This month's blog is going to address the second training methodology that I alluded to in last months blog which is combat sport. One of the most interesting things about combat sport is that It has been increasing in popularity or at least appears to be increasing in popularity since 1993 with the introduction of the UFC. Although that popularity may be indeed increasing it's not really as big as most people would be led to believe.
I do enjoy and teach combat sport but combat sport only represents a small part of our popular culture and certainly is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to fighting skill.
The Bad Side
Let's address some of the nutty things about combat sports and then we will address some things are truly beneficial and the reasons I encourage people to participate in some form of combat sport or another.
1. If you train in combat sports you'll be able to efficiently and effectively defend yourself during a street assault. As we all know this is the furthest thing from the truth. Although combat sports offer some direct benefits to someone who may be assaulted, most of the benefits from combat sport are indirect.
We have all heard the story the person that was a champion kickboxer or a MMA fighter etc. they got into some sort of barroom fight and ended up getting their clocks cleaned in short order by some experienced street fighter. Now this has nothing to do with the particular MMA fighter or kickboxer's ability at their sport, it is simply a matter of asymmetry.
Basically our Kickboxer or MMA fighter in this case is used to training partners that move efficiently, and almost always emotionless during sparring sessions. street attackers move very differently than the sparring partners they are used to. Even if you spar all out,100% full contact all the time (which I don't recommend and more on that later) with your partners, you're simply preparing your brain and your central nervous system to respond to another trained fighter that is attacking you under certain rules and restrictions. You're looking at a different kind of punch than one from somebody that is just experienced but not necessarily skilled. Once you get used to these technical strikes, there as slowed reaction time when faced with unorthodox punches.
There are no Rules or maybe yes some...
The current unified rules of MMA allow for a full spectrum of fighting skill to be shown in the competitive sport; however the list of things you are NOT allowed to do is much longer. Even in the early days of the UFC when it was considered No Holds Barred or NHB they did have certain rules, for example there were some very explicit rules, you couldn't fishhook or eye gouge, no biting was allowed, you also couldn't break individual fingers etc. that was all against the rules.
And then there's also the implicit rules. Two people would agree to meet at a specified location inside a designated confined to space and they're not allowed to bring weapons,their friends can't help and so on. Even in the most savage of all competition there are still some rules and in fact you control the amount of potential damage that fighters can suffer.
Lions and Tigers and MMA Fighters oh my!
Lastly on the nutty side I want to address is what I believe is in an unwarranted fear that with the exposure or the growth of combat sports and or specifically the UFC and MMA in the United States that all of a sudden we might be subjected to all kinds of attackers that may be skilled in MMA.
There's two fundamental ideas that dispute the above notion. The first one is the fact that in the United States we have gone through several decades of increasing popularity of all kinds of martial arts. In the 40s and 50s judo was popular and has increased In popularity since then , albeit, at a slower rate. In the 60s we had karate increase in popularity and again the amount of practitioners of karate and tae kwon do and those types of art have increased since then as our general population has increased. I can go on. In the 70s it was kung fu, in the 80s it was the ninja craze, and of course, in the 90s Brazilian jujitsu and MMA .
The fact is that in the 40s and 50s we didn't all of a sudden see an increase in judo attacks on civilians or police for that matter. We also didn't experience a slew of Karate rapists or murderers all around us in the 60s. Nor did this happen in the 70s and the 80s with the respective fads during those decades.
Despite the fact that MMA is immensely popular and the amount of people that participate in all of these martial arts has continued to increase since the 90s we have not seen a verifiable, significant increase in assaults by MMA trained experts. Sure the occasional case will pop up in the media but they really are an oddity and not the norm.
The second point of contention against the "mma trained assaults" argument is this; in the United States football has been around for God knows how long and it's a very popular game. As an example, I myself know how to play football. I even played a few times with some buddies. However my skill level does not even come close to the average High School JV player.
Now playing High School football, and this is somebody that is infinitely more skillet at football than I, doesn't mean that they will end up playing at college level and just because you play at college level does not guarantee you a spot in the NFL
And even being in the NFL does not guarantee being a starter or one of the elite level players. My point is that just because somebody admires a sport, watches or understands and can kind of play the sport, doesn't mean that they can perform well in that sport.
There are millions of people that are fans of football, then there is a lesser number of people that can play at the grade school level or peewee football and there are less still that can perform at the level of high school football players, the number dwindles more when considering college football players and there's hundreds and thousands more of college football players than there are NFL players. Knowing or understanding or admiring the sport does not equal skill in that particular endeavor.
Given those two points of contention I'll close this section with this (and I written at length about this before so I won't belabor the point annoy further) the chances that your attacker will be somebody that's trained in MMA and to the point that he has very usable skill is very, very small, In fact they're so small as not to warrant any excess of time dedicated to training in specialty tactics against that specific type of attacker unless you are training in that particular combat sport.
The Good Bits
Great now that we got all that out-of-the-way let's talk about the benefits of combat sport. There are a lot of them in but I'm going to focus on the ones I think are the most significant
Number one, sport allows their participants To engage in symmetrical training. That is to say that both athletes in the contest or in the sparring match are physically, aggressively trying to apply their learned skills in order to affect the opponents breathing, alignment and structure while the opponent is trying to effectively execute the same tactics against them.
Two things happen because of this. First skills and timing get more refined because it's harder to pull off certain tactics when the person that you're fighting is expecting them.
Second, participants develop a certain amount of mental and physical toughness because, usually, when opponents of close to equals skill are facing each other, they tend to take shots we get hit. This is important because trainees must develop their ability to continue fighting in spite of having been hit. Combat sport is ideal for this and this ability in and of itself is useful in self protection scenarios.
A another benefit gained, although sometimes a little bit less understood is the fact that through the wearing protective equipment and the use of restrictive rules that limit the tactics that we have to use against our opponent, we are technically fighting using less efficient methods of being able to "put our opponent away".
If we can defeat our opponent using less efficient techniques because of protective equipment limited targets and limited tactics allowed, we should be able to fare even better when the protective equipment is not present in our targets and tools are unlimited.
Positive outlet for aggression in general, and male aggression specifically, is a direct benefit of combat sports like wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, MMA etc.
These endeavors allow us to have an outlet for the aggressive energy that is present in a society in which we constantly compete for resources and status.
As human animals we have aggressive energy that will find an outlet regardless of our attempts to suppress it.
If a positive outlet is not found that energy will manifest destructively and could go as far as criminal assaults or status seeking displays of violence.
Combat sports certainly offer an alternative in which young men can engage in violent behavior that has been appropriately modified to ensure fairness and the safety of all all parties involved.
Practicing a combat sport also requires and therefore develops a certain amount of physical fitness, stamina, endurance, power and other attributes that contribute to the overall well being of the practitioner.
For all the positive benefits I highly recommend participation in a combat sport but be careful to avoid the pitfalls mentioned before. Try to be a good sport.