Five years ago, while enjoying my regularly-scheduled weight training, I came upon a poster that would change my life. “OU Mixed Martial Arts,” it read, probably with some low-key graphic and the psoted “Tues/Thurs 9-11 PM” that would become etched upon my undergraduate schedule for the next four years.
At this point in history, the UFC was still a fledgling corporation struggling for “cult” status with Pride Fighting and K-1. Nowadays, I can barely turn a corner without seeing “Tap-Out” splayed across a shirt or bumper sticker. The point is that in 2004, the letters “MMA” had little to nothing to do with the letters “UFC,” they were simply used by a group of people to express that they were more interested in following a diversified training curriculum than pursuing a single art. Where the term still held connotations of cage-fighting, the two were nowhere near so synonymous as they are in the modern day.
Years later, having left the fabled fields of far-off Athens, I found myself perusing flyers at the UNM rec center in search of training opportunities. “MMA Jujutsu,” one read, leaving me perplexed – the formula “Mixed Martial Arts (Insert Singular Art Here)” seems self-contradictory at best. Settling on Ninjutsu and Capoeira, I spoke with a fellow student about the offered “Turbo Kickboxing,” whose description caught my eye with a reference to Muay Thai. She objected that the course involved very little striking or combinations; at which point I grew appalled – I do not know that her allegations are factual; but I DO know that if you can go an hour without launching an elbow, knee, or round-kick, you have no business invoking the name of Muay Thai’s ancient, respected, and notoriously lethal art; no matter how vogue doing so may seem.
“Vogue” is the critical word here – it has become the “hot trend” to talk about MMA, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It has become “in” and “stylish” to walk around with BJ Penn on a t-shirt, whether or not you’ve seen the man fight or even know who he is. It has become “hip” for Brock Lesnar, who admittedly could break me in twain with but a modicum of effort, to run his mouth like a chump on national television, bringing WWE-grade antics into the more esteemed realm of martial arts combat.
It was, at one point, more esteemed. I see the letters MMA on the streets of ‘Burque, whoring out for anyone with twenty bucks and a hard-on for Dana White. I see school-yard level shit-talking from grown men in an effort to make venerable traditions marketable on cable television. In short, I see the martial arts becoming poisoned by the filth of Hollywood consumerism.
On a more practical level, the problem becomes one of steroidal meatheads learning how to fight without the requisite spiritual training, essentially turning machismo-ridden frat boys into walking weapons while the rich historical and cultural traditions of the arts find themselves beyond forgotten; overlooked by thugs and hipsters for a flashier, brand-specific way of combat.
Californication: one. Ancient spiritual traditions: zilch.
Redpillneo is a contributing writer for Project Group Think. Follow us on Twitter – we’re PGTblog.