Mixed Martial Art

Mixed martial art – History and evolution as well as its impact on the martial art world

Mixed Martial Art is a fighting (some would say sport) competition which has evolved and is evolving into a martial art of its own.

As a fight competition and as a martial art, it involves striking, wrestling, ground and submission fighting. Through the years its rules have changed and evolved depending on time, place and culture.

The modern MMA phenomenon has done for the martial arts what myths, legends and movie stars have done before.

Popularizing them and putting them in the spot light of the mass.

The essence of Mixed Martial Arts is one of the major concepts behind this site –

Wanting to know what works! No un-based assumptions, no magic; Clear and based logic which can face reality and withstand.

Unlike the Pankration; Beimo, Vale-Tudo, and modern MMA began with the intention of searching for the ultimate fighting system and art.

This was due to the fact that the fighting arts were very different from one another in concept emphasis and training methods – the reasons vary, and we will try to answer them shortly.

However, nowadays, it is clear that the fighter is the one which determines the outcome of the fight and not his or her fighting system (for good and for bad).

History and Development:

The history of Mixed Martial Art, as a - close to reality Simulation of a one on one empty hand fight, can be traced back to ancient Greece (about 650 B.C).

It developed in Sparta as a test of skill, and in Athens when the Olympic sport of Pankration was introduced.

The rules of the competition where bounded by two rules: No eye gouging, and no biting.

The training methods and objective as well as the technical and physical skills needed for this competition are similar to the ones demanded of today’s Mixed Martial Artists - Involving striking, wrestling, ground fighting, conditioning...

When Alexander the Great conquered India he made sure his army ranks were full of these warriors. Some claim that Chinese martial arts can be traced to this fact, as their origins are supposedly stemmed in India.

Forms of the original Pankration were practiced during the rein of the Roman Empire.

From the end of the Roman Empire until the 20th century there are no recorded competitions of Pankration like fighting (even when the modern Olympics began, at the end of the 19th century, Pankration was not accepted as a sport).

One theory regarding this is that military warfare during this period became much more conservative and structured than before, influencing the martial arts of their time and creating fighting competitions which were more bounded as well. The practice of boxing, wrestling, fencing… is a testimonial of this separation.

Another element which added to the separation between the military activity to close range empty hand combat was the use of long range weapons which made the occurrences of these sort of combat situations less frequent during war times, thus making the martial arts less usable in life and death situations and more useful as entertainment and recreational practices.

However, some occurrences of mixed fighting were recorded during the 19th century such are:

John L. Sullivan (world heavyweight bare knuckle champion) against his trainer William Muldoon (Greco-Roman wrestling champion), Akitaro Ono (jui-jitso, judo, sumo…) vs Giovanni Raicevich (Greco-Roman wrestling)…

These events occurred during times when the martial arts were already divided into categories of expertise; this led to competitions which focused on finding the best art and training system for “universal fighting” instead of measuring the level of the actual fighters (as the Pankration had done before).

It was a time when if a fighter would win a fight his school and system were proven superior and not necessarily the specific fighters abilities. These “discipline” challenges were common during the centuries in China as well, and they were known as Beimo.

The Beimo fights found fame during the 50s’ and 60s’ in Hong Kong .This was the martial art background in which the late Bruce Lee grew up in (which some regard as one of the “Fathers of Mixed Martial Art”) .

The Beimos were held on roof tops and back alleys as skill challenges and especially as tests between schools.

Interestingly enough, though in most Beimo challenges there were no restricting rules, ground fighting was not commonly seen and nor was submission fighting. Some speculations regard this occurrence as a result of mainly striking oriented fighters participating in the fights.

Karate master, and founder of Kyokushinkai karate, Masutatsu Oyama, also opened his full contact competition for and to any martial art practitioner and discipline.

Founder of Sambo, Vasili Oschepkov, also held challenges against other grappling systems in Japan and the U.S.S.R especially.

A style which combined western and eastern styles of fighting was founded at the beginning of the 20th century in England called Bartitsu.

At the time mixed competitions were held through out the country and Europe involving all sorts of fighting styles, Providing good grounds for Bartitsu to develop.

Mixed fighting contests were also popular in Japan and were called Merikan. As written in the beginning rules and restrictions were determined according to the specific contest, the common element being that no bare hand fighting style was banned, rather only certain techniques were restricted.

However understanding Mixed Martial Arts history can not be complete without knowing and introducing the Gracie Family, their Brazillian Jui-Jitso and the Gracie Challenge.

The Gracie’s were taught the art of Judo at the beginning of the 20th century, as time went by they continued to develop their fighting art to the needs of the streets in Brazil.

As part of their promotional effort after opening their gym in Rio De Janeiro, they advertised the Gracie Challenge, which invited any one who wanted, disregarding weight or ability, to compete in a no holds barred fight.

This challenge quickly developed into the Vale Tudo, which is the mother of the UFC and Pride.

These tournaments and competitions which begun in the 20s’ of the last century, quickly became popular, and sky rocketed Brazilian Jui-jitso to fame. Inspired by the Vale Tudo competition, mixed martial arts matches called Kakutougi were held in Japan during the 70s’.

In 1993 the leading figures in the Gracie family initiated a joint business and martial art venture called the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Like the Vale Tudo before, it was a one night, “winner takes all” tournament. Different martial artists and brawlers came from all over the world to compete. The rules restricted only biting, eye gouging, fish-hooking and small joint manipulation.

At the same time Pancrase, Shooto (a bit before) and such – Mixed Martial Arts organizations opened in Japan.

Initially they had much more restricting rules as opposed to the UFC (especially restricting the striking aspects), but by the late 90s’ they had a adapted the MMA rule set which were being formed (led by the UFC organization).

In 1997 the UFC s’ younger brother Pride FC opened in Japan. During the years the rules and restrictions have changed, and so have the tournaments, leagues and competitions for Mixed Martial Arts.

Nevertheless it was Pride and even more so the UFC which had the biggest effect on Mixed Martial Arts.

Today the Mixed Martial Art snowball has already begun rolling and the sport and fighting art is growing in popularity as it is in practitioners.

Components of Mixed Martial Arts:

Nowadays fighters are not representing so much their schools and disciplines, but rather their own skills and abilities.

Training in MMA is versatile and cross training is very common. Nevertheless in many Mixed Martial Arts clubs, the teacher or instructor teaches all the components.

Like specified in the “types of martial arts” section, the martial art world can be divided into different fighting categories, some of which are relevant for MMA training:

• Grappling (comprised of clinching, takedowns - wrestling, ground fighting and submission fighting) –

The most common martial arts used for cross training are:

* Greco- Roman - for its wrestling techniques

* Muay-Thai – for striking in clinch position, and takedowns.

* Combat Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu - for wrestling, but especially for ground and submission fighting.

• Striking and stand-up arts:

* Muay Thai - The most versatile striking art practiced, which utilizes all strikes including the clinch and take downs.

* Boxing – is used to specifically improve punches and punching skills and abilities, without however some aspects like “bobbing and weaving” which could have devastating results against leg strikes.

* Kick Boxing and Karate, and in few cases Kung-fu - come in handy in Mixed Martial Arts, but are not commonly cross trained; Meaning that if a fighter practices these arts as part of their MMA training regime it usually means these were the arts they began their “martial art path” with.

* Judo, Jujitso, Freestyle, Shoot and Catch wrestling - are not seldom used for cross training, but like mentioned for karate, kickboxing and kung-fu, are usually trained if they are the “mother art” of the fighter.

Adaptations of other martial arts to MMA:

All martial arts practiced have to be adapted to the legalities and illegalities of MMA fighting.

Such are:

• Techniques which do not involve gi use.

• Holding both hands close to the face (good only when well padded gloves are used)

• Static motion of the body, which does not allow to change at the required speed for the variety of techniques available.

• High kicks and round house strikes – very risky…

• Reduction of “bobbing and weaving” as well as wide and lengthy foot stances.

• Much more (depending of course on the art).

“New” fighting elements:

The “re-birth” of mixed martial arts put emphasis on some technical and strategically important aspects of the fight which were un-emphasized and in some martial arts ignored before hand -

• Ground and Pound

A technical and strategically important aspect of a fight that was un-emphasized until the true rebirth of MMA.

It is a technique which in many ways decreased the dominance of the submission fighting in competition and training. It serves as yet another piece of evidence of the importance of testing, experimenting and analyzing our martial art, in order to develop.

• Sprawl and brawl

A strategy, tactic and technique which is used to keep the fight standing up. Strikers use it to in order to reach striking distance and to strike while lowering the risk of being taken down and in some cases even clinched.

Sprawl and Brawl as a technique forces the striking methods applied to be restricted to quick and relatively straight punches, with a restraint on “full body weight” punches and more…

• Conditioning:

The MMA is home for some of the most if not the most conditioned athletes in the world.

Another training emphasis which has been gained through the evolution of Mixed Martial Arts is the need for phenomenal Physic and Mental conditioning.

These fighters need not only cardio stamina but also muscle stamina, the likes of which are unprecedented in the sports world today.

Mixed Martial Arts heroes:

The “Warriors Project” is devoted to quality martial arts. It is not necessarily devoted only to the fighting arts, but rather to making sure a goal can be achieved through a chosen path…

As such our interests lay not only with popular figures, but rather with fighters which their Mixed Martial Arts fighting appearances have changed or initiated a change in MMA and consequently in the martial art world.

These are some of the prominent ones:

• Gracie family: Ground and submission fighting.

• Dan Severn and Randy Couture – Wrestling abilities.

• Vitor Belfort – “Boxing” striking.

• Chuck Liddell – “Scrawl and Brawl”.

• Mark Coleman and Fedor Emelianenko – Ground and Pound.

• Frank Shamrock – Mixed Martial Art conditioning.

The connection between Mixed Martial Arts, street fighting and self defense:

While the modern day MMA competitions initially set out to answer the question of –

Who would win in a no holds barred no rules bounded fight: a boxer or a grappler, a Sambo or a Brazilian Jiujitso fighter, a kickboxer or a Muay Thai artist, Karate vs Krav Maga…?

It is imperative to look at the limitations of such a “clean” confrontation before concluding and deciding upon strategies, tactics, techniques and training methods which will be used in real life and death situations.

Mixed Martial Arts as an art is different in four major ways from its big brothers such as Krav Maga, World War 2 combat systems and other self defense, street fighting, close combat systems -

1. It has rules and restrictions, be them as few as possible.

2. There is no threat of weapon uses.

3. There is no threat of fighting multiple opponents.

4. The fighting ground is always the same.

Nevertheless the evolution and revolution of modern day MMA has provided great tools for improving these systems in the sense that:

• Although other systems did have sparring sessions, some more intense than others; The MMA probably took these “sessions” as far as possible in “laboratory conditions” -

Meaning that unlike the streets or battle field, when we step into the ring, we know what we’re up against, we know that it’s not till death, we know there’s a referee, and we know we can tap out…

• From a statistical perspective - It opened up to a massive amount of martial artists who were up for the challenge and by that made it more credible in the conclusions determined and drawn from it on martial art theory and training methods.

For more information about the Theory of a Martial Art

Even though some of the tactics and techniques are not suited for no-rules fighting, it is still an indispensable way to evaluate and examine the martial arts techniques, tactics, training regimes and systems of empty hand one on one fighting.

It is a simulation, a way to examine the advantages and disadvantages of a fighting system and a martial art in face of a minimally bounded reality.


Mixed Martial Arts - like Boxing, Judo, Taekwondo… had done before, are perfect examples of how martial arts develop and improve – by testing themselves and the theories behind them.

Today MMA is not just a name or title for certain tournaments. It’s evolving into a martial art of its own, a process which will keep on proceeding and developing.

The MMA has also provided an economical basis with which amazing athletes and fighters can devote themselves and make a living from their martial arts as fighters.

The future for martial arts looks brighter than ever...

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