Martial arts and mixed martial arts may seem like the same thing; but they are not. Also referred to as cage fighting, MMA is a full-contact sports that involves various martial art styles from all over the world. The actual origin of the sport is quite cloudy but let’s take a closer look at where the sport originated and how it evolved over the ages.
A little history
Let’s be honest; almost every country has its own form of no-holds barred bloody fights that quickly became popular with the masses. So nearly country developed its own fighting styles that quickly became the de-facto fighting style in national competitions. The very first form of recorded MMA fighting is said to have originated in Ancient China. Leitai was the default fighting style in the county at the time and it quickly became the default no-holds-barred dirty fighting style in the competition as well. The style combined boxing, martial arts and wrestling moves and it was formidable.
Around the same time, the ancient Greeks also promoted a ferocious fighting style in a series of games called the pankration. The fighting style promoted grappling and hitting skills that have filtered now to modern MMA. The Pankration was not a new sport. At the time, the Olympics hosted wrestling and boxing competitions and the Pankration was just another platform for the same athletes to get down and dirty with their competitors. As the competition was no-holds-barred, fighters could hit, bite and gouge and it was often a bloody sport. Fighters continued fighting until one fighter could no longer continue or submitted to defeat.
Within a few years, however, the Olympics and Pankration were banned. However, a similar type of fighting resurfaced in other countries. The same type of mixed fighting competitions was also regularly held in Ancient India, Egypt and Japan. Of course, Europe did not want to feel left out and came up with its own version and down-and-out fighting. The French were the first to come up a particularly savage fighting style that can aptly called savate. French fighters tested their techniques and fighting prowess in local and international competitions, often winning hands-down against other competitors. In 1852, French savate fighters and English bare-knuckle fighters went head-to-head and it was a sight worth watching. The British won four matches, but the French won a single match simply because they combined fist fighting with deadly kicks.
Catch wrestling was also an important contributor to the sport. European and Asian wrestling styles like English wrestling and Indian pehlwan boxing holds were quickly incorporated into MMA fighting.
By the late 20th Century, a similar type of fighting style emerged in Brazil and it promoted a fighting style called vale tudo. This fighting style was particularly ferocious and was promoted by the brothers Gracie who ran a ju-jitsu school in Rio De Janiero. The matches became so popular that they were attended by thousands of fans. Eventually a range of fighters entered the competition and the matches had to be moved to a stadium to host the crowd. The fighting style and sport became popular in the US when the Gracie brothers held a demonstration match in the US in 1990s. At a tournament in Denver, Colorado, Royce Gracie demonstrated the style at a demo match. This tournament was considered as the UFC1 of the Ultimate Fighting Competition or UFC which became the father organization hosting the sport. Gracie won the tournament and almost all subsequent tournaments due to his fighting style. In fact, events that he was fighting at became very popular.
The UFC then started hosting official competitions that pitted different fighters with each other. Initially, the rules just prohibited biting and gouging, and tournaments ended only when fighters were incapable of continuing or if they gave up. UFC started broadcasting the competitions on TV. As Gracie was the current tournament champion, his tournaments became highly popular with viewers and viewership only seemed to double or triple with every event. However, the sport was not without its naysayers. The no-holds barred sport was famously brutal and raised the ire even of US politicians like John McCain who did not like the way the sport promoted ferocious fighting.
Current State of MMA
To make a long story short, the ferociousness of the sport has now been filtered down with serious rules and regulations in place to protect fighters and to gain legitimacy. The new rules are now uniform all over the world with categories or weight classes, protective gear, time limits on rounds and other rules. However, fighters usually fight bare-chested to prevent opponents from getting a hold on clothing. Protective gear is usually worn underneath the shorts and a mouthguard is mandatory. The fighting arena is also mandated to be a specific size and shape. The fenced-in arena is square or round and some have fenced in cages that are made to UFC specifications.
Victory is also decided by a panel of judges who judge the match once the fight has completed a set of rounds as per the time limit. KO or knockout is decided when the judges declare a winner or when an opponent is unable to continue. The referee can also end a match when a fighter is caught in a hold that cannot be broken or if it will result in injury. Apart from weight classes, champions are also decided based on an international ranking system and the level they are fighting. However, there are multiple ranking systems based on country and fighting style. Please note though that the sport is legal in several countries but barely tolerated in a majority of countries. For example, mixed martial arts is legal in Australia and Bahrain but not supported in Belgium.
Learning MMA: Where to find classes?
Almost 90% of the world leads a sedentary life and that can lead to a range of chronic lifestyle diseases. Learning a martial art is always a good idea. You develop reflexes, become stronger and of course, get fitter. But there are downsides as well to studying martial arts. Firstly, it takes commitments and hard work. You will have to join a gym or find an experienced trainer and decided the fighting style that you are interested in. Defensive sports like Krav Maga and Tae Kwon Do do not have age limits for learning. However, other sports may not encourage adult learners. We recommend you research the sport completely and talk to a professional before picking a fighting style.
Then you progress to finding a place or person who will teach you the Of course, online is the best place to start. All you have to do is use Google and thousands of local training options will be evident. Review each option for trainer proficiency, cost, location and then make a selection. For newbies, its always a good idea to start with a local gym or class where the trainer can see your moves and guide you properly. Realtime classes will also require you to do additional classes to increase your endurance and overall fitness. Get in touch with local gyms. Although local gyms will not advertise their MMA training facilities, you can contact them to find trainers located nearby.
For intermediate to advanced athletes, online classes are a better idea. There are several websites that offer interactive training classes for advanced athletes. Popular styles like karate, krav maga, and kickboxing are usually available in the form of training videos. Some of these websites also offer online counseling sessions. Trainers can assess your fitness through a video routine and then recommend the right class level for you. Please note though that online MMA classes will also require you to take on additional workouts or fitness classes along with diet control. This is necessary to ensure optimal training.
If you don’t like websites, personal contact sessions through the internet are also a good idea. Professional trainers now also hold personalized classes through the internet. Some even stream live classes for beginners and for advanced athletes. Although this is a sensible option, it may be a little expensive for a beginner.
Free classes are also an option through the internet. Specialized MMA websites offer free training up to a certain class level. For beginners, this could be the best training option available. Top competitors also showcase basic moves through Youtube and other video sharing media platforms.
The Bottom Line
MMA is very interesting to watch and just as interesting to learn. If you want to learn MMA as a sport, it’s a good idea to start training as soon as possible. Be prepared to invest time and money if you want to be a professional. However, for a beginner or an amateur who wants to increase fitness levels, it can be a fun way to learn a martial art. Choosing a training option and martial art style is completely up to you. Just make sure you work out carefully and inform your trainer about any underlying medical conditions.