on the martial arts status of mixed martial arts: 'There are no rules'

In Jason Holt & Marc Ramsay (eds.), The Philosophy of Mixed Martial Arts: Squaring the Octagon. Routledge. pp. 16-29 (2021)
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Abstract

Many traditional martial artists assert that MMA is not a martial art, denying that the ‘martial skill’ of MMA constitutes a ‘martial art’, and citing the sportive and entertainment aspects of MMA competitions as antithetical to the spirit of martial arts, lacking the integrity, discipline, and tradition found in martial arts. Today, these criticisms are even more relevant in light of the fact that the typical MMA fighter no longer practices a single discipline but is versed in a variety of techniques and utilizes a variety of strength and conditioning modalities. In addition, with the development of social media and mainstream media’s acceptance of MMA as a legitimate sport, MMA is now more than ever about entertainment. We argue that MMA is a martial art, but it is not always practiced as one. By drawing upon Socrates’ distinction in Plato’s Gorgias between ‘knacks’ and ‘crafts’, we clarify the difference between ‘martial skills’ and ‘martial arts’. Using this distinction, we examine whether the sportive and entertainment aspects of MMA are, in fact, antithetical to the spirit of martial arts. We argue that the latter is, but the former is not.

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Nicholas Baima
Florida Atlantic University
Sarah Malanowski
Florida Atlantic University

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