How old is mixed martial arts? You might think it dates back to Bruce Lee in the late 1960’s, but it goes back much, much further!
The ancient Greeks practiced a mixed martial art known as Pankration. It combined the striking and grappling skills used today in MMA, including boxing, wrestling, and hurdles. Much later, in the 19th century, the French developed a similar combat sport named ‘savate’. It was very popular in Europe until the twentieth century, when it was considered too brutal for civilized audiences and was outlawed in most of Europe. The concern for the potential of severe injury in this magnificent combat sport became so great that it was widely banned throughout the United States. In fact, it wasn’t until just this year that New York became the last state to lift its ban on MMA.
In Asia several countries developed mixed combat sports, such as Thai kickboxing, known as ‘muay thai’. This sport combined both boxing and wrestling, and was such a favorite of the ancient Siamese kings that those who excelled in it were often allowed to sit at the feet of the king during religious festivals.
Today there are a few basic skill sets an MMA fighter must master if he or she is to compete on a professional basis:
In this context ‘submission’ means chokes, leg locks, and arm locks, as practiced in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). This requires a great deal of training in grappling techniques. In the past a special costume, called a ‘gi’, was required in order to participate in this type of sport. Today, bowing to modern dress trends, the gi has been replaced by regular sports shorts.
Catch wrestling is also included under this category. It was an extremely popular combat sport during the 19th century in America, usually practiced at carnivals and county fairs. Considered one of the most dangerous of combat/contact sports, catch wrestling is now only taught by licensed professionals.
A good example of this skill set is Tae Kwon Do. The main point here is that participants can use their legs, feet, elbows, and hands, to strike at an opponent in order to bring him or her down to the mat. Kickboxing is considered another fine example of the combat moves allowed in this type of encounter.
The wrestler often bring much more to the table than plain physical skill. Usually they have been participating in competitions much longer than other types of fighters. Here in the United States many children begin their wrestling careers at the tender age of five. This means that wrestlers may often have an edge, mentally speaking, as well as a better grasp of what it takes to succeed in competition.
In MMA wrestling there are two main purposes. First, controlling your opponent. Second, forcing your opponent to the canvas as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many wrestlers find that the study of Japanese judo helps them with their takedowns, which are a very important component of all MMA matches.
The real appeal of MMA competition is that each opponent has his or her own set of strengths in each one of these categories. An opponent may be very skilled in takedowns, yet lacking in the finishing touches for strikes. Combatants must weight each other carefully during their encounter, thrusting here and pulling there to find out where vulnerability lies. The combination of offensive tactics and defensive strategy gives MMA matches an excitement and a variety found in very few other sports!