Ever since specific fighting style emerged, humanity has often asked the question, “Which fighting style is better?” Records dating back to the time of Rome indicate martial skills were pitted against one another to answer this very question
These contests would feature both armed and unarmed combat techniques. On occasion mounted styles were even thrown into the mix. However, when you consider the fact that many of these contests ended in death, it could not be a sustainable form of entertainment.
The early 1900’s saw a resurgence of this interest. Boxers were often pitted against wrestlers to see which skill prevailed. By the end of the 1900’s the question of “Which is best?” expanded to every form of unarmed martial art.
The concept of mixed martial arts is simple. How can you adapt to your opponent’s fighting style? This means switching techniques given the situation. Here is where the heart of mixed martial arts lay.
As the most popular mixed martial arts shows grew in popularity, it was found that rules were needed. These rules both served to protect the fighters as well as make the structure of shows easier to manage. On a whole there are still fewer rules than many competitions due to the wide variety of styles employed.
However, if the fighters are still amateurs in the sport, it is common for more rules to be added. For example, elbow strikes are often banned for those beginning in the sport due to the severe damage that can be caused.
The best way to understand the reasoning for a rule is to understand how it improves the sport. These rules can be broken down into three major categories, the show, the fighter, and victory conditions.
The clearest area to understand is victory conditions. This is how you determine a winner which is helpful in any contest. The other two areas provide a benefit to either the show that is being put on or for the benefit of the fighter’s health.
Promoters of the mixed martial arts competitions quickly learned that size played a major factor in the entertainment value of the matches. Therefore, on of the first rules instituted was a weight class system. The following is a list of these weight classes
Flyweight = 125 lbs. and under.
Bantamweight = 126 lbs. to 135 lbs.
Featherweight = 136 lbs. to 145 lbs.
Lightweight = 146 lbs. to 155 lbs.
Welterweight = 156 lbs. to 170 lbs.
Middleweight = 171 lbs. to 185 lbs.
Light heavyweight = 186 lbs. to 205 lbs.
Heavyweight = 206 lbs. to 265 lbs.
Super Heavyweight = 266 lbs. and up.
Another problem involved the timing of the fight. Before rules were instituted there was no way for promoters to plan how long a fight would take. Therefore, rough guidelines were set to dictate the pace.
The standard time rule for a match is three rounds with each round lasting five minutes. Championship matches are usually five rounds last five minutes each. To further encourage the speed of matches, referees can utilize the “stand up rule.”
In this rule, if the referee sees that the competitors are resting or not advancing the fight, they can instruct the fighters to stand and resume the fight.
Further modifications can be made based on the organization and the country the event is located in. However, to keep the spirit of mixed martial arts, there are usually only minimal changes to the rules.
Certain moves from the outset were viewed not to be part of a martial art. Therefore, these moves were judged to be illegal for most mixed martial arts competitions. These include eye gouging, groin striking, finger bending, or hair pulling. Additionally some competitions further restrict certain types of strikes.
Examples of these limitations may include no head butting, no kneeing an opponent when they are down, and/or no elbow strikes. These rules will vary based on who is competing and where. Amateur fighters are more likely to be restricted on their elbow strikes where as professionals are not. Certain events in Japan will allow knee strikes to the head of a grounded opponent. These are just a few exceptions and applications of these optional rules.
As for clothing, many organizations require shorts for men and shorts with a sports bra like top for women. This promotes flexibility and prevents the disadvantage present in certain uniforms worn by specific martial art styles.
It goes without saying, you can’t fight to the death. Therefore, ways to determine the victor were needed. Victory in this case is determined by one of six outcomes.
These outcomes are, knock out, submission, scoring, forfeit, disqualification, or no contest. Some of these results only occur in very specialized circumstances. For instance, forfeit happens when one competitor pulls out of the fight before it has even begun. Another specific example is that of no contest.
A no contest ruling is made by the referee. They must rule that both fighters were disqualified. This could be done by ignoring the referee or breaking other rules that were set down before the match.
The most straight forward victory condition is the knock out. This happens when one of the fighters reaches the state of unconsciousness. This can be achieved in a couple of ways. A blow can incapacitate them or a fighter can pass out from a certain amount of pain. However the state is reached it means an automatic victory for the other person.
Submissions are another common way for a match to end. There are three ways for one side to submit. Two of these ways involve the fighter. The third involves that fighter’s towel man. The fighter can either tap the mat or body part to indicate submission. The towel man can throw the towel in the ring to signify they give up. Part of the towel man’s job is to determine whether or not their fighter’s only outcome is to lose. Many times a fighter will not be the best judge of when to quit.
Finally, the most complicated victory condition involves scoring by the judges. These judges will look at strikes, grapples, damage taken, and anything else they feel is pertinent to the match. The judging only comes into play when either the time expires or the other victory conditions weren’t met or when the match has been stopped.
A match can be stopped under a number of conditions. Some of the more basic stoppages are ruled by either the referee or doctor that is on hand. For instance, if a person passes out from a submission maneuver the referee will call for a stop to check that person’s condition. The doctor can also call for a stop if they notice an exceptionally large cut or broken bone.
During these stoppages, it can be determined that the cause of the injury was evidence of a disqualifying move. This disqualification will also grant the victory to the other fighter.
How to get started
Unlike other forms of martial arts, there is no clear way to learn mixed martial arts. This is not to say, it is impossible to learn. Rather, you can have difficulty finding a single trainer to teach you what you want to know.
The concept of mixed martial arts lends itself to a very personalized approach. It involves you to make choices on how you want to fight. This means, the only structure you can find is you.
For beginners, it may be easier to start in a specific martial art you like, and then study other arts and strategies used to find other styles that compliment you.
To decide on a good strategy, the best course of action is to study the champions of the mixed martial arts competitions. Chances are the next year’s winners will be looking to emulate and improve on the winning strategies of the previous year.
This hobby is ideal for an advanced martial artist. The goal is not to find new meaning in yourself, but to add more functionality to your style.
When it comes to equipment, you may need to find multiple training facilities that can instruct on the different forms you select. Each of these martial arts may require their own specific training gear. This can get costly depending on the art and the quality of equipment you choose.
When you finally reach the level of mixed martial arts, you’re major concerns for equipment will involve whatever your style requires for maintaining your body, i.e. weights, mats, punching bags, gloves, gi, etc. Needless to say, only the successful can reach the professional level.
Areas of study
The following are popular areas in which to focus yourself. This gives examples on good martial arts that improve certain areas of fighting. This is not a comprehensive list and should only be used as a rough guide.
Most `traditional` martial arts have a specific focus and these arts may be trained to improve in that area. Popular disciplines of each type include:
Stand-up: Various forms of boxing, kickboxing/Muay Thai, and forms of Kung Fu, Taekwondo & full contact karate are trained to improve footwork, elbowing, kicking, kneeing and punching. Clinch: Freestyle, Greco-Roman wrestling, Sambo and Judo are trained to improve clinching, takedowns and throws, while Muay Thai is trained to improve the striking aspect of the clinch.
Ground: Submission Grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Luta Livre, shoot wrestling, catch wrestling, Judo and Sambo are trained to improve ground control and position, as well as to achieve submission holds, and defend against them.
Some styles have been adapted from their traditional form, such as boxing stances which lack effective counters to leg kicks and the muay thai stance which is poor for defending against takedowns due to the static nature, or Judo techniques which must be adapted for No Gi competition. It is common for a fighter to train with multiple coaches of different styles or an organized fight team to improve various aspects of their game at once. Cardiovascular conditioning, speed drills, strength training and flexibility are also important aspects of a fighter`s training. Some schools advertise their styles as simply "mixed martial arts", which has become a genre in itself; but the training will still often be split in to different sections.
For less intense mixed martial artists
It should be noted that this page has been dedicated to the more competitive side of mixed martial arts. Some places don’t require this level of dedication.
While mixed martial arts was initially practiced almost exclusively by competitive fighters, this is no longer the case. As the sport has become more mainstream and more widely taught, it has become accessible to wider range of practitioners of all ages. Proponents of this sort of training argue that it is safe for anyone, of any age, with varying levels of competitiveness.
Even today mixed martial arts are viewed as a barbaric form of fighting. The lack of rules and nature of the sport give good reason for this. However, this approach to the idea of fighting has revolutionized fighting.
The idea of versatility coupled with individuality gives mixed martial arts a real interest in today’s generation. Every year the sport and its fan base get larger. It may never be an Olympic sport, but it doesn’t try to be.
With the freeform style there is much to say about each fighter’s personal style. Given the wide variety of fighting options a person can draw from, it is always interesting to see how someone might combine and package their own strategy.
Only the most serious and well-trained individuals should pursue mixed martial arts. Being a full contact sport it remains extremely dangerous. The only benefit is that it promotes greater versatility in your fighting style. This is definitely not a sport for the faint of heart.