Traditional Martial Arts and MMA
on AUG. / 25 / 2011 | 0 comments
Recently, I visited the martial arts section of a local bookstore and what I found there was compelling in that the relative proportion of MMA titles to those of traditional Martial Arts books greatly favored the former! For me, this is somewhat disappointing as I am increasingly concerned that MMA, while valid in its’ own right, is displacing the traditional arts well beyond the bookshelves of America.
From the perspective of sport and competitive fighting, I think that there is no question that MMA has rightly secured a solid position in the arena and by definition; it is clearly a fighting art. My purpose here is not to debate the validity of this relative newcomer to the field. That is already established. Rather, my focus here is on what the traditionalists are proactively doing (or better still, not doing) to remain relevant and competitively viable in the current environment. Physical ability and fighting prowess are important and central to what Taekwondo practitioners emphasize in their training, but you can get that at an MMA studio as well. The core styles are more than that and we need to get the word out and emphasize how we help to develop the whole person which, in turn, builds better families, communities, etc, It is sad to note that I have visited some Taekwondo schools that do not even teach the tenets as part of their curriculum! So what is the difference between them and us when the focus is the same and/or the lines of distinction are blurred?
You may have already determined that his is not going to be a post on why MMA is kryptonite to the traditional arts, why they are evil and must be damned! Competition is a good thing because it promotes evolution and progress so long as you are willing to be engaged! For example, I spoke with a friend and school owner this past summer that complained about how MMA centers seem to be filtering off students. It is easy to sympathize, but I also think that the onus of responsibility falls on the traditional martial arts instructors to work smarter and get the message out concerning the overall benefits that we impart. If enrollments are down at your dojang and you are sitting in the office waiting for your advertisements to generate phone calls you may not be fighting the good fight.
The more we reach out to the community in which we teach to add benefit the more we will distinguish ourselves from the MMA studio on the corner. For example, school and community outreaches that take the form of demonstrations and motivational talks on leadership, moral character, positive lifestyle choices, etc, stretch far beyond flashy kicks and fight techniques. This is just one form of becoming more competitive, but I think that the more we get back to our core values as traditional martial artists the more competitive and successful we will be in the long run. This, I think is a better strategy than fighting MMA on their own turf!