For those looking for something to kill the time during the Holidays besides interracting with the relatives, June Williams over at Cageside Seats (where I write the semi-regular/once a month Wrestling with the Past) has re-edited and reposted my expansive series the Forgotten Golden Age of Mixed Martial Arts, chronicling the rise of what we have come to know as mixed martial arts during the era known as the Belle Époque.
If you are unfamiliar with it here's the introduction from part 1:
"The evolution of martial arts since 1993 (since the UFC came around) martial arts have evolved more than they have in the last 700 years. We know exactly now what works in a real live situation with two warriors fighting; for a long time that was just speculation."
- Joe Rogan
It is common knowledge amongst fans of the sport of mixed martial arts that the first Ultimate Fighting Championship ushered in a "golden age" of MMA. Sure, it had a predecessor in Brazilian Vale Tudo and Japanese "shooto" wrestling matches, but those were merely the prologue for what was to follow.
What Art Davie and Rorion Gracie unleashed with UFC 1 was something unseen in the annals of unarmed combat: the opportunity for the best fighters in the world from two different disciplines to test themselves, and their art, in a simulation of a real world combat scenario.
No longer would we have to imagine who would win in a hypothetical matchup between, say, a wrestler and a judoka, or try to calculate who employed the more effective striking between a savateur, a boxer, or a karateka; because now we would be given the definitive answer.
For the first time since the ancient Greeks participated in pankration, martial arts would move beyond the philosophical to the empirical. Thus, a "golden age" was born.
Unfortunately, none of the above is true.
What most fans of MMA are not aware of, is a previous "golden age" of mixed martial arts existed, one where much of the progress we currently enjoy was made and where most of our questions were answered. This previous era saw unrivaled progress in ancient disciplines, the emergence of new hybrid fighting styles, the pitting of the different disciplines against one another in no-holds-barred combat, and the presence of some of history's greatest unarmed combatants.
All of this existed a century before the first fighter ever stepped foot in the Octagon; during the "golden age" that was the Belle Époque.
All four parts have been posted.
If you enjoyed these, be on the lookout for the first installment of a serialized ebook I will be releasing starting sometime in Spring of next year that covers the history of All-In, Anything Goes, No Holds Barred, Rough-and-Tumble, Mixed Martial Arts; from Arrichion to Royce Gracie.