Ok, time to de-lurk.
By way of introduction, Let me preface this comment with a little history.
I'm 34 years old, and the martial arts have been a part of my life since I was twelve. I've tried my hand at a wide variety of different martial arts, including Judo, Aikido, Karate (some Kyokushin, a little Shotokan), and in the midst of all that, some twelve years worth of ninjutsu. Recently I've grown to enjoy western boxing and muay thai, both styles which are frequently considered at odds with the more "traditional" martial arts.
The past four years however, have been mainly devoted to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. What some people insist on calling "Gracie Jiu-jitsu".
I'm telling you all this partly to convey that I have a certain degree of experience, but mostly for the following reason.
Having a rational discussion about the martial arts with most men (particularly
young men) is not particularly easy. By nature, the male of the species is prone to testosterone-induced exaggeration and aggressive behaviour. This results in
the eternal continuation of the "my dad can beat up your dad" debate, transforming into "my martial art can beat up your martial art".
So I'm posting here in defense of MMA in general and the grappling arts in particular,
from the perspective of someone who can claim a fair number of them as "my martial art".
There are a few myths and misconceptions here (big surprise) that really should be corrected though.
1) UFC and other MMA events bill themselves as "no-rules" contests.
This is untrue. None of the organisations claim this anymore. In the early days of MMA, when they were all keen to grab as much attention as they could, and they hadn't yet figured out that being viewed as "no rules" bloodfests would block their path to the mainstream, they referred to themselves as "No Holds Barred" fighting or "No Rules" or things like that. They wised up though.
What is true, however, is that this style of competition is as close as you'll get to a real fight without actually being in one. Yes, certain things are disallowed (biting,
eye-gouging, etc) which make a lot of ignorant windbags claim that that invalidates them completely, but take it as you will.
In fact, this is one reason why anyone who has actually tried this stuff very quickly becomes disenchanted with the traditional action/reaction choreographed stuff that is taught in most dojos. It's a rude awakening, let me tell you, to realise that the vast majority of techniques you've been drilling for years are exceedingly unlikely to be valid in any real fight, or at worst, completely useless.
2) The Gloves/No Gloves debate
I was stunned by the idiocy of one comment in particular, along the lines of "take the
gloves off and the grappling would disappear". Holy smoke... one of the main reason gloves are worn is not to protect the other guy, but your OWN HANDS!
In the early days when they actually allowed them to fight bare-handed, there were a vast number of broken hands, dislocated fingers, and other hand injuries.
Oh, and please, spare me the whole "trained practitioner" of death-blows, dim-mak, death-touch, paralysis-inducing nerve pinches, and all that other nonsense. Please. I've seen it, done it, bought it, sold it, and in the final analysis, if you're relying on that stuff, I have two words for you: good luck.
3) The many and varied misconceptions about grappling in general
This is quite the can of worms. Let me start by saying that in all my years, nothing, and I mean NOTHING has ever given me such a degree of confidence in my ability to defend myself as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The problem is that it's very difficult for someone who hasn't tried grappling to understand one salient fact:
A person who has no experience fighting on the ground (particularly on their back) is as helpless as a baby against an experienced grappler. Royce Gracie proved this time and again in the early UFC's. I've personally experienced it (to my great amazement, believe me). I've gone up against guys who are MUCH heavier than myself, we're talking a 50 pound mismatch, and I was truly stunned at how helpless they are on the ground. And these are not average Joe's. I sparred with a guy who was a former national champion (or some similar title) in Tae-Kwon Do. Once he was on the ground, it was child's play.
And the fact of the matter is that in *most* real fights, what inevitably happens is that the fighters will end up on the ground, either because they collide, slip, lose their balance, grab each other or whatever. It's inevitable. Real fights are not like the nonsense that Hollywood shows you. There is an oft-repeated "statistic" that I hear about over 90% of all fights ending on the ground. I hesitate to present it as fact, since I doubt anyone has genuinely looked into it. But it makes sense to me that the vast majority would end up that way. It's just common sense.
Now, most people are simply not accustomed to being in that position. Their muscles aren't familiar with that range of movement, their bodies simply haven't experienced it. The guy I mentioned above, came to one of our jiu-jitsu classes, and within a half hour, he was outside puking his guts out (Although frankly, I think he was a little over eager to prove himself, because of his title and all that).
One thing that is true, however, is that grappling is not well suited to fighting multiple opponents. The reasons for that should be obvious even to the untrained.
However, that's not to say that it's completely useless. Ninjutsu is a martial art that is greatly preoccupied with fighting multiple opponents, and there are a number of techniques that involve grappling. The key is to quickly disable or dispatch the person you're grappling with (again, once it's stated, it becomes obvious, right?). So picture a grapppler who has an opponent in a classic arm bar. It doesn't take long to snap the arm at the elbow, roll away and move on to the next opponent. Of course, if he's already standing over you, you're screwed. :)
It all depends. The point is that while grappling is not ideal for this case, it's certainly far from useless.
4) UFC (or other MMA events) are bloody/barbaric/human cockfighting, etc
Yes, they can get bloody. No doubt. And yes, there are fighters that are assholes. But
just watch one bout where the fighters will hug each other afterwards or shake hands or otherwise genuinely show each other respect and that should dispel any of these silly
Most of my friends would, without hesitation, refer to me as a pacifist. Yet for the past 22 years, I've studied the *martial* arts. Why? Because it is an undeniable axiom of human nature that force will be employed by the strong to co-erce or control the weak. And frankly, in that contest, I would rather be among the strong. It's really that simple.
So if we put aside our posturing and realise that force and violence are inevitable in
our society, it's only logical to want to better employ, understand, or control those elements. Certainly, I don't think we should glorify them, which some might (justifiably) argue that these events will do.
Oh, and the day that the MMA events start to emulate the nonsenical, farcical garbage that "professional" wrestling is, is the day I stop taking part in or watching any of this. Unfortunately, with the mainstream audience willing to take as much bullshit as the entertainment industry shovels down their throats, that seems likely to happen.
Ok, there's lots more to say, and I haven't addressed some of the fallacies here, but I have to go now. :)