As the name already suggests, the world of mixed martial arts embraces athletes who are capable of adapting their skills based upon the situation at hand. While this approach is similar to Jeet Kune Do in some aspects, the majority of professionals agree that even malleable styles are simply no match for the wealth of skills that an expert fighter brings to the table.

However, this was not always the case. Some of us may still be able to remember the early days of MMA. Not only did virtually anything go in terms of the rules, but fans were lucky enough to see extremely distinct styles competing within the ring. This is a far cry from the rather blended fighting aspects that we witness today. Of course, many traditional martial artists were quickly humbled thanks to the likes of Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. Styles such as Shotokan quickly faded away; the associated cut-and-dry techniques having been entirely replaced by the ground-and-pound that has come to define the MMA to an extent. So, why did Shotokan fail within the octagon?

Practice Makes Perfect (Sometimes)

Some of us enjoy reading a book during our downtime. Others relish a few rounds of scratch games or a day hiking in the mountains. Shotokan karateka (practitioners) instead make it a habit of training for hours on end. Solid and powerful techniques such as front kicks, straight punches and the occasional backfist can be seen within the dojo and throughout many Shotokan competitions.

Students and fighters would practice kata for hours on end while facing off against one another in full-contact bouts. Tradition here is king and even a slight deviation from a specific movement will often result in a harsh correction. Considering the fact that Shotokan practitioners spend so much time honing these seemingly devastating skills, why have they always failed within the octagon? The answer to this question is that practicing a rigid style is hardly enough when facing off against a fluid opponent.

Notable Weaknesses

There are also several weaknesses associated with Shotokan that need to be mentioned. First and foremost, this is a rather straightforward, front-facing style. Side and rear defences are almost non-existent. Besides a handful of Judo techniques, a Shotokan opponent is completely bereft of skills when taken to the ground (as so many MMA fighters prefer). Finally, there is little room for a sense of broken rhythm in Shotokan. These are arguably some of the reasons why Shotokan was never intended to be a competitive sport, but rather as a means of self defence.

This article is not meant to disparage Shotokan in any way. In fact, similar drawbacks can be seen in Shorin Ryu, Taekwondo and Judo. The fact of the matter is that these training methods never truly encompassed an “all-around” approach to dealing with an opponent who might possess an entirely different set of skills. So, it only stands to reason that countless traditional styles have been absorbed into the eclectic world of mixed martial arts.

A martial artist and former coach for two decades from Houston, Texas. Specializing in the disciplines of kickboxing, karate, MMA, and Jiu Jitsu.