The Death Of The Martial Artist
Updated on Apr 6, 2018. Originally written and posted on Oct 5, 2015.
Martial arts is dead.
It has become common and mainstream for kids and adults alike these days to train in combat sports such as MMA and modernized martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, rather than the more traditional forms of martial arts such as Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, and so on and so forth.
While there is certainly nothing wrong in training MMA and BJJ (in fact we highly recommend them for their effectiveness in real fighting), the high degree of focus on sports competition and winning at all costs in MMA and BJJ - often come at a price when it comes to developing and cultivating individual morals, values, and ethics - perhaps more so than the martial arts of a more traditional nature.
Is anybody a true martial artist anymore?
Nowadays, trash talk, disrespect, picking fights, and wild use of profanity seems to be tolerated and even rewarded. This is true for some coaches, and especially true when it comes to aggressive competitors.
Simple martial arts values like being respectful and courteous to others, minding our language around impressionable kids and adults alike, greeting each other, shaking hands and thanking each other after a match seem to have disappeared.
High school bullies who used to pick on other kids have now become Jiu Jitsu thugs who smash on regular hobbyists. They get special preferential treatment and protection from their coaches, carry themselves with their noses in the air, and only care about chasing the next gold medal or the next big win.
Getting more fans, followers, sponsors, and free gear seems to be the only thing that concerns them. Their coaches are only concerned about promoting their schools, selling more memberships, and making more money.
Profit Over Morals
Simultaneously, the transformation of martial arts into a sport "commodity" has been felt in the world of combat sports / entertainment as well.
In the WME-IMG era of UFC / MMA combat sports landscape - disrespectful trash-talking and WWE-style "Attitude Era" antics have skyrocketed to another level (and hit a new moral low).
While we can fully appreciate the entertainment factor, spectacle, showmanship, and charismatic fun of competitive trash talk from one competitor to another - there is a difference between things said and done for entertainment and crass thug-like behaviour that (physically and mentally) harms others.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has now become fully synonymous with the latter.
"The Notorious" Conor McGregor and his gang of Mac Life goons attacked Khabib Nurmagomedov and Team Khabib in Brooklyn, New York in the lead up to UFC 223 - in retaliation for their teammate Artem Lobov being confronted by Khabib earlier during fight week. McGregor is shortly arrested on several criminal assault charges, including causing injury to UFC staff, harming and taking several other fighters off the PPV fight card - arguably causing the most negative event to ever unfold in MMA history (next to the Strikeforce brawl with the Diaz brothers).
UFC Welterweight Fighter Colby Covington is the latest in a long lineup of "thug wannabes" in the fight game looking for attention. He tries to rile up fan interest in some of the worst, most annoying, and cringe-worthy trash talk possible. He resorts to childish, tasteless racial and xenophobic attacks against other fighters like Fabricio Werdum and Rafael Dos Anjos. His trash talk is so dumb and obvious that it cannot even be taken seriously and just comes off as try hard.
- Renzo Gracie, one of the most popular BJJ instructors in the sport, has actually spit on his opponents in past MMA bouts in PRIDE FC, stomped on other people's heads in brawls, and picked street fights with club bouncers in NYC. That is clearly not a positive role model for his students or society for that matter.
- Lloyd Irvin, a BJJ instructor and master internet marketer, has largely been exposed by the BJJ community as a cult-like leader who brainwashes his students and promotes rape culture within his schools.
On the highest professional levels of the sport of MMA, drug abuse and outright cheating is even acceptable, as long as you have money and popularity (Jon Jones, Vitor Belfort), and/or can spin it somehow with WWE promo cutting skills (Chael Sonnen).
- Jon Jones, while widely considered as the greatest UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of all time and a pound for pound great, has convicted multiple felonies including a DUI and a hit and run on a pregnant woman, and has been busted for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and cocaine use. The irony is not lost - as he has admitted in the past to have snitched on his friends for smoking marijuana. He has avoided jail time as a result of his status as a celebrity and fighter.
- Vitor Belfort is a known cheater, having been busted multiple times for performance-enhancing drugs since the age of 19. He is still allowed to fight and compete despite popular belief that he continues to cheat. With USADA testing - his body is now a shell of its former drug-enhanced self.
- Thanks to his mouth, Chael Sonnen has been able to talk his way out of suspensions and was even gifted title shots. One of the most notorious cheaters in the sport, he abused performance-enhancing drugs so much that he had to retire from competition after the athletic commissions no longer allowed "therapeutic use exemptions".
Admirable, respectful martial artists like Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St-Pierre, and Lyoto Machida have already exited or are on their way out of the limelight, no longer the idols or role models of the general public, and only to a few hardcore fans.
- Fedor Emelianenko is a former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, and widely accepted as the greatest heavyweight fighter to ever have fought MMA, and the #1 pound for pound greatest fighter of all time. He has almost always maintained a calm, stoic composure and never engaged in too much public trash talk. He preferred to let his fighting skills do the talking.
- Former UFC Welterweight Champion & former UFC Middleweight Champion Georges St-Pierre rarely talked trash, showed true martial arts values and was always a humble and respectful competitor. Greasing allegations from his second fight with the greatest lightweight champion of all time BJ Penn aside, he is widely regarded as the greatest welterweight MMA fighter of all time, and one of the pound for pound greats.
- Lyoto Machida is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, known for showing the world that Karate can be used effectively in MMA. His USADA suspension over a banned substance in DHEA aside (a substance he openly submitted to USADA stating he took them, but was suspended subsequently anyway) - he is a true martial artist in every sense of the word, and not a day goes by where he does not train to improve himself as a martial artist.
Martial arts were originally taught to underprivileged or vulnerable commoners (peasants, farmers) to help defend themselves against bullies, robbers, criminals, and thugs.
Martial arts values of respect and honour turned brash and immature youngsters into refined, upstanding, moral adults who could help others maintain justice in an often unjust society.
Now it seems the exact opposite has happened. Martial arts and combat sports are responsible for enabling and encouraging regular people to act like immature children and commit crimes.
How can you tell if someone is a true martial artist?
Let's take a look at the five ways we can identify a true martial artist - regardless of the discipline they practice (traditional or modern).
1. They are humble, honest, and respectful to everyone.
It doesn't matter to them if you are the janitor, the receptionist, the white belt newbie, the blue belt hobbyist, or the world class BJJ black belt ADCC champion celebrity coach. They greet and treat everyone with the same amount of courtesy and respect. Not just the first time, not just the second time, but every time.
2. They remain patient and calm when dealing with problems or enemies.
They don't lose their cool. They don't throw a fit or a temper tantrum when they get submitted in a roll, lose a match, or get injured. They are patient when it comes to dealing with setbacks, confrontation, conflict, disagreements, or enemies.
3. They don't use their skills to bully others.
When sparring or training with others with a significant skill gap between them, they don't bully others by brutally knocking out their training partners, pushing smaller training partners around, or rolling excessively hard and pulling off violent and forceful submissions that can easily injure others.
4. They show sportsmanship and a good degree of control.
In a match, they kick ass, and after beating their opponents, show good sportsmanship and respect to the other competitor. They don't foul their opponents, fight dirty, cheat, hit them after the bell, or crank on a submission to purposely hurt their opponents. If they are confronted on the street, they defend themselves intelligently without the use of excessive force.
5. They are role models who give back to the community and help others.
They carry themselves well and make positive life choices that set a good example for others. They give back to the community in some way, perhaps as a teacher or coach, or even just being a great training partner and friend - and bring a positive net impact on other peoples lives.
- Lyoto Machida showing a sign of respect to his opponent Ryan Bader, after delivering a brutal and impressive knockout.
So how do you, your training partners, friends, instructors, and coaches stack up? Do you uphold the values of a true martial artist, similar to our Dynasty Family members? Because Dynasty is a brand for martial artists - not thugs or bullies.