Mixed martial arts (plus yoga!)

Over the centuries many different styles of fighting have evolved in different corners of the world. Various styles of Karate, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, and other variants perhaps less familiar in the US such as Sambo and Capoeira, which you might recognize from Ocean’s Twelve. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), ultimate fighting or extreme fighting came about as a contest to see which style would win if you threw them all in the same competition. The answer, by the way, was most often Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – the boxer or karate guy would get in one or two good licks and then wind up in a BJJ hold called an arm bar, given the choice of surrendering or having his elbow broken. If you find yourself on Sherdog or another of the testosterone-laden MMA discussion forums, you’ll see “Rickson by armbar” as a frequent joke/mantra, referencing the way every fight seemed to end when Rickson Gracie was the preeminent MMA fighter.

Over the past several years, due in large part to fighting promoters UFC and their Ultimate Fighter show on the Spike TV network, MMA has really taken hold in the US.  Evidence: UFC Junkie routinely ranks among the top 3 WordPress blogs. In the old days (which is really only 15 years ago or so), each fighter was a specialist in a particular style. Nowadays to be successful a fighter needs a well-rounded game, meaning competency in a striking art (frequently Muy Thai kickboxing) and a grappling art (frequently both wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). If you cannot defend the armbar, you lose. Here is a really short video of an absurd maneuver called a “flying armbar”. Do not try this at home. The guy on top is the one who taps out, or surrenders, in order to keep his limbs intact.

Anyway there’s your mashup in the world of professional fighting. Styles once separate are now fused into a single discipline.

Here’s a mashup of styles that’s much funnier if you don’t prefer actual violence: Kung Fu versus Yoga. I actually have the movie on VHS and was puzzling over how to best digitize a clip; needless to say, somebody’s beaten me to the punch (pun intended) on YouTube. Watch at least the first 30 seconds. The 30th second is priceless. Does this man have no ligaments?

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8 thoughts on “Mixed martial arts (plus yoga!)

  1. Interesting write up from a casual fan.

    Nice to see you avoided the typically cliched and misinformed bloodsport / human cockfighting crap.

    MMA is an incredible sport, with a hell of a lot of good sportsman ship… people can be punching the hell out of each other, and as the bell goes, the fist changes to an open hand and they pat each other on the back.

    It’s also a good litmus test of the martial arts… bullshit is finding less and less places to hide.

    Billy Bob’s Shaolin American Kenpo Kung Fu Karate Kickboxing Club is going to have to start putting its money where it’s mouth is, metaphorically speaking, or prospective students will start looking for the MMA, grappling or kickboxing schools that are springing up all over.

    And stuff.

  2. Hi and thanks. You raise two interesting points.
    One is the sportsmanship issue. I agree with you, although there is also a lot of arrogant nonsense and pre-fight trash talk. Unfortunately I wonder if the push for greater and greater viewership will spawn more of that artificial hype. This of course will be no different than the NBA or NFL where there are good sports and loudmouths. As long as it doesn’t turn into WWE I can live with it.
    Second point is about Billy Bob’s Whatever academy. For people who really want to fight, yes, you are probably right. But lots of people do martial arts for exercise or discipline and they may be happy where they are, even if “your Tiger’s Paw is no match for my Eagle Fist style!” (Kung Fu vs Yoga is not the only bad martial arts movie I own.)

  3. What was that excellent flick in which olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas dispatched throngs of slow-but-persistent attackers with a made-for-movies martial art that involved lots of gym equipment? You, remember, “here come the bad guys (slowly), where can I run? Aha! just what I need, here in the town square where I’m surrounded — a pommel horse!” [Kick, kick, kick, etc.]

    Gymkata, wasn’t it?

    Well, no, come to think of it, it wasn’t exactly excellent.

  4. Yes, Gymkata! That pommel horse scene was one of the most memorable of all time.

    One odd feature of the movie is that they apparently didn’t want to step on any toes during the Cold War. The Soviets/Russians were never named as such, always referenced mysteriously as “the other side”.

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