Sunday, August 4, 2013

Anthony Pettis on the virtues of Taekwondo

Some mixed martial arts fans can be dismissive of traditional martial arts, but there's a lot that can be taken from these arts and incorporated into MMA and life. In terms of MMA, an important tool can be the element of surprise. People are expecting wrestling, Muay Thai, boxing, and Jiu Jitsu. But if you can pull out something from another martial art that you have mastered over time, perfected to the core; then that can really throw opponents off and possibly knock them out. Nobody expects a reverse elbow like Anderson Silva used. And nobody anticipated a kick off the cage like Anthony Pettis landed against Ben Henderson, which won him their first fight. The element of surprise is a strong element.

Speaking of Pettis, he speaks extremely high of taekwondo in another sense: the values it teaches. Some MMA gyms have gained in effectiveness in fighting over traditional martial arts clubs, but sometimes what they have lost is the respect, honor, discipline, and other values which are embedded into traditional martial arts styles. Pettis explained to Fight Magazine that the philosophy of taekwondo is what allowed him to overcome the overwhelming emotions he was afflicted with when he lost his father due to murder, when Pettis was 16. “When you get in taekwondo, it teaches you the life skills of respect, self control, discipline—that’s why I love it. I really attribute those skills to really getting over my dad’s death. If I didn’t have that, I would have lost it.”

A martial art which can have that type of impact is unbelievable, even if many of the techniques of combat aren't able to be used effectively inside the cage. And in life it's more important to have those values inside yourself than to be able strike someone into unconsciousness. Ideally, you can have both the high level of respect and skill, and certainly a big segment of MMA fighters fall into this category. However, there is definitely room for improvement, and I think that will change as time progresses and coaches instill more values from traditional martial arts styles into their programs. Somebody who is on board with that type of mentality is famed Canadian coach Firas Zahabi, who leads Tristar gym in Montreal, home to Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald. Zahabi noted in an interview with the Fight Network:

In MMA, the culture, it needs more respect. Because you're taking these young kids and you're making them killers; you're making them tough, you're making them strong, so when they go out in society, they're tough and the become bullies. Martial arts, for me anyways, is to fight the bullies, it's to stop the bullying, it's to teach the younger kids to defend themselves against the bullies; not to become the bullies.

A successful melding of traditional martial arts values and new age martial arts techniques for MMA will be on the horizon as the sport progresses into its third decade in North America.


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