Anthony Pettis Kicks Dan Henderson at WEC Championship MMA Fight in Glendale Arena in Arizona Cage Fight - The "Showtime" Kick is a Classical Taekwondo Kick
The champion goes on to fight for the unified championship title in the UFC.
Pettis Head Kicks Henderson With Rebound Kick Off Cage - Taekwondo on Display
More and more advanced classical and exotic martial arts are making their way into mainstream MMA and full contact sporting events such as the WEC and UFC. Often cited by commentators, critics and those with less experience as "innefective" or "impractical", eventually someone comes along who has mastered and functionalized a skill and uses it to exploit the limitations or vulnerability of an opponent.
It's interesting that the first time the commentators see a technique in the octagon they act as if it is a new move nobody has ever done. When in fact, they are just seeing the beauty and power of well executed classical martial arts techniques you can learn at your local traditional martial arts schools. You just have to take the time to look- and maybe reconsider your views on the humble martial arts master in the local Dojo or Dojang.
UFC Wake Up
The first major shift in recent history was the Gracie family presenting a Master Black Belt, Royce Gracie, a non-imposing and mild mannered Ju-jitsu grappler in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Using his highly developed strategy of avoiding strikes, clinching, take-down, establishing a dominant position and submitting much larger and stronger opponents, he was victorious time and time again.
It shocked most of the mainstream and many of the indoctrinated martial arts community by directly challenging and unsettling their belief systems about fighting. It showed the power of technique and effective strategy when individuals underestimate their opponent. This provided the opportunity to exploit an area of weakness while capitalizing on the strength of their Brazilian expression of jujitsu/judo. Now it is commonly referred to as GJJ, Gracie Jiu-jitsu or BJJ or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
It's Strategy Not Style
From a tactical and strategic perspective, this is the basis for these techniques, to exploit those who would underestimate their opponent. In classic "traditional martial arts" strategy that would make Masters proud; do the unexpected.
Striking is Dramatic
It continued to shift as more grappling was integrated, until a point when the defenses for takedowns and submissions leveled out a bit. Then came the audience pleasing striking era with dramatic knock out kicks, punches, knees and elbows. This one sells seats because even the untrained can see and experience the obvious results of a strike from the blood, reaction or a dramatic KO.
Just when the self proclaimed experts declared classical or "traditional martial arts" dead, a new bread of champions emerge in the form of Georges Rush St. Pierre, a Kyukoshin Karate Black Belt. Then they were shocked again as Lyoto Machita, a Traditional Karate Master dominates the MMA world. All along the truth was that most of the champions came from traditional martial arts backgrounds. It is where they laid the foundation of developing character, inner strength, work ethic, and the traits of champions that make them trainable technicians and tacticians.
Taekwondo the Target
While Taekwondo enjoyed significant popularity due to its display on the world stage as an Olympic sport and numerous centers in strip malls across America, this popular "big dog" has been the target of much bashing and criticism. Perhaps it was a convenient target because of the high number of child focussed beginner schools emphasizing the character and fundamental fitness education of children. Plenty of examples of bad or mediocre instruction or practitioners due to the millions of participants worldwide. However, from my point of view, few other arts have had the positive impact on attitudinal and character education as Taekwondo. Beyond the kicks and punches, it creates healthier people and better citizens. Anthony Pettis and Dan Henderson clearly displayed Taekwondo or classical Korean style kicking at the WEC Championship fight.
Lyoto Machita, Georges Rush St. Pierre - Traditional Black Belt Show Honor
For many of us traditional martial arts teachers, we are eager to see more honor, humility, respect and character displayed as befitting a champion. When Lyoto Machita enters the ring wearing his traditional Karate Gi and conducts himself with dignity - win or lose, we are proud. When George St Pierre wears his Black Belt into the ring honoring his roots, then bows to honor his opponent, it sends a message. When an MMA champion refuses to engage in derogatory trash talk, it makes a statement. Perhaps there is no better display than the gracious acceptance of a loss. Millions of men, women and children see an example of honor and dignity befitting a champion. I believe this is why these men have such a large and growing fan base.
The UFC Platform
It is encouraging to see those who take responsibility for being positive role models and leading by example. The UFC is a powerful platform from which to influence others, especially impressionable youth. It is a golden opportunity to display the true virtues of martial arts and inspire a new generation of practitioners, not to be bigger stronger bullies with kicking and punching, but to learn to be civil to one another and above all - honorable.
Styles Make Fights
While the old boxing saying that styles make fights may still be popular, I would argue that styles sell seats. It goes to our core of wanting to know which is the best style and looking for the easy answer. Creating division and branding (identification through styles) prods our competitive nature and makes it easier for us to choose sides and invest ourselves emotionally into the event. Controversy creates curiosity, which in turn drives media exposure and ticket sales. These are important and understandable components of fight event promotion and make it exciting for fans. After all, the public loves drama.
Now we have the emergence of advanced kicking in the UFC
The fact is that it isn't about the style, it is about the individual. A champion is a champion regardless of the style. Each can provide a foundation from which to work. The old martial arts wisdom is true from my point of view, "There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists." It will be exciting to see what is ahead. As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun, but is sure is fun to see it come around again.