I’m a big fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I can’t help myself. I love watching those guys destroy each other. The top fighters exhibit explosive athleticism and devastating technique. There’s a big difference between training to fight in a cage and doing martial arts as a hobby. But, there’s a lot we should have in common, too.
The most important thing is mindset. If you learn all the best techniques out there but don’t have the will to fight, nothing else matters. The aggressive attitude of cage fighters often seems ego-driven and arrogant…and it is. But, when the time comes to defend yourself or your loved ones, you will have to “turn off” your conscience. It’s either you, or the other guy, that’s going to get hurt. Make sure it’s the other guy.
The importance of physical conditioning cannot be overemphasized. When fighters know all the same techniques, strength, agility, and endurance make the difference. It’s like football. Nobody thinks any other team has better blocking or tackling technique. They just have better athletes. Besides, it should be obvious that we use our bodies to perform every move. The better condition we’re in, the better our karate will be.
Many people credit Bruce Lee with initiating the mixed-martial-arts revolution. His Jeet Kune Do was an amalgamation of techniques from different styles organized around the concept of the “stop hit” from Western fencing. Also, he believed in live sparring as the true test of a technique’s effectiveness. But, he was not the first.
Mixing martial arts is nothing new. Throughout history, people who actually fought have always wanted to learn anything that would help them survive. For instance, caravan guards of nineteenth-century China often combined Xing Yi’s powerful linear striking methods with the circular throws and evasive footwork of Ba Gua.
I would argue that an effective self-defense method could be created by combining only the primary techniques of a few different styles:
Boxing – Nobody punches better than boxers. That’s all they do. The straight-lead, or jab, is a great way to gauge distance and create a reaction in your opponent. I like the method described in Jack Dempsey’s book, Championship Fighting. According to him, the “stepping straight-jolt” is the most important punch.
Muay Thai – The signature technique of Thai boxing is a round kick with the shin. It’s absolutely devastating, but I don’t like it. I could probably do some damage, but my shins aren’t conditioned to handle the impact. However, I can throw knee strikes, while controlling the opponent’s head in the clinch, without hurting myself. That’s good stuff.
Freestyle Wrestling – The single and double-leg take downs are simple and effective. Either one is a good way to put an opponent on the ground in a hurry. Plus, the ability to change levels and penetrate quickly are invaluable skills for closing the distance.
Greco-Roman Wrestling – Because holds below the waist are illegal, Greco-Roman wrestlers are the best at clinch fighting. Learning to pummel for under-hook control might be enough to fight off an untrained person. If you can duck under or arm drag to a rear clinch, that’s even better.
Judo – In general, I don’t like turning my back to the opponent, and techniques need to be learned without a gi. But, Judo’s basic hip and shoulder throws are hard to beat. Learning to back step well is a good skill to have.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – The Gracie revolution demonstrated to everyone the importance of grappling methods. Even though the art has it’s roots in the ne waza of Judo, BJJ evolved on it’s own into a subtle and profound art. The most distinguishing characteristic is extensive use of the guard position and an ability to fight on your back. Submissions are not as easy as they look. I’m most concerned with just controlling an opponent and trying to sweep or stand up.
The attitude of the Okinawan originators of karate would have been to use whatever worked for them. There was a predisposition to believe that anything Chinese was better, and the Fujien province was most accessible to them. They did the best they could with the knowledge they had. Shouldn’t we do the same?