Letter to Editor 2007 - Ottawa Citizen: MMA Explained


Morgan Duchesney: 2007

MMA is a Great Sport But it is Not a Martial Art

I’m writing in response to today’s Ottawa Citizen article on MMA or what is erroneously called mixed martial arts. Before I write another word, I must say that I have great respect for the people who participate in this demanding sport. However, it is a combat sport, not a martial art. Since MMA has no supporting spiritual philosophy or moral code it cannot qualify as a genuine martial art, at least not in the traditional Oriental sense. To avoid confusion in my writing, I will continue to use the term MMA in this letter, although MFS (Mixed Fighting Systems) might be a more accurate term.

The competitive and recreational activity popularly called mixed MMA is a rule-bound sport based on combining the techniques of several martial arts like Jujutsu, Karate, Judo, Russian Sambo, and sports like Western boxing and various types of wrestling. While there is a strong likihood that many of the competitors are experienced and introspective martial artists it is not an intrinsic element of MMA.

MMA has become hugely popular largely because of the Ultimate Fighting Competitions (UFC) and the popular perception that it is the ultimate reality-based fighting experience. The fact that MMA embraces all elements of hand-to-hand fighting with the sensible prohibition of biting, eye gouging, testicle-squeezing does create the conditions for a sporting contest that closely resembles the reality of a one-on-one street fight.

My objection to the use of the term martial art in this context is based on my strong suspision that it is an intentional marketing ploy designed to exploit the mystique of traditional Oriental martial arts like Chinese Quanfa (the proper name for “Kung Fu”), Okinawan/Japanese Karate etc.. The use of this term misleads most people who understandably, are not privy to the history and anthropology of martial arts. As a serious martial artist with an interest in reality-based self-defense, I care deeply about public perceptions of martial arts and martial artists. I have spent the last 16 years studying and teaching the techniques, moral philosophy and history/anthopology of Karate and I enjoy a reasonable amount of respect in my small circle of like-minded peers. Concerning the morality/philosophy of martial arts, noted Canadian Karate teacher and researecher Patrick McCarthy said in 2003,

“ For the same reason one would never trust a loaded weapon to immoral hands, so too did the early pioneers of this [Karate] tradition believe that embracing a body of moral philosophy to govern the ethical behaviour of those who mastered its brutal secrets superseded learning to fight.”