T Nation

The Future of Martial Arts


I think I discussed this with Sifu once.

MMA is the craze today. So what's gonna happen to martial arts like Tae-kwon Do, Karate, Kali/Escrima, and other martial arts. People aren't solely focused on one art, instead they are taking a little bit from BJJ, Boxing, and Wrestling.

Will individual martial arts suffer because of this?


I see a bunch of fighters who will fall under the Jack of all trades masters of none category, than I expect there will still be those fighters who crossover from wrestling, BJJ, K-1 etc... Who willl be more successful hard to say but most champs mastered something before adding anything.


For the most part, TMA's aren't sport based like the other ones are.

What's going to happen is that people who want to compete in UFC will take MMA classes, or mix those ones geared towards competing (Boxing, MT, BJJ, wrestling.)

People who want to learn an art for self defense, the spiritual aspects, the self-discipline- they'll keep taking TMA's.

TMA's aren't going anywhere. A small percentage of the people who take them want to be cage fighters. A solid amount of the people who take them aren't young, either, and have no illusions about the beatings their body can take.


I just feel that Individual Martial Arts will lose popularity and they'll be forgotten. Boxing, BJJ, and Wrestling won't be specialized in, but simply used as stepping stones to practice MMA.

I respect Wrestling, Boxing, Karate, and Tae Kwon Do, and I would hate for them to be forgotten.


There's plenty of people that take martial arts for the fitness aspects of it, I suspect a lot of specialized martial arts may just stick an MMA sign on their door without fundamentally changing anything about their specific art.


You're missing my point. Most people in the MA's don't have any intention of getting into MMA. That's like saying that everyone who sprints is going to move on to playing football. Well, no- some people who sprint well will move on to play football, but others are happy being champion sprinters. Then others will practice just because they like to sprint, and have no intentions of ever racing anyone.

If anything, MMA has done great things for individual MA's, especially cats like Liddell and Machida and GSP, who've all advertised that they started and got their initial training in a TMA.

And boxing? That sport will NEVER, NEVER die. Just because it's not as popular in America as it was in the 20's doesn't mean that #1) it wouldn't come back with a great American heavyweight or #2) It's not HUGELY popular in the rest of the world (it is.)

Just because there's a sport that combines a bunch of shit doesn't mean the individual shit won't be practices anymore.

Remember- people like me who don't mind getting punched in the face still don't want to bother with rolling around on the ground with a sweaty dude. Other guys like that, but really don't ever want to be punched in the face. Still others have no intention of ever using what they learn unless they're attacked.

In short- don't worry.


Good point as always, Irish.


Cool disscusion

For whats its worth... this comes up with Judo all the time, people always talk about the future of judo-
that BJJ would take over. In 97 it was a HUGE deal that blue gi's became allowed into competition
People where saying it would be the death of Judo.

Judo and many other tma's are more popular in other countries than in the U.S.

TMA's here in the states are kind of what geeky kids want to do- cool kids want to play football, or something else, obviously MMA is the new hot shot, but TMA's still have appeal- more so abroad.

And wrestling- that's not going anywhere- its free with many high schools and little guys in junior high
or Intermediate schools

Im sure MMA has hurt some TMA schools as far as what kids want to train/learn etc, and on the flip side Im sure Tiger shulman is making bank on "MMA".

Irish is right TMA will be around for a long time.
But there are plenty of nice


** BOXING **
Boxing's rebirth is going to be in MMA. Most MMA fighters are realizing the importance of good technical boxing and the subtle adjustments you should make for mma (and the strategies that work regardless). There's going to be a lot of guys that have great hands and demonstrate high level boxing skills... eventually naysayers are going to have to admit that MMA is the future of fighting sports. Soon more MMA guys will want to try their hand at boxing (Silva, Arlovski, Noons) and eventually they'll actually be good enough to compete. This is going to cause a revival of interest in watching boxing becaus they want to see how the MMA guys hang. The MMA audience will start watching boxing and when they can appreciate the intricacies again boxers will start having an even bigger fan base. I think the future lies in a lot of cross over between these sports.

** TMA **
I think as MMA fighters seek more methods to defeat opponents the usual go-to's... BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, etc... Aren't going to be enough and they will begin exploring TMA's for techniques that can be used within an MMA framework to defeat their opponents. Just like the Gracie Brothers changed Japanese Jiujitsu into BJJ through the crucible of Vale tudo, the Machida lineage has rewritten the rules on using Shotokan Karate for combat sport...Arguably the 10th Planet system is another step forward in the BJJ evolution... A revolution will occur where TMA's will have their techniques put to the test and under a crucible of fire... Guys with skills in the other arts will use a creative eye to see what they can take from other martial arts and MAKE work. Hell I'm getting into Savate and have been using a lot of Kali traps lately (small gloves make a lot of things possible). Very few people admit their TMA history. Hell josh barnett knows a LOT of Wing Chun. Chuck Liddell is Kempo. GSP & Machida are Karate. Anderson Silva started in TKD. TMA's are still going to be a viable way to introduce kids to martial arts no matter what. If anything a slight resurgence will begin as the mcdojo's are no longer able to compete. You'll have purer TMA schools, which is going to start the cycle I initially started this section with. TMA schools will start to be more like the Kyokushin Karate schools of Japan... Extremely functional and involved in realistic forms of combat training and testing their skills.

I started to get into this a little bit earlier...I think a lot of guys are going to be more skilled than before, and Dana White will have to open his competition clause in order to keep the guys interested and active. They'll compete across the board in boxing, sub grappling tournaments, k-1, etc. Just like they've been doing in Japan for years (Sudo, Kid, Gergard, Overeem, etc). We're usually behind the Japanese quite a bit so you can really just follow a lot of the trends over there.

The downside is that the MMA McDojo is going to occur. You can already see it starting. But on the other side of the coin MMA itself is going to eventually become a viable career option as far as sports. It'll be something akin to hockey which is unfortunate considering it's roots in the streets and battlefields. Unlike boxing that you see kids from impoverished neighborhoods use as a mechanism to lift themselves out of the ghetto/barrio... MMA will be more along the lines of hockey where if you can afford the equipment and instruction then you can get in on the action. You're not going to see any high schools supporting MMA per say but there are a ton of kids I know that have been training MMA. Think about kids that are freshman in high school NOW, but have been training MMA since they were 8ish, boxing, jiujitsu, now they're in high school they wrestle and simultaneously do grappling competitions AND muay thai smokers... I know 16 year olds that have more experience than most active MMA fighters... Than some guys on the UFC roster! Which leads to...

Man the skillsets are going to be ridiculous. Everything I've estimated before leads you to this obvious conclusion. IMO there's a large watering down of talent for various reasons that I will decline to elaborate on. It'll just result in a dick measuring contest. I think it should be sufficient to say that for MMA to really develop into the high level combat sport and move really far away from a toughman sport (farther than it has come already) there needs to be a designated amateur league. Just like football players are developed through pop warner, to jr high, then high school, then college... Having fighters just bounce around from dinky fight league, and having amateurs exploited by asshole promoters isn't good for the sport. The UFC if it had deep enough pockets would do itself an amazing service if it set up an amateur or entry level UFC league akin to how Shooto had.


This kind of setup leaves NO doubt as to whether or not you deserve to be in the UFC. It puts guys right away in the UFC, and actually gives them more $ as guys won't seek to even fight in smaller leagues anymore they just want to get to the UFC-DCBA levels so they can make it to the big show. If they have a dedicated pay scale, everyone (including amateurs) could make a little coin and make MMA a viable career option because you can actually plot our your career or likelihood of having a career. The UFC would become THE league, akin to the NBA. Anything else would be like european leagues, sure you get experience, but the skill level is just different. Similar to how some high school players have gone to straight european leagues instead of college, anything outside the UFC will still be class-B and not the A level competitors. Champions wouldn't have any reason to get bored (like Anderson Silva) as the talent pool would be endless as you're constantly training new challengers to the throne. There will always be a question of "if you can still hang" with the new young lion...

I think gyms also are going to eventually have their own "style" as we see guys gravitate towards where can help them better. It won't just be fighters with personal styles but the gym will have a large influence as well. Sort of how like Hammer House was mostly wrestlers, and Chute Boxe had it's own distinct style.


I don't think so. It will probably be more popular than boxing, but a lot of shit is more popular than boxing- doesn't mean that boxing's "rebirth" will have anything to do with the poor striking skills exhibited so far in MMA.

This is also assuming that TMA's have any desire to be involved in MMA. Stealing techniques is one thing- all systems have essentially the same techniques, similar stances, etc.

But I think that MMA fighters will steal techniques- but the the original arts are not going to bother with MMA. Many of those arts focus strictly on self-defense tactics in different areas, and sport isn't necessarily one of them.

I don't have any other real comment on the rest of your post, because while it's very good and filled with ideas, I don't really care whether MMA makes it or not hahah.

But what I can say is that there won't be some mass evolution in martial arts- the "community", so to speak, is far too fragmented as it is anyway. TMA guys will always be TMA guys, MMA guys will be MMA guys... and guys like me will do our own thing anyway.

  • Rebirth might have been a strong term, but I think that MMA will cause boxing to become more popular again. I think MMA will be the biggest draw but boxing will always be around. Again this is dependent on MMA guys getting good boxing skills not the shitty toughman boxing we see mostly in MMA currently. Boxing will have nothing to do with that. MMA and boxing won't have anything to do with one another until "whoever swings the hardest" isn't a viable strategy. Everytime I see a guy in an interview say something like "we're both gonna go out there and hit each other, we'll see what happens!" I cringe... A war of attrition is nice and all but it shows no skill.

  • TMA's will want to be involved in MMA for two reasons. 1) Money 2) Ego/Legitimacy... Not everyone will be there are always going to be the purists. But just like JKD created a lot of crossover, then MMA created a lot of crossover, it's going to occur again. It's been about 20 years since the last one so it's right on time to be honest.

  • And you're right... a lot of my post is what I think would be a GOOD idea for the future of MMA. A lot depends on Dana White and the UFC doing the right thing.


waits for sifu to chime in with TMA perspective


Agreed. Completely.

Yes, but this goes back to the intial point of how MMA and TMA's differ at their core. MMA is a mixture of predominantly sports- TMA's teach techniques that are not sport-oriented. They are more situational, and not really for use against trained fighters in a cage.

So it will be to the detriment of TMA's to get too involved with MMA- they will look like fools because they've forgotten what their own art was about.

I know what you're saying, but I still think that they're going to remain a lot more seperate...


Great post. The only thing I would say is that we are already further down a couple of the paths than you indicate.

Styles from gyms are already about, McDojos are already about and MMA fighters going back to TMAs for ideas are already there.


As long as their's lots of old movies about scrawny kids beating up their erstwhile tormentors after 4 days of practicing Kung Fu/Wing Chun/Crane Stance/Rex Kwon Do, the most ridiculous of Martial Arts will live long and prosper.


Well... Remember, I've been doing MA for 30+ years and run a very large (about 60 people) Japanese jujutsu dojo.

The vast majority of TMA are less than 50 years old. Seriously. A lot of them were cobbled together in attempts to adapt some sort of military training to civilian SD, or just as exercise or whatever. Many are just chicken shit (like that explosion of Kung fu schools right after the same-named TV series came out.) An awful lot of real war arts just died out (who swims in armour or needs to fouls up a cavalry charge?) because war changed. MAs are generally not used in war at all except for training. The BJJ claim that they are taught to the military is true. It is a complete lie that it forms the basis of a modern military art. If you tell soldiers they have to fight hand to hand their first response is "where the @%^%@$ is our air strike?!" as it should be.

A lot of older systems have only the barest of intersection with MMA. The one I do has a lot of things in it like how to deal with adrenaline (assumes only gross motor movements and tunnel vision), sizing people up (do you know how to tell how strong someone really is at a glance?), and in general it teaches strategies so you can figure out how the other guy is trying to set you up. It also has a really groovy shiatsu component that is damn good deep tissue work. None of that has a place in MMA.

(What irks me about most MMA-ers is that they have a poor standard of proof. Their claim that "X doesn't work because we can't do it in the cage" rings very hollow. I don't buy it. I had one retard on another forum claim eye gouges don't work or they allow them in vale tudo. Oh brother.)

Finally, where I run my dojo is at a local huge gym and we have several classes running in parallel in various MAs. I get to run mine in plain sight of an MMA group and dedicated Muay Thai stable so I do indeed get questions in the middle of class like "why aren't we doing X?" and have to field them. I have people who do train in these other clubs and are very happy to train with me too but will tell you straight up that it lives in a different place than MMA. So what do you make of that?

On a practical note, the hype surrounding MMA means that most systems will claim to do it in the future. I was on vacation and a pair of people who were pushing 70 were talking about taking an MMA class. Uh, right...

-- jj


You know there are places for everything. Taekwondo Judo and Boxing are all in the olympics. So there not going anywhere. They have there own fan base. TMA arent going anywhere either. They sell to a diferent group of people than MMA fans IE self defense and selfconfidense. theres places for all becasue all fit different needs.


Not to mention one more fallacy about MA, TMA, MMA... A sort of reverse ad hominem attack. I've seen this in TMA and it is still at work in MMA. This looks at whoever the top of the field is and extends their abilities to every one in it. A lot of times when someone says MMA works what they really mean is they saw some guy totally kick ass in a match.

Because this is a positive assessment, people usually suck it up whole and any MMA school (or Kung fu or karate in the old days) now totally kicks ass too. Fifi is not going to get a killer instinct studying down the street at a random MMA school. She might do well, but probably not. There are also a lot of bad schools now doing this -- every bit as bad as McDojos. What might be more important is that she now has bragging rights about training. Humans are such social animals...

To be more frank, it is not the techniques, it is not the intensity of training but it is the milieu and person doing it. A better measure is to look at the average student and see how competently they can assess and handle themselves in a given situation. All the ills of TMA that MMA was to correct will resurface. In 20 years they will look pretty much the same and the next wave (I've sat through the karate, kung fu and aikido waves) will come along.

This is because people don't really change and people must be trained. What will MMA do when the fat kid shows up and really wants to train? Whip his ass? No, if they are good people, they will respect that he is trying and help him. He will end up at the bottom of the class no matter what but has every bit as much right to claim he is one of them.

Judo, for all the misgivings I have about it (I think turning it into an Olympic sport pretty much ended it as a serious MA) does have admirable quality control and is mostly open source. This is because of their competitive model, requiring matches to progress in rank.


i agree one problem i see is that people come to MMA for the wrong reasons. The only reason you should train in mma is if your looking to fight as an mma fighteror get in shape. I've see to many people go to mma schools to learn self defense and get themselves injured on the street or in the bar. This is for a couple of reasons. One is they feel they are now an Ultimate fighter and look for fights not only by being a snob but also by advertising it with a tapout Tshirt Hat Shorts and verbaly making sure everyone knows you train. Thats an invite to get fucked with at a bar. Second MMA does not prepare you for street violence. Your not going to be hit with a bottle, stabbed with a knife, kneed in the balls, gouged in the eyes, or have a gn pulled on you in the cage. As a bouncer i've seen a lot of MMA guys get fucked up on the streets.


Great, great posts.