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.

Keeping it on the down low. (Garage gym post!)

Because of the Labor Day holiday, our Body Combat class was cancelled on Saturday and also yesterday. This gave me a great incentive to brave the garage again. Our temperatures have cooled down to the low 100’s, and I wanted to get in at least one workout over the weekend.

I had no plan until I got in there, and then, I don’t know, I guess I saw the MMA dummy and decided to do some random ground conditioning. Maybe I was also inspired by a resurrected memory of wresting in high school when an old friend reminded me about it on Facebook the other day. Fun times!

Some of this workout was inspired by wrestling, some by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve never actually studied the latter;* I used to train in Muay Thai at an MMA gym, where the schedule comprised BJJ as well as Muay Thai, so I had some exposure there. I’ve done some dabbling over the years.

In MMA, you have to deal with people trying to take you down, and you have to try to defend that and defend/escape when they’ve got you on the ground. There’s a lot of core work involved, so a workout like this is great for core strengthening. I did this workout two days ago, and by yesterday evening, my abs and obliques were super sore from top to bottom and side to side. I also feel my traps quite a bit, and, to a lesser extent, my lats. Mission accomplished!

*I’d love to get into a BJJ class somewhere. Next martial art on the list, for sure.

Without further blathering, here are a few snips from Sunday’s workout:

 

–Burpees. Lots of them. They’re a fantastic all-around, whole body conditioning exercise.

A traditional burpee involves doing a push-up from plank position. In the variation I did, the push-up is replaced with a sprawl. Rather than kicking back into plank and doing a push-up, you kick back and land with your hips down on the mat in one fluid motion. The sprawl is a technique done to defend against a shoot, which is a take-down attempt.

 

Burpee pt. 1 - Landing in sprawl

Burpee pt.1 – Landing in sprawl

 

(Didn’t realize that I got so much air until I saw this; I must have had some momentum going from touching down after a jump.)

From the sprawl, you jump your feet back in toward your hands, which are still on the ground.

 

Burpee pt. 2 - Jumping feet in

Burpee pt. 2 – Jumping feet in

 

From there, you jump straight up with your arms overhead, so your whole body is reaching upward. In this workout, I made it a jump tuck, where you curl your lower legs back toward your rear at the top of the jump.

 

Burpee pt. 3 - Leaping up

Burpee pt. 3 – Leaping up

 

Then you land and continue the steps in an endless stream of why am I doing this to myself. Those three steps done in one continuous movement equal one burpee.

–Resting.

 

Resting.

Resting.

 

–I did a few sets of shoulder rolls across the floor somewhere in here, but I didn’t capture pics of them. It’s difficult capturing shoulder roll (or any kind of roll) pics that show anything… with a cell phone camera, at least.

–This next exercise really works the core, including the glutes. From bridge position, reach up and over to the opposite side with your hips off the ground.

 

Reach-overs from bridge to the right

Reach-overs from bridge to the right

 

Reach-overs from bridge to the left

Reach-overs from bridge to the left

 

–Then I did a shrimping drill, where you’re on your back with your knees bent, pushing yourself backward with your legs and rolling over into a V shape on your side before rolling back and pushing off for the next one on the other side.* This works your core and legs. When doing it as an actual technique, it’s a hip escape.

*Apologies for the awkward description. Not my strong suit, describing exercises. THIS IS BECAUSE I’M NOT A TRAINER.

 

Shrimping drill

Shrimping drill

 

–Then I spent some time moving around the dummy, staying low while touching, grabbing, switching directions, et cetera. Just some basic grappling conditioning. This is great for lower body strength.

 

Hello, dummy!

Hello, dummy!

 

Lower body work on the MMA dummy

Lower body work on the MMA dummy

 

Maneuvering around the bag

Maneuvering around the bag

 

Switching direction

Switching direction

 

And here’s the silly but traditional walking-back pic.

 

Walking back

Walking back

 

Totally enjoyed this workout. Totally felt it the next day, and I still feel it! I think my abs and traps are shot for the week.

LUCHA LIBRE! It’s what’s for entertainment (the night before your birthday).

Lucha Libre – Mexican wrestling – has to be the most colorful and entertaining type of combat sport I know. Like all wrestlers, a luchador is an athlete and an entertainer rolled into one. Luchadores are known for wearing masks. They’re known for launching themselves into the air. Lucha Libre is hella fun to watch!

A Mexican cultural tradition, it’s natural to see Lucha Libre in Arizona. When a $5.00 ticket deal for a Lucha Libre event at a local venue hit my inbox last week, I snapped up a couple and asked Callaghan after the fact (if he wanted to go). I suspected he’d love it, so I just went for it, thinking I could justify my impulsive decision with the It’s my birthday weekend and this is what I want to do reasoning. The event was on Saturday night. My birthday was on Sunday. Luckily, Callaghan was stoked about our impromptu plans. Lucha Libre tickets five bucks each!

So we headed over to the AZ Event Center on Saturday night, and today I’m coming at you with another gazillion images. I took the interior pics from my seat and with my cell phone, as usual, so the usual disclaimer about the photo quality applies. I wanted to capture the personalities of the luchadores and the fun they were having!

 

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

[TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but... Lucha Libre!!

Me with Callaghan on my birthday eve at the AZ Event Center. We were tired, but… Lucha Libre!!

 

From Bout 1:

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Strolling around the audience…

 

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 2 (Las mujeres! – female bout):

 

Bout 2 - Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 – Las mujeres! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 2 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 3 (two Mexican dudes vs. two American dudes):

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexico duo vs. United States duo! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing Mexico:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Representing the United States:

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 – Mexicans in green, Americans in black shorts [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

(These two were the only Americans on the fight card.)

 

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador!

 

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Mr-Mexico Luchador, end of Bout 3 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

From Bout 4 (tag teams – trios):

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 1:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Team 2:

 

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 4 [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Loved these guys!

We picked up a free poster on our way out:

 

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Great night of Lucha Libre! [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

I did capture some high-flying action shots, but with the technical limitations of the cell phone camera, they’re not great – some luchadores came out blurry, while others were straight-up unidentifiable blurs.

Okay, I’ll include a few of them, because why not! These are all from the first bout:

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

INCOMING!

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

And…

 

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 - Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Bout 1 – Action [TALC at Duelo de Dominacon LUCHA LIBRE, AZ Event Center, 2015]

Ka-BAAM.

Also, here’s a short video clip of the bout between the Mexican duo and the American duo, which Callaghan let me post on his YouTube channel:

 

 

The Americans are the ones wearing shorts. They ended up winning, by the way.

Awesome night of entertainment!