Now that MMA has everyone’s attention…

I realized something this week: all this time I’ve been writing about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in this blog, I’d assumed that everyone reading had knowledge of it.

I apologize. That was a silly assumption.

MMA is a sport relatively new in sports broadcasting, but it’s been growing in mainstream popularity, capturing fans beyond MMA participants and aficionados. This week, it was brought further out of obscurity when the term “Mixed Martial Arts” was dropped in a pejorative way before a broad audience.

It’s an awkward moment when someone who’s lamenting prejudice uses a specific example in a context that amounts to prejudice…

and when the speaker’s prejudice goes on display for the world to see, but much of that world doesn’t know any more about (MMA) than the speaker, so they aren’t capable of recognizing the hypocrisy of the comment.

On the bright side, MMA now has everyone’s attention, which offers a learning opportunity for those who wish to open their minds.

First, to be clear with my own terminology:

Definition of prejudice (Merriam-Webster)

  1. a (1) :  preconceived judgment or opinion (2) :  an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
  2. b :  an instance of such judgment or opinion
  3. c :  an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

The gist of the prejudice against Mixed Martial Arts, its participants, and its fans captures this sentiment: MMA is a barbaric/low-life sport that gratifies the plebeian tastes of bros, bullies, rednecks, and mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. 

Some general points I’d like to make:

1). History: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) finds its roots in the sport of Pankration in the ancient Greek Olympic Games.

From Wikipedia: Pankration (/pæn.ˈkrti.ɒn/ or /pæŋˈkrʃən/) (Greek: παγκράτιον) was a sporting event introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and was an empty-hand submission sport with scarcely any rules. The athletes used techniques from boxing and wrestling but also other types, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground. The only things not acceptable were biting and gouging out the opponent’s eyes.[1] The term comes from the Greek παγκράτιον [paŋkrátion], literally meaning “all of power” from πᾶν (pan-) “all” and κράτος (kratos) “strength, might, power”.[2]

–This is a broad summation of MMA, though unlike Pankration, there are plenty of rules in MMA.

Admire these images of Pankration found on Greek pottery:

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

Pankration

Pankration

 

2a).The original and most well-known MMA promoter in the U.S. is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

2b). The UFC’s current champions include foreigners Amanda Nunes (Brazil), Johanna Jedrzejczyk (Poland), Conor McGregor (Ireland), Jose Aldo (Brazil), and Michael Bisping (England). The remaining five champions are American. Three of the American MMA champions are black.

Ergo, of the UFC’s 10 current champions, only two of them are white Americans.

3). MMA is an international sport rich with diversity. There’s no indication that racism is an issue in MMA such that it’s likely we’ll see a hashtag for FightCardSoWhite (as the hashtag OscarsSoWhite ripped through social media leading up to last year’s Oscars when well-deserving actors of color were snubbed in the award nominations, prompting some Hollywood stars and insiders to boycott their own union’s biggest award event.

(Hollywood is still working on living up to its own hype of being a paradigm of diversity and inclusiveness. But it will catch up to MMA soon enough.)

5). Mixed martial artists employ a variety of martial arts styles from various countries. Some of the arts comprising an MMA fighter’s repertoire are Muay Thai (Thailand), Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (Brazil/United States), Judo (Japan), Wrestling, Tae Kwan Do (Korea), Karate (Japan and China), and boxing. As the sport is evolving, we’re starting to see increasingly common usage of techniques from other martial arts, as well, such as Capoeira (Brazil), Kung Fu (China), Wu-Shu (China), and Kali (Philippines).

6). MMA is the only sport that has the word “arts” in it, and the term is there for a reason.

Classical martial arts involve body movement and training, discipline, and practice of techniques through choreographed sequences. In Karate, these choreographed sequences are called kata. They’re performed at tournaments as dancers perform in dance productions. The Shaolin Monks (China), for instance, perform their Shaolin Kung Fu techniques on prestigious stages all over the world. The art side of martial arts is akin to the art of dance.

Like dancers, martial artists spend countless hours practicing their techniques in order to master them. Command of their art demands mental as well as physical training.

In this video of a kata competition performance, the competitors display the artistry of Karate techniques, some of which are used by MMA fighters (punches, kicks, take-downs, ground-and-pound):

 

 

[Performance of Team Serbia in the WKF World Championships Belgrade 2010.]

5). The gender aspect: women joined the UFC’s ranks only 18 years into the organization’s inception. Before 2011, there were no women’s divisions in the UFC. (European female MMA fighters were competing in Europe before females could fight in the United States’ UFC.)

Ronda Rousey was the first female champion in the UFC. She not only paved the way for women in the UFC, but she arguably elevated the UFC and the entire sport of MMA to the status of household familiarity.

Since Ronda Rousey has been the most famous of the UFC champions, it’s a common mistake to judge her and then build on that judgment to make assumptions about the entire sport. Like her or not, Ronda is someone to respect for the success she’s achieved not only for herself, but for all of us. Ronda is a tough, ambitious woman who has overcome tremendous hardship in her life; she is inspirational in many ways.

Sidenote: Ronda got her very own Twitter insult from Donald Trump the year before the 2016 presidential election because she publicly declared that she would not vote for him. Ronda was an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter from the beginning, so when she lost to Holly Holm, Trump was quick to tweet:

 

“Glad to see that @RondaRousey lost her championship fight last night. Was soundly beaten – not a nice person!”

 

The next women’s UFC bout I’m anticipating is Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena on January 28. Shevchenko is from Kyrgyzstan and fights out of Peru. Pena is Venezuelan-American and fights out of Spokane, Washington, USA. This fight is the main event of the fight card – that means it’s the headliner fight – and the fighters are female. It’s not uncommon for female fights to headline a UFC fight card. How’s that for diversity in an organization that started out exclusively for men only 24 years ago?

I’m glad that MMA was brought into the spotlight via a controversial speech this week. Fall-out speaks volumes, and there’s always something to learn from it.

The Nice Guys (Another informal review that’s not a review.)

The Nice Guys. The Nice Guys are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and from the title you know that their characters are either a). literally nice guys, or b). guys with nice-guy hearts buried somewhere deep in a flailing chaos of beating people up and sometimes killing them.

Of the movie’s various brands of humor, at least one will make someone in the audience laugh at least once. In my book, this signifies a successful comedy: make everyone in the audience bust up laughing at least once. When we went to see it, everyone laughed more than once, including us.

What the Nice Guys lack in aplomb, they make up for with dumb luck, and it is hilarious. The last time a dubious (yet strangely compatible) pair of investigators made us laugh like that was in Rush Hour. If Rush Hour had a grittier, hard-boiled cousin, it would be The Nice Guys.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-TheNiceGuys_2016

 

The writing is smart and crisp, the acting is effortless, and the fight scenes are interesting, with plenty of elbows thrown. Refreshingly, there were more elbow strikes than punches, fight scene choreography reflecting our growing public enthusiasm for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I’m not sure if this counts as an anachronism, but I certainly enjoyed it. It’s about time Hollywood realizes that elbows are more practical weapons than fists in street fights.

If you’re a fan of Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Rush Hour, comedies, action flicks, or 70’s-ass suits and ‘staches, you might find it worth your while to catch The Nice Guys while you can.

UFC 196/MMA chatter (co-main events)!

I didn’t think this would be a post in and of itself. I actually wrote some new haiku I wanted to share today, but at the same time, I wanted to share my reaction to the outcomes of Saturday’s co-main events on the UFC 196 fight card in Las Vegas. Needless to say, the two things did not mix.

MMA at the top of the post loomed awkwardly over the haiku; leaving it there might have led you to expect my haiku to be about MMA (which, actually, might be a fun challenge for future haiku).

MMA after the haiku made the post look like two separate posts, which it basically was. So I separated them. UFC 196 today, Haiku 4 on Friday!

Really, though, I just wanted to briefly share my reaction to the co-main events at UFC 196.

 

 

UFC fighter Miesha Tate

UFC fighter Miesha Tate

 

Holm-Tate

(Starting with the women because this fight was my primary focus.)

You would think that a long-time Holly Holm fan would’ve been disappointed by Holm’s loss. I would have totally expected that of myself, too, so I was astonished to be thrilled – actually jubilant – for Miesha when she choked out Holly and won the belt!

My reaction didn’t surprise Callaghan, because he felt the same way.

It makes sense that I felt the way I did, though. A fan of Tate’s as well as Holm’s, I’d been happy for Tate when it was announced that she would challenge Holm for the title, especially considering how down and frustrated Tate had been when the shot against Rousey was given to Holm. Tate is talented, and she’s worked hard. She’s done her time in the octagon and more than earned that belt. In my mind, she was overdue for that belt.

(Aside: We didn’t go out to watch the fights. We stayed in and binge-watched the new season of House of Cards as I was trying to heal my vocal cords, which once again crapped out on me over the weekend. Yep – woke up on Saturday morning, no voice! You can BET I didn’t get anywhere near that fight card as I was making efforts to resist trying to talk. Later that night I jumped on Twitter to find the fight results.)

From what I’ve gathered online, the Holm-Tate fight unfolded into the extraordinary battle I was expecting. Holm and Tate are extraordinary combat athletes. With their opposite strengths, the two fought an intensely tactical fight that very nearly went the distance, right there distinguishing the match from previous bouts in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.

I’m pleased for Tate, and I’m not worried about Holm. Holm is a relatively fresh face in the UFC. She’s just getting started!

It’s thrilling to watch the UFC’s female ranks evolve… and evolving, they still are. Women have only fought in the UFC for four years. Thanks to Rousey storming the scene with her sensational wins, women caught the MMA world’s attention and staked out a claim of recognition and ownership in the sport for themselves. And thanks to Holm shaking things up with her upset win against Rousey, the women’s bantamweight division got a whole lot more competitive, unpredictable, and intriguing. It’s all played out beautifully, and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring! From here, starting with Tate taking the belt from Holm, anything goes.

McGregor-Diaz

I have much less to say about this fight since I don’t follow the men nearly as much as I follow the women. I can say, though, that the outcome of the McGregor-Diaz bout DID genuinely surprise me, mainly because Diaz took the fight with two weeks’ notice. He had a mere two weeks to prepare before getting into the octagon with McGregor after McGregor’s original opponent, Rafael Dos Anjos, pulled out with a broken foot! SURPRISE: Diaz, as everyone knows, choked out McGregor.

Summary: The two underdogs choked out the champs on Saturday night. The UFC 196 show in Las Vegas delivered unexpected outcomes… and I love a show when you can’t guess the ending.

The Preacher’s Daughter does women’s boxing proud.

At the end of August, I wrote about the upcoming MMA fight between defending UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and her challenger, Holly Holm, and I was less than pleased. That was when the fight was set for UFC 195, which would take place on January 2, 2016.

On November 12, last week Thursday, it came to my attention that the fight was going to happen in two days… nearly two months ahead of the original date. How I missed that memo, I don’t know, but the change threw me. I went to Facebook with my consternation, which I don’t often do.

Returning to my train of thought: In that first post about the upcoming fight, I expressed doubt, though I did say:

“Holm needs to have a plan, and it should include honing her take-down defense between now and January. If she can keep her head, set the pace and control the fight with a highly technical boxing approach (not allowing the bout to become a brawl), and successfully ward off Rousey’s take-down attempts, then she’d have a chance. And I do believe a Holm win is a possibility. The fight will, after all, begin to Holm’s advantage… standing up.”

But I wrote that, as I said, in the midst of doubt. Now that we know about Holm’s plan and how she carried it out with winning precision, I’m back to say that I was wrong. I’d been hasty in writing that first blog post, and hasty in posting on Facebook when I found out that the fight would happen in two days. In both cases, I didn’t give myself time to mentally adjust to the situation. I’d fallen into the pervasive notion that Rousey’s game was bullet-proof.

Hindsight is a wondrous thing. The question was never about the strength of Holm’s ground game. The question was about the strength of Rousey’s stand-up game.

It was my own cowardice that fueled my doubt. That first post was me imposing my own fears onto the situation. I wasn’t so much afraid for Holm as I was afraid for myself; after following Holm’s professional fighting career for over 10 years, I didn’t want to see her lose this fight. But because I’d been following Holm’s career for over 10 years, I should never have doubted her. I guess it was just that the bulldozer of WIN Rousey was riding didn’t appear to be running out of gas. I freaked out before I could remind myself about Holm’s wealth of ring experience and her exceptional athletic ability.

Now the world realizes that women’s boxing veteran Holm is a formidable presence in any ring or cage, and to underestimate her is a mistake.

After finding out that the fight would take place in two days, I dove into the internets and dragged out the video of the Rousey/Holm weigh-in. After watching it, all I could think was, “What was that, exactly?” What was that post-weigh-in outburst erupting from Rousey’s mouth… that one about Holm being “fake,” etc.?

And then my respect for Rousey slipped a little, and my admiration along with it. I knew that the kind of swagger Rousey performed is sort of par for the course leading up to a fight, but again, I’m writing from my personal bias toward Holm. (Delayed disclaimer: it’s difficult to write objectively about this given my long-time history as a Holm fan.) I was already on #TeamHollyHolm, but after watching that weigh-in, I prayed that Holm would win. On Saturday morning, the day of the fight, I silently dedicated my Body Combat workout to Holm before class started.

Watching the fight now, I feel foolish for having worried about Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. (She’s “The Preacher’s Daughter” because she actually is a preacher’s daughter, by the way.) How could I have doubted her when I was so familiar with her talent and toughness? When I knew the depth of her confidence and the breadth of her professional boxing record? Holm is a multi-world champion trained by one of the best combat sports training teams in the country. I shouldn’t have aggrieved this bout, especially since I’d viewed training videos of Holm such as the one on this page:

http://www.mmafighting.com/2014/4/3/5577052/holly-holm-training-camp-journal

Holm is meticulous about her own training, dedicated and focused beyond the scope of what seems humanly possible, and she’s merciless on herself. Mike Winkeljohn, her coach, couldn’t be harder on her than than she is on herself.

 

Holly Holm

Holly Holm

 

I don’t know what happened to Rousey in that fight. She seemed ill-prepared to face a combat athlete of Holm’s caliber. She also looked tired by the end of the first round, as if she didn’t train hard enough. Had she been too busy? Did she take her training less seriously because she assumed that she’d score another first-round win? Or could it be that Holm is simply the superior fighter? Holm is smart, calm, humble, and mature, all of which goes into her arsenal of badass, and none of which I’ve seen Rousey display… yet. Rousey is young. She has time to mature. I almost pitied her as she panicked (when she realized what she was up against) and chased, careened, and flailed around the octagon after Holm. It was a Rousey I’d never seen, but it was a Holm I’d seen time and again, and now that the MMA-watching world has seen it, too, the MMA game has been changed.

Obviously, Rousey is a supremely talented combat athlete, as well, and she’s certainly deserved her victories in combat sports. But so has Holm… and Holm has many more victories than Rousey over a much longer career in professional fighting. The fact that most of her career has been in boxing rather than in MMA is irrelevant.

I’m just happy that Holm won. That’s my girl.

In closing, enjoy this adorable pic I found of Holm with her husband:

 

Holly Holm with husband Jeff Kirkpatrick

Holly Holm with husband Jeff Kirkpatrick

Gym Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:

 

thatasianlookingchick-spongebobmovie

 

It took a few seconds.

“SpongeBob?”

“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

 

Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:

 

 

How’s that for random?