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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Jess asked me two questions. This article (which I found thanks to Stu) reminded me to get off my ass an respond to the second.

The question consisted of two parts:

Should combat sports, specifically, the competitions, be regulated?
Should the INSTRUCTORS of said combat sports be regulated?

The first part is pretty straightforward, the second is more complicated.

Should combat sports be regulated? Abso-freakin’-lutely they should.

At the risk of sounding old, I do remember the "good old days", back when MMA was unregulated, and Royce Gracie strode across the world like a colossus. While it is easy to look back on those days with rose-colored shades as having somehow been more "pure" or "real" or some other nonsense, the truth is that most of the competitions back in the pre-regulation days were badly organized, badly executed, and on occasion, stupidly dangerous to the participants. Yes, I know it's a fight, and there is a certain level of danger to be expected, but when promoters are literally asking for volunteers from the crowd to fill in for missing fighters, you've crossed a line into seriously stupid/dangerous (for the record, they got a volunteer, and he got beat like he stole something).

At this point, I'm hard-pressed to think of a combat sport that isn't regulated in some fashion. Boxing is. Judo is. There are a few different BJJ orgs out there as well. I don't believe MMA is sanctioned in all states, but there are enough places where it is that you can find legitimate, legal places to compete.

Are regulations perfect? No, of course not. I've seen some judges make horrible calls, referees are sometimes still idiots, and yes, corruption exists. Corruption exists pretty much anywhere where there is money to be made. Get over it.

I've honestly never thought about regulating the instructors. The amateur/Olympic sports (Boxing, Judo, Fencing, Wrestling) appear to have certifications and regulations for coaches. Of course, sports like Muay Thai, MMA, BJJ, and so on, aren't attached to the Olympics, so getting that kind of regulation and organization might be more difficult. MMA offers the best illustration of the difficulties of this example, because the whole point of the sport is to create an open environment where members of any system or style can compete. Muay Thai competitions regularly feature fighters from Kyokushin, San Da, and other styles. Sambo guys enter Judo comps all the time.

Which isn't to say the requiring some level of certification for instructors would be bad, but it seems to me much harder to implement, and starts drifting into territory where you're trying to regulate all martial arts instruction, and I'm not convinced that that is either good or workable.

Well, maybe not. I guess there's no reason why a Muay Thai coach couldn't get certified by USA boxing if he wants his fighters to box. That level of organization for a lot of combat sports is a long way off, I think, but I can think of worse things that could happen.

Jess specifically brings up the example that she's heard  "that they want to make it a fine if they find a competitor/and their instructor is lying", which I find interesting. I have a personal bugbear about fraudulent coaches, and about poor coaching, have seen and experienced the effects of both. I admit, I'm curious about exactly how a system like this would work: what kind of deception warrants a fine? Who gets it? How you determine who is responsible for the fraud?

It's all pretty complicated stuff. But at the end of the day, I think regulation for combat sports tends to be a good thing. It's not always perfect, but it's a lot better than the alternative.

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