What Defines a Martial Artist?
“Dan Hardy is not a true martial artist.”
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre spoke those words during the UFC Primetime series leading up to his clash with the brash Brit at UFC 111 in March. Hardy, of course, countered with a rhetorical question about how wearing pajamas to the cage makes you any more of a martial artist than your opponent.
While I don’t dare call a gi a set of pajamas, I do agree with the general idea of Hardy’s inquiry. In the sport of mixed martial arts, what is the definition of a martial artist?
Though conversations of his in-cage talents generally begin with his boxing acumen, Hardy has studied tae kwon do since a young age, earning his black belt. He is also progressing up the ranks in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Eddie Bravo. While his choice of walkout attire is a t-shirt and toothy bandana tied around his face, “The Outlaw” is much more than just a boisterous brawler. He’s a martial artist.
As the sport evolves, so too should the definition of a martial artist.
Discussing the aftermath of the Paul Daley – Josh Koscheck encounter on Facebook with fellow Heavy MMA writer Mitch Ciccarelli, fighter Mark Miller, a 36-year-old Muay Thai practitioner stated “most current fighters were never martial artists.” While this particular sentiment came during a conversation about respect and honor in the sport, it is one that keeps popping up in conversations.
To me, if you compete in the sport of mixed martial arts at the highest levels, you’re a martial artist. Whether your base discipline is karate, jiu jitsu, wrestling or boxing doesn’t matter.
These aren’t the early days of the sport without rules and regulations, where anyone who wanted to test themselves could give their “fighting style” a name and step into the Octagon. Those days are gone, and anyone silly enough to bring their Rex Kwan Do into the cage would get set straight in a matter of seconds. Benji Radach’s “face smash fu” is the only exception.
While we still label fighters based on their core disciplines, they are all martial artists, whether they have trained in Kyokushin karate or not.