down his adversary, mount and then rain a myriad of punches; literally pounding his opponent’s head with quick succession of blunt punches. When performed successfully, this brutal technique can often lead to a knockout or a technical knockout.
    Rules vary in competition according to which body is hosting the event but, generally speaking, eye gouges, groin strikes and deliberate strikes to the throat along with head butts are illegal manoeuvres.
    In Japan the art has evolved into a sport and entertainment and players are referred to as ‘shootfighters’.
    Mixed Martial Arts and its rise to popularity has led a mini revolution amongst martial arts communities across the world. Ground fighting has received renewed attention and many martial arts syllabuses are now including grappling and groundwork in order to give students a well-rounded education in combat.
    Although extremely brutal as a sport, there has only been one recorded death during an officially sanctioned competition.
    The three main areas that a Mixed Martial Artist may focus his training on are groundwork, clinch work and stand up work. Groundwork may involve elements of Judo, Russian Sambo, Catch as Catch Can Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and variations on Greco-Roman Wrestling, submission holds and mounting techniques. Clinch work will be focussed on take downs and throws and also Muai Thai boxing speciality in striking whilst in the clinch will be studied and practised rigorously in particular, use of the knees, elbows and throws. The standing up work will focus on boxing and kick boxing again Muay Thai, and any other striking martial art that utilises quick, powerful entry techniques in order to disable or disorientate opponents, will be studied and practised in depth.

    Training is typically very physical and professionals may train 5 or 6 days a week, anything between 5-6 hours per day. Many of the traditional techniques used that draw on knowledge from Jiu Jitsu and Judo have had to be adapted for use in the ring because players do not wear Gi’s so that many of the strangles and throws are performed without the luxury of being able to grab the lapels of a jacket.

    Although extremely physically demanding and punishing, MMA is quickly adopting a wider practitioner base and it is no longer the case that the students of MMA are expected to fight, on the contrary, many clubs now offer the physical training without engaging in competition.
    In recent years, as sponsorship has increased, the arts have made efforts to ‘clean up their act’ and disassociate themselves from the early Vale Tudo fights of Brazil, distancing themselves from the reputation of being ‘messy, street brawling, no-holds barred’ fights.

    Victory can be established by either a submission, a technical knockout, a knockout, a no-contest (meaning both fighters have violated the rules), a disqualification where fighters have three warnings (usually given for disobeying the referee’s instructions or committing a illegal movement.
    Attacks to the groin, throat, back of the neck, head butt, eye gouge, hair pull etc) or by a decision where three judges, using a 10 point system decide a victor. Interestingly, although Mixed Martial Arts competitions invariably are dominated by wrestling techniques, the fight training will, in many ways, bear resemblances to the professional boxing training regime.
    Split into four sections the programme for readying a competitor to peak performance level includes off season, where a fighter will focus on aerobic training, pre season aerobic threshold training, strength and muscular work including visualisation and the acquisition of new techniques alongside the studying of potential opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Early season focus on endurance training, muscular and aerobic and particular anaerobic type exercises and finally peak season, typically starting three to four months before a scheduled bout focuses on speed training, dynamic power training, agility, technique and mental conditioning.

    Share your thoughts or experiences here

    Author of this article Chris Crudelli is a Graduate of London University’s SOAS & Beijing Shi Fan University. He is also a Kung Fu & Taiji Master, Author & TV Host best known for his self-penned BBC TV series 'Mind Body Kick Ass Moves' broadcast in over 180 countries worldwide.
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