Monthly Archives: July 2016

Oops, They Did It Again.

There have been many stories done about a very controversial subject. ESPN, Fox, CNN, many others before the latest National Geographic piece it has been covered in the U.S. by production companies all over the world.. The sport of kid’s martial arts, or pankration to be exact. Now there have been honest articles that go in depth about the league, the gyms, the children, and the families of the children. For the most part, I believe that journalists come in thinking that they are going to uncover some crazy dad who is living his life through his son, but that is hardly the case. Pankration has actually been around since the early greek days and Olympics. It started out as a mix of boxing and wrestling. This is the sport that the USFL or United States Fight League has fought so vehemently to legalize. They actually succeeded.

It is very important to note the differences between pankration and MMA as these differences are major.

First of all and easiest to see when you witness a contest, there are absolutely no strikes of any kind allowed to the head.

All strikes are aimed at the body and legs of the opponent. The strikes have to be executed with proper technique and throwing haymakers is penalized. With that major difference out of the way, the other differences are more subtle and they differ between the different age groups. Knees are allowed with the older children but elbows are not allowed at all. There are not twisting locks like heel hooks or other submissions that have a high probability of injury. Submissions must be applied with controlled force, so if someone lands an armbar, they can’t just jerk it as hard as possible, they have to use applied pressure and allow the opponent the opportunity to tap before injury. Even if they opponent doesn’t tap, the referee will stop the bout and consider the fight over via submission. The entire sport is aimed at the safety of children.

Now there are some serious protestors. I feel that most of the protest is due to a lack of education about the rules. People see the pictures or hear kid’s MMA and automatically say it is wrong. The major argument for pankration is that other sports in themselves are far more dangerous for kids. They are much more likely to get injured skateboarding or football. Not only that, there are sports currently legal that are much less safe. Kid’s full contact karate, Jiujitsu, and even wrestling yield more injuries per participant than Pankration does. Meticulous safety records are actually kept by the USFL and they are available to all of the naysayers. So if those people who protest the sport actually learn the rules and see the tract record of the contests, they may not be as quick to judge. This is absolutely nothing like amateur or professional mixed martial arts. National Geographic did what many companies before did, they portrayed it as actual mixed martial arts and left out a lot of the safety protocols practiced by league and promoters.

With all of that said, the question of “why” even do it may still be asked. Why is it necessary? Well, it isn’t, but it is a sport and just like the kids of yesteryear who looked up to Reggie Jackson or Joe Namath, kids nowadays look up to UFC fighters. Those same kids may be martial artists. The problem with MMA for a long time was that there was really no way to be an amateur like the options in boxing, wrestling, and other martial arts. In most sports, you can practice in school and you can even participate in tournaments as a kid. Nothing like that is available for MMA for kids except pankration. If you want to be the best at something, you have a serious advantage if you are afforded the opportunity to learn and participate at a young age. The best wrestlers and boxers in the world participated in USA boxing and wrestling as kids and now kids who participate in Pankration can have that same chance to become professionals with a wealth of experience.

Disability? I’ll Call it a Diffability.

Over the years from coaching, I have had many challenges. Dealing with unruly children or disrespectful teenagers is definitely a challenge. I don’t however, consider it to be any harder to coach children with disabilities. Blind, deaf, missing a limb, autistic, mentally challenged children all have an opportunity to excel in martial arts. I have taught several children with what people consider to be a disability. I consider it a diff-ability, meaning their abilities are different, not absent.

The press enterprise just wrote a story about Gianni Riquelme-Solis. He is a local 11-year-old middle school student from Corona. Gianni recently won two gold medals in a regional taekwondo competition.

Impressive and commendable, but it’s unique because he is blind.

The article states that Riquelme-Solis has been blind from birth, but that has not stopped him from being active. Apart from excelling at taekwondo, he also goes camping, takes swimming lessons, and is in band at LuiseƱo School. According to his instructor, Gianni was the only blind competitor in the competition. It made me think of several accomplished martial artists that I have seen over the years who would have what people consider to be a disability.

Matt Hamill is a deaf American mixed martial artist and wrestler who has competed in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Hamill also has a silver medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, which is impressive also, but tells the story of how many deaf wrestlers must be out there and are very good at what they do. He is the only man to defeat Jon Jones, albeit by disqualification due to Jones’ illegal elbows. Hamill himself disputes the victory, which says a lot about his character. He was on the Ultimate Fighter TV Show which gave us a great perspective on the kind of man he is. I’m sure he doesn’t consider himself to be disabled at all.

I also thought right away of Baxter Humby. Baxter Humby is a Canadian kickboxer known as “The One Armed Bandit” due to his missing right hand, which was amputated at birth just below his elbow after becoming entangled with the umbilical cord. He is the only man in the world to win world titles with only one hand. He competes against not-disabled fighters and I have seen him fight on several occasions. Baxter is the current IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. He holds a number of different title belts including WBC Super Welterweight National Champion , IKKC USA Kickboxing Champion, IMTC World Middleweight Champion, and IKBA International Kickboxing Champion. His interest in sports led him to take up running at age 11 and martial arts at 17. He ran for the Canadian National Track Team in Barcelona in 1992 and in Berlin in 1994. So the man has accomplished many feats that people with all of their limbs will never come close to. What an amazing person to not let something like a missing limb be an excuse for not doing the things he wants to do in life.

Clayton Kraft is an autistic boxer. During his first fight in Fresno California, according to the audience members, it was impossible to tell it was Clayton’s first time fighting in front of an audience. The 40-year-old may be an amateur boxer but he’s had decades of experience overcoming adversity. Clayton was born with autism but also a passion for boxing, and it’s a passion his coach knew he would have to make come to fruition. For the past several years, Clayton has been driving to monthly training sessions with a persistent edge to win his first boxing match one day. He got a chance in an exhibition fight during a sanctioned show. Exhibitions are meant to be lighter, but the punches can be very real when you’re on the other end of them. I’ve seen exhibitions get crazier than the other fights on a card several times. Maybe Clayton isn’t going to be a professional boxer, but he took a passion, despite his disability and turned it into a real sport, making him a legitimate martial artist with what some would consider to be a, yes, disability.

I hope this goes to show those of us with no disabilities that if we were to have half the drive and determination of those who were told they couldn’t do something because of a disability; that we are only limited by our own minds. More power to all of those out there trying to do what they dream.

It’s Official

Well, like the title says, it’s official. The UFC sold for a cool 4 Billion dollars. The success of the UFC has a price. In less than 16 years, the UFC has grown from a money-losing company in a widely reviled sport into a global entertainment property worth $4 billion. While the UFC and its new owners figure out the company’s next steps, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta are tapping out of mixed martial arts with a remarkable return on a $2 million investment. The UFC has been sold for approximately $4 billion to a group led by Hollywood entertainment conglomerate WME-IMG, both companies confirmed Monday.

The sale will spectacularly benefit the Fertitta brothers and UFC President Dana White, who first persuaded his wealthy high school buddies to buy the cage fighting promotion in 2001. White also owned 9% of the company, and he isn’t going anywhere though: He’ll remain the boss and public face of the UFC while keeping an ownership stake. “No other sport compares to UFC,” White said.

“Our goal has always been to put on the biggest and the best fights for our fans, and to make this the biggest sport in the world. I’m looking forward to working with WME-IMG to continue to take this sport to the next level.”~ Dana White

They were trying to by hush-hush in the negotiation process. Now it is public information. In their first public comments about the deal, White and the new owners have suggested little will change at first for the promotion. The UFC has a full slate of fights scheduled this year, all building toward its long-awaited debut at Madison Square Garden in November after New York legalized MMA earlier this year. Which is kind of a big deal if you follow the sport. New York is notorious in its statements and resistance to MMA.

On the bright side, the UFC has created super-star status for fighters. After helping Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz to straddle the line between sports and entertainment, the UFC now boasts a roster of elite athletes with mainstream fame, including Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey (who is represented by WME by the way). It’s too soon to tell whether the deal will lead to more money for the UFC’s non-unionized athletes. The promotion regularly receives criticism from mid-level fighters for its pay scale, but its ability to control talent costs is a major factor in its profitability. Hopefully this company changes the pay grade for the mid level guys as they are risking as much as anyone else who steps in the cage. It is doubtful that much will change as long as Dana White is essentially calling the shots.

The UFC’s price tag has drawn crazy responses since it was first rumored earlier this year, but what is for sale is not just a promotion, but an entire sport, given the UFC’s omnipotence atop MMA.

Bellator and other competitors draw a fraction of the UFC’s revenue, attention, and some could argue talent. With more than 500 athletes under contract, the UFC stages roughly 40 events per year and is broadcast in more than 150 countries, reaching 1.1 billion television households. The UFC is frequently described as the world’s largest pay-per-view event provider, and it also has a prolific digital streaming service, UFC Fight Pass, that it describes as “Netflix for fight fans” and is a key component of potential growth. The Ultimate Fighter TV show and support now from ESPN, a huge brand itself, MMA is not going anywhere anytime soon.

I guess time will be the only determining factor in seeing if there will be significant changes. I know that there are things that need to change. One of the purest parts of the sport in the beginning is that is wasn’t about being a money machine. I think it is so commercial nowadays that even the hardcore underground fans can’t ignore it. Hopefully the fighters get more compensation and the quality of the fighers remains the same. Only time will tell…

Definition of Martial Arts

Martial Art : any of several arts of combat and self defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport. This is the Merriam-Webster definition of Martial Art. So my question is, do people consider wrestling and boxing to be Martial Arts? I guess we would have to explore the history of these sports and see if they fall into the technical description of a Martial Art.

Wrestling is rich and well documented in its history. Wrestling is a sport but was also used in combat, in fact it represents one of the oldest forms of combat. The origins of wrestling go back 15,000 years through cave drawings in France. Interestingly Babylonian and Egyptian reliefs show wrestlers using most of the holds known in the present-day sport. So even though the dynamics of changed, the techniques haven’t. It is also well known that the Greek history of the sport and the Olympics played a big part in its popularity. In ancient Greece, wrestling occupied an dominant and important place in legend and literature; wrestling competitions served as the focal sport of the ancient Olympic Games. So since the definition of Martial Art primarily states that any of several arts of combat (and self defense) that are widely practiced as a sport, I would certainly consider wrestling to be a martial arts.

Boxing may be more rich in modern history than wrestling, but the roots of boxing also run deep. Boxing is bluntly defined by Wikipedia as: a martial art and combat sport in which two people wearing protective gloves throw punches at each other for a predetermined set of time in a boxing ring. The earliest known depiction of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq between 2000 and 1000 B.C. Making it an ancient art as well. Many forms of boxing have come to light over thousands of years, the most notorious in history being the fights in ancient Rome. Boxing was a popular spectator sport in Ancient Rome. In order for the fighters to protect themselves against their opponents they wrapped leather thongs around their fists. Eventually harder leather was used and the thong soon became a weapon. The Romans even introduced metal studs to the thongs eventually. Fighting events were held at Roman Amphitheaters. The Roman form of boxing was often a fight until death to please the spectators who spectated. I guess without going into more history, the point has been made that boxing is definitely a Martial Art.

I guess I wanted to take the time out to make sure that people know that Martial Arts takes dedication, determination, tons of practice, and relevant competition to become an expert. These criteria are certainly met by boxing and wrestling. More traditional Martial Arts like Karate, Kung-Fu, Jiujitsu, Judo, etc… and even more modern martial arts like Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiujitsu, and Tae Kwon Do have deep histories and fall among the more commonly thought definition of Martial Art. The history and discipline involved in boxing and wrestling certainly wouldn’t be an issue of argument for those who practice traditional martial arts. Even Bruce Lee embraced the grace of western boxing and the skill of wrestling as relevant to fighting. And we all know he was an expert in Martial Arts.

Military Martial Arts

Even without the roots of Martial Arts Styles being specifically developed for Military reasons, it is evident that the reasons they were first were developed was not for spiritual awakening but more as a need for self-defense from groups of would-be attackers. Martial Arts’ inceptions and growth came out of necessity for self-preservation. The spiritual aspect came about after. Now in any war, there is always a necessity to be skilled at close quarters combat. Encounters with those who mean to kill you in the name of country are readily available and are usually at war because they are trying to occupy the same space you are. The whole point is, if you are in the military, Martial Arts are going to be taught to you. Krav Maga is a martial art that was specifically developed and adapted for Military use, Israeli Military to be exact.

Martial Arts are a big part of Marine Corps training, this is mainly because Marines are in the thick of the battle most of the time. Marines are on the front lines and must be highly skilled at hand-to-hand combat because they are the most likely to employ its tactics. They have their own program. Marines have the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, or MCMAP, which focuses on hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat. There are specialized instructors that are usually taught by some of the masters of certain martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai in order to take what they learn and pass it on to their students. How involved a Marine gets is usually up to them, but all Marines are required to gain minimal knowledge of Martial Arts. It could surely save their lives.

The flexibility and muscle memory in martial arts is necessary and must be learned and then practiced.

With all of the physical attributes mentioned, I’m sure you can easily the connection between the mental toughness and discipline needed for both military training and martial arts. It is well known and quite celebrated by both that discipline is not just present but very necessary for becoming an expert in hand-to-hand combat. You have to get through the bumps and bruised involved in learning. You have to deal with the disappointment of being beat by those who know more than you. You have to endure the hours of conditioning. You have to keep an open mind and follow instructions from those who teach you. There are so many similarities in the mentality that it takes to be a soldier and a martial artist. Perhaps the need to protect yourself, or your country is the motivation for most soldiers. What is the motivation for most Martial Artists? The notion of being able to defend yourself is probably the number one motivation for beginning a Martial Art.

When something is a life-and-death situation, you want as many tools as possible. Martial Arts provides that. There have been many young people that came into the gym because they had intentions on joining the military. I always thought that it was a good way of “cheating”. It isn’t actually cheating, but why not become proficient at it quickly. As I have mentioned several times, learning a Martial Arts also allows you to learn how to learn. Those of you familiar with my writing know what I mean but for those of you who don’t, I stress the fact that learning a Martial Arts helps you become a “coachable” person. Learning how to learn is a great way to advance in any aspect of your life.

Martial Arts teaches you about yourself; your strengths and weaknesses all come to light when you become a Martial Artist.

My advice to anyone thinking of joining the armed forces: Get a head start now and learn a Martial Art. A great coach once told me that it is better to become a master of something than a jack of all trades. Become great at a Martial Art, it just might save your life.