Traditional Martial arts the Original MMA? / by Tom Maloney

Thats right, you read that correctly. I firmly believe that traditional martial arts, when presented and understood in all their holistic glory, are comprehensive systems of combat falling under the “MMA” moniker that we use to describe “mixed martial arts.” In our current society what constitutes a style as being MMA? Is MMA even a style? If MMA is a mix of other martial arts and someone teaches MMA, are they teaching a mix of a mix of a mix of a mix of styles? At what point does Karate end and MMA begin? 

These are really hard questions to answer and its difficult to see where the future of martial arts is headed.  I believe the term “MMA” can be somewhat misleading. Lets use Karate as an example to explore a different way of seeing traditional martial arts. Where did Karate come from? Karate and its forms/kata came from China. Well, where did the Chinese martial arts come from? Chinese martial arts came from India. Over the course from India to China to Japan, what we term as Karate underwent constant change and refinement in its technical database. Some techniques got exchanged for more effective ones, some were changed based on a teacher’s whim, some were changed based on strategic goals, and others were simply lost or forgotten. But as a general rule, over hundreds and hundreds of years, only the best most effective techniques were passed down and codified into forms/kata.  If thats true, it seems these traditional arts hold a “MIX” of only the best techniques. A mixed martial art.

In my personal opinion a martial art is whole if it has tactical answers to most, if not all scenarios that can occur in combat. Karate’s goal is to not end up on the ground and wrestle it out with a grappler. A karate practitioner tries to remain standing and defend himself on his feet and if he should go to the ground, do not stay there intentionally. Are there karate techniques in kata that deal with how to escape a ground assault? Of course, but the goal is to not end up there in the first place. Does karate have punches? Check. Kicks? Check. Blocks? Check. Standing grappling and joint manipulation? Check. Takedowns and throws? Check. Ground defense? Check. It looks like karate has an answer and strategy for all effective ranges of combat. This comprehensive technical storehouse makes karate an “MMA.” I believe this to be true for all traditional arts. Although the tactical goals and strategy of styles may differ, remember, they all originate from the same source. In a sense, MMA has been around as long as conflict between men has existed and if you are doing martial arts, you are doing MMA.