115) One Aikido Teacher’s Answer To Some Of The MMA World’s Skepticism: March 2014

A long time friend of mine is taking his son to a respected MMA school and through his many discussions with those teachers, he wanted to know why they were so dismissive and derisive towards Aikido.  He said that the consistent response that he got wass it’s an art like Tai Chi, but is is never going to be considered an effective fighting style in ‘real life combat.’  This is always followed by the belief that Aikido will not be taken seriously as a martial art in the eyes of those who professionally engage in competitive combat sports unless an Aikidoka can prove himself in the octagon….”

This stunning combination of arrogance and ignorance needs to be addressed.  The best way to do so, it to help educate……

Martial Principles:  If we are going to compare and contrast certain things, we should at least be able to do so around a set of core principles as they pertain to martial conflicts.  The first area pertains the the expenditure of energy.  The least amount of energy expended to disable/eliminate the opposing force is the ideal.  The conservation of energy is paramount. This applies to and leads in the development of weapons that require the least amount of expended energy to achieve the largest amount of destructive power possible.  This also applies to movements in forces.  Movement should be done when it accomplishes both strategic and tactical goals of defeating the opposing force.  The second major area has to do with the inequity of force.  A force-on-force paradigm is exactly the opposite of the ideal manifestation of this principle.  It is ideal to not allow an opposing force to impact you, while your force has the maximum amount of impact upon the opposing person (s).  This leads to the pursuit of accomplishing force multipliers.  This can involve protective gear/armor, superior numbers of combatants,  superior weapon system (s), superior skill sets, superior strategic and tactical maneuvers, and superior intelligence gathering.

Martial Arts:  In many respects, the term martial arts is an archaic legacy to times long since past.  If we want to talk about martial arts or sciences of today, we need to be talking about modern weapon systems and their deployment on a tactical and strategic level.  What we like to refer to as “martial arts” are actually historical and cultural legacies that add value to people’s daily lives.

In specific regards to Japanese martial arts, it is important to distinguish some older fighting arts/systems and more modern arts.  The older arts that are still being taught are passing on a traditional fighting system/family art that was relevant to surviving the battlefield HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO.  After Japan became a unified nation, there was a change in how the arts were taught to reflect the emphasis on NOT FIGHTING (laying down the spear- as a definition for Budo).  There was a major change to being defensive in nature, with the goal towards polishing one’s spirit.  That meant becoming more peaceful, humble and considerate to the world around you.

If we look at the area of martial arts in terms of martial principles, we have a mixed bag (not surprisingly).  High level martial arts training results in a person’s ability to avoid and/or neutralize an incoming force, while delivering a maximum amount of disruptive & destructive force with the least expenditure of energy.  The obvious limitations are in the significant limitations in the tools & weapons used for both defensive and offensive purposes.  Then again, the purpose of the training is to carry on a cultural tradition with personal benefits.  One of the SIDE BENEFITS is in an increased ability to be able to defend one’s self against some types of attacks.  One of the more unique advantages is in the development of an acute and calm sense of awareness.  This enables a person to have a heightened awareness of one’s surrounding, enabling the person to leave the environment or act in a manner to defuse to potential conflict from occurring.  The health benefits are obvious and enable people to stay active into their eighties.

Fighting Styles/Systems:  These are combative styles and systems that are not intended to polish one’s spirit, but to engage in particular types of fights.  These styles/systems are primarily designed to be offensive and not defensive in nature.   Many of these styles/systems are competitive in nature and have contests, WITH RULES that are designed to test the fighting abilities within somewhat safe parameters.  To equate these contests with “real-life combat” is demonstrative of a degree of arrogant and ignorant hubris that only demeans the fools who actually belief that there are any comparisons whatsoever.  COMBAT is a MILITARY conflict that rarely involved conflicts without multiple weapon systems being utilized in which combatants typically live or die.    Most fighting Styles/Systems have become so focused on a specific type of contest, that the development of those systems closely follows the rules to best allow a person to emerge with a win.

In looking at fighting styles/systems from a principle-based perspective, we have a mixed bag as well.  Many of the styles/systems are designed to help a person be able to engage in and survive an non-weapons based fight with another person in as quick a manner as possible.  The emphasis of fast, simple and effective is a good teaching paradigm to help a large number of people quickly learn to survive a force-on-force encounter.  One of the frequent problem areas is that the skills that are taught are typically not “healthy” in an environment where there are more than one attacker and/or weapons are involved.  When weapons are taught in these systems, they tend to also lean towards older weapons that do not really provide much help/relief for REAL combat situations.  Weapons defensive instruction also tends to lean towards these older weapons.

Mixed Martial Arts:  Mixed martial arts is simply a combative sport.  This sport is more similar to a gladiator contest than it is to being considered a martial arts competition.  The MMA arena is designed to entertain the audience through watching two combatants engage in violence until only one person is left standing.  Most martial arts competitions have two distinctly different components that are designed to highlight that particular art.  One component is a demonstration of forms/kata, while the other component is the application of those forms in some type of contest.  Most people who compete in mixed martial arts, have a competitive life of around five years before the toll of the physical injuries force them to withdraw from high level competition.  These competitors are in great shape.  They learn how to survive a lot of punishment.  The reality is that the physical toll far outweighs the benefits over the course of the person’s lifetime.  It is nice that these competitors learn a good amount of information and skills regarding a variety of one-on-one fighting scenarios.  Most people have not studied long enough to really become refined in even one area of skill sets.

In regards to martial principles, we have a mixed bag as well.  The diversity of skill sets helps to create a better outcome for a force-on-force encounter with another person. The tendency to exchange blows with one another is a major and dangerous diversion from genuine martial principles.  You frequently see two combatants trading blows, either on the ground or standing up.  Just imagine if one person had a knife hidden and took it out and started stabbing rather than punching…..  Imagine you are engaged on the ground and five of the person’s friends start teeing off on you on the ground….  MMA for the most part, does not deal with weapons training (use and defense) and tend to not teach how to handle multiple attacker scenarios.  REAL combat involves multiple weapon systems being deployed with multiple attacker.

It is great to be a well-rounded martial artist.  It is even better to be able to continue to practice well into your eighties, while always learning new skill sets and refining the ones that you have been working on for years.  The idea that your body is shot in your late twenties and early thirties, is not all that bright (in my opinion).  Martial artists cross-training and testing their skills against one another is not a new phenomenon and has been going on for hundreds (probably around 1000 years) years.  The latest fad in the martial arts world clearly is “mixed martial arts”.  This fad will fade like those before them and those that come after them.

Some of these mixed martial arts folks really need to step back and take a reality check.  Those of us in “traditional martial arts” do not care if the MMA crowd gives us their “seal of approval.”  That “distempered” group needs to become less egotistical and arrogant.  They portrait an image that is not all that pretty.  If they really want to believe that they are the penultimate representation of the martial world, I invite them to enlist in the military and go into a battlefield with their “awesome” skill sets.  I will work on their eulogies……

I have friends in the mixed martial arts world that do not display the ignorant and arrogant hubris to proclaim themselves as the judges of all that are martial.  My friends readily acknowledge they are entertaining others in a gladiator like manner.  They do not pretend that they can handle “real-life combat” any more than my friends in the traditional martial arts world do.  We love to share our knowledge with one another and HUMBLY work to help each other improve as people and martial artists.  There will always be naysayers and skeptics about anything and everything.  To me, reality is the ultimate trump card.  We have to live with our own realities.  So far, I like mine and it fits just fine! I seem to be just fine in making all of the years of budo & fighting sports training work for me when tested, now under the rubric of Aikido.   To me, what I do helps to make me a better person and make the world around me a better place to live in.  My students seem to recognize and appreciate those same things.  I do not need to step into a ring or octagon to prove this to myself.  Then again, life is not about winning and losing.  We will all die one day.  Life is about what we do with the precious little time we have alive.   I don’t advocate positions of ignorance and arrogance, because they tend to hinder one’s ability to lead a fulfilling life.  Those that seem to thrive in their own little kingdoms find that their castle walls fall in on themselves far faster than they ever could have imagined.  What a pity….. Now back to great martial arts training…..

Train in a manner that helps you leave this world a better place!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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