ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Martial Arts' Two-Sided Coin

Updated on July 20, 2016
jes732 profile image

Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.


I am huge fan of the martial arts. Have been for years, starting when I was in my teens living in Rochester and my parents making me take Taekwondo, and then later Karate. I fell out of it and didn’t go back until college, when I joined a martial arts group. The basic reasons for taking it were what you hear all the time: “Learning discipline and control”, or “an outlet” for all the energy I had as a kid.

Those are all fine and good, but that’s where people quickly lose interest. Something as trendy as the new Christmas toy you get one year and forget about the next. However it became something more to me. It became a passion, an outlet, and a way to connect with myself in ways I had not been able to before, good and bad.

You will get a lot of takes and definitions on the term, but at its core, all martial arts are is the native fighting style of a particular group. Traditionally this meant Asia, but it’s safe to assume now that it can be applied to any culture in the world.

School of Oom Yung Doe is a traditional martial arts school in Newton, MA and teaches some of the older forms like kung fu and bagwa
School of Oom Yung Doe is a traditional martial arts school in Newton, MA and teaches some of the older forms like kung fu and bagwa

One World, Two Cities

Martial arts are usually divided into two camps: traditional martial artists or TMA, and mixed martial arts, aka MMA. And the two stereotypically do not get along to well. Rivalries between schools and disciplines is nothing new in this world, but their back stories are interesting.

TMA would logically apply to your styles that are rooted in specific forms and have a degree of history and lineage behind it. Karate, kung fu, muay thai, and samo would all fall into this category. Meanwhile, MMA’s application of term depends on your history. In western culture, 1960’s/70’s action star and martial artist, Bruce Lee, is considered to be the founder of mix-martial arts. Some TMA artists however argue that the MMA concept has been around long centuries before Bruce came along, often citing the Indonesian style, silat, as an example. By definition, MMA doesn’t stick to one form, style, or kata, but instead draws the best from other styles to be molded into one’s personal variant. This ranges from borrowing techniques, to simple 'ground and pound' fighting.

Whether Bruce Lee is the founder of it or not, MMA has become wildly popular world wide for its blend of brute force and multiple techniques
Whether Bruce Lee is the founder of it or not, MMA has become wildly popular world wide for its blend of brute force and multiple techniques

A Certain Point of View

The prime difference is in how each camp views fighting. In the West, fighting, like much of the components of life, is often seen as a tool to accomplish an end. It’s less honor bound and more practically minded. Last man standing wins and their style is better. Because of this view, many MMA fighters consider TMA to be obsolete. This argument made large strides when UFC made its appearance in the 1990’s. Many fighters of all styles jumped at the chance of live combat with almost no rules. The results were that many traditional practitioners fell victim to other styles that were more modern, exploited inherent weaknesses, or went to simple ‘ground and pound’ fighting.

Though modern UFC and its counterparts have become more diverse, there is still a large amount of fighters who adopt the saying,

“Your kung fu is no good here”.

The more moderate of the camp will acknowledge the value and even past effectiveness of TMA styles, but criticize their failure to adapt to newer techniques and training regiments. Indeed some have questioned the lack of Asian fighters in UFC, crediting it several factors including cultural loyalty to old systems or simply too afraid to fight larger, taller western fighters that are more about victory than technique.

In eastern cultures too, martial arts are a practicality. Despite many of the hemisphere’s styles working from a root system, they are just as brutal as their western counterparts when allowed to be. However, it is also viewed as more than just a simple hammer or tool.

When I took Aikido, one my teachers from Japan briefly spoke about MMA and called it the human equivalent of chicken-fighting. Many TMA practitioners agree with him, and believe MMA lacks substance, soul, and focuses exclusively on the violence of the martial arts. Chatri Sityodtong, head of One Championship broadcast and a muay thai practitioner, phrases it best:

“The reality in Asia is that it (martial arts) is a lifestyle and a platform to unleash your potential as a human being.”

Fighting had to be something that carried over into other areas of a person’s life. And if you were the toughest and baddest mother fucker in the ring, but could not use any of that style outside of it or after you retire, then your MMA is meaningless.

Another side to this argument though is the fear that is said to plague some TMA practitioners that adapting to changing times and new opposing styles, dilutes the significance of their own. If fighting is also considered an expression of your cultural identity, then changing because everyone else is changing might cause your identity to eventually disappear. Then it would become meaningless or a copycat of someone else’s culture.

Respectable Violence

Both camps have many assumptions about the other. The primary ones being that MMA considers TMA akin to dancing practice, while the other views its rival as perhaps effective, but soulless and with a focus strictly on one aspect of fighting. However what I have found is that it is often the assumptions that can get people in the most trouble.

There are many TMA styles that have extremely brutal tactics that could border on inhuman. And though rooted in a systematic form, were used commonly in warfare where there were no rules. Likewise, there are many MMA fighters who have taken the personal lessons of TMA and applied to their lives as well as their MMA. Many soldiers who have learned more modern fighting techniques like Krav Magra and Systema, have applied the mental focus and spirit into their lives, even if they don’t practice it as much as they used to.

But these oversights are also understandable. Large egos and pride often times come in tandem with learning to fight. These will probably the biggest obstacles both sides will have to overcome as the global community continues to interact and learn from each other. An example of that direction is One Championship which features many bouts with diverse sets of fighters and using modern techniques as well as TMA. Even western fighters are choosing to fight in this arena. So there’s the possibility in the future that perhaps there will be more of a mutual appreciation of what the other offers. The violence is something both sides can agree are a part of their perceptions and that can be a basis of forming a mutual respect.

UFC's rival in the Asian market, One Championship has carved a place for itself in martial arts for its diverse set of fighters and techniques, as well as the common brutality
UFC's rival in the Asian market, One Championship has carved a place for itself in martial arts for its diverse set of fighters and techniques, as well as the common brutality | Source

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)