Thoughts on Combat Sports: How MMA promotes grappling

A couple opf days ago, Chris told me of this great fight between Miesha Tate and Julie Kedzie. I must admit I really enjoyed watching the fight. Still, the whole thing made me think… Before I spoil anything, however, take some time to watch the fight in the below presented video – it’ll be well worth your time, in my opinion.

So, over the course of the fight, Kedzie was definately the better fighter when it comes to the striking game – I seriously doubt anyone would disagree on this point. Still, Tate saved the day with an armbar. Like so often in MMA, grappling beats striking (no pun intended). Ever since Royce Gracie presented BJJ to the world at the UFC 1 back in 1993, grappling is huge in the MMA. There’s been a boom on BJJ, some even consider it the ultimate fighting style.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this – I have no problem with grappling whatsoever. In fact, I did some BJJ before transitioning to Judo. Grappling is a very important aspect of any well-rounded fighters arsenal. Still, there’s a point to be made in the fact that most MMA organisations sport very grappling-oriented rules. For example, looks at the Wikipedia entry on MMA rules It cleary states that it is illegal to kick the head of a grounded fighter. Now this wasn’t always this way – in the UFC 1, this attack was perfectly legal. The video below shows Gerard Gordeau finishing off Teila Tuli with a kick to the head in the first round.

PRIDE, at the time, allowed the following things:

  • Stomps to a grounded opponent.
  • Soccer kicks to the head of a grounded opponent.
  • Knees to the head of a grounded opponent.

 That definately was a more PRO-striking ruleset, huh?

Anyhow, Jon Jones, when fighting Lyoto Machida, sonsciously exploited the ruleset by crawling towards Lyoto. A fighter who has three limbs on the ground is considered „downed“ and hence cannot be kicked. You can Jones apply this strategy in the following video, beginning at 12:15.

Obviously, that’s a rather drastical difference to the above presented situation at the UFC 1.
Now they say that „styles make fights“ – I’d go so far as to say that „rules make styles“. That’s why TaekwonDo looks different than Karate or Kickboxing. Bruce Lee had the following to say regarding this topic:

„Styles tend to not only separate men — because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it’s a process of continuing growth.“

„Because of styles, people are separated. They are not united together because styles became laws. But the original founder of the style started out hypotheses, and now it has become the grospel truth. People that go into them became their product. It doesn’t matter how you are, who you are, how you are structured, how you are built, how you are made. It doesn’t matter. You just go in there and be that product. And that, to me is not life.“

I tend to agree. In any case, coming back to the topic at hand, Kedzie downed Tate with a head kick in the third round. Then, however, the rules didn’t allow her to end the fight with stomp kicks, soccerball-kicks or the like, so she had to actively kneel down besides Tate in order to beat her into submission. Of course, this change of position brought her to the ground, into the grappling domain, where she ultimately lost the fight. Deducting from this that grappling is in any way superior to striking is a faulty line of thought – because most MMA rulesets seriously limit striking, solid grappling skills become a necessity. Under different rules, striking would play a bigger role and would most likely decide more fights.

Now once again I don’t have anything against grappling. I grapple myself. Still, to put things into the right perspective, I believe that while grappling is a must for any aspiring MMA fighter, it just might be not-so-hot for self-defense situations or true vale-tudo fights (in the sense that literally „anything goes“). In Judo and Ju Jutsu, this was known from the beginning. Even today, when no Judoka practices striking, everyone knows the term „Atemi“. This proves the existance of strikes in the original grappling styles. A more common term would be  „blow before throw“ – a quick Google search revealsmore than 145,000 results for the corresponding query.

To sum things up: 
grappling is a god thing, but for self-defense situations you better get your striking game up to par!

Of course, this is only my personal opinion. What is yours? Feel free to post your thoughts on the topic to the comments section. Looking forward to reading them.

So long,

take care

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