MMA and Money
Since the early 2000’s mixed martial arts (MMA) has been increasingly gaining in popularity if you base your opinion on the number of gyms that have advertising the style as well as pay per view numbers (PPV) that are tallied. For example in 2012 boxing did have some of the biggest events but MMA had 10 of the top 15 PPV events with boxing having 4 and WWE professional wrestling having just 1.
This is a clear indicator that the sport is becoming more accepted and mainstream which also means that is increasingly becoming more popular as a consumer product and with that more and more clubs are appearing.
MMA became popular in the United States when the first Ultimate Fighting Championships was first aired in 1994. During this event 170lb Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter and Gracie family member defeated three fighters by submission in a total time of under five to win the event with the finale coming against the 240lb Ken Shamrock.
Mixed martial arts did not begin in the 90’s but became popular in the 90’s due to television and word of mouth. The truth is some form of MMA has been around for centuries. Pankration which literally means “all powers” was an Olympic sport as early as 648 BC and allowed kickboxing style punches and kicks as well as take downs, throws and submission holds.
Are You Getting Scammed?
The early UFC’s was able to expose many martial arts and martial artists as incomplete since they often focused on one range at the expense of others. It also became extremely popular with television audiences with growing PPV numbers, corporate sponsorships and mainstream coverage on television and cable.
This popularity has created an emergence of gyms that claim to offer mixed martial arts training but how can you tell if you are getting the right training?
What Were The Instructors Doing Before?
One potential red flag is if you notice that the local karate dojo suddenly changed its name to a MMA gym overnight. It is a fairly simple thing to simply take off the karate uniform (a gi) and exchange it for board shorts and a rash guard and call yourself a MMA coach. It is not necessarily a bad thing to see such a change because a coach might have a diversified martial arts background which he is now using to help train his students, but always be wary.
You can usually find some evidence of an instructor’s background because most mixed martial arts instructors have competed in something at some point. For example an instructor with a wrestling background can likely be found with a simple search engine inquiry by typing the instructors name and the word “wrestling” in the same line. Most colleges have player bios for their athletes and most tournaments and events publish results online or get some press coverage, even at the high school level. If you can find NO data about an instructor, you may have some concerns.
Are All Ranges Taught?
Mixed Martial Arts are just that, mixed! If you are attending classes and you realize that you learn very few techniques from other ranges you might not be getting true mma training. The important skills to learn for a MMA student includes: Standing striking (punches, kicks, elbows and knees and defense), Standing grappling (takedowns, throws, trips and defense), Ground grappling (joint locks, chokes, reversals and defense) and Ground strikes (attacking and defending). If you are not learning all of those ranges, chances are you are not experiencing the same type of mma training that your favorite athletes are. It also means that in a self defense situation you may be in a bit of trouble in the range you do not practice.
Does Your Gym “Go Live”?
One of the tell tale signs that you are not getting real MMA training is that your gym does not go live at the end of class. Aside from the technique and strategy being taught in class one of the biggest advantages a MMA class has is that the students get to spar with other students with resistance. What this means is that if that day your class is working on grappling, you partner up and grapple with your partner with full resistance. If you are working striking, then you and your partner suit up with protective gear and spar much like boxers do. Going “live” is critical in developing speed, timing, endurance and most importantly gives you a real world look at what techniques are working for you and what techniques need some practice and polish. Many traditional styles of martial arts teach technique, do some fitness movements but lack in real live training.
Make Your Pick
There is nothing wrong with being a recreational martial artist; millions of people do it every year. The important thing is to realize that as a hobbyist you are not a real “fighter” and some of the techniques you use in a controlled environment with a cooperative partner may not work if your opponent is not cooperating with you. If you do not train live often then in essence you are taking the system as a hobbyist.
In addition, there may be systems that train live but unless you work multiple ranges you are not training in mixed martial arts. There is nothing wrong in training these systems but realize you may become an expert in a range or two but you may be lacking in another. For example, Judo trains “live” they work on throws, pins and joint locks but they do not do strikes. While this is still considered a mixed martial art it does not cover all the ranges discussed earlier. Let’s be clear, often wrestlers, kickboxers, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players and Judoka make great MMA fighters but they still need to add an additional range or two in order to be complete.
Next time you are evaluating a MMA gym take a look at the class schedule and see what they teach and when. Visit a class and see what techniques are taught and observe the end of class to see if they go live. If they do they may meet the criteria of a true MMA gym.
Pete Kontakos enjoys blogging about wrestling, MMA and is certified wrestling coach through USA wrestling.