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Name: Adam Bernard
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A Martial Artist’s Mixed Views On Mixed Martial Arts
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This past week an MMA fighter who goes by the name War Machine (not pictured) was arrested for beating his 5’3’’ ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack, so badly she was unrecognizable. As much as the entire incident saddened me, I can’t say it surprised me, as I viewed it as the logical progression of what has become an industry that has stripped the martial arts out of its craft, but kept it in its name.

I began studying the martial arts as a child, for a myriad of reasons that aren’t all relevant to this article. What you should know is I’ve been a practicing martial artist for nearly 30 years, and currently hold a fourth degree black belt in Kempo.

The concept of MMA, and specifically the UFC, when it began, was intriguing. It seemed as though it was a test of skills to see how practitioners of different martial arts would fare against each other. It was almost like a tournament where styles from all corners of the world could be involved.

With popularity, however, has come problems.

Even from the beginning the UFC pitched itself on the violence aspect of what they were doing, and when they debuted The Ultimate Fighter, their now long running reality series that they use to build up to big fights, and develop new stars, I immediately saw the negative effect when one of the fighters, Chris Leben, boasted that he wanted to break another fighter’s jaw. This was no longer about the martial arts, this was just about fighting. The UFC was living down to their name, rather than up to their potential.

The martial arts are more than just a set of moves used to protect oneself, and, if necessary, disable a person. There’s a philosophy, and a history, behind each of the martial arts, and what I began to see on The Ultimate Fighter was that many of the competitors knew the moves, but seemed to have little knowledge, or care, regarding the philosophy, and history, of the skill they were developing. What they were, and are, doing amounts to nothing more than fighting.

Fighting gives us boasts about breaking jaws. Fighting gives us Nick Diaz attempting to brawl with Joe Riggs in a hospital following UFC 57. Fighting gives us guys like War Machine, who advertise t-shirts that say “I Do Alpha Male Shit,” and beat their ex-girlfriends senseless.

None of the people mentioned, at least in my eyes, are martial artists. They’re fighters, and bullies, and they’re the end result of an industry that has played up the violence aspect of their sport, and completely ignored the history, and philosophy behind each of the martial arts involved.

The popularity of the UFC has led to MMA schools being opened. These are places where the entire goal of the students is to learn moves for in-ring (or in-cage) competition. This is the complete opposite of the goal of the martial arts.

Yes, I realize there is sparring at every tournament, and as I noted earlier, I’m perfectly fine with martial artists wanting to test their skills. The ring, or the cage, however, should never be the goal. Once that becomes the goal, it’s no longer the martial arts, it’s just fighting, and when people are just fighting it becomes something that attracts people like War Machine, and we end up with a 5’3’’ woman with 18 broken bones in her face, a fractured rib, and a ruptured liver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are a plethora of real martial artists involved in the UFC, and other MMA companies. In fact, I’m a fan of quite a few of the competitors, including current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman (OK, maybe that’s partially because we’re both Hofstra grads). This is why my feelings on the current state of Mixed Martial Arts are so, well, mixed. I think there are some great people involved, but I see the path which the sport is being led down, and it’s a path where stories like War Machine’s will be frighteningly commonplace.

When we bow in my dojo the left hand covering the right fist represents “peace over war.” I find this to be a perfect illustration as to why someone who goes by War Machine, and people of his ilk, aren’t martial artists at all, and why I continue to distance myself from the term MMA.

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