mma and grappling

I like to watch mixed martial arts and grappling events. MMA especially is so raw and so primal, that no other sport compares. Perhaps because of the assumption that in theory, a loss equals death, it raises deep feels.

MMA is a recent phenomenon, starting from the 80’s and 90’s In Japan, Brazil and USA, only to get more popular in late 2000’s and becoming one of the fastest growing sports in 2010’s. What most might not know, the ancient Olympics contained a contest called “pankration”. That was, in essence, MMA of the 7th century BC. Like in its current form, only the most savage and dangerous things, like eye or genital gouging and biting, were forbidden.

As in any other televised sport, MMA is part entertainment. That means some of the press happening outside the ring or cage is ridiculous and silly, though often quite entertaining. But, as from any leading professionals, there is much inspiration to extract. Relentlessness, training, heart.

What MMA does, is it dissolves the myths of the ancient combat systems that claim to be the best single one. For starters disciplines like BJJ and wrestling dominated. Everyday strikers had little chance, and quite soon the styles began to melt and merge. Wrestlers incorporated striking, strikers grappling. The evolution of the styles is fascinating, and these days, there are people with no particular “base”, who have only ever trained in MMA.

One punch, a sudden submission, a fight can end in numerous and unexpected ways, which makes it exciting and notoriously difficult to predict. Some fights are boring, as in when fighters are perhaps too cautious or tired. A 15 or 25-minute battle can be epic regardless if it ends in a knockout, submission, or judge’s decision.

health & hobby #

There is a problem. The biggest one with MMA, I believe, is head trauma. Because it is a relatively young sport, it is still unclear how many mental problems these fighters have and will have. Evidence from boxing and American football (though, soccer headers are like a jab to the forehead, too) indicate that young players and fighters encounter cerebral difficulties mostly found in the very elderly. Repeated concussions lead to behavioural changes and memory problems.

That is why I avoid from most activities with the possibility of repeated hits to the head, even those less powerful ones. Striking is fun, hitting pads is fun, but sparring with a live opponent is the most fun and simultaneously the most dangerous. One cannot train with full strength, which is at the same time unsatisfying.

Grappling, in comparison, is excellent in this regard. There is no limit on how much strength to apply, and therefore no power gap between sparring and reality. It is fun, addictive, good physical training, and mostly only straining one’s joints. There are idiots everywhere, though, and some cannot summon a tap, meaning surrender. Idiotism leads to dangerous situations, as in sustained strangleholds or overstretched joint locks. But with proper supervision and clear headed rolling partners, there is no grave danger.

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