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What Is Mixed Martial Arts?
Well, it is a name, and nothing more. As soon as you start trying to define it into a "styl" you have missed the point entirely. It is not about following a specific style, or a specific instructor. It is about training the individual to be the best they can be, as an individual.
In MMA the objective is not to look a certain way, or rely on certain techniques, it is not about memorizing terms or repeating "forms", no what it is about is improvement and performance in a live environment. There is no list of techniques, no terms to remember, no testing, instead there is just hard work, sweat and experimental learning.
We don't wear rank, we don't even have rank, it just isn't necessary, or even compatible with what we do. Rank gives a hierarchy, it tells you who gets to tell who they are right or wrong in what they are doing. This is not the way we feel progress can be made, how can you work as a team when you have such a visible hierarchy? Why can't that white belt (that happens to have several years wrestling) contribute to the black belts understanding of takedowns?
When you train with people regularly you learn very quickly who is capable of what, what strengths / weaknesses each person has, and who can help you get better at different things. 2 minutes of sparring can tell you far more about a persons skill then a coloured belt and stack of certificates ever could.
So what is it we do?
Well, we train, we learn, and we sweat. Instead of asking ourselves what techniques we need to memorize to get the next belt, we ask ourselves what we need to work on to improve ourselves, not in the eyes of a examiner, but on the mats, in practice, not in theory.
We do this by constantly reassessing what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we can do it better. There is no 100 year old curriculum handed down from some old master on the other side of the world that has never been critically examined since. We wouldn't accept that in an applied science class, and Martial Arts training is an applied science.
We don't progress according to a checklist and when an examiner says we do, we progress based on our own development and our own effort. There is a range of skill levels, you can think of it as a long line if you like. Everyone starts at a different point, and not everyone can reach the same point along that line. What is important is that as we train we move up that line, and keep moving up it. There are no preset roadmarks along the way, there can't be. Not without discouraging some and limiting the rest. We can't put speed limits on progress, and that is exactly what a belt system with time restricted / based testing does.
We don't limit ourselves to what has been done, instead we are interested in what could be done. We are constantly looking for better ways, if we find a problem in what we are doing we work to fix it, not ignore as "Not a part of our style". Science was stuck in the dark ages for a long time because of this sort of thinking, and the Martial Arts should not repeat that mistake. Aristotle was brilliant, but his work has been improved on by many generations of scientists. Many of the old masters where undoubtedly brilliant martial artists as well, and their work has been improved on as well.
One of the biggest concerns many who do not know much about MMA has is often safety, and how hard it is on the body, that it is only for young athletic people. But this is simply not true. What we do is about moving forward and finding better ways to do things. This is in all aspects of training, including staying healthy and not getting hurt. We do not restrict ourselves to sports training methods from 100 years ago, instead we look to modern sports science for training methods and healthy training practices.
MMA training can be perfectly safe, and it can also be taken to a competitive level and into rings. But so can any other sport. Karate has bare knuckle full contact competitions, Tae Kwon Do goes full contact in competitions, Kung fu is the same. You can start with flag football and go all the way to the NFL too. Not everyone is capable of competing at the top level, in fact most people would get hurt if they tried, but this is the same in any sport. But everyone is capable of training, learning, exercising and having fun in a very safe environment.
The other objection many have is with the restrictions of competitions. No multiple attackers, no weapons, etc. But that is competition, not training. All of those things can be brought into the gym and experimented on. Playing basketball is not restricted to 5 on 5. Games get played all over the world with different numbers, uneven numbers, only one net, etc. MMA training is no different, just because it isn't a part of competition does not mean we are somehow magically prevented from doing it in training.
The last objection I want to look at is the "mental" aspect of training. Which again comes from those that are programmed into a certain way of thinking. If your doctor is not using herbs and leaches is he not practicing medicine? So why is it that if we aren't talking about mystical energies we are not talking about mental training? Sports Psychology is a large field that goes into very great depth on mental training, has been subjected to tests and built upon those "traditional" methods.
The mental aspect of what we do is huge, in fact it is as important if not more so then the physical parts. It is the reason a much smaller, weaker person can consistently defeat larger, stronger, more aggressive ones. To say that it isn't there is silly.
The other thing is as I have been explaining MMA is about growth and improvement. These things require critical thinking skills, without them they are impossible. What we do is not just mindlessly memorize and repeat patterns like drones, it is about constantly and critically evaluating everything we do.
I hope this helps to clear up some of the questions out there on what exactly it is MMA is about, and what we do. We are plagued by more myths and misconceptions then truths it sometimes seems.
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