Did You Know That Bruce Lee is One of the Founding Fathers of MMA?
From Bruce Lee to the UFC
Now for those of you who haven't heard of it, MMA is the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. This is a form of competitive fighting not restricted by specific fighting style or discipline. If you've not heard of MMA you will almost definitely have heard of Cage Fighting and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships). It has gained popularity now globally as the most watched full contact sport, even overtaking Boxing.
Whilst some may associate MMA with brutality, I of all people understand the deeper meaning of the acronym, which has arguably defined my life. I have studied a variety of Martial Arts since the age of 4, always training in a mixture of them.
At one point I was pursuing a career as a Professional Mixed Martial Artist and it comes as no surprise that I had a large poster of Bruce Lee on my wall who was one of my personal heroes. The way he spoke about Martial Arts mirrored my father and the way he always taught me. Which was that Martial Arts has a spiritual aspect but it is also about practicality, combining knowledge of different styles in the best way.
Fun Fact: The reason why MMA fights are held in a cage, besides the reason of creating a spectacle for the viewer, is that any combination of Martial Arts styles can be used, including different forms of grappling. This therefore protects the fighters, keeping them within the fighting space where a ring is impractical.
Cage Fighting as an event first came into existence with the birth of the UFC in November 1993. The root of it was questioning which style of fighting was the best. By matching up fighters of different backgrounds, e.g. a Boxer against a Wrestler, who would be the Ultimate fighter? The UFC was formed as a result of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) master Rorion Gracie and a car salesman Art Davie having a conversation along those lines. The UFC from there did end up putting BJJ on the map, a sport that was relatively unknown at that time in the States. Who can forget Royce Gracie's historic defeat of Ken Shamrock in the first ever UFC event via Rear-Naked-Choke?
However the actual sport of MMA is simply the art of combining different Martial Arts styles and techniques in a way that far more closely resembles "real combat". The seeds of this idea were set long before the UFC came into existence. When it comes to this act of mixing styles, Bruce Lee was the king and arguably one of the true pioneers.
He developed his own Martial Art, Jeet Kune Do, which translates to "Way of the Intercepting Fist". It is a hybrid style that incorporates Fencing, Boxing and Kung Fu. Bruce Lee was a Martial Artist at a time when most Martial Artists were purists, bound by their one style, thinking their own was the best. Bruce Lee meticulously studied various different Martial Arts and wasn't afraid to combine their different elements into what was most effective.
Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.
This quote more or less sums up Bruce's Martial Arts philosophy but also Mixed Martial Arts and what it means to be an MMA fighter. I would really recommend getting Bruce Lee's book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, for anyone who wants to gain a deeper insight into his way of thinking and fighting. This book combines accurate descriptions of techniques, fight and training sequences as well as delving deep into the philosophy behind it all. It is a collection of Bruce's personal insights, knowledge and views on the subject. He frames Martial Arts not just as an activity but a way of life and a state of mind.
The MMA Gloves
So for those of you who do watch MMA, you will know what the gloves look like. Nowadays, they tend to leave the lower half of the fingers free for greater mobility, but do you recall ever having seen something like them before?
You can't call yourself a Bruce Lee fan if you haven't seen his 1973 film 'Enter the Dragon'. There is a scene where Bruce can be seen wearing Kempo style gloves with clear similarities to the gloves MMA fighters wear today. They have less padding than boxing gloves, with mobility for the fingers that would allow not just strikes but also grappling, essential in MMA. Just another way in which Bruce Lee can definitely be named an inspiration for the sport.
So as you can see, in multiple ways it is clear how the legacy of Bruce Lee extends to competitive combat today and how he can definitely be claimed as one of the founding fathers of the incredible sport that is MMA.
I hope you learned something new today and enjoyed this article, feel free to drop a like if you did. Follow me on Twitter for more and if you want to get in contact.