On paper, there is absolutely no reason for traditional martial artists to resist Mixed Martial Arts so much, but yet it’s there. In fact, the term “traditional martial artist” has become more popular just to differentiate from MMA.
But Why the Divide?
MMA is built on “traditional” martial arts, most notably the following:
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – A traditional martial art with belt ranks, uniforms, and a strong lineage that started with Judo
Who else believed in combining the most effective elements of boxing, kicking, and grappling? Bruce Lee. Watch the opening fight from Enter the Dragon and try to say it isn’t MMA.
And yet why do so many traditional schools have Bruce Lee posters on the walls, but discuss MMA in hushed voices?
“Sport VS Self-Defense,” a Common Explanation
Sport fighters argue that their style is better because it’s pressure tested (a valid argument). While traditionalists believe their style is better because it focuses on self-defense techniques: breaks, eye gouges, and escaping as quickly as possible (also valid).
Does it really all come down to context? Sport styles being better for sports and traditional styles being better for self-defense?
I think there’s another explanation:
Money (kinda, sorta) Hear me out!
Martial arts schools make a lot of money selling parents on the idea that martial arts will make their kids better people.
Look at any advertisement and you’ll see, “Get better grades! Learn respect and discipline!” in huge letters with a picture of a smiling child wearing a gi.
Imagine your school has been open for decades, and you’ve recruited tons of young students by saying this parents, but then you turn on the TV and see someone calling themselves a martial artist trash-talking their opponent before beating them to submission.
If Parents Associate Martial Arts With Disrespect and Violence, They Aren’t Going to Enroll Their Children.
I have nothing against combat sports. They’re fun to watch and they pressure test techniques, but they are dangerous to the image of martial arts (especially children’s martial arts). It’s hard to associate what you do with discipline, calmness, and zen when the public perception is so violent.