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UFC 138: The Historical Significance of Traditional Martial Arts in Etim vs. Faaloloto

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The UFC 138: Leben vs. Munoz match up between lightweights Terry Etim and Edward Faaloloto has been criticized by fans to demonstrate their disinterest in the UFC 138 card. While I think Etim is always exciting and still has a bright future at age twenty-six, there are some intriguing back stories and historical significance within the traditional martial arts that both fighters specialize in.

It's not uncommon to dub Etim as a talented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player for latching submissions in eleven of his fourteen career victories, yet he is about as much of a BJJ enthusiast as heavyweight catch wrestler Josh Barnett.

Rorion Gracie is credited with introducing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to North America. First, he trained Mel Gibson for the hit flick "Lethal Weapon" in 1987, which ended with an armbar attempt transitioning to a triangle choke in a mano a mano showdown with the evil Mr. Joshua, played by Gary Busey. The U.S. got their first real taste of the mystical art when Rorion Gracie helped organize a style versus style tournament called The Ultimate Fighting Championships in 1993.

This was not a new concept in Brazil -- Vale Tudo was the name of the original competitions and the two most popular styles to battle for supremacy were Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre. Luta Livre means "free fight" in Portugese and was differentiated by its practice without the kimono or gi for a more realistic combat environment. While wrestling and submission holds were the initial foundation, boxing and striking were later integrated to cover all aspects of realistic fighting.

Vale Tudo, meaning "anything goes" (no rules, no gloves, no time limits), governed the three BJJ vs. Luta Livre matches to prove which was truly more effective. The three BJJ representatives were Murilo Bustamante, Wallid Ismail and Fabio Gurgel; the three Luta Livre reps were Eugenio Tadeu, Marcelo Mendes and Denilson Maia. BJJ was victorious over Luta Livre in all three matches and was thus considered the superior style, vaulting it to the forefront of the public eye and burying Luta Livre in its wake of growing popularity.

Before his Octagon stint, Etim was considered the number two UK lightweight behind a fighter named Abdul Mohamed. A Cage Gladiators champion, Mohamed lost his belt when he was submitted in 2008 by former Pride fighter Luciano Azevedo, a Luta Livre purist under the great Marcio "Cromado" Barbosa. Cromado is the founder and head coach of The Renovacao Fight Team in Brazil, which he created to keep the Luta Livre tradition alive and relevant in modern day MMA.

Cromado was a student of Eugenio Tadeu, who trained under the father and son duo of Grand Master Fausto Brunocilla and Carlos Brunocilla, who in turn were students of the legendary Robert Leitao and the original founding father of Luta Livre, Master Euclydes "Tatu" Hatem.

Etim journeyed to Brazil to prepare for his UFC debut with Azevedo at RFT and is now a student under Marcelo Brigadeiro; one of Cromado's star students who opened up an RFT affiliate school in the UK.

Continued after the break.


Edward Faaloloto began with two martial arts that stemmed from the Pacific Rim: Limalama and Kajukenbo.

Limalama means "hands of wisdom" and was founded by American-Samoan Tino Tuiolosega, who started with a foundation in Polynesian martial arts called "Lua" which centered around boxing, kicking, wrestling, throws, joint and bone dislocation, nerve-center attacks and "dirty fighting".

Tuiolosega went on to complement his Lua background with the five animal styles of Chinese Kung Fu and began to develop his own fighting system. The end result was Limalama, a diverse combat philosophy that integrated boxing, clinch-fighting, grappling and submission holds but relied heavily on a mixed striking style rooted in Kenpo karate.

Another unique martial art born from Hawaii, Kajukenbo was created in the late 1940's when a congregation of masters from various traditional martial arts disciplines formed "The Black Belt Society". The group's intention was to train together and learn from one another to determine the most effective conglomeration of martial arts for realistic combat scenarios.

What arose from those sessions was a mesh of Karate, Judo, Kenpo and Boxing, all of which combine to make up the name "Kajukenbo".

Edward Faaloloto might not be a big name or have much pull with the coarse fanbase, but his personal history has earned him one firm supporter in myself. Before his WEC debut, Faaloloto had a rough upbringing and had already been shot and stabbed on the streets of Hawaii. He was the victim of a gang-related attack and was shot in the hand. The bullet ricocheted off his bone and he made a full recovery, but his good friend accompanying him that night was not so fortunate. He was killed in the melee and died next to Faaloloto.

He was later stabbed by the friend of a homeless man who asked for change and then tried to rob him. Faaloloto cites his experience with martial arts and time in the Navy for directing his tumultuous life down a more positive path.

Today's focus rests on the present state of evolutionary combat, yet every once in a while it's nice to take a step back and give credit to the original martial arts that made MMA what it is today. Soon, with all the new students training MMA as their whole system of fighting, there will be no more practitioners of traditional martial arts left in mainstream sporting competitions.


Reference and Reading Information

Robert Leitao's Ten Principles of Grappling

History of BJJ vs. Luta Livre (Mousel's Forum)

One Student's Decision of BJJ vs. Luta Livre (Bullshido Forum)

Kajukenbo History (with video interviews)

Alternate Source on Kajukenbo History's Interview with Edward Faaloloto