Mixed Martial Arts, commonly referred to as MMA, is a full-contact sport that includes the use of both grappling and striking techniques from a standing or ground position. Such techniques incorporate judo, karate, boxing, taekwondo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling and Muay Thai movements.
An Intriguing History
MMA history begins in ancient Greece when the Olympic games were first played. Mixed martial arts competitions were initially hand-to-hand combat fights, referred to as pankration matches. No eye gouging or biting was allowed during pankration matches, but these were the sport’s only rules. Greek competitors who were successful at such events became national heroes and legends.
The mixed martial arts fighters of ancient Greece became known abroad and their techniques were imitated in India when Alexander the Great recruited Greek pankration athletes to become soldiers. He did so based on their knowledge of eight-point combat and the strength he knew they must possess to have achieved success as pankration fighters. A Buddhist monk was said to have first noticed pankration techniques in India and, subsequently, passed on what he had learned to Chinese athletes, who in turn used this knowledge to create martial art techniques such as those seen in karate, judo and kung fu.
The Birth of Mixed Martial Arts
As martial art techniques began to slowly spread across the globe, the idea of modern mixed-style combat was born. Many times, athletes who were adept at one martial art challenged athletes of a different type. The result was the mixed-style competitions that are now seen throughout the world.
Bruce Lee, to no one's surprise, was a major catalyst in the development of mixed martial arts. The legendary practitioner designed his own style by utilizing various techniques, including boxing, fencing, karate and wrestling. Additionally, Royce Gracie, another a prominent figure in MMA history, won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. After his impressive win, the popularity of mixed martial arts skyrocketed.
MMA fighters such as Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock continued to gain celebrity status within the mixed martial arts arena. Through the years, the UFC's popularity increased and eventually the organization hosted its own television program called “The Ultimate Fighter." The exposure gained on American television propelled the UFC to worldwide recognition and MMA fighters, such as Diego Sanchez, emerged. However, the phrase “mixed martial arts" was not actually coined until 1995 when the president and CEO of Battlecade, Rick Blume, first used the term.
A Solid Presence in the Martial Arts World
As MMA became increasingly prominent, matches became a regular part of both the entertainment industry and the martial arts worlds. Sporting goods companies began manufacturing MMA equipment, such as MMA punching bags, pads and other items necessary for those in training. Since students of mixed martial arts must be trained in various forms of the sport before being deemed competition-ready, the use of quality MMA equipment is of vital importance.
The recognition and popularity that mixed martial arts sports have received thus far, both from the sports world and the entertainment arena, show no sign of decreasing. Some professionals of the sport have stated that as time goes on, more and more martial arts enthusiasts will ultimately choose to become MMA fighters. Regardless of what the future holds for the sport, no one can deny it has traveled a long and interesting road from ancient Greece to the modern world.