Mixed Martial Arts (abbreviatedMMA) is a competition between two combatants that has evolved from deep-rootedhistories throughout different cultures and continents, and it continues toevolve through competition today. Sincethe beginning of humanity, unarmed combat has been a part of our existence. Just as MMA has existed (inone form or another) for thousands of years, so have the detractors of Mixed Martial Arts. Often criticized for its barbarism and the risk involved in competition, #MMA has faced opposition from the likes of Alexander the Great to United States Senator John McCain. Mixed Martial Arts has adapted due to this criticism, evolving into a sport whose legitimacy is acknowledged through out the world.The earliest instances of mixed forms of combat being implemented as a sport occurred in ancient Greece with #pankration.
Pankration may indeed be among the oldest [martial art], having been well documented before thecoming of Christ. The ancient Olympic games of Greece were geared mostly towards running events. In 708 B.C., wrestling, or pale, was introduced. Pale consisted of two styles kato pale, andorthia pale. Kato pale consisted of ground wrestling, with the loser signaling his submission by raising the indexfinger of his right hand. Orthia pale consisted of only standup grappling techniques, where the victor was the first to throw his opponent to the ground three times. The majority of Greek soldiers and other athletes felt that orthia pale was more practical, as a soldier only needed to throw his opponent to the ground to deliver a fatal blow with a weapon; engaging with an opponent on the ground was a dangerous endeavor. #Wrestling was very popular, as the wrestlers who trained sought not only victory, but victory with grace and style. Rather than teaching only wrestling maneuvers, training facilities instilled balance, grace, and finesse to all who trained. Twenty years later, boxing (then known as #pyxmackia) was established in the Olympic games. Pugilists competed until knockout or verbal submission, with no rounds, time limits, or ring. Instead of gloves, they wore straps of leather called himantes to protect their hands . Greek boxers were the pinnacle of athleticism, having to compete for hours, and who needed the stamina, defense and offense to defeat their opponent. Unlike wrestlers, there was little sportsmanship between boxers; many pugilists sought to injure their opponent rather than defeat them. Technical skill was abandoned for bruteforce, which appeased the crowds that were by now influenced by their blood-thirsty Roman neighbors. A popular debate among the enthusiasts of both sports was whether a boxer could defeat a wrestler, and vice versa. 648 B.C. brought both the thirty-third installment of the ancient Olympic games and the first Pankration competition. The mix of wrestling,boxing, kicking, and brutal submission holds would quickly make pankration the most spectacular and most demanding of all athletic events. Pankratiasts had almost any technique imaginable at their disposal (with the exception of biting and eye-gouging). Author and pankration historian Jim Arvanitis describes some of these techniques, and their significance to Mixed Martial Arts: Some of the more popular pankration techniques included straight power punches, low kicks, elbowing and kneeing, arm locks and armbars, takedowns and throws, as well as numerous chokeholds. To many martial arts historians, pankration was in essence the mixed martial arts of classical Greece. Kicking was an essential part of pankration. Due to this unique tactic alone, many combative experts credit pankration as the first comprehensive unarmed fighting system on record. Pankration took the Greek by storm, quickly becoming the most popular event. Pankration fighters received the same status as heroes some even becoming the subjects of myths. Alexander the Great recruited Pankratiasts to serve in his army, where they brought with them Pankration’s techniques. Following the death of Alexander, the Greek empire began to crumble, giving way to the rise of the Roman Empire. The kicking, punching, and grappling techniques of the Pankratiasts remained in Asia, specifically in India. Various tribal translations of these techniques would work their way throughout Asia, evolving into what is now known as #Kung Fu, #Taekwondo, #Karate, and Jujitsu. Jujitsu was originally derived by the ancient samurai of Japan as a method of defending themselves while unarmed against an armed attacker. Jujitsu was a very generic term encompassing the many styles of unarmed combat implemented and trained by the soldiers of the many Japanese warlords. These styles focused on different styles of throws, grappling, and even weapons training. The most relevant incarnation of Jujitsu was developed during the Edoperiod in Japan, from the early 17th century to the mid-19th century. A large amount of Jujitsu schools were founded, and implemented a well-rounded style, largely influenced by a man named Chin Genpin, who brought the Chinese striking art of Kenpo to Japan in1619. Jujitsu quickly transformed from a gentle art into a more complete combat martial art.
1868 brought the Meiji period to Japan, where Emperor Meiji was focused on ending Japan’s isolation from the rest of the World, and adapting Western culture. Meiji ended the once-honorable class of the samurai from Japanese culture, which rendered Jujitsu practically useless. A young man named Jigoro Kano still sought an education in the ancient art of Jujitsu. Dissatisfied with many crucial aspects of traditional Jujitsu, Kano sought to reform the martial arts of Japan by developing Kodokan Judo and opening his school in 1882. One of Kano’s primary goals was to create an organized, respectable competition between judoka, as opposed to the ruthless barbarism and warfare combat associated with traditional Jujitsu. Kano wanted to make martial arts training part of the road to self-perfection rather than merely practice for fighting. Since judoka were not soldiers fighting in war, or thugs fighting in the streets, Kano stressed the principle of seiryoku zenyo, or maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Kano organized collection of Kodokan Judo schools, a ranking system, and unified a curriculum for students. One of those students was Count Koma of Japan- Mitsuyo Maeda. In the early 20th century, the Japanese government was interested in forming a colony in Brazil. Maeda was sent to ensure that the colony would flourish. #Maeda befriended #Gasto #Gracie, grandson of a Scottish immigrant as well as a local political figure. Gracie used his political leverage to assist Maeda with the Japanese colony. Maeda happened to be a former champion in…Judo, and in return for Gasto’s help, Maeda offered to teach Gasto’s son Carlos the art of Judo. Carlos studied the art of Judo for six years, when Maeda left Brazil for Japan. Carlos then taught the art to his four brothers. Not bound by the strict rules of Kano’s Kodokan Judo, the Gracie brothers adapted Judo to fit their own needs. For instance, Carlos’s game was an aggressive attacking style that took advantage of his athleticism and speed. In contrast, Carlos’s brother, Helio, was a small and frail child who was raised by his brother Carlos. #Helio developed a style of Judo that more focused on leverage and technique. The Gracie brothers called their adapted style Brazilian #Jiu-Jitsu, giving homage to the ancient art from which Judo was derived. While #Kodokan Judo focused on take waza, or throws and standup grappling, the Gracies sought to focus on the ne waza, or ground grappling of Judo. Upon the opening of the Gracie’s first Jiu-Jitsu academy, Carlos extended and open challenge to anyone who thought they could defeat a Gracie. The smaller, weaker Helio was chosen to represent the Gracie’s in many of these challenges. The notoriety of the Gracies and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu flourished as the Gracies never suffered a defeat in these no-rules competitions. With no true national sports hero, Helio Gracie rose to superstardom in Brazil. He was so popular that a fight was proposed between Helio and Worldboxing champion Joe Louis for 1 million cruziero in 1950. These no rules, or vale tudo (anything goes in Portuguese), competitions did more than just promote the Gracie name. They solidified the claims that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the World’s most effective martial art and form of self-defense. With each vale tudo matchor streetfight, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was modified and evolved, but Jiu-Jitsu was still relatively unknown outside of Brazil, someone needed to bring the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the rest of the World. Rorion Gracie was the oldest of Helio’s children, and he literally trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before he could even walk. Rorion dreamed of going to America and becoming rich and famous. He soon realized the potential in his family’s martial art. His first trip at age seventeen was a failure. His plane ticket home and money were stolen and the Jiu-Jitsu instructor was forced to panhandle for money home. Rorion did not give up, though, and traveled back to Brazil, where he obtained a law degree, and became the head instructor at the family Jiu-Jitsu academy. #Rorion once again ventured to the United States, where he started a grass-roots attempt at spreading the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or as he called it, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Rorion started his instruction in a small garage in Torrance, California to a small group of friends. He offereda free introductory class to new students, and offered a free class to any student who recruited a friend to an introductory class. Though this dedication earned Rorion a small, loyal following of students, he was far from his dream of informing the world about the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. To pay bills, Rorion would have to find other means to earn an income: Rorion stumbled on an unlikely career as an actor. Over the course of the next fifteen years, the tall, dark, and handsome Rorion appeared in television shows like Hill Street Blues, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, and The Love Boat. Gracie enjoyed his new job, but that didn’t prevent him from bringing people from the set back to his garage to show them the family art. Rorion also worked as stunt coordinator, his most noticeable role was training Mel Gibson and Gary Busey for the final fight scene in Lethal Weapon, which saw Gibson utilizing Jiu-Jitsu techniques such as the guard and the triangle choke. In order to gain further notoriety for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Rorion issued the now-infamous Gracie Challenge; $100,000 was offered to anyone who could defeat him or his brothers in a vale tudo match. Rorion and his brothers went so far as to travel to other martial arts schools and challenging their toughest students and instructors to vale tudo matches. The videos of these challenge matches would later be sold to mixed martial arts fans in the Gracies in Action series. Not satisfied with local notoriety, Rorion sought to show the world the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on a national level. Author Donald Walter, Jr. describes the events that led to the realization of Rorion’s dream. Rorion Gracie met Art Davie, a salesmen who had first become interested in this style of fighting during a trip he took to Thailand where he witnessed an underground mixed martial arts event. Davie utilized his connections in the television industry to set up a meeting for himself and Rorion Gracie with Bob #Meyrowitz, who was president of Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), a corporation that specialized in putting on live pay-per-view sporting events. Together, the three men established the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which held its first event in 1993. Rorion and SEG recruited 8 of the world’s best fighters from different martial arts to compete in a vale tudo tournament; the only illegal techniques were biting and eye-gouging, much like the rules of ancient Pankration. The styles represented where Sumo, Karate, American Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do,Shootfighting, Savate, and boxing. The only part missing from the equation was a representative of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Rorion, chose his younger brother Royce due his lanky build who looked unassuming in his traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu attire, the white gi. Much to the Denver, Colorado (Colorado was alogical choice because it had no state athletic commission) crowd’s surprise, Royce submitted all three of his opponents with ease, spending less than fiveminutes total in the octagon (SEG and Rorion had decided to stage the fights in a padded octagonal-structure surrounded by a chain-link fence; the octagon would later become a symbol of MMA competition). Royce’s opponents where no slouches; Art Jimmerson was the 10th ranked boxer in the WBC; Ken Shamrock was a strong shootfighter, a form of submissionwrestling with open-hand strikes popular in Japan; and Gerard Gordeau, the European savate (French kickboxing) champion. Royce would go on to win the next tournamentwith the same ease. It quickly became apparent to all those that watched that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the world’s most effective martial art; dispelling the claims of popular martial arts and their claims at effectiveness in combat situations. Arts like Karate, Taekwondo and Kung Fu gained popularity through film in the 60’s and 70’s, but these arts are flawed because they do not aggressively spar with one another. These arts are taught through repetition of techniques to non-resisting opponents or other targets, where as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu evolved from street fighting, and the techniques can be used full-force. The Ultimate Fighting Championship gained a quick following in the early nineties. The first #UFC garnered just under ninety-thousand pay-per-view buys; less than a year later, the third installment of the UFC reaped over three-hundred thousand pay-per-view buys. The UFC was marketed early on as a bloodsport, where two men enter the octagon, and only one leaves. SEG used other gimmicks to gain notoriety for the UFC; for example, they listed knockout, tap out (a way to submitnon-verbally, buy tapping the mat three times with the hand or foot; this isnecessary in the event a competitor is caught in a choke), or death. In reality, there has been only one death in MMA; Douglas Dedge slipped into a coma and died following an unsanctioned MMA match in the Ukraine. It was later discovered that Dedge had fainted during training prior to the fight and may have had a pre-existing seizure condition. In reality, MMA has fewer injuries than any other combat sport. Presently, MMA fighters wear four-ounce open-palm gloves that allowgripping ability while protecting the knuckles and wrist. When a fighter fails to intelligently defend himself from strikes or submissions, the referee has the ability to stop the contest. In boxing, boxers receive a standing eight-count, which can result in what doctors call second-impact trauma to the brain.Despite the reality of the safety in mixed martial arts competition, a movement was put forth to ban MMA competition. Arizona senator John McCain made it his personal crusade in 1995 to ban mixed martial arts or cage fighting, as he refered to it. #McCain painted agrue some picture of the UFC and other promotions selling their brand of human cockfighting, but failed to obtain most of the details of the sport. Many MMA proponents cited McCain’s financial ties to Budweiser, a major sponsor of boxing events; boxing stood to suffer the most with the rise in the UFC’s popularity. McCain, along with New York state boxing commissioner #Floyd #Patterson (who, ironically was relieved of duty as a result of short-term memory loss caused by the brain damage suffered from boxing) pressured state athletic commissions and cable companies to ban MMA. They briefly succeeded in the late nineties, when MMA was only fought on Native American reservations (or out of the country), and viewable from satellite television only. While this did negatively affect the money-earning potential of the UFC, it created a grass-roots campaign by dedicated fans to get the UFC back on cable. Largely fueled by the internet, promoters, fighters, and fans worked with local athletic commissions and cable companies to regulate MMA. MMA is now recognized and sanctioned by several state athletic commissions, and available on pay-per-view from every major cable company. The UFC (with new owners; #ZUFFA) has even solidified a deal for a weekly cable television program on the SpikeTV network. While under the infamous cable ban, the UFC, and subsequently mixed martial arts, went through an evolution. There was a nationwide surge in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools; almost all schools that stressed self defense or reality-based training offered some form of BJJ instruction. As a result, the playing field began to level, with ground-fighters no longer having such a clear advantage. Competitors were forced to cross-train in several arts, using the most effective techniques to form one truly mixed martial art. There is no defined style; a professional MMA fighter will train wrestling to improve takedowns and positioning; he will then train at a boxing gym to learn punching; he’ll train Muay Thai (a form of kickboxing from Thailand) to learn kicks and knees; he’ll train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to hone his submissions. There are dozens of mixed martial arts schools in every state and all over the world; there are many small MMA promotions putting on shows all over the world. Mixed Martial Arts is no longer categorized as a brutal contest, but as a sport. The earliest forms of mixed forms of fighting occurred half a dozen centuries prior to the birth of Christ, quickly gaining popularity as a sport throughout ancient Greece. Over time, these fighting techniques evolved into ancient martial arts used to defend oneself in ancient time of conflict and brutality. Coming full circle, these techniques have once again been mixed together and improved upon to form one evolved sport. Mixed Martial Arts, while still lacking the popularity of many other American sports, has withstood criticism from the government, and may once again become a sport revered by a nation.