Is This False Dojo Advertising?

karate and taekwondo in MMA

So lately there has been a lot of talk about traditional martial arts making a comeback in MMA. Of course, we’re all aware of how Lyoto Machida successfully adapted his Shotokan karate skills to the ring, and with great success.

And, now we’re seeing karate and tae kwon do black belts like Stephen Thompson, Sage Northcutt, and Michelle Waterson making their mark in the sport. Which, of course, is really cool and a lot of fun to watch.

But in light of all this, lately I’ve been seeing a few of these “X martial art in MMA” videos floating around.

In these videos, typically they’ll demonstrate a traditional martial arts movement performed by a traditional martial artist, then they’ll show a clip of a similar movement happening in an MMA match. Take a look:

As a study in martial dynamics and human movement, these videos are interesting to watch. But here’s where it’s getting weird…

What I’ve noticed is that the people who are sharing these videos are often traditional martial arts instructors who are sharing them within a certain context. Basically, they’re insinuating that the traditional martial arts techniques they teach are specifically being used in professional MMA matches.

Sure, I’ll admit that there are some similarities between traditional martial arts movements and those used in ring sports. And, it’s no secret that many martial arts styles teach similar techniques and movements.

However, if you’re a traditional martial arts instructor, posting one of these videos to your Facebook page and saying, “See? We teach this stuff too!” is morally no different than changing the sign on your storefront from “KARATE” or “TAE KWON DO” to “MMA” overnight.

Granted, as someone pointed out when I posted on Facebook about this, the mechanics in many techniques are similar from style to style. Fine. But where someone learned those mechanics definitely matters, at least from an honesty perspective.

The fact is, the majority of pro mixed martial artists come from full-resistance training, full-contact martial art backgrounds. Boxing. Muay Thai. Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Judo. Wrestling. Sports where they train WITH FULL RESISTANCE and where real fighting skill cannot be faked.

I know, I know… right now some of you are saying, “But Lyoto Machida/Stephen Thompson/Sage Northcutt/Michelle Waterson uses traditional martial arts in the ring!”

Yeah, they do. But the difference between them and your average karate or tae kwon do instructor is that pro fighters with TMA backgrounds actively cross-train in combat sports. They’re training day-in and day-out with BJJ instructors, wrestling coaches, Judo black belts, Thai boxing krus, and boxing coaches.

And the fact is until you’ve stepped in the ring with a pro fighter and had your head taken off for three minutes of eternity, or until you’ve stepped on the mat with a BJJ black belt and found yourself helplessly being tapped like a typewriter, or until you’ve had an all-state wrestler take you down again, and again, and again, you have no idea what you’re talking about when you compare what you do in your karate or tae kwon do class with what pro MMA fighters do in the ring. None.

But besides the honesty factor, there are other reasons why you should stop comparing your TMA to MMA. The thing is, people come to train at a traditional martial arts school for entirely different reasons than they go to an MMA gym, and you serve a much different market.

If your students wanted MMA or BJJ, they’d go to an MMA gym or a BJJ school. But instead, they’re coming to you for what you offer, so be proud of that and stop trying to be something you’re not.

My advice is to just stick to what you know, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. Because if you try to be all things to all people, pretty soon you’ll end up being nothing to nobody and serving no one. And broke to boot.

Until next time,

Mike Massie


  1. Joe Chao on March 7, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I agree with you. The only real difference between MMA style training is the conditioning. If you had Karate instructors hitting heavy bags, pads and sparring hard regularly they would do well as well. However its been my experience that many Karate schools train more for katas and point fighting. Just this weekend we were at an event where there were Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Capoeira schools performing. My Muay Thai school did so as well. Several of my kids informed me that the Karate kids were making fun of them until they saw my kids hitting the bags. Then they avoided them entirely.

  2. Steven Franz on March 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Honestly I am more worried about the fake martial art systems, self proclaimed grand masters, bullshit styles being made up because people couldn’t hack it in a real martial art than I am with this kind of advertising. People watch videos on youtube and run out, buy a black belt, and open schools. Then you have schools all over the place teaching fraud and passing their art of as being legitimate. Then you have people who are promoting others to black belt to get money and even worse organizations who prey on others promoting them for money…want to combat something that will improve all martial arts? Combat that type of bull crap.

  3. Eugene Shewchuk on March 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Nice article. I teach Combat Sambo, which is a style that uses full resistance in training. Many techniques are the same, but its the application and training methods that vary.
    I completely agree with what you wrote on being proud of what one teaches no matter which style it is.

  4. Mike Massie on March 8, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Steven, I kind of have mixed feelings about “made-up” styles. I mean, all styles were made up at some point, and who am I to tell someone who is a martial arts genius that they can’t create their own system of training and fighting? On the other hand, yeah – the 25-year-old 10th degree soke grandmasters are ridiculous. But then again, that’s what we have Master Ken for, to make fun of how obviously ridiculous that stuff is, right?

  5. Mike Massie on March 8, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I agree, Joe, to a point. Really, I think it’s the resistance in sparring that makes the difference. You can’t really fake taking a punch and then dishing it back out again, which is why MMA has evolved into something that is brutally effective for single combat.

  6. Mike Massie on March 8, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Eugene, sambo is some hardcore stuff. I should have mentioned it, since many of the best Russian MMA fighters have come from a combat sambo background. For those who are unfamiliar, check this out:

Leave a Comment