Tag Archives: combat sports

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.

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† 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.

What is Catch Wrestling, and Why You Should Care

Catch wrestling (or Catch-as-catch-can) has a long and complex history that is a microcosm of what was happening in the larger world during its rise, fall, and rebirth.  Learn about Catch and you learn about politics, commerce, and the Western psyche.

And who better to explain all this than Eddie Goldman, “the Conscience of Combat Sports.”  In his article Catch Wrestling Is Back: The Revival Of A Working Class Sport (it’s a whopper, coming in at a couple thousand words, but if you’re into Western Martial Arts, you gotta invest the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read it) he brings it all to light.

Did you know:

  • That catch wrestling was once as popular as boxing in the US?
  • That it was a true working class sport “practiced by athletic clubs organized by labor and socialist organizations, even including the Industrial Workers of the World and the Communist Party of Canada?”
  • That the transformation of catch wrestling into the modern form of staged pro wrestling was “perhaps the greatest case of corruption in the history of modern sports, with an entire sport becoming fixed?”
  • That Kasushi Sakuraba, “The Gracie Killer” learned catch wrestling from Billy Robinson, who trained at the Billy Riley’s famed Snake Pit?

The story of catch wrestling would make a great movie, one filled with politics, drama, and action galore.  Hold on — looks like somebody already did.  Ed Asner  (no shock that he’d sign on to that project when you consider his political views) starred in The Wrestler back in 1974.  I think I’ll see if I can pick up a copy and give it a look.