YouTube has a lot of great martial arts videos these days. And it’s interesting to see all of the “I’d like to see that guy in the octagon” comments. Or, “you have to wonder how’d they do in a UFC bout”.
I think we are losing track of the many different reasons people decide to study martial arts. We may also be losing track of who our possible opponents might be.
If you want to be successful in the octagon then you better be strong, fast, fit and trained in a well balanced assortment of martial arts before you even step foot inside. That’s the current pinnacle of martial gladiators. If gladiatorship is your goal, then follow that path.
If kicking and punching is your thing, just about any martial art can help.
If increasing your power, peace of mind and a healthy body interest you, along with punching and kicking and self defense, then one would do well to consider studying Tai Chi or Ba Gua from a qualified instructor. Internal martial arts like Tai Chi can certainly help a mixed martial artist or any kind of athlete with concepts like “rooting”, “fa jin”, and “tai chi body”.
If surviving in a tough part of town against armed opponents is your goal, well, martial arts can help, but I haven’t seen Iron Shirt chi kung stop a bullet, so that’s an entirely different requirement that martial arts can’t entirely remedy.
Most likely, any person you’d have to defend yourself against with your martial arts, is going to be under the influence of alcohol with not a lot of training. Octagon level fitness, strength, speed and skill aren’t required to stop drunken Joe at the local pub. Fortunately, many of the people with a lot of training have learned self-control and discipline along with their martial arts, so you’re not likely going to face a highly skilled martial artist in the street.
If a person you have to defend yourself from has studied some martial arts, then you start to measure fitness, speed, strength, depth of study, type of martial art, etc to differentiate who is the better fighter and who is going to win the confrontation. By the way, if your fight lasts longer than 30 seconds that person knows at least as much as you do.
However, if you even have to throw a punch, in a sense you’ve already lost — lost control of the situation and anything could happen. My goal is always to control the situation like one of my old teachers did in this blog post: Last Fight. For me, free beer from an adversary without throwing a punch is the ultimate victory!
So, for all of you who look at martial arts and artists on YouTube, and think, it looks good, but how would they do in the octagon, the answer to that is probably they wouldn’t do well. And that’s okay. That’s likely not their goal. Their goal is likely to improve their health, to be able to keep themselves and their families safer for having martial arts and to share what they’ve learned.
A human body has its limits. Even mechanical things have a limit. I agree with some of the comments on Youtube: one said “I would rather spend the money and time on kicking boxing or Muay Thai boxing. They are much more useful for fighting and self defense. Not on Tai chi.”
But I am also curious to see who could keep their physical agility at the top level forever? Have you see any martial gladiators fight at UFC after becoming fifty years old? As a teacher of Tai Chi and Qi Gong for many years, I find I always get some students who have to give up what they have learned before. Their body can not accept the hard training any more. They came to me with back, knee, or ankle problems.
We often can see people over seventy, eighty or ninety still practicing Tai Chi at the park every day. Do you ever see people after sixty still practicing kicking boxing everyday?
That’s right. Is your goal longevity? Or is your goal to go win UFC bouts? To each their own. In the real world, how often do you fight? How often could you use confidence, balance, fast reflexes, peace of mind and a comfortable body?
How would Bruce Lee have done in the Octagon? He was an awesome martial artist but I’m not sure how he’d have done if he’d been brought to the mat. Also, the Octagon has rules. Many martial arts, like Tai Chi, have loads of groin strikes in them. Fair in a street fight, not in the ring. Sport and self-defense are two very different things.
I wrote an article at this blog two years ago. Called “The Difference between Movie Martial Arts, Ultimate Fighting and Street Fighting”.
You still can find it at this blog: