The UFC is Not Martial Arts

I stopped watching combat sports in 2016 because I didn’t want to support head trauma, bad behavior, and pointless violence.  My final pay-for-view was UFC 199.  And, since I don’t watch the news any more, I didn’t hear about the catastrophe that was UFC 229 until a full week after it happened.†

When I did hear about it, I didn’t comment.  In my mind, it was a perfect example of why I stopped watching.  So why comment?

But yesterday my friend Leo suggested that the UFC is not martial arts at all.  And he sent me a link to a video by Shane Fazen from the FightTips YouTube channel, and here it is:

At the risk of offending his clientele, Shane makes several great points, the most important of which is that…

The UFC is not martial arts.

Bravo Leo and Shane.  I agree.

I started Cabal Fang martial arts back in 2009 as a reaction to what I saw (and continue to see) happening in martial arts.  UFC demonstrated that certain traditional martial arts techniques did not perform as advertised.  It turned out that the “karate chop” wasn’t lethal, “chi power” didn’t work, board-smashing skills weren’t applicable in the ring, fitness was a more important than anyone thought, and that a one-dimensional martial artist who could strike but not wrestle or vice versa couldn’t win matches.

These were great lessons.  But people were forgetting the most important one.

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose.  It’s how you play the game.

We teach our kids this wisdom (or we should), and then we proceed to give our money and attention to trash-talking miscreants who are the antithesis of the ideal.

Traditional martial arts were slow to adapt.  Convinced that traditional martial arts don’t work, students began leaving Karate schools to sign up for BJJ or MMA “mixed martial arts” programs — both of which are devoid of all spiritual and/or character development.

This is why I developed Cabal Fang — a new and yet traditional martial art that incorporates the discoveries outlined above as well as the perennial spiritual wisdom of our ancestors.  Just because you cannot tap a guy out with meditation techniques or win a championship belt on good behavior doesn’t mean these things don’t have value.

Martial arts are not about what works in the ring — they are about works in life.

I felt then, and feel even more strongly now, that a martial art without a spiritual center is like a loaded gun in the hands of person with no gun safety education.   Should you show a person how to choke the life out of someone without teaching them the who, what, when, where and why — without teaching the value of a life?

If you do not elevate fighting to an art form you do not have a martial art.  You just have a fight.

A martial art without a spiritual center is not a martial art — It is a combat sport.

Do combat sports have value?  Can we learn anything from them?  Should they exist?  That’s a different conversation we can certainly have.

I’ve been in Shootfighting, BJJ and Savate programs, I’m currently an apprentice coach under Mark Hatmaker, the other day I posted a tribute to the great kickboxer Benny Urquidez, etc. etc.  Clearly I think there’s some value in combat sports.  But I also wish I hadn’t been concussed so many times, I worry about the fighters, and Benny is a very spiritual guy and a traditional martial artist.  Nuance is important.  But let’s not be led astray by nuance and miss the point.

Let’s stop using the terms “MMA” and “mixed martial arts”  which are very misleading.

Combat sports are not martial arts.


† Fun fact: I rely almost entirely on the Sunday Edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch for my news.  That, and whatever filters down to me through friends and the 15 minutes per day I devote to social media.  You would not believe how much happier and productive I am since I stopped watching TV news.

Training Involution # 126: A Tribute to Benny “The Jet” Urquidez

I am camping with the family this weekend. So, in lieu of the weekly Training Involution, I present the following missive a day early. Enjoy! ~Mitch

A Tribute to Benny “The Jet” Urquidez

When I mention Benny “The Jet” Urquidez I usually get a blank stare.  Those who do know who Benny is are movie fans.  They remember him as the bad guy from Grosse Point Blank or Wheels on Meals.  It stupefies me that any martial artist could be unaware of who this man is, kind of like when I’m talking to someone about history and they don’t know who Hannibal was (that would be Barca, not Lecter).

Before there was MMA or UFC, before K1 or PRIDE, this guy had more black belts than most people have slacks.  Judo, Karate, Jiujitsu, Taekwondo, the list goes on.  And on.  And on.  He has nine black belts.

Here’s a clip of the Jet showing off his Judo skills.  Watch as his opponent spits out his mouthpiece and wallows around like a worm in hot ashes.  As it happens, that whole wallowing around thing, that was a fairly common occurrence among his opponents, a common denominator of sorts.

Back in the 70s I used to turn on the TV and watch him knock guys out.  I do not mean that metaphorically.  In any given match there was in fact a 90% chance he was going win by knocking out his opponent.  He earned six championship belts in five different weight classes, and his record was 63-2, 57 by K.O. (and the two losses are contested).

if you found yourself in the opposite corner from the Jet, you might as take a couple of Lunesta and lay down on the canvas.  You were going to end up there eventually, so why not save yourself the pain and EMBARRASSMENT and just go to sleep peacefully?

Here’s a highlight reel below.  Thank me now.

Study this guy.  Look at his combos, his body mechanics, his power, his conditioning, and his precision which are all as close to perfect as you’re going to find.  Be like that if you can.

Square 1: Training Involution #125

Sir Gawain with his shield bearing the pentangle or pentagram as illustrated by yours truly in “Cabal Fang: Complete Martial Arts Study Course from Querent to Elder”

I founded Cabal Fang martial arts, I wrote the curriculum, and I’ve met every requirement hundreds of times.  But hat doesn’t mean I’m any better than anybody else.  That’s why I’m starting over.

We just announced our revised Cabal Fang martial arts rank advancement and achievement tracking method called the Cord and Rule, which serves a purpose simiar to the colored belt ranking systems pioneered by Jigoro Kano.¹  I could justify marking up my rule completely full and tying on my completed cord.

But I’m not.  I’m untying all the knots in my cord and I’m starting with a blank ruler as if I was a new student.  Leaders lead from the front.

Square 1: Training Involution #125

  • 100 Get-ups.  Beginners, get it done in under 15 mins.  Intermediates, 10 mins.  Advanced, finish in 8 mins or less.
  • 1 mile tire run.  Pick up an auto tire, put it over your shoulder like a courier bag, and run one mile.  No tire?  Use a backpack with water bottles.  Switch shoulders often.  Gloves and a sweatshirt advised.  Beginners use smaller tires and take your time.  Tire sizes are complex.  Roughly speaking, the bigger the final two digits in the tire size (the diameter of the hole in inches) the heavier the tire.  A 14″ tire averages about 15 pounds, a 15″ about 20 lbs., a 16″ about 22 lbs and a 17″ tire can weigh up to 35 lbs.   I used a 16″ (a 205/65R16) and finished in a rather middling 14:32.
  • Cool down by walking it off for 3 minutes.  Then stretch out.
  • Re-read Chapter 18: The Pentagram in the Cabal Fang Study Guide.  “Gawain was faithful in five and five-fold, for pure was he as gold, void of all villainy and endowed with all virtues. Therefore he bare the pentangle on shield and surcoat as truest of heroes and gentlest of knights.”  From the 14th-century masterpiece  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

¹  One of the things that makes Cabal Fang unique is that we have initiations known as trials, and they are inspired by the Western Mystery Tradition.  I don’t think Jigoro Kano ever did anything quite like what we’re doing, but I do think it’s interesting that used similar language when he received his first real martial arts rank:

“I told Mr. Iikubo [Kano’s teacher] about this, explaining that the throw should be applied after one has broken the opponent’s posture. Then he said to me: “This is right. I am afraid I have nothing more to teach you.”  Soon afterward, I was initiated in the mystery of Kito-ryu jujitsu and received all his books and manuscripts of the school.”  ~Jigoro Kano, Founder of Judo (full quote here)

My DIY Adventure Trailer Build

So, I just built an adventure trailer (a.k.a. a bug-out trailer, expedition trailer, camping trailer, etc.).  Why?

  1. I love camping.
  2. I’d go more often if I didn’t have to haul my equipment in and out of the attic every time.
  3. I want to travel more.  Camping is more frugal and fun than staying in hotels.
  4. Why a trailer and not a camper?  A trailer is way cheaper than a camper.  Besides, I have a mattress and a camper shell for my truck and sometimes I want to sleep in a tent anyways.

This thing cost me less than a thousand bucks to build.  Here’s the breakdown:

Item  Amount 
Lowes 40″ x 60″ basked trailer  $  459.00
Title tags, registration  $  166.00
Hardware and accessories  $    21.94
Paint and sundries  $    61.10
Wood, glue, screws  $  115.59
TOTAL:  $  823.63

And here are some build pics.

Here’s to great adventures!


The empty trailer straight from Lowes

The basic frame made from 2 x 4s, secured with 2 5/8″ deck screws and exterior grade construction adhesive.

The dorky white rims that came with the trailer had to go.

…so I sprayed them black with Rustoleum gloss black my masking off the tire and the nuts. Getting the back was kind of a pain, but no big deal.

Here’s the frame after the screw holes were puttied and the first coat of premium house paint was applied. The space under the frame is for waterproof storage bins with wheels.

Here’s the storage cabinet on the passenger side after the first coat of paint.

Close up of the cabinet after attachment to the frame. FYI, I did not build or design this cabinet I just modified and repurposed it slightly. My father-in-law made it for my brother-in-law. Plastic storage boxes fit perfectly into those cubbies.

This is the black truck box on driver side — I already had it laying around so I used it to save money.

Almost there. Everything is on the frame at least, just waiting for hardware on order and for the muscle to put it on the trailer.

The finished product! Note the open space at the front with the low deck — two coolers fit there perfectly!

New Cabal Fang Cord and Rule Program is Live

After some preliminary teasing and a lot of work, the new Cabal Fang Martial Arts Cord and Rule program is official.  In a nutshell, every month we’ll be stamping each member’s rule with certain marks to indicate achievements in terms of attendance, fitness and rank.  Rulers will be handed out at Thursday night’s session.

Here is a link to the full program handout that explains the symbolism and outlines the process, and below are the pictures of the first set of rulers sitting on the temple’s anvil.  The holes in the end are so that we can attach the cord — we also tie knots in a personal cord in order to keep track of certain other milestones.

This process fits in nicely with something that in Cabal Fang we call “mettlecraft.”

\Met”tle*craft\, n.  mettle [E. metal, used in a tropical sense in allusion to the temper of the metal of a sword blade; substance or quality of temperament; spirit, esp. as regards honor, courage, fortitude, ardor, etc.; See {Metal}.] + -craft [AS. cr[ae]ft strength, skill, art, cunning; akin to OS., G., Sw., & Dan. kraft strength, D. kracht, Icel. kraptr; perh. originally, a drawing together, stretching, from the root of E. cramp.] 1. The art, skill and cultivation of physical endurance, unflagging determination and resolute strength of mind, body and spirit.

This is the next step in the evolution of Cabal Fang.  Onward and upward!

The Flow: Cabal Fang Martial Arts Training Involution #124

I am in physical therapy — again — this time for biceps tendinitis.  This caused me to do some word problems.

Jill always trains close to max intensity.  This causes soreness, which limits training to 2 days/week, and increases  injury risk.  She spends 10 weeks per year too hurt to train at all.  Total training sessions per year: 84.

Jack moderates his intensity.  He ups the intensity once a month or so and saves maximum effort for a few special events per year.   Reduced soreness means he can train 3 days/week.  Reduced injury risk means he spends only 4 weeks per year hurt.  Total yearly training sessions: 144– 71% more than Jill.

Jack is a better martial artist than Jill because he trains 71% more.

He also suffers less pain and his long term health is better too.

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

There’s a time for pushing envelopes and testing limits.  But, more often than not, we need to be in the flow.   What is “the flow?”

When you are in the flow, you are not self-conscious and nothing is forced.  Time flies.  when you look back later, it feels like fun instead of work.

Let’s get into the flow.

The Flow: Training Involution #124

  1. Create a flow drill and work it for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.  Ideally your flow drill will have give-and-take (or if solo, anticipated defenses).  And, in a perfect world, it will have at least 8 beats or moves.  Videos of two flow drills below.
  2. If you don’t have a partner, don’t sweat it.  You can work with noodles, make a wrestling dummy, practice your Double Wristlock using a sledgehammer, work on your katas, or just shadowbox.  No excuses.  Get in the flow!  
  3. Meditate on the caduceus.  The caduceus, or the Staff of Hermes, is an ancient symbol of the flow — the give and take between opposing forces that gives rise to equilibrium, understanding and transcendence.  Assume your meditative posture of choice, picture the symbol in your mind, and step into the symbol for at least 10 minutes.

Stick and Move: Training Involution #123

Stick and Move: Training Involution #123

A competent fighter moves while hitting and hits while moving.  These drills should help with that.

(A) Set your timer for 3 rounds of 3:00 mins each.

  • Round 1 — 3 minute Constant Action Drill.  Shadowbox — with constant action! — until the timer beeps.  Plenty of slips, pops, bobs and weaves please.  And as Mark Hatmaker would say, “no lollygagging.”
  • Round 2 — 3 minute Lightning Bolt Drill.  Assume your fighting stance.  Punching all the while, surge backward at a 45° angle toward rear foot. Then surge 90° back in line with the lead foot.  Repeat to the extent of your training space.  Your path will resemble a lightning bolt.  Now surge forward, away from your rear foot, at a 45° angle, followed by a 90° surge back to center line.  Move like a fencer and never stop punching!  See video below.
  • Round 3 — Double-end Ball.  Get right on top of your double-end ball, so close that it will hit you in the face when it comes back, and fight with it for 3 minutes.  Hit while you dodge, dodge while you hit!  Don’t have a double-end ball?  Make one for less than $5.

(B) Complete a 1/2 mile Balboa Run.  I know, a half mile doesn’t seem like much.  But trust me, if you do it “Balboa-style” — arms punching the whole time — and you go as fast as you can, it’ll feel like a half marathon.  Still too easy?  Add a weighted vest (I used a #5 and that was plenty) or carry hand weights.

(C) Meditation.  After a thorough cool-down, set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes, assume your meditative posture of choice, and regulate your breathing.  Then pick one of the seven symbols in the Hand of Mysteries — the key, the lantern, the sun, the star, the crown, the moon, or the fiery fish —  and meditate on it’s meaning.  When done, as always, record your performance and your realizations in your training journal.