Some of my students have remarked to me that when they watch martial arts movies they really enjoy the way the martial arts are done. They think some of the fights are amazing. But when they watch the TV show “Ultimate Fighting” they find the fighting not as nice. Even if the fighters have learned many different kinds of martial arts they mostly just use punches or both fighters are clinched together. It doesn’t look very skilful. Many of my students don’t understand and ask me about it.
All martial arts movies have designed movements that are practiced. They are made to meld together the actors movements and style of fighting. In Chinese Kung-Fu movies (like Jet Li and Jackie Chan’s) there always are a martial arts Director and a team responsible for the martial arts parts. Because every fight is designed they can put entirely different kinds of styles and fancy movements in the movie to try to make it look nice.
Formal competitions of a single martial art have rules to encourage diverse skills and application of knowledge. For example, Tae Kwon Do is mostly kicking skills, so a competition will have a rule stating you cannot catch your competitor’s leg. This means sometimes you can see some very nice kicking in a competition.
In a martial arts fighting competition we usually don’t see a lot of fancy movements. A Kung Fu (San Da) competition and in the TV show “Ultimate Fighting” the rules encourage the fighter to use all different kinds of skills too but a person can catch a leg or fall down on their competitor. The competitors are always moving to increase their unpredictability; they don’t stand there like in the movies. There isn’t much time for a lot of fancy kicking or complex movements. Also competitors who use kicking know they will have big trouble if they get caught or lose their balance.
Every martial art has their own style and forms of practice. The forms usually teach us how to block and hit back. When we watch Ultimate Fighting on TV why do the competitors not show us how they used their forms in the fight? That’s because all martial arts forms are just one way to help us practice our “muscle memory” and release our body and mind. These won’t be tense when you face a real fight so you can be “natural”. The forms are also designed to fight some one who doesn’t practice martial arts. Most people don’t practice martial arts when they attack people. They just use punching and their speed is not fast. If that is the case, then you might be able to use some movements from the forms to protect yourself. Ultimate fighters are as strong as a bull and they are moving fast with a lot of power so the forms can’t really be used. In this kind of competition the most useful skills are quick reflexes and fast, powerful punches with some low kicking. Sometimes you can see a fight finished in 30 or 40 seconds even if the fighter was battle-seasoned.
We know Ultimate Fighting is a tough game but it still has rules to be followed and a referee to help the fighter avoid serious injury. Street fighting has no rules to follow and when it happen the person means to hurt you. There may also be weapons involved so we have to do our best to protect ourselves. So during a street fight we usually want to attack the weak spots of our opponent’s body. For instance, kick the guy’s private parts or attack his eyes and throat. We want to finish as soon as possible then leave. If the person has a weapon then we need to find a thing to block the weapon. Anything is better than your bare hand. A handbag or valise is good for blocking a knife attack. One thing in street fighting we must be sure of is to be decisive and use all your strength. When you decide to fight back then you want to hit him once in a vital area so as to make him incapable of attacking you again. Otherwise you will have big trouble.
In these ways movie martial arts, Ultimate Fighting and street fighting are not the same. But one thing is the same; if you want to use martial arts in these situations you have to practice hard. And you don’t rely on your skills to bully other people.