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No Holds Barred’, ‘Cage Fighting’, ‘Ultimate Fighting’, ‘Pride Fighting’, ‘Sougo Kakutog’i, ‘Vale Tudo’; these are some of the names given to mixed martial arts or ‘MMA’. So what is it and where does it come from? From earliest recorded time men have engaged in conflict. Sometimes this was serious and at other times it was for fun and competition. Pankration was one of the first formalised body contact matches of strength in Greece, and was an ancient Olympic Games sport. This had many parallels with modern MMA. It combined wrestling and grappling skills with striking skills. During the rise of the Roman Empire, captured Greek slaves became prized teachers and tutors to the boys from wealthy Roman families. These slaves took with them, together with their culture, knowledge of the sciences and philosophy, their skills in armed and unarmed combat. Among these was their pankration and Greco-Roman wrestling. Also in ancient times, in the East, various types of unarmed combat were being taught to soldiers in case they lost their weapons in the heat of battle.
Ju-Jitsu was part of the Samurai Warrior’s preparation in Japan. It is believed that elements of Ju-Jitsu date right back about 2500 years in ancient China. It uses a technique of conserving energy and reflecting aggressive moves back to the attacker. It became popular all over the world and in Brazil it developed into ‘vale tudo’ the beginning of mixed martial arts in the Americas. Judo ‘the gentle way’ was indeed developed as a gentle way of subduing opponents. It involved throwing them to the ground or holding them helpless in various grips and grapples without necessarily hurting them. Many of these ‘grapples’ and throws have been incorporated into the far from gentle MMA techniques. In Europe during the 1800’s, boxing became extremely popular. After a time people who were both wrestling and boxing enthusiasts wondered how these experts would fare against one another. Entering the mix, came the martial arts from the East and gradually MMA was born.
An early type of mixed martial arts was called Bartitsu. It was founded in London just before the turn of the nineteenth century. It is the first known combination of East and West style martial arts. It combined boxing, kick-boxing, judo and ju-jitsu as well as French stick fighting. It started off as a free for all, no holds barred kind of competition. Each proponent of his own fighting style competed against fighters of other styles. Very soon, however, the people partaking of this sport realised that they needed to be proficient in more than just their own style, say boxing, wrestling, or ju-jitsu. As the mma training methods widened and the fighters became more versatile, it became clear that rules and standards were necessary for the game. The great Bruce Lee was famous for his belief that a good combatant did not follow any particular style of martial arts, but was adaptable to his opponent and was able to develop his own style.
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