I had the opportunity to train martial arts in the early 1970s, throughout the 80s, 90s, 2000s…until now. I have seen so much change and so much stay the same and it’s funny how things eventually come “full-circle.”

These days there are martial arts traditionalists who do styles such as Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, etc. and then there are Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) which is at this time a sport more than a style. There are new schools popping up that teach MMA as a style itself and not a specific system although they are a mixture of many traditional styles.

The past 10 years I have been very fortunate to train with 10th degree Grand Master John Hackleman and have studied his system of Hawaiian Kempo and also Luigi Mondelli 4th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Hitsu. I have trained alongside many famous and not so famous highly skilled martial artists who many refer to as MMA practitioners.

Some of these guys and gals fight in the UFC and have fought in Pride and K1. These athletes in this sport fight for the UFC and are some of the most disciplined martial artists I’ve ever known.

They back up their talk with action.

This group of athletes I have trained with are professionals. It’s nice to see martial artists with a true understanding of the skills necessary for the sport of MMA and the life of a martial artist: diet and nutrition, fitness, sports performance training. And of course they have a true Master to give mental guidance along the way. Many MMA fighters and their coaches uphold the traditional values of martial arts.  

Not all MMA fighters are professionally trained to be an athlete.  Not all traditional martial artists are taught by qualified instructors.  There is good and bad in all types of martial arts training, styles and sport.  There is so much opportunity these days for the athletes to live as a professional fighter get paid for it and take care of their families. The guys I know do not do it for the money but because they live by the Bushido way as a warrior.

Those who have turned away from all that is traditional to be a “cage fighter” have lost the very thing they may need to set them apart from all the other cookie-cutter fighters out there. At the lower levels I have seen a lack of discipline that is important to a Martial Artist. Things such as flexibility, breath control, a high skill at kicking, understanding footwork, fighting theories and strategies are essential for a martial artist whether she competes or not. I see so many wanna-be cage fighters lack the patience and disciple to manifest these skills. So many want to kick the bag hard, bully others and talk tough but lack the Morals and Ethics it takes to be a true martial artist. There is a difference between a martial artist and one who just fights.

It takes more than putting on board shorts, NHB gloves, a UFC shirt and maybe a few tattoos to be a skilled fighter.

I like how Chuck Liddell represented Hawaiian Kempo and Lyoto Machida represents Karate in the UFC. I have had the opportunity to meet both of them through my teacher and they are true martial artists. The fact is that many young men have been raised watching the UFC.  I grew up watching Shaw Brothers Kung Fu movies and the “Karate Kid.” So many young men have been brainwashed to think traditional styles are useless and only MMA will work. All the traditional styles have something to offer. Respect is a must among martial artists both in the world of sport and on the street.

What is a “traditionalist”? What is modern one day is tradition the next. Who decides what is traditional? I hear people in the martial arts world separate themselves by saying they are a traditional martial artist and others systems are this or that as if they were sub-par. It reminds me of religion and how it tends to separate people. It’s not the style that makes the man; it’s the man who makes the style. I also see too many people become slaves to titles and rank. Is it the style or the rank that makes one a great martial artist? Is it styles that separate people or is it the people within the style separating each other?

The beauty of the sport of MMA is how martial artists take what other styles have to offer; train it and then test it in combat.  This is a sign of respect for other styles and teachers. I love what 7 Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu has to offer, but I also know the power of other styles and training methods. Have you ever wrestled with an Olympic Wrestler, played hands with a Kung Fu man, rolled with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt or boxed with a Professional Boxer? Respect is an important part of traditional martial arts and should be practiced both inside and outside of the school.

What makes one a martial artist? Past successes, self proclaimed rank, stories of the old days?
Or is it what you are doing everyday no matter what your age, story or injury is? You are what you do!
I have heard people say weightlifting makes a martial artist slow and effects his flexibility. It is important to educate yourself on Olympic Lifting, Sports Performance Training and CrossPit before you make this decision. Martial artists are power-speed athletes. The benefits of weight lifting along with Qigong are powerful. Iron body training along with stretching is a must. I am a practitioner of old school and new school; I make my own decisions based on trust and results. I make it a point to train with the best in the world. Make up your own mind what martial arts training is revelvant for your life and decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.  
It is a saying in martial arts, that if you are attacked, that is a question, and you need to have an answer to that question.  Do you have an answer? Be truthful with yourself and your students and never lose your “beginners mind.”
“The foundation of strategy is knowledge (zhi), but the base of knowledge is listening to others, especially those with outside viewpoints. You must continually open yourself to new ideas that come in from outside your normal channels of information. This new information is the source of opportunity (li).” – Sun Tzu
– Jeff Hughes