27 January, 2011

Watching the UFC from the start (Part 1)...

UFC 96 - March 09 - Columbus 045
I suppose I'd better start by explaining what the UFC is, well, was...and the best way to do that is to start with "Vale Tudo" (Portuguese which roughly translates as "Anything goes")...Set your wayback machines for the 1920's and destination to Brazil where a popular circus side-show attraction was to go and watch experts of various fighting forms compete in "no holds barred" combat, if you want to know more just click that link)...in Brazil it's been going on (in various shapes and sizes) ever since...It's ultimate evolution (the UFC) was born from the power of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, specifically the Gracie families style, who had developed a discipline which was, to put it mildly, rather good...so confident were they in their abilities that they regularly took all comers in Vele Tudo competition, eventually producing videos featuring martial arts masters (from various schools and disciplines) competing to determine which martial art was the best (this was in 1992)...

In 1993 money was found (via US Cable pay-per-view) inspired by the electrifying footage coming out of Brazil to stage some sort of US version, the Gracies were involved from the ground up (they had a school in California) and the UFC was born, a single tournament-style competition (later to be referred to as UFC #1) was commissioned and fighters who thought they were bad-asses and that their chosen martial art was unstoppable were recruited (on this occasion representing Boxing, Karate, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Kickboxing, Savate, Japanese Shootfighting, Sumo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) the idea being (as I already mentioned) to see if, say, a Sumo guy could just steamroller a Boxer, if Kickboxing was a superior style to Karate - a very interesting idea - and, as it turned out, quite a lot of people were very keen to know the answer (which was, at this stage anyway, a very firm -I don't care who you are, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu wins-) enough to guarantee that another show would follow (as it made plenty of money for the organisers) and as word spread, it just kept on gaining momentum...

These early tournaments were very violent affairs (even more so than you may imagine), there was no time limit, no rounds and there were no weight classes, Giant Sumo wrestlers could end up fighting tiny Karate black belts (frequently loosing), there were very few rules (basically no biting, no eye gouging) repeatedly hitting someone in the genitals was fine, as was axe-kicking a downed opponents head, blood could be covering both fighters but as long as no-one was knocked out or tapped themselves out the referee would just keep things going...it was also chaotic, as you can imagine, people were frequently injured (making way for "alternate" fighters, even in the final) and the most successful fighters would find themselves, exhausted and hurt, returning to the cage over and over again until the last man standing collapsed clutching his belt (and then everyone was carried off to hospital)...

The first 3 or 4 UFCs saw everyone go through an extremely sharp learning curve, hundreds of years of discipline and evolution were stripped away as unexpected weaknesses were suddenly and starkly revealed - shave your hair (or people will pull it), don't wear a Gi despite what your sensei told you (it gives virtually no tactical advantage and soaks up your sweat making you less slippery and therefore easier to submit), in fact whole fighting styles were shown to be completely ineffectual (American Ninjitsu=flashy nonsense which winds up getting you knocked out, Sumo=lumbering slowly into a broken nose) and some surprise winners (Greco-Roman Wrestling is almost as effective as Jiu-Jitsu) plus conditioning is king, it doesn't matter how high you can get your leg nor how quickly if you run out of steam after 5 minutes, once Japanese Shootfighting (a hybrid of Muay Thai and wrestling) managed to find a chink in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu's armour (in the shape of Ken Shamrock) everyone suddenly started to realise that in order to win at a game where any Martial Art was allowed - not only did you need extraordinary cardio-vascular fitness, you needed to be a "Well Rounded Fighter" - i.e. a master of more than one style - possessing good ground, good submissions and good stand up...

To be continued...

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Did you know you can shorten your urls with Shortest and get cash from every visit to your short links.