By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved
I’ve been very passionate about the martial arts most of my life and I try to expose myself to as many things martial arts as I can, but one thing that I hear over and over is “if he knows so much why isn’t he [insert some type of title here] champion?” There are many variations of this statement and what kind of champion the bring up depends on what kind of competitions they’re into but the idea is always the same.
Of course, the place I hear this the most is on the internet and mostly in comments for martial arts videos. In many cases some very knowledgeable and reputable martial artist will have a video on youtube where they’ll demonstrate a technique or principle and sure enough some “keyboard warrior” will comment underneath “well if he is so great why isn’t he UFC champion?” or “why isn’t he competing in the UFC?” or the equally bad “who has this guy ever fought?”
The problem is there is this idea some people hold that fighting means anything, that people want to fight, or that martial arts is fighting. First off, just because someone is skilled in martial arts why does that mean they want to compete in the UFC or other competitions? For some reason, and I largely blame the popularity of wrestleboxing (MMA), some people think that everyone wants to get in a ring and fight. Very few martial artists have any desire to step into a ring and compete with anyone and that makes sense because that isn’t what the martial arts are about.
When most people find out that I practice martial arts it is often assumed that I am either involved or am a fan of wrestleboxing and that isn’t the case. Martial arts are about self-defense and the idea of two people getting into a ring and trying to kill each other for ego and money to me is ridiculous. Now, for a martial artist the ridiculousness goes even further because in these wrestleboxing matches people aren’t even trying to kill each other, they’re trying to beat each other up without hurting each other. The idea of trying to beat someone up without hurting them makes about as much sense as trying to boil water but not let it bubble.
Years and years back I had some young guys come into my class that were interested in this wrestleboxing stuff and they asked me if I could teach them some stuff they could use in the ring. One of the first things I showed them was a great technique to get someone off of you when in the guard position. I showed them a simple bodyweight based technique that was simple, caused the other guy to nearly jump off of you, and ended the fight because it tore the connective tissue in their knee. None of them wanted to learn it. I then showed them a great technique to get out of a rear naked choke that tore the connective tissue in their shoulder and no one wanted to learn that either. It was then that it really dawned on me that these guys were not only not martial artists but basically athletes. They had to worry about their career and livelihood (which makes perfect sense) and they don’t want an injury that will stop their career or cause another person an injury that will affect theirs.
On the other end of the spectrum, true martial arts is about Budo “the way or path of the warrior.” True Budo is found in life and death not playing grab-ass in a ring or a point fighting tournament. Some younger people confuse this to and think it means Budo requires you to fight to the death but that is not the case; in Budo you use martial arts to confront your own mortality. Samurai used to meditate daily and visualize themselves on the battlefield being torn to pieces by arrows and by confronting your own death you free yourself of being controlled by the thought of it.
The other comment that drives me crazy is “who has this guy ever beaten?” as if martial artists roam the land challenging each other like in feudal times. Firstly, what they mean is who has the person ever gotten into a sanctioned ring with and competed against with rules and referee and defeated. Again, very few people on this entire planet have any interest in getting into a ring and playing wrestleboxing. Most of these same guys that the mma community writes off because they’ve never “beaten anyone” are the same guys who’ve used their skills in a real life violent encounter and survived. That is what we’re concerned with in the martial arts, not meaningless plastic trophies but being able to deal with the real violence in life.
When I watch a video on youtube and see someone like the great Karate teacher Fumio Demura demonstrate something or share his vast knowledge and someone comments “if doing a technique that way is so great, why isn’t he a mma champion?” to me it just tells me that the commenter lacks true knowledge of martial arts.
I have no problem with wrestleboxing and I think it is a great sport but the problem is when people start thinking it is anything more than a sport (which is why I use the term wrestleboxing and don’t call it mixed martial arts). People get into this sport and then they start to think that since they’re into it everyone else must be too but the reality is that the amount of people that have any interest in getting in a ring and competing is an incredibly small percentage.