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5 aspects that make Mixed Martial Arts more traditional than traditional martial arts.



Common classification of martial arts is often based on a single criterion, largely ignoring all other aspects that define a martial art style.

In order to properly categorize martial arts, one would have to analyse the characteristics that differentiate a category from another. Ironically, doing so tends to blur the line between the categories. Here are 5 ways that Mixed Martial Arts may be more traditional than “traditional martial arts”.

Photograph on left is courtesy of

Definition of mixed martial arts, as used in this article: Combat sport that incorporates aspects of various – traditional – martial arts styles, used by athletes in order to compete in regulated, full-contact fights.

Definition of traditional martial arts, as used in this article: Fighting systems that were used by civilians and soldiers alike for self defense, both in ancient and present times. Most modern Asian martial arts, are classified under this category by the vast majority of people in the martial world.

The traditional aspects of martial arts used as a reference take into account that the practitioners may be in a position where his life may depends on his skills.

The following aspects are not gospel truth and should not be taken as generalities. This list tries to be as exhaustive as it can while keeping it simple. Some rules may not apply to certain organization.


#1 MMA is constantly evolving

Whether researching fitness enhancement exercises, nutritional tips or new moves, MMA practitioners are always on the lookout for new ways to improve. They understand that everyone has their own preferences and that a useful technique for one is not necessarily good for another. Trial and error during fights with various opponents, hard work and an open mind helps the fighter acquire the qualities needed to be the best he can be.

There is no concept of purity or preservation of style, combination or techniques in MMA. A technique that passes the test of time stays while the rest fades into oblivion… until someone rediscovers the forgotten technique and makes it work again, that is.


#2 MMA practitioners do not bother (as much) with origins, history or lineage

What matters most about techniques are not their origins or history but how effective it potentially can be, if mastered. Techniques do not need to be passed down from a long lineage of masters, to have fancy or foreign names or be pretty to look at. They don’t care whether they are following the foot steps of ancient Shaolin monks who perfected their art in order to fight off bandits.

The only concern of a MMA fighter is that the technique they are taught has been proven to be successful during MMA match ups.
Photograph is courtesy of Stefan Kunst


#3 MMA training is more open minded.

MMA practitioners do have a lot of limitations in forms of rules and regulations. There are techniques they cannot use in order to prevent irreversible damage on competitors.

In comparison to most other style of martial arts, MMA’s rules are in smaller number, allowing its practitioner the usage of a wider range of techniques and tactics to be used in fighting. Competitors of other martial arts typically can punch and kick, or grapple; never both at the same time.

Takedown and pound is typically not allowed in traditional martial arts tournament
photograph is courtesy of Scott Alexander

In addition to more relaxed rules, people who train in MMA do not bother with conforming to a particular style. They will not shun a technique because it theoretically is not part of a system, because their teacher doesn’t use it or because it came from another school.


#4 MMA fighters take risks to test themselves

Despite rules that ensure the safety of the fighters and low track record for serious injuries, MMA fights can still turn pretty brutal. Contestants know they can get seriously hurt during fights if they don’t prepare properly, or if any mishap happens since they wear close to no protective gear at all. The stress and anxiety created from facing their own mortality forces competitors to hone their techniques and condition their bodies and mind in order to neutralize the paralysing effects of fear in the face of imminent danger.

Keith Vargo sums it best when he writes: “The element of danger that is present in full-contact training and competition may be the basis for the development of martial arts virtue and wisdom.”


#5 MMA has the same origins as many Traditional Martial arts

The term “Mixed Martial Arts” was coined when to describe fighters of mixed style contests who would themselves cross-train in disciplines they believed would best help them win their battles. MMA is the resulting style from the first cross-training fighters.

Many of the martial arts that are categorized as traditional has similar history. Kajukenbo for example is a hybrid system between Karate, Judo, Kenpo Karate and Boxing. It was designed by a group of fighting experts from different discipline to fight off local bullies and criminals of the Hawaii island.

Choy Li Fut was codified by Chan Heung, who blended the teachings of a monk names Choy Fook, Li Yau-San who taught him Li Gar and Chan Yuen-Wu who taught him Fut Gar.

Even Shotokan Karate, founded by Gichin Funakoshi is the result of his training in the Okinawan style of Shorei-ryu, Shorin-ryu and influences from Kendo.


The real difference between traditional martial arts and MMA is in reality, similar to the difference between any two styles. Martial arts styles are as different as the people who created or practiced the style.

Finding differences has always been an activity human beings have always done and there are many examples where such exercise caused rivalry that pushed people to be at their best. But in all that philosophical war, let us not forget that at the end of the day, there are far more resemblance exceeds the number of differences between styles and even categories of martial arts.



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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 March 2010 13:17  

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