MMA vs Tradition – Part 2

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This is “Part 2” in the series of articles titled “MMA vs Tradition” examining the contrast between the recently popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) phenomenon and Traditional Martial Arts. A new section of this article will be posted every Monday.  Please leave a comment giving your feedback, questions, or opinions. I look forward to the discussions.


Many societies and/or philosophical systems have come to a similar conclusion. This conclusion is that humans function most efficiently when they achieve some type of balance and integration between the complex aspects of each individual. Conceptually, we can isolate the physical, the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual into separate concepts and areas of development. However, in reality they are never truly separate or isolated and all interact to influence the performance of any individual.

Recognize that even the term “art” denotes a form of personal expression. Any “art” is a type of expression that innately reveals the inner self, its underlying values, and creatively projects to what point that person has arrived relative to his journey in life. Hence, true “martial arts” carries with it a potentially more versatile activity than simple “martial science” or “martial technique”.

Many of the more commonly practiced “martial arts” that that we see practiced throughout the world have had a tremendous influence from Oriental culture and many of their origins trace their roots back to that part of the world. It should be evident that we owe these cultures a great measure of gratitude and respect for their contribution.

These forms of training and development many times are steeped in the “traditions” that were prevalent to the cultures of those individuals who developed them. Therefore, there remains a significant portion of the “martial arts community” who seriously follow some form of one of these “traditions”.

In contrast, over the last 60 years or longer, there have been many serious practitioners who have broken from such “tradition” to some degree, greater or less, and have also made a significant impact on the evolution of martial science and/or martial arts. Further, in the west we have seen a parallel development spanning from the ancient Greek Pankration to various forms of boxing, Savate, Sambo, wrestling, grappling, sword fighting, etc., to mention a few.  Today, the spectrum of what is referred to as “Martial Arts” spans from the staunch “Traditionalists” to the most recently popular “Mixed Martial Arts” phenomena.


As long as we are humans there will continue to be opposing views on what is believed to be the “best” option. In this discussion I would like to point out what I find to be some interesting observations. You can reach your own conclusions.

First, I begin with my personal opinion that there is true value in “tradition” while also accepting that there is also a true value in “progressiveness”.  Each has its benefits and each has it deficiencies. The ultimate decision that each individual student makes in deciding which is a better fit for himself has more to do with his/her own motivations, preferences, goals, and/or even his/her personal perspectives on life in general.

To quote an old friend: “It’s all good.”

Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in justifying our own preferences and sometime fail to recognize the benefits our friends (who think quite differently) receive from their own preferences. For the sake of discussion and more accurate comprehension, it doesn’t hurt to examine such pluses and minuses and take stock of our own personal investment into such activity and training.


For those who are at the brink of such a journey into the Martial Arts, it may be prudent to examine the options before taking the plunge into the abyss.

One of the primary elements of “tradition” is to preserve the practices of the past “masters’, “teachers”, “researchers”, and/or “founders” so as not have to repeat the same work and effort to achieve a similar acceptable result. The fact that some methods have survived until today is a testament to their value to some degree. Observing as a “non-oriental”, it seems to me that this type of “eastern” mindset (i.e., to give priority to honoring the past, to honor the ancestors [sometimes to the point of worship], to honor past habits and practices) has been a major source influencing and creating a strong philosophical foundation for such “traditional” systems. Perhaps a native Asian would view this differently, I’m not certain.

To the contrast, the “western” mindset has had more emphasis on progressive thinking and placing pragmatism as a higher priority. To quote again an American pioneer and the founder of USA GoJu-ryu, Grandmaster Peter Urban: “Old knowledge brings serenity, new knowledge brings progress”. The value of tradition is such that it can help to preserve many valuable practices of those men who dedicated a lifetime to study and develop a valid lasting martial method. Typically infused with those methods were a value system that stressed a significant emphasis on personal development within society and serious moral responsibility. In that value system, service to others is paramount and a primary tenet.

It is interesting to note that placing such emphasis on personal and societal development coupled with a moral value system is much more typical of those humans who have experienced a lifetime of challenges. Although not exclusively, it is much more common for people who  are much older to be able to look back over life experiences and come to conclusions they may not have reached earlier when looking forward as a younger person.

It is my opinion that: “With ability comes responsibility”. Even so called “freedom” becomes a short term proposition if not practiced responsibly with accountability. This tenet applies and becomes even more relevant as any individual achieves greater potential, whether physically or otherwise.  The wisdom of the east and the west both recognize that power without moral restraint is potentially destructive to both the individual and the society at large.

Subsequently, the term, “martial arts” (as contrasted with “martial techniques” and “martial science”) depicts an activity that focuses on the overall development of the individual rather than simply the more limited area of growth involving physical skills. By definition, the term, “art” implies personal expression, human expression. Ultimately, the depth of an individual’s personal development will greatly define his/her level of personal expression.


Copyright © 2010  R.V. PASCETTA, All rights reserved

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  • Nakya says:

    Secondo me la vera chiave di svolta ci sarà quando gli istruttori in generale saranno in grado di rielaborare e rendere proprio quello che sono riusciti ad apprendere evitando la ripetizione delle nozioni apprese simil pappagallo, ma capendone realmente i fondamenti in modo da elaborare proprie metodologie allenanti sulla base di quei fondamenti, questo da vita alla ricerca alla documentazione ed alla scoperta di nuove metodologie.
    Il saper prendere spunto da ogni cosa, attività, situazione anche apparentemente lontana dal campo del combattimento ma che si riesce ad elaborare in modo proficuo può portare migliorie all’allenamento.
    Quello che si dovrebbe mantenere inalterato nei secoli delle arti marziali non è certo la metodica di allenamento che migliora inverosimelmente di mese in mese, se una persona ha la volonta e la pazienza di tenersi aggiornata, ma sono i valori morali che le arti marziali devono tramettere, la condotta di vita questo è quello che non deve tramutarsi perchè se perdiamo questo valore potremmo essere i migliori combattenti del mondo ma ci saremmo persi il dono più grande che i nostri antenati ci hanno lasciato, in un epoca dove se ne sente più che mai il bisogno.

  • abe says:

    Balance is the key, too much of anything is not good! I too agree with the western philosophy of martial and the eastern philosophy to a certain extent. One can’t be too extreme on either end. As it is now the martial art world is unbalanced it’s all seemingly about fighting. Gladiator mentality!! Who is the best? What about character and/or your moral views or lack thereof! Or does that not matter? hmmm!

  • Mauro Bondesan says:

    Molto interessante,il tuo pensiero e’ anche il mio.

  • giuliano pilat says:

    arti marziali,militare di leva,scuola:sono parte integrante per il comportamento e la conoscenza del proprio corpo per il rispetto di tutti e se stessi.Grazie Shihan Ric Pascetta e Meneghini