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Where does old school karate fit in today's MMA world?

I'm a big fan of MMA and have been for many years. Before that - kickboxing, boxing, muay thai, etc. I've always enjoyed the fact that these sporting events tested the applications of the various techniques taught in many different styles of martial arts. There was a lot to be learned (and unlearned) by seeing how these fighters performed. The beginnings of MMA were quite brutal and often the athletes looked completely awkward in their fights as styles clashed. Fighters adjusted to what they learned, but also to the rules (which were, themselves, adjusting).

I still enjoy watching MMA, especially the karate inspired fighters such as Machida and McGregor. However, as much as I enjoy the fights, one must also recognize two facts. The fighters have continuously adapted to the rules and the fighters have grown to be more and more athletic. The first point is easy to grasp. Would that fighter have been able to defend the wrestler's takedown if the octagon wasn't right behind him to keep him from going backward? Would the BJJ fighter be able to lock in that kimura if the opposing fighter didn't have gloves on? Would the fight have continued if the bell hadn't ended the round allowing that crazy come back? These points can go on and on.

To the second point - karate was meant as a means to defend against any attacker. It didn't preclude the old or the young, women or the timid. Most modern MMA fighters are legendary athletes as much as they are martial artists. The popularity of the sport has drawn the best-of-the-best which is absolutely a good thing. But we can't pick the most athletic as the only ones that can benefit from study to protect themselves or their loved ones.

To summarize, I still love MMA and will continue to admire the fighters. However, please recognize the difference between traditional karate and sport MMA. Karate will ground you and teach you how to defend yourself. We don't train for the octagon, we train for outside the octagon. It doesn't make a lot of sense to take your opponent to the ground (whether on top or bottom) in the middle of a crowded bar when your opponent may have five friends with him looking to kick you in the head. A spinning wheel kick doesn't make a lot of sense when you have your jeans on, groceries in your hand and your baby under one arm.

Of course, the goal of karate is to win a fight without fighting. Do you really want to understand this? Please come visit us in class.

Thanks for reading,

Heath Franklin, Brown Belt

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