Martial artist or not, the choice of training enhances personal ethics.
Having just watched UFC 178, it’s undeniable that Mixed Martial Arts is entertaining and growing massive in popularity. Whether this development in the sport is a good or a bad thing is often a topic I debate with my friends, especially those who are not martial artists.
Practicing and competing in martial arts is a great way to build character. Training on a regular basis requires discipline and enthusiasm while competing builds courage and confidence. To take up a martial art, especially as an adult, takes a certain amount of bravery. You must be prepared to be humbled. If you don’t get “tapped out” (submitted) at least once in your first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lesson then you are either with a class of complete beginners, or your classmates are taking it easy on you.
MMA, for those who are not familiar, stands for Mixed Martial Arts. MMA can cultivate all that is best in human character and spirit, or it can create bullies. The dependence is on the ethos of the martial artist, the coaches, and the gym he or she trains at. A ‘good’ gym will produce gentlemen, who act with respect and an old school martial arts code of honour. A ‘bad’ gym will produce bullies, who use their ability to fight to intimidate others.
In my experience, when it comes to mixed martial arts, there are 2 types of gyms, that breed 2 distinct form of ‘athlete’.
If I had to classify each type of gym, I would describe them as follows:
Traditional Martial Arts Style Gym
A traditional style gym, will tend to place an emphasis on discipline, respect, and self-control. There is often a welcoming atmosphere to new students. More experienced practitioners will encourage and ‘go easy’ on the less experienced or less skilled. Competition is often fierce, but egotistic and brash behaviour is not tolerated. At shows and competitions, coaches will give clear and concisetechnical feedback and instructions to the fighters.
Fighters will be tend to be highly technical and well conditioned.
“Cage-Fighting” Style Gym
The emphasis here is on sparring. Striking styles of martial arts are often promoted above technical grappling and ground fighting.
Experienced members see new members as target-practice and a chance to practice techniques that they can’t pull off on more skilled fighters.
Fighters might take steroids, wear lots of MMA clothing outside of the gym and claim they are cage-fighters, or that they “train UFC”.
Coaches will shout and swear at fighters during shows.
It is basically an MMA version of the Cobra-Kai gym from Karate Kid.
People have a tendency to prey. They can take advantage of and exploit those they perceive are weak. MMA fighters are definitely not perceived as such, and the sport therefore provides a way for people to ensure they are not victimised in any way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it can attract people to the sport for the wrong reasons.
We live in a society that celebrates violence and a media that cultivates insecurities and a reinforces the concept of the ego. What better way to enhance your self esteem, self-concept, and elevate yourself amongst your peers than to become a “UFC” fighter?
People who enter into MMA with this type of mind set are likely to be over competitive inside the gym, boast about tapping people out in training (a big no no) and have a sense of entitlement outside the gym that surrounds their identity as a “cage fighter”.
Failing an attempt to alter the structure of society and a several-thousand year old tradition of celebrating the warrior and violent sports, perhaps there should be more control over the credentials of MMA coaches at lower levels and those who choose to compete.
Requirement to compete in MMA could be impemented. For example, a requirement that the athlete (and coach) have no recent criminal convictions for anything related to violence, and that the athlete has at least a blue-belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or 2 years overall training experience.
In general, there needs to be an attempt to keep ethics in the sport.
It is undeniable that MMA has to power to do good. Young men (and women) idolize MMA champions, and the UFC has some great role models from Cain Velasquez to Demetrious Johnson. The fighters are generally much more noble and honourable than some of the soccer players you might see in the English Premier League.
It is understandable that people will be attracted to MMA to create an identity of being a tough or hard man. Even though some of us like to complain about people strutting MMA style—if you tried walking down a rough street in the USA or the UK on a Saturday night, you’d see why.
I hope MMA will continue to attract good people, good coaches, and good role models. Overall, MMA has a positive influence on young people and society. If MMA is for you, evaluate an MMA gym and its coaches before you join. Don’t train with a cult-like mentality, and don’t instantly idolize your coach without question.
You can be nice with the confidence that people are not going to take advantage of you.
You can use MMA to be nice.
Please remember and act upon the Rene Gracie phrase:
“learn to fight so you don’t have to”