Saturday, January 06, 2007

Some thoughts on Martial Arts

D E P A R T U R E - 2003 :

About three years ago, I decided that I wanted to study some kind of martial art. Just to keep myself in shape in a fun way. The problem was that I had no clue about them, I even didn't know the difference between karate and judo, so to speak. So before I chose one, I did a lot of looking up on the internet. I read about karate, judo, taekwondo, kungfu, aikido, kendo, etc. I went through many articles and discussions about which one of them was the most effective, but almost every article came to a different conclusion, I think because everybody finds his own martial art the most effective. Because I was clearly unable to select the most effective martial art, I chose the coolest looking one : Kung Fu. Even today I still find Kung Fu the most spectacular, exotic and most pleasing to the eye of all martial arts. I started studying White Crane and Long Fist at the Belgian division of Yang's Martial Arts Association.

A W A R E N E S S - 2005 :

The training was hard, but my fitness increased and the muscles started to grow. After practicing for a year or so, it got to me that there were two problems. The first one was a physical problem. Kung Fu is the art of the Chinese, very little, very skinny and above all very lean men and women, not much unlike circus acrobats. I am a big guy, and not the leanest one there is. I think I do have a lot of muscle strength, but in Kung Fu, speed and agility are much more important. The second problem was that it became clear that the incredible stories of the hidden power, the secret techniques and incredible efficiency of Kung Fu, were just a myth. It may have been effective hundreds of years ago, for persons with a very small body and little strength, and in a time when martial arts were not trained as a professional sport, but I am sure that no Kung Fu artist will endure long in a mixed martial arts fight. And that is how I slowly started to apprehend that the question about which martial art is effective or not, was not that difficult to answer at all : organise a tournament where every fighter can compete, regardless of his style and see who wins : mixed martial arts (MMA) was born.

R E V E L A T I O N - 2006 :

In Brazil, they knew about MMA for several decades already (it was called Vale Tudo or Everything Goes), but it wasn't until the beginning of the nineties that MMA became popular in the USA and later on in Europe. The first major MMA events in the USA were all won by Royce Gracie, showing that his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (also called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) was by far the most effective martial art at the time. Royce Gracie was a member of the Gracie family, who were teaching their finetuned Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil since the early 1900s, before Royce and his brother introduced the style in the USA. After brutally showing the world the effectiveness of the style, by beating Boxing champions, Karate stars, KungFu masters, Judo black belts and almost every other martial art representative, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) became a popular sport in the USA and has never stopped increasing in popularity ever since. The first MMA tournaments in the USA also showed the importance of ground control. Standup-only styles like (kick)boxing standed no chance in a MMA fight, because if the fight goes to the ground, which it almost everytime does, these styles have nothing to offer. Conclusion : if you want to be a succesfull fighter you have to be skillfull both in stand up (Muay Thai, Kickbox, Karate, ...) and grappling arts (Judo, BJJ, Wrestling, ...)
Before I knew all this, I didn't want to study a grappling art like Judo or Wrestling, because I didn't want to roll around on the floor with smelly, sweaty men all the time. But I discovered a very good BJJ club in Leuven (Exit BJJ), and I went to check it out and after a few lessons I was convinced that this was it! The greatest thing about BJJ is that you can practice all the techniques at full speed, full power and while your opponent is fully resisting. And therein lies the secret of effectivity in real combat or competition. When I used to study KungFu, we only could practice the techniques very slowly and only if the opponent did exactly what the teacher said he had to do, we never trained in full. When I'm groundfighting in BJJ (it's called 'rolling') it sometimes happens that a fellow student or the teacher says : you should try this or this the next time you roll with someone (and it's always a very simple technique that even a rigid overweight guy like me can pull off). And when I actually try the technique, even sometimes for the first time and on a fully resisting opponent, it actually works like a chime! And about the fact that you're indeed most of the time embracing (with arms ànd legs) smelly, sweaty men, well... it's only gay if you make eye contact :-) Because the club where I train BJJ offers training sessions with an emphasis of using BJJ in MMA, I 've also began taking an interest in this relatively new sport. And whatever people may think about MMA, often seeing it as a very brutal, unelegant non-sport, with animals bashing each other on the face as hard as they can, I must say that I am more and more convinced of the incredible complexity of it, and the sublimation of perfect timing, insight and technique in multiple martial arts that it requires to become a succesful MMA fighter.



Blogger Yaggie said...

Hiya and thanks for the comment. It's always nice to hear from other MMA fans. I've been interested about traditional martial arts all my life but bumped into MMA relatively late (2003). Which organisations do you follow? For me it's mostly: Pride, UFC, K-1, Cage Rage, ROTR and some of the new ones like GFC and BodogFight. Can't really complain - nowadays there's almost too much MMA to watch :)

Do you post on any MMA forums? I visit every day at Sherdog forum - it's the best site for that in my humble opinion :)

5:46 PM  
Blogger Skullforger said...

Well, I got into MMA even later than you (about 2 months ago, in the middle of the Lidell vs. Ortiz thing going on) So I don't know yet where to find all the good stuff on the net yet. I use Sherdog as my weekly MMA newspaper, or to look up information about fighters, however I didn't check out the forum yet. I only post on a Belgian MMA forum ran by a member of our club ( Another forum I visit is from holland. I 've seen some Pride, K-1 and UFC fights (UFC 66 for example, and I specially like the first ones, with Royce Gracie). Perhaps we should talk on MSN? (

2:29 AM  

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