I watched a mixed martial arts event this weekend featuring street fighting legend Kimbo Slice. It was a featured live event on cable and drew a huge live audience in Miami. This form of combat has eclipsed boxing at the box office and in the hearts of fight fans, and when I watch these events I fondly remember the time I spent with the late Bruce Lee, who participated in these types of fights on rooftops in Hong Kong as a young man.
I feel that this style of combat is based on a concept that Bruce was instrumental in developing. The traditional fight contest would have people from one discipline only fighting each other according to the rules of that discipline. That created, for example, a situation where judo contestants would fight each other strictly according to judo rules. Bruce envisioned a contest where any style was allowed to go against any other style, with no restrictions as to how techniques were used. Bruce used tactics from any and all of the martial arts disciplines without regard to their origin. He considered people who would use only the techniques taught by their particular discipline as tradition-bound. Innovation and experimentation were frowned upon and thus severely limited an individual's ability to use what worked for him.
The Gracie jiu-jitsu clan from Brazil also started to train outside of the boundaries of traditional jiu-jitsu, and in doing so offended the tradition-bound superiors in the jiu-jitsu world. The Gracies and Bruce couldn't have cared less. The new approach made for effective self-defense, and anyone using the new concept became an unpredictable and formidable opponent, like Bruce or the Gracies. This new concept has led to new "mixed martial arts" contests that have captured the fight fans' attention big- time. It has also led to a realistic reappraisal of the effectiveness of the various styles.
Students from all styles now train with the realistic idea of what does and does not work when it hits the fan. I know Bruce would be happy to see the evolution of martial arts training that he pioneered become the standard throughout the discipline.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.