T Nation

The Next Level of Martial Arts


It started with jiu-jitsu and submissions which changed the world of martial arts forever. Next we saw wrestling with it's double leg takedown and "ground and pound" style dominate the field.

Then, to a degree, came the return of striking with muay thai and boxing leading the way. Add a couple of years of everyone learning the same things, and fighters began to look fairly identical, though with differing levels of skill. Athletic ability came into play.

The shaved head, cauliflower ear, and black tapout shirt years had begun.

Then it started to evolve yet again. Pride saw Chute Boxe honing the science of soccer kicks and stomps. UFC fighters began perfecting the use of the cage to their advantage, for both defense and offense. Takedown defense exploded and created the "sprawl and brawl" style.

With many fighters now able to keep the fight standing, the striking game had to change. MMA style striking started emerging, with its superman punches, huge overhand rights, and an entirely new range and combination strategy, in order to lessen the risk of being taken down.

Simultaneously, jiu-jitsu had to evolve as well. With the gi being gone, grips and handles disappeared and a new, tighter style of submission grappling came forth.

But Eddie Bravo can tell that one better than I.

Now you may very well have a different interpretation of how it all went down and what lessons were learned, but we can all see that the martial arts have evolved greatly over this relatively short period of time.

So the question is, what's next? What is the next BIG REVELATION that you think will come to pass?

Or do you think that fighting has reached a technical peak, where only athleticism and mental fortitude will separate the winners from the losers? Perhaps it is all coming down to "luck," judging by the major upsets we are beginning to witness.

I do not think this is the case, and believe the art of fighting still has a while to go before it reaches that point.

What's next?


I think the next big movement will be improvements in strategic understandings. MMA is definitely not at it's potential technical peak, there is much to learn in the way of strategy.

You do see some fighters/camps who are starting to understand some higher level strategies and implementing them effectively. Rashad's recent win over Chuck is a good example.

There is much more to strategy than "he's a grappler, so I want to keep it on the feet", or "he's a striker, so I want to take it to the ground." Yet, that's the extent to which the majority of MMA fighters have thought about combat until recently.

The people who really start to study and implement better strategies will be the ones who lead the next movement in MMA. At least that's my opinion.


I think there will be two types of successful fighters the jack of all trades master of none and the fighters who excel in a couple of things.


Definately, we have been seeing some reaaaally interesting stuff in the way of strategy lately. Some of it good, some of it bad, but it's awesome to at least see some experimenting going on instead of the same old "circle away from the powerhand, I jab, you jab, I step forward, you step forward" stuff.

Your example is a great one; Rashad was able to pick apart a nice little gap in Chuck's game there, and he almost got caught trying to make it work. Pretty risky, but thats the name of the game!

We've also seen some strange things, like Tito Ortiz pulling guard against Machida to try and stop him from being so "elusive." Never thought I'd see the day Tito pulled guard!

The thing about MMA is that because it includes so many areas of fighting, there are so many different possible strategies. Seeing a pre-fight strategy play out perfectly is truly a thing of beauty, and a strategy developed DURING a fight is on a totally different level!


I think I get what you're saying here, but I also think we've seen this already. Guys like Pat Militech, Marco Ruas, the old (or young) Don Frye - I'd even risk saying Rich Franklin - are good at everything but masters of none.

Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock, Matt Hughes, and Randy Couture are some examples of guys who were masters of one and became good at everything else.

I'd argue that these days, that just isn't enough. Saulo Ribeiro, Jacare, and Marcelo Garcia all getting KOd could be a fluke, but I doubt it. (edit - ok, marcelo didn't get KO'd but he got caught BAD and looked horrible on his feet)

And what are they gonna do if they can't take their opponents down? If they fought some dude with iron clad takedown defense? They're gonna have to strike! And if their striking sucks...

I fully believe that guys are going to have to be great at pretty much everything, full on complete masters of hand to hand fighting. Fedor, Anderson Silva, and GSP are good examples of guys who are getting pretty damn close!

In addition, and to go a little bit out on a limb, I think if you were to transport someone like Rich Franklin back in time to 1993, you'd call him a master of everything. But in 2008, he's got flaws - the level of others plays a huge part in how you label someone. Remember when Ken Shamrock was good?


That's why I said a couple of things. I think Anderson fits this bill striking and grapplinf is what he is good but he isn't a great wrestler.


It'll be interesting to see in about 10 years what the next generation brings in. I'm guessing people will be starting younger in the combative sport. So guys like Randy that come in late will just get hammered by guys 10-15 years their junior but 10-15 years their senior in experience.

I'm guessing we'll also be seeing more Fedor-esque transitions between every area of fighting and...Cannibal Apocalypse.


Hahahaha Cannibal Apocalypse? You mean...... this?

But yeah, the next generation will have the benefit of not really needing to filter through all the bullshit in the martial arts world. Anyone can easily take a look on YouTube and see tons of videos of some really highly trained kids. Not just shaolin monk kids or anything, but kids who are sparring and competing in a fairly realistic setting (no offense to shaolin monk kids).

I don't think little kids should be doing MMA sparring and definately not competing under MMA rules, but it at least shows that they are training hard that young!

When those kids get into their mid 20s, as long as they've kept themselves fairly injury free and healthy, ohhhh mannnnn look out!

Anyone see any rule changes coming? Soccer kicks back? Knees to the head of a downed opponent? Think the MMA gloves could go? Each would cause a significant change in strategy.


Oops I missed this. The Cannibal Apocalypse comment threw me off!

Very interesting point there, and I would argue that this is a side effect of MMA finally being trained as MMA. By that I mean when you walk into a gym these days you don't do striking, then clinching, then judo, then jiu jitsu. You do it all at the same time. Techniques to transition to different areas will naturally begin to emerge.

Fedor has virtually perfected the technique of catching a mid level roundkick, throwing a punch and using it's momentum to crash into the opponent and take him down, passing his guard in the process.

Great stuff... Now you too, can learn to fight like Fedor! Haha... In all seriousness though, his transitions are awesome and it probably won't be long before they're common.

Perhaps it's technically not a transition per se, but the "flying heel hook" Ryo Chonan did against Anderson Silva was pretty badass! Will flying submissions become a legitimate way to take someone down instead of just a low percentage desperation move? Either way you can't just be worried about takedowns while striking, now you gotta worry about submissions too!

It may also seem like a simple thing, but I'm quite amazed at how many fighters these days are able to use different techniques to scramble back to their feet from so many different positions on the ground. Chances are you wouldn't be training that in a usual jiu-jitsu class, unless you were training specifically for real life self defense situations. Maybe your instructor spent a little time on it here and there but it was mainly an afterthought. It's covered more in wrestling, but even still, in both the gereral point is to beat your opponent on the ground. Not stand up and run away! It would be pretty frustrating to roll with a guy that kept getting up and running every time you made it onto the ground.

Hah a whole new "art of standing back up" has been created! Definately important stuff to know. Good point there!


I don't think this is necessarily true. I think fighting is unique in the fact that actual age doesn't necessarily play the huge role it does in other sports, at least not as much as ring age and wear and tear. It obviously depends on the style and individual fighter too, but as with boxing, I think there really is no need to begin MMA as a whole earlier than your late teens.


Oh come on we are talking professionals here not weekend warriors. If somebody is in the prime of their youth and has 10-15 years of quality training/competing there is no way you are going to beat them with just a year or two of experience and starting out at an older age. Now Randy did well because of his years of wrestling and it is second nature to him. Don't you think 10-15 years of MMA would make it 2nd nature to you? I doubt even a super freak can neutralize that kind of experience and age discrepancy on a regular greater than 3 out of 10 basis.

Now you bring up an interesting point that you don't think MMA/Boxing should be done earlier than late teens. I think it could and should be but the striking arts would need some modification. You definitely don't want young kids bashing each other in the head before the skull has fully fused together and the brain has developed. So you could still train some technique but it'd probably be better just to focus on wrestling/subs/bjj/judo type arts before late high school.

Another problem with training young is we don't know the long term health impacts it could have. If you were train all out like the pros your whole life I'm sure your joints would be gone by your 20's. So probably just technique training only and no Forrest Griffin 10-10 hour days 6 days a week training.


Oh yea. Knees to a downed opponent and bareknuckle fighting... let's just attach razors to their fingers and give them circular saws to...


I think we've seen flashes of it already...

** MMA trained as MMA not Thai+Jits+udo+itsu+Greco+boxing

As someone mentioned earlier:

There are already a lot of examples of this as it's developed... On the higher end there's Fedor, Anderson Silva, and BJ Penn (he has a great understanding of it if you check out his book)... on the less polished end there are the camps like Chute Boxe thats had a great understanding of this as well.

Previous to even Chute BOxe there were already sports that worked towards synthesizing the aspects of combat into one continuous art...

Shooto, Combat Submission Wrestling, Combat Sambo (hint hint fedor), Mario Sperry's Vale Tudo style...

We're just going to see these become even more polished because we live in the information age. There aren't anymore secrets and no one's going to hide their "super top secret training" stuff. Everyone's trying to evolve so the shit that doesn't work will be cut off.

In addition to the fact that fighters are getting started fucking young now. It's a complete other debate about when is too young to start training to fight. I'd def have my kids hitting pads like this kid:

But i doubt i'd have them sparring till their teens. wrestling, gymnastics, and sub wrestling though will be standard cirriculum :slightly_smiling:

  • Techniques that we didn't think were feasible used in MMA setting

Genki Sudo, Lyoto Machida. 'nuff said.

Genki Sudo is a god amongst fighters in my mind...

examples of the "stop-hit" or jeet kune do ABD (attack by draw) thing you can see all over the place in MMA lately


The answer to your question is named Shinya Aoki...


Oh also, if they institute yellow cards and knee's on the ground... fights will become infinitely more interesting.



I get what you mean but I think there is a MASSIVE difference between, say, kneeing someone in the head from the bottom position of side mount versus clawing at someone's face with RAZORFINGERS.

Obviously you don't want to see people killing each other in the ring but this is a whole different debate altogether that will go into politics, culture, freedom, blah blah blah and will never be resolved.

But rule changes don't necessary have to be limited by how you fight someone. A lot of people have been talking about changing how MMA judging is done for quite a while now, Big John McCarthy being a huge advocate for that, and proper ref training as well.

MMA is still being judged in my opinion by a system that didn't fit it in the first place. I'd like to see less importance placed on the takedown and even aggression, and more emphasis placed on damage or near damage (huge shots, near submissions). I don't think that just because you are being aggressive and coming forward you are winning the fight... its more of a strategy or a personality trait than anything else. Either you're controlling the fight - hurting the guy and not getting hurt yourself - or you're not.

If you have an offensive guard and are controlling your opponent, going for submission after submission and blocking all his shots, even though you are on the bottom the judges should see you as winning.

I mean, a lot of these things are already factored into the current system, but due to some of the really bullshit calls lately, you really gotta wonder sometimes if its just bad judging or underhanded payoffs!


I know its been touched on already,but I believe we will be seeing Judo being used more often and effectively in MMA. Foot sweeps and trips come to mind also...which are an aspect of Judo.


We've already got a ton of wrestlers utilizing those techniques but very few actual judo guys.


Word. Martial Arts have evolved so freaking fast its ridiculous. Effective hand to hand combat is extremely knowledge based. Especially something like jiu-jitsu. You don't need to physically train your body for years in order to pull off an armbar from mount against an untrained dude or anything. It's all knowledge and repetition. You can do jiu jitsu for 2 months, then throw a party and choke out all your friends. But you can't train like... 100m sprinting for 2 months and beat your buddy fresh off the plane from Jamaica.

Holy shit that kid is AWESOME! That guy who posted about switching leads and balance problems could learn something from that kid! Pops right back into a balanced stance after each hard right straight like a pro! Wow!

As for Lyoto Machida... man, it bothers me when people say that he's an unorthodox striker, and he does all this stuff nobody else does because if you ask ANYone who's trained in some kind of GOOD karate style with full contact sparring (as did and does Machida), they've all been doing the same techniques for years! He's just pretty much the only dude that's taken them into MMA and made them work. In K-1 back in the 90s, Andy Hug was axe kickin' motherfuckers into next week! K-1 isn't MMA but it's pretty damn realistic stand up fighting.

For whatever reasons (yes mainly because they work, but others too), muay thai and boxing became the dominant and almost sole striking styles in MMA. But in the background, there were always the kyokushin guys, the daido juku guys (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5AvCcLwaJQ&feature=related), san shou guys, and like you said, even the JKD guys all with some good stuff goin on. But for whatever reason, we just never saw them able to translate that stuff into MMA.

But that shit works once you figure out how to alter your game a bit.

I think this is probably, and I may take a lot of heat here, but I think this going to be the next big step for striking in MMA. I can definately see a lot of techniques coming out of traditional martial arts and finding their way into the ring. We've already seen that with guys starting to use spinning roundhouse kicks effectively.

In the late 90s you'd be laughed at if you said spinning round house kicks were a viable MMA technique...

Genki Sudo may have been a total wackball with his awesome fighting stances and antics, but in the end he was still doing the same spinning back fists and sidekicks your average Joe Dirt Karate Instructor does in the dojo. Genki just found a way to make them work! Well... sometimes!

And I don't want to sound too much like a nutball here, but who had Tai Chi???

(2nd one is better)

It may not be there YET, and you can question the skill level of his partners, but anyone who doesn't see some serious possibility there is on crack.


Hell yeah. Karo Parisyan baby!

Been seein' a few more judo head throws since he came along!

Did you catch the foot sweeps Machida does in a lot of his fights? Mainly just to throw the guy off balance for a strike, but sometimes they actually fall down from them.

Can see some here: