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Master Robert Thomas has been a member of the Chinese Kung-Fu Wu-Su Association since 1974, where he currently holds the position of Kung-Fu Wu-Su Master Instructor and Co-Director. He has also served as an expert on the allexperts.com website for 6 years, February 2002 to February 2008, answering various questions concerning Chinese martial arts. Most recently Master Thomas was profiled in a documentary entitled "Natural Mystery," that aired on The Learning Channel (TLC) and was distributed worldwide. You can contact Master Thomas directly concerning martial arts issues at kungfuwusu@aol.com.

 

 

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TRADITIONAL MARTIAL ARTS (TMA)
VS. MIXED MARTIAL ARTS (MMA)

By Master Robert Thomas

I was speaking with one of my students a few weeks ago and he said that a friend of his exclaimed that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is better than Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) because of the now tired axiom that “All fights end up on the ground.” He indicated if he had to have a fight on the street he would fare better than a traditional martial artist.

 

There are a number of misconceptions and problems with that statement. One, all fights do not end up on the ground. It is simply not true. Even if they do or a high percentage does, what does it matter? The fight could have ended on the ground because one person was knocked out and fell to the ground. In this case was the person who threw the knockout punch an MMA artist or a Boxer? If a Boxer, he has no ground fighting skills. Who knows or cares.

 

Let’s break the statement down statistically and determine how the person ended up on the ground. Statements can be misleading. When the statement was originally uttered in the media, “All fights or 80 or 90 percent end up on the ground,” the original intent of that statement was to infer all fights end up in a grapple, so a grappler had an advantage. This statement came out to hype a particular style of fighting. Show me the empirical study that proves the assertion to be true. Let us not blindly accept it and utter the phrase like automatons. This is a statement that was born out of a highly successful commercial phenomenon, called the Ultimate Fighting Championships or UFC. It pertained to Jiu Jitsu and not MMA in particular.

 

After so many UFC’s, which is what influenced the current wave of interest in MMA fighting and spawned so many schools it has been proven that there is no one superior style.

 

Almost all so-called mixed martial artists participating in the UFC (today’s Mecca for mixed martial artists), actually show a predilection for a particular style of fighting. Rarely in a contest do you see true mastery of Mixed Martial Arts. You will usually see one or the other of these during the contest, Sprawl and Brawl, Ground and Pound, Clinch or Submission style or straight Stand Up. The proponents of these different types of MMA styles will usually stick with the type they are best at, during the fight and from fight to fight.

 

A person may say that they would be crazy not to go with what works. But if you are not mixing it up all of the time, are you truly a mixed martial artist or a fighter who participates in a MMA contest? If the MMA fighter switched between one and another style of fighting effortlessly, then I would call what we see true MMA or at least we would see true MMA fighters, but most are not.

 

This defeats the argument that an MMA practitioner is better than a TMA practitioner, because most MMA fighters rely on one aspect of the art from a traditional root. My student’s friend, who made the statement being discussed, is actually limiting the scope of MMA fighting because as indicated above, a true MMA fighter should have more versatility than to only have to win on the ground. The “All fights end up on the ground” mantra is good for Jiu Jitsu, but it is not a statement that should be made by an MMA fighter. If the greatest component, or sole component, of a practitioner’s training is Jiu Jitsu—which is often times the case—then the person is not a true MMA fighter, but a Jiu Jitsu artist, and therefore a traditional martial artist, or someone utilizing most of their techniques from a traditional root.

 

So now the circle is complete…