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Mixed Martial Arts

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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 ourexistence. Just as MMA has existed (inone form or another) for thousands of years, so have the detractors of MixedMartial Arts. Often criticized for itsbarbarism and the risk involved in competition, MMA has faced opposition fromthe likes of Alexander the Great to United States Senator John McCain. Mixed Martial Arts has adapted due to thiscriticism, evolving into a sport whose legitimacy is acknowledged throughoutthe world.

Theearliest instances of mixed forms of combat being implemented as a sportoccurred in ancient Greecewith pankration. Pankration may indeedbe ��among the oldest [martial art], having been well documented before thecoming of Christ�� (Arvanitis 1). Theancient Olympic games of Greecewere 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 ofground wrestling, with the loser signaling his submission by raising the indexfinger of his right hand. Orthia paleconsisted of only standup grappling techniques, where the victor was the firstto throw his opponent to the ground three times. The majority of Greek soldiers and otherathletes felt that orthia pale was more practical, as a soldier only needed tothrow 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 wrestlerswho trained ��sought not only victory, but victory with grace and style� (Arvanitis5). Rather than teaching only wrestlingmaneuvers, training facilities instilled �balance, grace, and finesse�(Arvanitis 5) to all who trained.

Twenty years later, boxing (thenknown as pyxmackia) was established in the Olympic games (Gentry 7). Pugilists competed until knockout or verbalsubmission, with no rounds, time limits, or ring. Instead of gloves, they ��wore straps ofleather called himantes to protect their hands� (Gentry 7). Greek boxers were the pinnacle ofathleticism, 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; manypugilists 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-thirstyRoman neighbors. A popular debate amongthe enthusiasts of both sports was whether a boxer could defeat a wrestler, andvice versa.

648 B.C. brought both thethirty-third installment of the ancient Olympic games and the first Pankrationcompetition. The mix of wrestling,boxing, kicking, and brutal submission holds would quickly make pankration��the most spectacular and most demanding of all athletic events� (Arvanitis11). Pankratiasts had almost anytechnique imaginable at their disposal (with the exception of biting andeye-gouging). Author and pankration historian Jim Arvanitis describes some of thesetechniques, and their significance to Mixed Martial Arts:

Some of the more popular pankrationtechniques included straight power punches, low kicks, elbowing and kneeing,arm locks and armbars, takedowns and throws, as well as numerous chokeholds�To manymartial arts historians, pankration was in essence the �mixed martial arts� ofclassical Greece�Kicking was an essential part of pankration�Due to this uniquetactic alone, many combative experts credit pankration as the firstcomprehensive unarmed fighting system on record. (12)

Pankration took the Greek by storm,quickly becoming the most popular event. Pankration fighters received the same status as heroes � some evenbecoming the subjects of myths. Alexanderthe Great recruited Pankratiasts to serve in his army, where they brought withthem Pankration�s techniques (Walter). Followingthe death of Alexander, the Greek empire began to crumble, giving way to therise of the Roman Empire. The kicking, punching, and grapplingtechniques of the Pankratiasts remained in Asia,specifically in India. Various tribal translations of thesetechniques would work their way throughout Asia,evolving into what is now known as Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Jujitsu.

Jujitsu was originally derived bythe ancient samurai of Japanas a method of defending themselves while unarmed against an armedattacker. Jujitsu was a very genericterm encompassing the many styles of unarmed combat implemented and trained bythe soldiers of the many Japanese warlords. These styles focused on different styles of throws, grappling, and evenweapons training. The most relevantincarnation 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 werefounded, and implemented a well-rounded style, largely influenced by a mannamed Chin Genpin, who brought the Chinese striking art of Kenpo to Japan in1619 (Gracie 10). Jujitsu quicklytransformed from a gentle art into amore complete combat martial art.

1868 brought the Meiji period to Japan,where Emperor Meiji was focused on ending Japan�sisolation from the rest of the World, and adapting Western culture. Meiji ended the once-honorable class of thesamurai from Japanese culture, which rendered Jujitsu practically useless. A young man named Jigoro Kano still sought aneducation in the ancient art of Jujitsu. �Dissatisfied with many crucial aspects of traditional Jujitsu, Kanosought to reform the martial arts of Japan by developing Kodokan Judo andopening his [school] in 1882� (Gracie 11). One of Kano�s primary goalswas to create an organized, respectable competition between judoka, as opposed to the ruthlessbarbarism and warfare combat associated with traditional Jujitsu. Kanowanted ��to make martial arts training part of the road to self-perfectionrather than merely practice for fighting� (Gracie 16). Since judoka were not soldiers fighting inwar, or thugs fighting in the streets, Kanostressed the principle of seiryoku zenyo,or maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Kano organized collection ofKodokan Judo schools, a ranking system, and unified a curriculum forstudents. One of those students was�Count Koma� of Japan- Mitsuyo Maeda.

In the early 20thcentury, the Japanese government was interested in forming a colony in Brazil. Maeda was sent to ensure that the colonywould flourish. Maeda befriended Gast�oGracie, grandson of a Scottish immigrant as well as a local politicalfigure. Gracie used his politicalleverage to assist Maeda with the Japanese colony. �Maeda�happened to be a former championin…[Judo], and in return for Gast�o�s help, [Maeda] offered to teach Gast�o�sson Carlos the art of [Judo]� (Peligro 5). Carlos studied the art of Judo for six years, when Maeda left Brazilfor Japan. Carlos then taught the art to his fourbrothers. Not bound by the strict rulesof Kano�s Kodokan Judo, the Graciebrothers adapted Judo to fit their own needs (Walter). For instance, �Carlos�s game was anaggressive attacking style that took advantage of his athleticism and speed�(Peligro 6).

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 morefocused on leverage and technique (Peligro 6). The Gracie brothers called their adapted style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, givinghomage to the ancient art from which Judo was derived. While Kodokan Judo focused on take waza, or throws and standupgrappling, the Gracies sought to focus on the ne waza, or ground grappling of Judo.

Upon the opening of the Gracie�s firstJiu-Jitsu academy, Carlos extended and open challenge to anyone who thoughtthey could defeat a Gracie. The smaller,weaker Helio was chosen to represent the Gracie�s in many of thesechallenges. The notoriety of the Graciesand Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu flourished as the Gracies never suffered a defeat inthese no-rules competitions (Gracie 33). With no true national sports hero, Helio Gracie rose to superstardom inBrazil; he was so popular that a fight was proposed between Helio and Worldboxing champion Joe Louis for 1 million cruziero in 1950 (Peligro 18). These no rules, or vale tudo (�anything goes� in Portuguese), competitions did morethan just promote the Gracie name � they solidified the claims that BrazilianJiu-Jitsu was the World�s most effective martial art and form ofself-defense. With each vale tudo matchor streetfight, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was modified and evolved � but Jiu-Jitsuwas still relatively unknown outside of Brazil� someone needed to bring the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the rest of theWorld.

Rorion Gracie was the oldest ofHelio�s children, and he literally trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before hecould even walk. Rorion dreamed of goingto America andbecoming rich and famous; he soon realized the potential in his family�smartial art (Peligro 73). His first tripat 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 traveledback to Brazil,where he obtained a law degree, and became the head instructor at the familyJiu-Jitsu academy.

Rorion once again ventured to the United States, where he started a grass-rootsattempt at spreading the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or as he calledit, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Rorion started hisinstruction in a small garage in Torrance, Californiato a small group of friends. He offereda free introductory class to new students, and offered a free class to anystudent who recruited a friend to an introductory class (Peligro 73). Though this dedication earned Rorion a small,loyal following of students, he was far from his dream of informing the worldabout the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. To paybills, Rorion would have to find other means to earn an income:

[Rorion] stumbled on an unlikelycareer as an actor. Over the course ofthe next fifteen years, the tall, dark, and handsome Rorion appeared intelevision shows like Hill Street Blues, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, and The Love Boat. Gracieenjoyed his new job, but that didn�t prevent him from bringing people from theset back to his garage to show them the family art. (Gentry 21)

Rorion also worked as stuntcoordinator, his most noticeable role was training Mel Gibson and Gary Buseyfor the final fight scene in LethalWeapon, which saw Gibson utilizing Jiu-Jitsu techniques such as the guardand the triangle choke. In order to gainfurther notoriety for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Rorion issued the now-infamous Gracie Challenge; $100,000 was offeredto anyone who could defeat him or his brothers in a vale tudo match(Walter). Rorion and his brothers wentso far as to travel to other martial arts schools and challenging theirtoughest students and instructors to vale tudo matches. The videos of these challenge matches wouldlater be sold to mixed martial arts fans in the Gracies in Action series. Notsatisfied with local notoriety, Rorion sought to show the world theeffectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on a national level. Author Donald Walter, Jr. describes theevents that led to the realization of Rorion�s dream:

Rorion Gracie metArt Davie, a salesmen who had first become interested in this style of fightingduring a trip he took to Thailandwhere he witnessed an underground mixed martial arts event. Davieutilized his connections in the television industry to set up a meeting forhimself and Rorion Gracie with Bob Meyrowitz, who was president of SemaphoreEntertainment Group (SEG), a corporation that specialized in putting on livepay-per-view sporting events. Together, the three men established the �UltimateFighting Championship,� which held its first event in 1993. (Walter)

Rorion and SEG recruited 8 of theworld�s best fighters from different martial arts to compete in a vale tudotournament; the only illegal techniques were biting and eye-gouging, much likethe rules of ancient Pankration. Thestyles represented where Sumo, Karate, American Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do,Shootfighting, Savate, and boxing. Theonly part missing from the equation was a representative of GracieJiu-Jitsu. Rorion, chose his youngerbrother Royce due his lanky build who looked unassuming in ��his traditionalBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu attire, the white gi� (Peligro 171). 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 ina padded octagonal-structure surrounded by a chain-link fence; the octagonwould later become a symbol of MMA competition). Royce�s opponents where no slouches; ArtJimmerson was the 10th rankedboxer in the WBC; Ken Shamrock was a strong shootfighter, a form of submissionwrestling with open-hand strikes popular in Japan; and Gerard Gordeau, theEuropean savate (French kickboxing) champion (Gentry 29-38). Royce would go on to win the next tournamentwith the same ease. It quickly became apparent to all those that watched thatBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the world�s most effective martial art; dispelling theclaims of popular martial arts and their claims at effectiveness in combatsituations. Arts like karate, tae kwondo, and kung fu gained popularity through film in the 60�s and 70�s, but thesearts are flawed because they do not aggressively spar with one another. These arts are taught through repetition oftechniques to non-resisting opponents or other targets, whereas Brazilian Jiu-Jitsuevolved from street fighting, and the techniques can be used full-force (Gentry200-210).

The Ultimate Fighting Championshipgained 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 overthree-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 forthe UFC; for example, they listed knockout, tapout (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 inMMA; Douglas Dedge slipped into a coma and died following an unsanctioned MMAmatch in the Ukraine. It was later discovered that Dedge hadfainted during training prior to the fight, and may have had a pre-existingseizure condition. In reality, MMA hasfewer 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 defendhimself from strikes or submissions, the referee has the ability to stop thecontest. In boxing, boxers receive astanding 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 movementwas put forth to ban MMA competition (Gentry 145-155).

Arizonasenator John McCain made it his personal crusade in 1995 to ban mixed martialarts, or cage fighting, as herefereed to it. McCain painted agruesome picture of the UFC and other promotions selling their brand of human cockfighting, but failed to obtainmost of the details of the sport. ManyMMA proponents cited McCain�s financial ties to Budweiser, a major sponsor ofboxing events; boxing stood to suffer the most with the rise in the UFC�s popularity(Silverman). McCain, along with New Yorkstate boxing commissioner Floyd Patterson (who, �ironically [was] relieved ofduty�as a result of short-term memory loss caused by the brain damage sufferedfrom boxing� (Gentry 147)) pressured state athletic commissions and cablecompanies to ban MMA (Gentry 145-156).

They briefly succeeded in the latenineties, when MMA was only fought on Native American reservations (or out ofthe country), and viewable from satellite television only. While this did negatively affect themoney-earning potential of the UFC, it created a grass-roots campaign bydedicated fans to get the UFC back on cable. Largely fueled by the internet, promoters, fighters, and fans workedwith local athletic commissions and cable companies to regulate MMA. MMA is now recognized and sanctioned byseveral state athletic commissions, and available on pay-per-view from everymajor cable company. The UFC (with new owners;ZUFFA) has even solidified a deal for a weekly cable television program on theSpikeTV network (Gentry 220-224).

While under the infamous cable ban, the UFC, and subsequentlymixed martial arts, went through an evolution. There was a nationwide surge in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools; almost allschools that stressed self defense or reality-based training offered some formof BJJ instruction. As a result, theplaying field began to level, with ground-fighters no longer having such aclear advantage. Competitors were forcedto cross-train in several arts, using the most effective techniques to form onetruly mixed martial art. There is no defined style; a professional MMAfighter will train wrestling to improve takedowns and positioning; he will thentrain at a boxing gym to learn punching; he�ll train Muay Thai (a form of kickboxingfrom Thailand) to learn kicks and knees; he�ll train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tohone his submissions. There are dozensof mixed martial arts schools in every state and all over the world; there aremany small MMA promotions putting on shows all over the world. Mixed Martial Arts is no longer categorizedas a brutal contest, but as a sport (Gentry 224-233).

The earliest forms of mixed formsof 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 evolvedinto ancient martial arts used to defend oneself in ancient time of conflictand brutality. Coming full circle, thesetechniques have once again been mixed together and improved upon to form oneevolved sport. Mixed Martial Arts, whilestill lacking the popularity of many other American sports, has withstoodcriticism from the government, and may once again become a sport revered by anation.

Works Cited

Arvanitis,Jim. Pankration � The TraditionalGreek Combat Sport and Modern Mixed Martial Art. Boulder: Paladin Press, 2003.

Gentry III,Clyde. No Holds Barred: Evolution. Richardson: Archon, 2001.

Gracie, Renzo,and John Danaher. Mastering Jujitsu. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2003.

Mixed MartialArts. 27 Oct 2004. Wikipedia. 1 Nov 2004

Peligro,Kid. The Gracie Way � An IllustratedHistory of the World�s Greatest Martial Arts Family. Montpelier: Invisible Cities, 2003.

Silverman, Amy. JohnMcCain Breaks Up a Fight. 12 Feb1998. Phoenix New Times. 1 Nov 2004

Walter, Jr.,Donald F. Mixed Martial Arts:Ultimate Sport, or Ultimately Illegal?. 8 Dec 2003. Grapplearts. 1 Nov 2004…...

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