Sunday, November 3, 2013

Revisiting Tang Soo Do vs MMA

In October of 2009, I wrote a blog entry about Tang Soo Do and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It has turned out to be one of the top two most read entries ever posted here. A few of the comments I received were actually suitable for displaying in a family-friendly venue. The others I um, er... "moderated" out.

As some would say, "I seem to have struck a nerve."

For the record, I fully stand behind everything I wrote, which I can summarize as follows:

  • All of the martial arts have their value, especially when the training regiment is examined
  • Effective fighters have matched the elements of the art to the persona of the artist

At no time did I state or imply that Tang Soo Do is better than martial art "X". Although I may have to temper that a bit as ... apparently ... some proponents of MMA seem to get offended easily. Is it that MMA training causes easily-offended-syndrom (doubtful) or rather that some easily offended people happen to practice MMA and occasionally reply to bloggers (likely).

I would proffer that good MMA style fighters carry a certain confidence that they don't need to tell others to "put their money where their mouth is" and describe TSD as "outmoded thinking", or having "over reliance on Hyung."

Let me be clear (and quote from the earlier posting):
Tang Soo Do is, and is taught as, a very traditional martial art. Low stances, lots of repetition, hard blocking style, good breathing, and fundamental body movements. We routinely practice (read that as "reinforce to the point of instinct") strikes to the groin, temple, throat, spine, and joints. In a real self defense scenario, these will come forth without hesitation or thought. Does this make Tang Soo Do better than MMA, or Judo, or Boxing? Tang Soo Do works; it is effective. I'm not sure, beyond that, that there is any value in comparisons, except for the other bullet point above. 
Tang Soo Do is a defensive art. We don't teach how to sneak into a hardened bunker and kill people. We teach how to defend - true, our philosophy is that even a defensive move can disable an attacker (referred to as Defense / Strike ). We also emphasize Il Kyuk Pil Sal, or one technique to finish, i.e. each block or strike should be so effective as to end the conflict. For me, a defensive art fits my psychology as I don't envision ever wanting to be an attacker. The best martial art is one that you'll actually use, if the time ever comes.
Never, not once, did the previous posting suggest that TSD was better than any other art. I know that TSD is effective and it fits my personality. If you prefer a more attacking style of martial art; go for it.

Maybe you find using your opponent's aggression and body mass against them; great, learn Judo.

Maybe you prefer a defensive strategy where you don't need to be anywhere near an attacker. One word; Gun. Grapple with that!

To my readers and friends who admire, practice, and endorse MMA; I have no argument with you. A few MMA proponents read my earlier post and found it to be confrontational and challenging. I hope they find peace and comfort through their training.


  1. M. Merdedith complains above about having to moderate certain comments from MMA protagonists when challenging the legitimacy of traditional TSD. Here's my commentary on the MMA vs. Karate, let's say TSD 'outrage.'

    MMA competitors want to pick a good or best fighting styles 'cause they want to win, hopefully attain the championship belt. So they want to be right. Karate practitioners who actively compete do too. Should they pick TSD, over say Shotokan?

    The conflict arises when the audience goes from wanting to be right (legitimate) to wanting to be the ONE who's right (purely self serving). Because MMA draws a crowd that is attracted to physical violence or physical conflict and which often has an aggressive personality (natural fighting is by definition, "aggressive,") we can so expect attacks on those who differ from the conventional MMA mindset.

    Traditional karate schools of all ilk suffer from the same as described above too. I have been actively dissuaded or even asked to leave from traditional karate schools because I questioned the training regimen.

    Well, although I'm not a top athlete, I believe the aim of traditional karate is to make one a tough competitor. AND SO, I have no trouble at all about laying down the gauntlet and stating that TSD is superior to MMA. IN fact, all of traditional karate, any style, is superior to MMA.

    FURTHERMORE, I have no trouble in challenging any traditional karate student or teacher for them to be sure they are practicing true to standards. Otherwise, Mr. MMA will kick your butt. The last traditional karate school in my area that I visited was in fact TSD. The young man instructor, I believe a 2nd degree black belt,gave me a private lesson whereupon he demonstrated how he could dominate me using a Muay-Thai like stalking approach along with the high hands MT guard, punch me in face very fast.

    As I didn't resist much, he stopped, quite pleased with his fighting acumen. What he didn't realize is that some years ago, I had defeated his "Master" in an in class sparring session, which got progressively rougher as I continued to frustrate the Master.

    Of course, I wasn't running a school with hundreds of students. The way to be right is to objectively evaluate the fighting styles. THEN TRAIN PROPERLY.

    I, myself, have no doubt that the vociferous MMA'r who trained under CSKim and another CSKim Master Bruno,? then claimed he knew all about TSD and how it didn't work in MMA, in fact, wanted to be the one who was right.


    I feel M. Meredith deserves credit for broaching the MMA vs. TMA controversy. The MMA protagonists, in response, threw down the gauntlet.

    I would also love to see that vid, as the MMA critic of karate requested, of M. Meredith or another C.S. Kim instructor take on an MMA instructor in an MMA match.

    FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, though, M. Meredith doesn't need to engage in a full contact MMA match to make his case. His career accomplishments the @ C.S.Kim organization and Tang Soo Do which are more than apparent on this blog--he's already made the competency -grade, IMHO.

    So for my money, so to speak, I'd like to see M. Meredith continue to write on TMA in MMA. There's dearth of qualified TMA practitioners doing so; and so M.Meredith's competency, if unconsciously, has stepped in to fill the void.

    But let's leave out the spinal shots and groin strikes from the equation. I look at the controversy this way.

    Mr. MMA / Kickboxer / BJJ guy comes at me--what do I do to win the fight? Basically, I want to KO the guy. So, what do I do?

    This Saturday @ UFC 178, Wonderboy Thompson (American Kenpo base) takes on Patrick Cote (conventional MMA base). What would a Tang Soo Master have to say in post-fight commentary--Karate Base vs. MMA?

  3. UFC 178 Preliminary Card Result:

    Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson (karate base) 3 Rd win over Patrick "the Predator" Cote (conventional MMA) by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).

    MMA commentators credited Wonderboy's win on mobility, speed, technical striking, and improved Take-down Defense.

  4. Right after that fight...

    Jorge Masvidal (conventional MMA) 3 Rd win over James Krause (karate base) by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)

    1. James Krause RE Loss (Karate):

      My net research turned up Krause's style as "kickboxing."

      Be that as it may. here are a couple of "Karate Sins" Krause committed @ UFC 178:

      1. Defense over-reliant on backing up & evasion.
      2. Lack of commitment in strikes.
      3. Thowing out single / simple technique rather than tactics.
      4. Predominance of boxing strikes such as Jab.

      Masvidal, who was the reported favorite, is known for his aggression. Traditional karate is designed to handle aggression. If Krause has a karate base as you say, I didn''t see it @ UFC 178.

      There's lots taking karate lessons and getting killed in MMA. That's a fact. One is Wonderboy's previous UFC opponent, Robert Whittaker, reputed to have a black-belt in karate. Whitaker, a very strong athlete, fought Wonderboy with rudimentary boxing (IMO) and got destroyed.

      The whole thrust of M. Mereidth's blog is the depth of training to produce bona fide karate skill. We want to see how karate done well stands up in MMA, not just glittering generalities about what the MMA community understands is karate.

  5. Tang Soo Do vs. MMA Revisited: FIGHT NIGHT 58--LYOTO MACHIDA VS. C.B. DOLLOWAY.

    Round 1, Machida demolishes C.B Dolloway in little over 60 seconds. SEE Y/T FOR HIGHLIGHTS. The MMA Community appears to consider Dolloway a tough fighter, rounded in striking & wrestling. The MMA community was also vastly in favor of Machida winning.

    It shouldn't be surprising that Machida showed Dolloway no mercy. ...After Machida basically played defense (a losing one) against WEidman for the 1st 3 rounds @ UFC 175. IN the process, Weidman beat up Machida pretty well and Machida got panned for being passive.

    What happened to Dolloway, who the MMA community generally ruled was outclassed? The MMA community and many, many sport karate fighters fight with a boxing guard or kyokushin hands up type guard. They pan the traditional karate guard at leaving the head exposed.

    So Dolloway followed Boxing / MMA convention and kept his hands up. That's (partly) what happened.

    Doesn't M. Meredith have a post on "Defense / Strike?" Another video post on Block-Strike too? I like the Ex-TSD stylist who stated to M.Meredith that TSD doesn't work against MMA.

    My advice to C. B. Dolloway. Try TSD under M. Meredith. Allow 3-5 years. Your MMA / boxing just got run over by a TRUCK--Lyoto Machida's Shotokan-based sport karate style.


    There is very good analysis of the Machida / Dolloway fight on MMA boards. I want to expand to say that the kickboxer's hands up guard is not as faulty as I indicate above. The hands-up guard works.

    Havings said that, the hands-up guard utterly failed Dolloway. Dolloways' post fight remarks he makes clear that he was coached so that Machida didn't hit his head--and he operated on this assumption.

    Dolloway is a good athlete & has good reactions. He did try to make the proper use of the hands up guard to intercept Machida's kick. He dropped his elbow tucked in to absorb the kick. Too Slow, not by much, but in effect WAY TOO SLOW.

    Here's where the mental fighting of traditional karate comes in. Dolloway presumed & his coaches warned, protect the vulnerable head. C.B followed through. We want to replace Dolloway's cornerman--with the Shotokan term, Zanshin.

    M. Meredith religiously talks repetitious drills, here the relevant one is block high, block middle, block low. Dolloway was only prepared to be sure to block high. When he recognized he had to change--he couldn't mentally move fast enough--his physical reactions failed him.

    My point is that the kickboxing guard is valid. Also that the theory behind traditional karate way blocking is DESIGNED to work better. Like Dolloway, you still have to make a more sophisticated skill of blocking happen.

    Another test of the MMA-MT-BJJ Competitor vs. the traditional karate--based fighter.
    Rockhold of ATA Kickboxing GNP Machida in Round 1 essentially ending the fight. Round 2 more of same to an already injured Machida. Deep rear choke forces Machida to tap.
    Machida came out scoring hits on Rockhold with no appreciable affect. Moments later in Round 1, Machida lunged forward with trademark straight left. Rockhold pivots with double right hook, catching Machida across neck with 2nd hook. Machida knocked to ground.


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