Martial Arts originated out of necessity. People had to defend themselves against humans and animals and the only weapons they had were their hands and feet. The battles fought by these individuals were for sheer survival, not belts or plastic tournament trophies. When confronting life and death struggles, the ancient warrior had to condition his body to take the brutal physical punishment his opponents dished out. He also had to skillfully maneuver in battle to minimize the physical damage to himself.
Martial Arts eventually came to the West and were taught by instructors trained under the “old school” system-toughen the body by exposing it to a brutal training which included lots of beatings during sparring. I personally witnessed this at the age of 14 when I took my first Karate class in the Dominican Republic. Students, regardless of rank, were pummeled mercilessly with no training on how to block or simply get out of the way of a ferocious attack. Don’t get me wrong, these fighters were tough and could take a blow but at what cost?
There is brutality in many sports, especially combat sports. We’ve seen injuries, deaths, and the long-term effects of abuse on the body in Football, Boxing, Hockey, and Karate. And while at the professional levels in any sport, the competition is so good that it is impossible to avoid brutality, I must say I am very impressed with many of the fighters in the UFC!
The physical training they put themselves through allows them to take strikes that would kill an average man. As impressed as I am with the physical, mental, and spiritual preparation it takes to step into the Octagon, I am astounded at their skills in avoiding brutality. How is it that in over 18 years of MMA that none of these fighters have gotten seriously hurt or killed? It is because these fighters have trained their bodies to the maximum but they can also can move, avoid, slip, and escape; they have tremendous timing and blocking abilities.
The MMA fighters have brought Martial Arts training into balance. They are not only strong and conditioned athletes, but also admirable technicians skilled in the fighting arts. This is the essence of martial arts. This is what separates a martial artist from a street brawler.
So if you wish to be a fighter, build your body to the maximum, because it is inevitable that you will get hit and you need to be able to take it. But don’t rely on your body (or face) to absorb all the abuse. Avoid kicks and punches to the head at all costs; block, move, slip, evade, fight intelligently! This will keep you in the sport longer, and you won’t end up like Mohammad Ali when you retire!