Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Introduction to MMA

This is the first part in a n-part series for MMA noobs who have no idea what a Chuck Liddel is. In this first installment I will discuss the specific style of fighting that is involved and a little bit of history.

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. It is a combination of martial arts styles that have been found to be effective in the UFC and other similar events. The three basic elements of MMA are striking, wrestling, and Brazilian jujitsu. While modern fighters usually specialize in one of the three aspects, they must be skilled in all three in order to stand a chance. It is notable that Brazilian jujitsu(BJJ) is the only one of the three elements that references a specific style.

No holds barred fights have been around for a very long time but it really wasn't until the early 90's when events such as UFC 1 took place where skilled practitioners, and not amateurs, of differing fighting styles were brought into the same ring(or octagon). Boxers, kickboxers, wrestlers, sumo wrestlers, etc. competed in the 8-man tournament, but the easy winner was Royce Gracie, a master of BJJ. BJJ dominated these early MMA events.

BJJ includes a little striking, but mainly it is about forcing the other fighter to submit either by bending something in a way it normally would not bend or by temporarily cutting off bloodflow to the brain. (99% of the time a fighter will "tap out" or give up before injury occurs, and in the case of a choke the worst that happens is that they pass out and wake up dazed a minute or two later)This style was very effective against non-practitioners because it involved taking the fight onto the ground where someone like a boxer is unable to fight effectively. While wrestlers had a slightly better chance, they too were doomed because a skilled BJJ fighter could attempt a submission even when the wrestler was in a seemingly dominant position.

As the sport evolved it became apparent that even if a fighter was not a BJJ fighter, he still had to train in enough BJJ so that he can defend against submissions. In modern MMA it is difficult to be a pure BJJ fighter although they do exist. Submissions are becoming more of a submission move used against a tired/hurt fighter rather than a full-fight strategy.

Striking is the art of hitting someone. The following is an exhaustive list of striking styles that have been found to be effective in MMA.
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing
  • Muay Thai
"Hey, where's karate?" you might ask. Well, it's pretty much worthless. As are many of the Eastern striking arts like Wushu, tae kwon do, etc. These techniques might be effective in action movies and against untrained fighters but not in the UFC. They fail for various reasons and I honestly don't know all of them but I'd imagine that they do not fair well against wrestlers who are intent on taking them down. The three effective styles are modified from orthodox practice due to the need to defend against takedowns and in the case of boxing, defend against kicks. Striking specialists try to keep the fight off the ground where they have an advantage over a fighter who does not specialize in striking. Matches between 2 striking specialists can easily resemble kickboxing fights.

There are several effective Eastern and Western wrestling techniques. In MMA wrestling is used primarily in 2 ways. The first is to score a takedown, that is to get the other fighter onto the ground while remaining on top. Once the fight is on the ground, wrestling is used to maintain or strengthen a dominant position. There is no such thing as a pure wrestler in MMA. Typically, wrestlers employ striking techniques to utilize while in a dominant position(Ground and pound) and/or learn BJJ submissions that can be used when the fight is on the ground. Many successful MMA fighters are former college wrestlers.

Join me for my next installment of the series where I discuss the various strategies that fighters use and the kinds of matchups that this leads to.

1 comment:

Lifeafter said...

I would like to know more