Traditional Martial Arts VS. MMA: Which Is More Effective and Relevant

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With the recent thrashing of a renowned Tai Chi master by a retired mixed martial arts fighter, there has been enough uproar in the martial arts world. Many traditional martial arts practitioners have criticized the actions and demanded a duel with the retired MMA fighter. On the other hand, modern martial artists have written off such traditional forms and believe they are not effective in today’s hand to hand combat situations.


The video depicting Xu ‘Madman’ Xiaodong laying the smack down on Tai Chi ‘thunder master’ Wei Lei in just 10 seconds has gone viral and shattered the beliefs of many who considered Tai Chi to be an effective combat form. What makes this more interesting is that Xu has been retired from MMA for over 13 years and Wei Lei has been hailed as one of the greatest Tai Chi masters in China.



This is nothing new and in the past, there have been numerous such accounts where style vs. style duels have taken place – Kung Fu fighter against a Karateka, Kickboxer against a Muay Thai and so on to find out which art form is superior than the other. This led to the birth of mixed martial arts – a complete fighting art form that focuses not only on striking but also grappling, take downs and submissions. Wherever the fight goes, a MMA fighter is always prepared due to his varied skill level.


Tai Chi Master vs. Chinese Sanshou Fighter


Here’s an elderly Kiai Master (claims 200-0 record) getting KO’ed


MMA Champ vs. Ninja


Let’s examine why these so called traditional martial arts experts/masters don’t fare well against mixed martial artists.


  1. Relying heavily on a single training system: If you have noticed Kung Fu, Karate, Wing Chun, all their punches are released in the straight line. They believe a straight line beats a circle line (hooks). There’s nothing wrong in this belief; unless you make believe this is the only true way to strike and disregard the countless other ways a punch can be thrown. What’s the point in limiting yourself when you know your opponent could bring more to the fight? This brings us to the most widely recognized and practical methodology – Cross Training.


  1. Neglecting Cross Training: If you’re discipline is in Kung Fu, Taekwondo or Karate; fighting an opponent with the same martial art background becomes easy and predictable to some extent. But when you compete with a fighter possessing different skill set, not only does it get harder but also puts your skills on the line. Sadly, many sensei’s/masters restrict their students from learning new art forms. Having a well-rounded skill set is critical. If you’re a seasoned wrestler then training in other disciplines like Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and BJJ will broaden your horizon and give you that added advantage. Neglecting any part would only make things worse when going against a fighter with cross training background.


  1. Not Sparring Enough: There’s no doubt that kata’s help in memorizing moves, improving balance, building foundation and visualization. But it does not teach students how to deal with a real opponent who wants to inflict damage. Though some dojos promote sparring in the form of point based system which is helpful only in tournaments. Bruce Lee’s famous quote – ‘If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.’ perfectly sums up why you shouldn’t neglect this aspect. Sparring has multiple advantages – it improves your reflexes, teaches you to control distance, improves rhythm & timing, helps you test the techniques in real time, makes your body adapt to the situation, improves your eye and hand co-ordination and many more.


  1. Training in the same old methodologies: It’s no denying that Shaolin Monks and Kyokushin Karateka’s undergo some of the toughest training regime in traditional martial arts, which make them perform some amazing feats. Today’s mixed martial artists are also top notch athletes who incorporate various training regime including Strength & Conditioning, Endurance, Cardio, Calisthenics, Animal Movements and Long Distance Running. Neglecting any of these can severely impact your performance in either sparring or a real hand to hand combat.



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