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Are we ready to rumble? Last Friday we probably found out.

One of the biggest MMA events in Philippine history was staged by ONE FC last Friday, May 31, at the Mall of Asia Arena. MMA has really gone a long way since its days in the early 90s. These were the memorable fights involving Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock in their prime. During those days, it was not yet a widely accepted sport. In fact, during those days, a lot of people were skeptical that it would prosper. They thought it was too crude and the seemingly no rule combat sport was too much in your face that it turned off a lot of people’s sensibilities.

If you look at where it is now, a lot of people were wrong.

Early this afternoon, I was discussing this with a friend of mine whom I have known from our Karate days. Yes you heard me right – our Karate days. In those days, which were more than 15 years ago, Karatedo was one of few martial arts that was popular and accepted publicly. Nowadays, Karate is confined to a specific community of people who still find this art timeless and ever relevant. They remain very much committed to this art.  If you look from the outside with enough understanding of what goes on within the numerous Karatedo organizations that are still very much alive, you see a very diverse group of people spanning very wide age groups from children all the way to your grandfather, probably. It is like a cult in terms of following. It is very much alive, indeed, but very much niche as well.

As my friend and I were talking about our AAK (association for the Advancement of Karatedo)  days where we both started and the journey that sees us eventually settling within JKA ( Japan Karate Association), we ended up talking about the possibility of Karatekas deciding to plunge into the MMA arena. MMA in the Philippines is not as mature as it is in the United States as a sport but in popularity, it is probably comparable. I’ve been to so many different gyms – Elorde, Mojo, Spartacus to name a few – and I am amazed with the interest level for MMA. It’s a totally different world now in as far as martial arts is concerned.

Lyoto Machida, who himself is a Japan Karate Association disciple, is doing very well in the UFC. How about in the Philippines? I am not very sure how many karatekas are around in the URCC, PXC, Fearless and even ONE FC. Chances are, they not very many. And so, what if? Let us take a look at the psosibilities in the important areas of the game.

Striking. I would rate karatekas to be very high in this area. This is their strength and they are trained not to prolong the fight. With one striking technique, whether a gyaku zuki (reverse punch) or mawashi geri (round house kick) that lands cleanly can turn the lights off early in the night for the recipient.

Submission. This is probably missing in the arsenal. Although there are die hard karate fanatics who will argue that submission techniques can be found in higher katas and is also trained, I have seen enough to say that itis deficient.

Take downs. A bit tricky here. Obviously Karate is more of a striking martial art rather that the techniques we see in wrestling. However, Judo techniques are also within the Karate system. The assessment I would give here is that the karateka will probably do well if sweeps were allowed. It’s a favorite technique and quite effective. In professional MMA, however, this is restricted.

Mental Strength. As in any competition, we need to factor it in. It’s actually hard to gauge whether the karateka has an edge. As popularly known, karate is as every bit mental and spiritual as physical. However, most MMA fighters have martial arts background too that gives them that essential mental sharpness and spirituality.

To conclude the “what if” and in consideration of everything said above, I would say that the MMA is a different animal and anybody who thinks of getting into the cage would need specialized MMA training. It has its own keys to success and techniques that are effective within the MMA rules. It’s not street fighting folks. They have rules too. That takes a lot of familiarity and it can spell the difference between winning and losing.

That being said, I would still love to see a Filipino karateka duke it out in the cage. It will still be interesting. I would pay to see that.

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