Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport in which two competitors attempt to achieve dominance over one another by utilising a wide variety of permitted martial arts techniques, including striking and grappling. Well-known MMA organizations include the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride Fighting Championships. MMA is also sometimes referred to as “NHB” or “No Holds Barred,” but this term is now out of favor: NHB is no longer an accurate description of the modern sport, with its formalized rules and banned techniques that were developed for the fighters’ safety.

Mixed martial arts was originally based around the concept of pitting different martial arts and fighting styles against each other in competition with minimal rules, in an attempt to determine which system would be more effective in a real combat situation. The techniques utilised in MMA competition generally fall into two categories: striking techniques (such as kicks, knees and punches) and grappling techniques (such as clinch holds, pinning holds, submission holds, sweeps, takedowns and throws). Modern MMA competition is an evolution of such events, but rules have been implemented to promote acceptance of the sport, while at the same time maintaining as much of the original no-holds-barred concept as possible. There is however no general sanctioning body for the sport, and the sets of rules vary according to the laws of individual organizations and localities.

History of MMA

One of the earliest forms of widespread unarmed combat sports with minimal rules was Greek pankration, which was introduced into the Olympic games in 648 B.C. Some no-holds-barred events also took place in the late 1800s when wrestlers representing a huge range of fighting styles including various catch wrestling styles, Greco-Roman wrestling and many others met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe. The vogue for professional wrestling died out after the First World War, only to be reborn in two major streams: “shoot”, in which the fighters actually competed, and “show” which became increasingly dependent on staged combat and evolved into modern professional wrestling.

Modern mixed martial arts are rooted in two interconnected movements. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot wrestling shows. Vale tudo (meaning ‘anything goes’) began in the 1920s with the famous “Gracie challenge” issued by Carlos Gracie and HĂ©lio Gracie and upheld later on by descendents of the gracie family. In Japan in the 1970s, a series of mixed martial arts matches were hosted by Antonio Inoki, inspiring the shoot-style movement in Japanese professional wrestling, which eventually lead to the formation of the first mixed martial arts organizations such as Shooto. Mixed martial arts would gain widespread publicity in the U.S in 1993, when Royce Gracie manifested the Gracie challenge as the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. In Japan in 1997, the continued interest in the sport eventually resulted in the creation of the PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Evolution of MMA fighters

In the early 1990s, three styles stood out for their effectiveness in MMA competition: Amateur wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Shoot wrestling. This may be attributable in part to the grappling emphasis of the aforementioned styles, which, perhaps due to the scarcity of mixed martial arts competitions prior to the early 90s, had been neglected by most practitioners of striking-based arts.

Even though fighters combining amateur wrestling and striking dominated the standing portion of an MMA fight, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists had a distinct advantage on the ground. Those unfamiliar with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu proved to be unprepared to deal with its submission techniques. Shoot wrestling practitioners offered a balance of wrestling ability and catch wrestling based submissions resulting in a generally well rounded set of skills. The shoot wrestlers were especially successful in Japan, where the martial art initially dominated other arts.

As MMA competitions became more and more common place, those with a base in striking became more competitive as they began to acquaint themselves with takedowns and submission holds, leading to some notable upsets against the dominant grapplers. Subsequently those from the various grappling styles learned from each other’s strengths and shortcomings and added striking techniques to their arsenal. This overall development of increased cross-training resulted in the MMA fighters becoming increasingly multi-dimensional in their skills.

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