Friday, February 25, 2011

Mixed Martial 'Archaeology'

The following article was written by Coach Trevor Wilcox of Intercept International.

Intercept International is a Hong Kong-based self-defense and reality-based martial arts training provider. They now hold the exclusive distribution right for all Hoplite Training Armour™ is East-Asia.

Coach Wilcox has been training in the martial arts for more than 20 years and teaching for 10 years. He holds a third-degree black belt in Hapkido, a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and a first rank in Jeet Kune Do. Mr Wilcox has also cross-trained in multiple other systems including Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Wing Chun and the Filipino Martial Arts, and further continues to research various systems in order to continue to deliver cutting-edge self-defense training.

Mixed Martial 'Archaeology'
Digging up the functional remains of traditional martial arts for the street

The MMA paradigm has firmly been planted in the minds of the general populace who have come to see the sport as the testing and proving ground for the validity of martial tactics. And certainly the context of MMA has provided a platform for the 'survival of the fittest', or most effective, of the martial arts in the context of MMA. The MMA game can be phased into three separate but interconnecting games: stand-up, clinch and ground. The various arts that have proven themselves most effective in these areas include Muay Thai and Boxing in the stand-up game, Greco-Roman and Judo in the clinch, and Brazilian Jujitsu and Sambo on the ground. Various other arts are beginning to also make some guest appearances, for instance, Lyoto Machida's Karate in the stand-up game, but by and large, Muay Thai and Boxing still dominate this part of MMA. Other arts, which for convenience I'll call the 'classical arts' (in the sense of the arts of yesteryear), arts such as Wing Chun, Hap Ki Do, Kali, Silat, even Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, have not fared so well. The argument is often heard that the techniques are too dangerous to practice in sparring, or that the art was not designed for sport. The counter argument is if the techniques cannot be practiced in sparring, then they cannot be tested, and therefore the techniques are merely theoretical. This is as opposed to the generic MMA mix, whereby all the pre-eminent arts have their practitioners practice and perfect their skills through sparring, and only tactics that have a high success rate are absorbed while the others are rejected.

Function is Contextual
So far, I've been describing the context of MMA, and the general view or consensus that it is the best forum to validate the skills of any particular art. However, convention is not the same as the truth. As my parents told me when I was a kid, if everybody else jumped off the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it doesn't mean that you have to too.

Everything about MMA is real, tried and tested. It is a fantastic method of personal development, developing real combative attributes and skills. However, MMA is just one combative context that happens to hone very well a portion of the total combative toolbox. If we expand the parameters of MMA beyond stand-up, clinch and ground, by introducing concealed weapons into the game that could be drawn whenever the carrier has the opportunity and inclination this would change the game. Introduce multiple opponents; this would also change the game. Introduce environmental obstacles, introduce role-playing such that not every confrontation starts off by touching gloves, waiting for the referee's signal and then finding a rhythm; a confrontation might begin while you're walking down a busy street and you accidentally shoulder bump someone who was having a bad day and he starts to mouth off. All of these variables culminate in one conclusive point: we have a whole new combative context, which sure, MMA forms a sub-context of, but there's much more that needs to be addressed in training, if for example, you are a coach that is training civilians for the context of self-protection, or security personnel for the context of control and restraint. Within the context that you're training for, you then need to address the issue of appropriateness. Besides use-of-force policies, there is also the issue of trained habit. Benny Urquidez once said what you'll train is what you'll do. If you practice submissions in the context of MMA, then attempt to apply the same submissions as a security officer when most submissions in MMA occur on the ground, it just seems silly to think that a security officer would look to restrain and remove a patron from a club with a standard MMA submission, from his back. There are more appropriate options, options that may not be present in MMA because you would get knocked out if you tried it. In another context, however, such as the security context described above, a gooseneck wrist lock from various classical Jujitsu / Aikido / Hap Ki Do systems works a treat.

Enter Mixed Martial 'Archaeology'
The commonly acknowledged problem of most classical systems is that the training methods are antiquated and the skills taught are not based on a realistic stimulus. Take Aikido for instance; many of the techniques are executed in response to an attacked based on movements of the Japanese sword. This might be translatable into any modern two-handed weapon attack such as a crowbar, but the dynamics and body mechanics of how the Japanese sword is used and how a thug might swing a crowbar at your head are more than just a little different. This is not to single out Aikido; many, if not most, martial arts practice their skills against attacks that bear little resemblance to a street attack. Instead, Wing Chun guys practice with Wing Chun guys, and end up getting really good at the chess game of Wing Chun. An element of what Coach Tony Torres of Functional Edge MMA calls "Assymetry" is needed, such that Wing Chun guys (to continue with the previous example) should practice using their art against "street attacks" and in various everyday scenarios, such as the shoulder bump example described earlier. In such training, it is critical to practice making contact so that it is not a foreign experience should shit ever really hit the fan. Integrating protective gear in scenario training, gear such as the Hoplite Training Armour by Spartan that allows for realistic mobility, is critical in pressure testing your tactics. Over time, through pressure testing, you will realize your higher percentage 'entry tactics', those that allow you to go hands on as soon as possible, are those that are gross motor, and you will have a much easier time then transitioning to the other parts of your art that are complex motor skills after you go hands on. This is the essence of what I have dubbed Mixed Martial Archaeology; testing and proving tactics from classical arts deemed non-functional in the cage through scenario training.

Intercept International website:

Trevor Wilcox's bio:


  1. Very cool article Trev! Thanks for posting it Marc

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