Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Martial Arts vs. Real Fighting

Seungyup Paek
New York, New York
Peter Ralston,
May I ask a small question? There seems to be a large number of 'no-holds barred' fighting tournaments in the world today. Are these similar to the world championship tournament that you competed in? I believe that this is not the case. Could you please explain the dynamics of the current 'ultimate fighting championships' and how they are similar or different from the tournament that you fought in? Somehow, the winners in these ultimate fighting championships seem to be the antithesis of the principles of cheng hsin. Why is it that they look more like animals fighting in a cage than martial artists? I greatly look forward to hearing from you sir.
Seungyup Paek

When people fight, even trained martial artists, it rarely appears as though an art is being performed. On the one hand, we shouldn't assume that because they don't look like what we see in choreographed routines from the movies that there is something lacking. On the other, there is something more to grace than artful dance. When we look at professional fighters, such as Muay Thai or Western Boxers, we see much more grace is possible and usually present in the better fighters. This is because the art they are
doing is the same as what they train. In most martial arts, the practices are not at all the same as what is confronted in a real fight. It is very difficult to look good in such circumstances. In simple, it is unfamiliar and unpracticed. When one has more experience relating to the situations that come up in fighting, then this relationship can take on a much more graceful appearance.

In no-holds-barred competitions, winning in the simplest way possible is the goal, or at least has become the goal. (Early on, most martial artists proved to be unequal to the task, and had no ability to deal with such real fighting.) Since simple and direct is the easiest strategy to understand, and being muscularly strong and powerful is the simplest and most easily achieved form of power, it stands to reason that these are what we'd see the most. Strength is strength. Simply because it doesn't fit in with our ideas or methods doesn't mean it isn't effective. If it wasn't effective why would so many use it? Any time a game is created, the players will mold themselves in relation to the rules of the game in whatever way they can to win. This always produces a particular development. If you change the rules of the game, a different kind of development will take place. We should notice, however, that it isn't always the big and strong that win, and some of the better players have shown flexibility and strategic skill.

In the competitions in which I fought they didn't count ground fighting. I spent many years developing Newaza (grappling arts) and am quite confident on the mat. But this was not allowed in the world tournament. There was full contact in striking, and throwing was allowed. But I think the main difference was the background and thinking of the players. Since it was a traditional Chinese tournament, the assumption in the players was probably to conform to this thinking about how the fighting should proceed.
I remember being criticized in one of the local newspapers, when they complained: "What happened to traditional kung fu? This American looks more like he's using a combination of Boxing and Judo" (both of which are foreign to a Chinese tradition). This wasn't exactly so -- I was using Cheng Hsin -- but you can see that my fighting didn't appear as the author thought it should. Didn't matter. I won anyway.

Real fighting is difficult. I feel for those that take it up. But I don't share such sentiment about the reduction of the arts to what is easiest to understand or to mindlessly accomplish. Yet this dynamic takes place in many arenas, not just the ultimate fighting one.

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1 comment:

  1. One of the central tenets of all forms of the martial arts is an absolute focus on self-discipline. Today’s kids are so accustomed to receiving instant gratification that lessons in self-restraint and discipline aren’t always easy to come by. Kids with a martial arts background, however, are continually reminded of how essential self-discipline is.