Martial arts schools in Australia are generally at the mercy of trends and popular culture of the time. In the 80’s, the Karate Kid film was released and it has heavily influenced the minds of all Australians to this day. As a result, the general public now knows that one of the highest ranks you can ever reach is a black belt, whatever the discipline. The trends of today are ever changing though, especially with online platforms such as Tiktok or Instagram delivering content directly to people’s phones.

The appeal of MMA

Nowadays, mixed martial arts (MMA) is on the rise largely in part thanks to UFC popularising their fights. MMA is a huge multimillion dollar industry and you’ll find a plethora of smaller local championships before fighters make it to the biggest earner – UFC. There are many facets to the sport that appeal to different crowds. Some people appreciate the technical aspect of each martial style being utilised in all out combat; some people are more interested in the strategies employed within a fight; a lot of people are drawn to it simply because of the bloody and raw nature of these fights.

What are the real benefits of MMA?

There is a problem now though – we have a generation of young adults and teenagers who are exposed to these brutal sports but are completely missing the point of the martial arts entirely. Violence for the sake of violence leaves out all the other lessons you glean from training in a martial discipline: mental fortitude, control, empathy, kindness and courage. Luckily, kids in the inner west still have many options to learn self defence in more traditional martial arts like kung fu, tae kwon do, karate, jiu jitsu, etc. The benefits of training martial arts are myriad – parents who want their children to learn confidence, coordination, and self defence – people who want to learn how to move their body effectively, safely and efficiently – people who want more mobility and flexibility – people who want to achieve a level of fitness that will last them a lifetime in a practice that they can continue into old age – people who wish to find peace in a meditative practice and learn how to de-stress from their busy lives – the list goes on. MMA training does help with fitness and confidence but without a holistic approach you may end up creating an arrogant and aggressive brute as opposed to the well adjusted martial practitioner. 

Turning martial arts into a sport suddenly restricts you

As with any competitive sport, there are rules and regulations to ensure longevity of the sport itself and its athletes. Granted that many MMA competitions are very loose with their rules to allow the fighters as much freedom with the tactics they can employ against their opponent, however many of the banned techniques are things that would mean the difference between life and death in a self defence scenario. Here are a few examples of the banned techniques in UFC:-

1. Pile-driving

2. Fish Hooking

3. Headbutts

4. 12-6 Elbows (downward elbow strikes)

5. Groin Strikes

6. Throat Strikes

7. Kicks and Knees to the Opponent on Ground

8. Strikes on the Back of the Head

9. Eye Poking

10. Hair Pulling

11. Biting

12. Small Joint Manipulation (fingers and toes)

13. Fence Holding

14. Holding Opponent’s Shorts or Gloves

15. Soccer Kicks

These techniques don’t fall into the vein of sportsman-like behaviour and can cause grievous bodily harm and long lasting damage to the other fighter. Many of them require malice on the part of the user to do some real damage in the octagon. Now flip the scenario from a one-on-one duel to any self-defence situation. A mugging, assault, rape, kidnapping, multiple aggressors, etc. The mindset changes and you would use anything at your disposal to escape the dangerous situation you find yourself in. Jow Gar Kung fu teaches you how to properly utilise techniques like finger strikes to the eyes; various attacks to the throat and groin; grab, scratch, and claw at soft targets; all to buy yourself enough time to get to safety. If you train yourself to avoid using these techniques as you do in MMA, the likelihood of them successfully escaping dangerous situations gets slimmer and slimmer. 

Broadening the scope of your training in MMA does not a master create

The name mixed martial arts suggests that more than one style is required, and generally in order to become a well rounded fighter you must become proficient at mainly 3 disciplines that cover striking, grappling/wrestling and ground game. Most people don’t have time enough to master a single discipline, let alone three. You may be thinking, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” In this instance, it would be erroneous to think this to be true. A true master of a martial art, such as jow gar kung fu, is able to learn how to fight at different ranges and play to their strengths which is primarily to be on your feet using your strikes and kicks without falling into the trap of rolling on the ground with a jiu jitsu master or grappling with a wrestler. This doesn’t mean we are incapable in those situations though, mastery of an art means adapting it to what the situation requires! 

We can still find the same benefits of training at an MMA gym for teenagers if they were to pursue any other martial art without heaping on issues such as wracking up injuries after fighting bout after bout, or pushing aside other responsibilities to pursue a professional career in fighting, or mismanaging their ego and aggressive tendencies. The philosophy behind training kung fu is to find balance within ourselves, leading to better training outcomes like emotional regulation and physical and mental resilience – when these things become the primary focus of training you tend to create kinder and more understanding human beings who are capable of defending themselves or others when the need arises.