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A Brief View of “Traditional Martial Arts” and Their Role in Mixed Martial Arts

A Brief View of “Traditional Martial Arts” and Their Role in Mixed Martial Arts


Martial Arts such as Karate and Taekwon-Do, were previously extremely respected arts throughout the martial arts community. Nowadays, being associated more with philosophies, mantras, and movement forms, these more historical styles of martial arts have been all but forgotten in the context of mixed martial arts. With effective fighting arts such as Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Muay Thai, etc., it's easy to look at Karate or Taekwon-Do and wonder, “why bother?” I am here to tell you why, and to show that incorporating these arts in the correct manner, just as a mixed martial artist would do with Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing, can help you bring your game to the next level. 

First a little bit of history on Taekwon-Do. While many will state that TaeKwon-Do is an ancient art founded in Korea thousands of years ago, the specific art of TaeKwon-Do was founded by General Choi Hong Hi of Korea, after World War II. Japan invaded and occupied Korea from 1910 until 1945, suppressing the practice of martial arts native to Koreans such as the art of footfighting known as Taekkyon, which General Choi had studied as a boy. The Japanese however, allowed the people of Korea to train in the ways of Traditional Japanese Karate. In 1938, General Choi left Korea to study in Japan, where he earned a black belt in traditional Japanese Karate. 

Fast forward to 1946, a year after the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, General Choi became commissioned as Second Lieutenant of the Republic of Korea’s Army. Originally, the Second Lieutenant taught his soldiers Karate for means of staying physically and mentally sharp and steady. After initially training his Korean soldier in the ways of the Japanese who had just occupied their country, and in many ways suppressed Korean culture, Choi realized that Korea needed its own form of martial arts again, something that he believed to be more well rounded then both the Karate and Korea’s former fighting styles. While General Choi used both previously stated fighting arts, which he had extensive knowledge in, in the development of his Martial Art, he created his own techniques, fundamental theories and principles which he incorporated into Taekwon-Do. The General named Taekwon-Do on April 11th, 1955. Since the creation of Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong Hi has been put under much scrutiny, and even erased from some history books of certain Taekwon-Do organizations. This history is important simply because it is impossible not to see the influence of Japanese Karate on Taekwon-Do, and in the case of mixed martial arts, most of the techniques used, can be found in both arts. 

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Prior to Muay Thai being introduced to the United States in the late 1960’s, Karate and Taekwon-Do were the primary forms of Asian striking arts in America. Karate developed into kickboxing as an American Sport in the early 1970’s, and took off. Present day martial artist who involve themselves in mixed martial arts competitions, generally use Muay Thai Kickboxing as their primary striking art due to the ability to use knees and elbows, as well as working from clinched positions, all of which is common in cage fighting, yet hardly seen in Karate or Taekwon-Do. Even with this massive advantage, there will always be a time for fighters to employ the rarely used techniques of these two Japanese and Korean striking styles, such as the snapping front kick, using the ball of the foot. This is one of the first kicks Martial Artists learn 

in Karate and Taekwon-Do, and although it is rarely seen in mixed martial arts competitions, it has been the cause of some of the most exciting and devastating knockouts. 

Perhaps you have seen Vitor Belfort face off against Anderson Silva, or maybe you’ve seen Vitor face Lyoto Machida, or Lyoto Machida against Randy Couture, while not often seen, when utilized the right way, fights can be ended. Some other more popular kicking techniques within MMA, specifically from both arts include the sidekick, spinning back kick, and spinning hook kick. Many of these techniques can be seen in the foundation of the few fighters with a true background in Karate and Taekwon-Do in MMA. Some of these fighters include Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, Michelle Waterson, and the living legend, George St. Pierre. On top of these fighters with more traditional background, recognition that kickboxing is a pure fighting form of sport karate shows us that Karate has given us champions like Israel Adesanya, Alistar Overeem, and more. 

In the fight game, the best fighters are those who not only have the best arsenal of techniques, but it will be those who use the right technique, at the right time. Any fighter with a comprehensive understanding of striking will add traditional kicking techniques from these traditional arts in order to create a well rounded stand up game.  

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