Bruce Lee's influence on mixed martial arts (MMA) cannot be overstated. Despite being known primarily as an iconic martial artist and actor, his philosophy and innovative approach to combat had a significant impact on the development and evolution of MMA.
At NY Martial Arts Academy, our common purpose is to promote the art, science, and philosophy of Bruce Lee in a positive and effective way. In this blog, we’ll discuss a few key ways in which Bruce Lee influenced MMA in a positive way.
Jeet Kune Do Philosophy
Bruce Lee's martial arts philosophy, Jeet Kune Do (JKD), emphasized the importance of practicality, adaptability, and efficiency in combat. This philosophy resonated with MMA practitioners who sought to create a comprehensive fighting style that could be adapted to any situation. The principles of JKD encouraged MMA fighters to be open-minded, continuously learn, and discard what was ineffective, leading to a more dynamic and effective approach to mixed martial arts.
Emphasis on Realistic Training
Bruce Lee stressed the importance of realistic training and full-contact sparring to prepare for real-life combat situations. This approach was ahead of its time and aligned with the early days of MMA, where fighters from different disciplines sought to test their skills in a realistic environment. Lee's philosophy of "absorb what is useful, discard what is useless" resonated with MMA fighters, leading them to cross-train in multiple martial arts to build a well-rounded skill set.
The Fluidity of Movement
Bruce Lee's martial arts style was characterized by fluid movements and the ability to flow seamlessly between techniques. This concept of fluidity influenced the development of MMA, as fighters sought to blend different martial arts disciplines to create a more comprehensive and effective fighting style. MMA fighters often combine striking, grappling, and submission techniques, embodying Bruce Lee's philosophy of embracing the "formless form."
“Formless form” puts an emphasis on kinesiology and physics. Bruce Lee asserted, “The essence of fighting is the art of moving,” signifying that the origin of a technique, whether from Western or Eastern boxing styles, is irrelevant. What matters is that the technique aligns with the principles of kinetics and physics, making it adaptable for inclusion in a JKD practitioner’s arsenal.
Openness to Cross-Training and Conditioning
Martial artists didn’t cross-train or emphasize conditioning before Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a proponent of cross-training in various martial arts to enhance one's skills and understanding. He believed in taking the best elements from different styles and incorporating them into one's own practice. This mindset laid the groundwork for the evolution of MMA, where fighters began to explore and combine various martial arts disciplines to become more versatile and well-rounded competitors.
Influence on Prominent MMA Figures
Many notable MMA fighters and coaches have cited Bruce Lee as an influence on their careers and training methods. Fighters like Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, and Conor McGregor have spoken about how Bruce Lee's philosophy and approach to martial arts inspired them to become better fighters. Their adaptation of Bruce Lee’s practices must have paid off since all of these fighters became UFC champions. Additionally, renowned MMA coaches like Greg Jackson and John Danaher have acknowledged the impact of Bruce Lee's teachings on their coaching philosophies.
The Legacy of Bruce Lee's Films
Bruce Lee's films, particularly "Enter the Dragon," showcased his exceptional martial arts skills and introduced JKD ideas to a global audience. These films inspired many individuals to explore martial arts and played a role in popularizing the idea of totality—you need to be able to kick, punch, wrestle, and use submissions. The legacy of his films can still be seen in the influence of martial arts on MMA's growth and popularity today.
MMA Influence & Beyond
Bruce Lee's profound influence on mixed martial arts goes beyond his status as a martial arts icon and actor. His philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, emphasis on realistic training, fluidity of movement, and openness to cross-training laid the foundation for the evolution of MMA as a sport. His legacy continues to shape the way fighters approach training and combat, making him an enduring and essential figure in the history of mixed martial arts.
Train Like the Professionals at NYMAA
NY Martial Arts Academy (NYMAA) is one of the only schools on the East Coast to teach Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do and various aspects of Jeet Kune Do. If you’re an aspiring MMA fighter, current MMA professional, or simply want to learn how to protect yourself, contact us today at (877) 878-3553 to sign up for one of our adult, child, or one-on-one martial arts classes.