Each corner of the globe has produced its own traditions when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. These have evolved throughout time. There are usually some forms of organized competition that pit the practitioners of each against their fellows. However, it’s the prospect of seeing all of them mix it up in a ring that truly builds up a lot of excitement. This is what mixed martial arts is all about: seeing the best of the best from various disciplines showing their supremacy. It is the ultimate test of skills. While it may seem like a recent phenomenon with the rise of UFC and similar leagues, it actually dates back to ancient times and has always existed in the background.
MMA Throughout History
For instance, the ancient Greeks enjoyed the sport of pankration. This featured fighters that used both striking and grappling to subdue their opponents, not unlike what we have today. Greece has a long tradition of wrestling and boxing. Many of the skills honed through these disciplines were used in pankration. Virtually anything goes inside the ring except blatantly foul moves such as gouging and biting. There were no rounds or time limits so the match drags on until one fighter has submitted. The sport was so popular that becomes part of the Olympics in 648 BC. When the Romans gained prominence, they copied a great deal from Greek culture including this athletic pursuit.
Fast forward to the 1800s and we see several forms of combat sports emerging in Europe and Asia. We have savate which originated in France. It is often called French kickboxing as it uses strikes with both feet and hands. The best fighters were celebrated in their communities. In England, bare-knuckle boxing was more popular for its simplicity and purity. Practitioners did not wear any padding on their hands. However, they did follow a set of rules for uniformity. In the middle of that century, saboteurs of France and bare-knuckle boxers of England met to find out who would reign supreme. Each team was composed of 5 members who would square off one-by-one with their counterpart. The English team won 4 to 1.
Plenty of fights between boxers and wrestlers followed over the years. Some of them featured individuals at the highest levels of their respective sports. For instance, the American heavyweight boxing champion John Sullivan fought against the Greco-Roman wrestling champion William Muldoon in 1887. The boxer was on a mat after a powerful body slam in just two minutes of action. Similar matchups were made afterward featuring popular fighters from different countries with mixed outcomes. Before the end of the century, an early form of MMA was founded in London called baritsu which combined European and Asian fighting styles with contests throughout England.
Bruce Lee was pivotal in the emergence of modern MMA. When he came along in the 1960s, he introduced a style of fighting that adapted to the opponent and the environment. He believed that the best person isn’t restricted to one form of martial art or another. It would be the individual who can use different skills when necessary. This requires mastery of various disciplines and essentially creating one’s own style of fighting. He demonstrated this numerous times through his system called Jeet Kune Do. For his philosophy, he is credited by many as the father of mixed martial arts.
Among the most popular disciplines in the sport, aside from boxing and wrestling, is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The Gracie family is considered as the vanguard of BJJ and many of the prominent masters come from their clan. They became a sensation in the 1990s when Royce Gracie managed to win the earliest editions of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. It didn’t matter that his opponents were larger than him or using other styles. He was able to subdue them using his grappling techniques and proficiency in ground fighting. A lot of fighters today get the best grappling dummy for BJJ, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, MMA, and Judo, that they can find to practice the holds and chokes, as well as the necessary defense for each.
Muay Thai is considered as a great system for strikers. Many MMA fighters try to learn this discipline to improve their game and make themselves more well-rounded. Whereas boxers can only use their hands to strike, muay thai allows kicks, knees, and elbows. You can use various forms of attacks in any situation whether the opponent is near or far. For instance, you may use kicks for long distance attacks to close the gap immediately. Knees and hands may be suitable for middle distance throws. Elbows are extremely useful when the other fighter is close as in a clinch.
Judo is another discipline that has a lot of proponents. There have been countless successful MMA fighters that came from this sport. They rose from the amateur ranks and obtained their black belts or gained Olympics medals before going professional. Some of the most popular ones include Ronda Rousey who won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics. Anderson Silva, the former number one UFC fighter, also holds a black belt in judo. Others are Fedor Emelianenko, a Russian national bronze medalist; and Hidenko Yoshida, Olympic gold medalist.
Taekwondo is another specialty in the resumé of numerous elite MMA fighters. The style has influenced their strategies on the ring, particularly when using kicks. Many of them have black belts and are themselves instructors who teach up-and-coming practitioners. Examples include the talented Anderson Silva, former UFC champion Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson, and Bas Rutten. They usually combine their knowledge in this discipline with other styles depending on the trajectory of the match or the style of their opponent. Taekwondo and Judo are excellent for long distance strikes. Once the other person is down, then can use BJJ hold for a submission.