There has been a rising trend over the past decade for people who practice MMA or are fans of UFC-style competitions to criticize the Bujinkan’s techniques and training methods. This page briefly addresses a few of these criticisms, but this is not a full comprehensive examination of all aspects of MMA or the Bujinkan. The information on the website relates to the Bujinkan Kocho Dojo only. Other Bujinkan dojo may have different views.
I have heard that MMA/UFC style fighting superior to old Samurai and Ninja martial arts. Is that true?
The UFC-style fights are impressive to those who are new to martial arts, or have not had the benefit of training in the battlefield martial arts of Japan, but this is really a case of comparing apples and oranges.
You should understand the difference between sport contests between strong-men who are engaging in a contest, struggling to have a fair competition that will entertain the audience. Traditional warrior arts are not entertaining to watch and should end pretty quickly, relying upon what sports would consider ‘cheating’ and weapons to gain an advantage.
MMA is well-suited to the rules of UFC competitions, but not as well-suited to the lack of rules in combat, nor to weapons fighting. Yes, most of the time any martial arts skills can work in a pinch against untrained criminals. However, our methods of unarmed combat are designed to work when attacked by armed opponents, not just unarmed, and we don’t want to change the training for sports since that would water-down the effectiveness of the skills with regards to weapons.
Much like Sumo, the rules of UFC are in favor of stronger guys. Because size and strength was a consistent deciding factor, the UFC had to implement weight categories, like other sports. This makes for a more even playing field that is the basis of good entertaining sporting events, but it is an unrealistic crutch for real world combat.
The UFC rules require MMA guys to rely upon raw strength too much, and so the training methods emphasize getting as big and strong as possible. This might be OK for pro to semi-pro athletes, but most people in the real world cannot afford the time and money required for such a high level of physical training. Big muscles will give you an advantage in the ring, but that does not always translate into an advantage on the street. There are no weight categories that criminals recognize and you are likely to be attacked by someone much larger and stronger than yourself. A knife will cut through big muscles just as well as through smaller ones and sticks will break bones no matter how much weight lifting an attacker may have done in prison.
We don’t ‘work harder’ at fighting, relying on big muscles to struggle with our opponents. We work smarter, developing our perception and using superior techniques to gain advantage, no matter how strong our opponent is or how weak we are (sickness, wounds, old age). And yes, this means using methods that would be thought of as ‘cheating’ in sporting contests: weapons, ‘dirty fighting’ by attacking targets like the eyes, groin, neck, etc., and using tricks and the environment to gain advantage.
Imagine the MMA guys wrestling with each other when one of them or his friend pulls out a knife. It’s not wise to wrestle in close with people stabbing you with knives, nor against multiple opponents. We are more concerned with the wide range of possible weapon attacks than in fair sporting competitions, and that is reflected in everything we do including unarmed combat.
Why do so many MMA/UFC style guys criticize the training methods of the Bujinkan and for its lack of sport?
They have a sport-oriented view of martial arts and do not really understand our methods. MMA is good for what it is designed for, but it is not good for what we do. The way you train day in day out is going to determine how you react in real situations, so if you consistently train to fight fair and use muscle strength only to over-come opponents you had better hope that you don’t get attacked by anyone who is stronger or faster than you or who will not recognize your rules.
Sport techniques and training methods are not as reliable against weapons situations. The MMA/UFC crowd often criticizes the Bujinkan on the internet for not having competitions, but that’s not quite true. We don’t have sport, but we do fight, we just do so with weapons and no rules.
One should not expect boxers and medieval knights to train in the same ways, but someone who is unaware of the best techniques and training methods for knights will not understand that boxing training is not well suited for it.
It is truly a case of comparing apples and oranges, and it is no different than trying to compare boxing to SWAT teams and wrestlers to Seal teams. CIA vs. The MMA would be no contest, no sport. In real combat you do not want a sport, going toe to toe round after round to prove who is the tougher man, you want to end the situation as quickly as possible with minimum risk of injury to yourself.
Would it seem likely that the MMA/UFC champs would defeat a warrior armed with sword, knife, and various other weapons? Common sense would have them pick up weapons as well, and instead of wrestling they would discover that the techniques of the Bujinkan are the ones that would be successful and reliable.
There will be no end to the debate over sport-based training vs. battlefield-based training, and in the end it is up to the individual to decide what he or she wants to spend their time doing and what the ultimate goals are. Are you looking for sport or traditional training?
Sure, both can be used for self-defense, but it is a matter of pairing the right approach to the intended goals. If you want sport, if you want to prove how tough you are in strong-man contests, then you should not waste time with Bujinkan style training. If you are primarily concerned about defending yourself in life and death situations, if you recognize the value of ‘cheating’ because the criminals who would take your life won’t play fair, then I suggest you look into a style such as the Bujinkan.
What about the claims that sport competition gives a person a mental ‘edge’ in real fights?
I am not an expert in MMA so I do not know the intricacies of their outlook, but from the outside it appears to most traditional martial artists that the MMA/UFC crowd has more of a bad attitude than a mental edge. The tough guy ‘bad boy’ F.U. attitude might be fine in prison, but it is no way to live in society. The competitions only serve to build the egos of these guys, and although there are certainly exceptions, the MMA guys mostly come off as little more than street-level gang-bangers who have organized themselves into fighting clubs. I see no evidence of their mental edge.
Traditional martial arts in Asia were influenced by the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism to greater or lesser degree. Despite the minor differences in details, the traditional martial arts strive to develop the spirit of individual practitioner, fostering a sense of humility rather than bragging egos. This was not just considered philosophically wise, but also battlefield smart.
A warrior who is motivated into gaining victory to boost his ego, and who is often fueled by anger and greed, will eventually be blinded by the allure of these illusory things and find that he has taken too much risk, throwing away not only the chance of victory but his life as well. Victory becomes like a drug to feed their egos. History is full of such people, and their eventual downfall. Likely we will see their mistakes repeated over and over again in the future. This is OK in the rings or ‘cages’ where the only result is some bruises and a bruised ego, but in real fighting the stakes are higher and the results of anger fueled rash actions can often be fatal.
A humble spirit that is free from the illusory quest to build their ego will be much more level-headed in combat, more analogous to the eye of a hurricane, empty of the blinding effects of rage and hatred, and more capable of seeing things as they truly are. Then the proper course of action for survival becomes clearer, whether that path goes through victory, retreat, or defeat.
Most of the UFC/MMA crowd seems to be more like enraged bulls than wise men. Anger is their way, and it will lead them to their ruin eventually, even if just in small ways every day of their lives. Negative energy creates and attracts more negative energy, and those that follow that path will find themselves trapped by negative energy.