Following UFC 98 this past Saturday night, UFC President Dana White said, “This could be the Lyoto Machida era;” meaning the newly-crowned light heavyweight champion may hold the title for a considerable amount of time.
We here at PRO MMA (promma.info) were touting the praises of Machida’s style a year ago. This was after he dominated Tito Ortiz and so-called “experts” had the nerve to compare Machida’s style of fighting to Kalib Starnes running from Nate Quarry.
For the most part it seems as though his way of fighting has been misunderstood by a large portion of MMA fans because he does not simply stand in front of opponents like a “Bonnar vs. Griffin 1” and slug it out to see who is left on on their feet. Machida’s fighting strategy is practically the diametrical opposite of someone like Wanderlei Silva.
The difference between what Lyoto Machida brings to the table, what seperates him from probably 99.9% of the professional MMA fighters today, is the spiritual and mental foundations not only his fighting, but his life, is built on. “My body is my sword, my mind is my blade,” Lyoto said in a UFC 98 pre-fight interview.
Western culture’s idea of spirituality largely consists of going to church one day a week. Compare that to someone who has grown up meditating in the jungles of Brazil. Most westerners do not even have a concept of what meditation is, much less practice it.
To get a true idea about who Lyoto Machida is, one must look to his father who is the foundation for all Lyoto has become. Although Sports Illustrated writer Josh Gross picked Rashad Evans to defeat Lyoto at UFC 98 (and even wrote an article giving five reasons to support his prediction), he did have the insight to do a very good interview with Lyoto’s father, Yoshizo Machida, so we have to forgive Josh a little.
One concept that comes from the East that is lost on westerners is the idea of the student / disciple or student / master relationship. It is like the old Zen parable of the cup that is full of water. If your cup is already full then you can hold no more water. It is only when your cup (or mind) is completely empty can you then learn.
Yoshizo Machida spoke of the special relationship he has with Lyoto, not only as father and son but of master and student, “The moment when I start talking about and thinking about fighting, at that point it’s not a father-and-son relationship. It’s a master-and-student relationship.”
There is a famous Zen book entitled, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” It stresses the importance of humility, of always having the attitude of a “beginner.” Yoshizo spoke about this, “Every time Lyoto competes and gets another victory, he should leave the ring or the Octagon being more humble than when he walked in. The minute you stop being humble is the minute you’re going to stop moving forward as a fighter and a person. You’re going to become stagnant at that point.”
We have seen examples of this attitude in the past, for instance when Jens Pulver lost to B.J. Penn, after the fight, Pulver humbled himself and wanted to go train under Penn. Now, whether he ever actually did that is another story but he had the right attitude.
If Rashad really wants to become the best mixed martial artist he can be, he could humble himself and become a student of Lyoto Machida. But the western mind usually does not think in those terms. Rich Franklin did it recently when he went to train with Anderson Silva. When someone can submit themselves like that, they empty themselves, and at that point they are teachable. It is an attitude that is to be commended.
Yoshizo Machida who is originally from Japan, has raised his son on the principles and philosophy of the way of the Samurai. Lyoto has stated in the past that his father was very strict with him growing up and Yoshizo explains this, “In the days of the Samurai, the way they used to treat their children is the first 10 years of their lives, it was a father’s responsibility to determine and sink in their habits. So I was very strict with my kids the first 10 years of their lives. After 10 years, not that I wasn’t strict, but I laid down that foundation. After 10 years old, you start becoming smarter, you read things, you talk to your friends. The first 10 years of life it’s almost like a clean canvas, so I was very rigid and instilled the morals that are going to carry him on the rest of his life. Everything that I’ve ever told my kids to do and all the discipline I’ve ever done, I’ve always done myself. I’m not the type of father who just tells his kids to do something without doing it first and showing by example.”
Yoshizo knew that Rashad Evans was a great athlete but seemed to question the mental and spiritual aspect of his game and that is where Lyoto would put him to the test, “From what I can tell, Rashad Evans is a complete fighter, a technical athlete. He’s very fast. Very strong. I respect him very much. What I can’t see is how strong he is mentally or spiritually. So, with that being said, that is where Lyoto is going to go after Rashad. He will attack his spirit. I respect Rashad Evans a lot. Lyoto has to be very careful when he’s inside the Octagon with Rashad, because he’s a dangerous fighter.”
Lyoto Machida is strong in spirit. He is bringing something very special into MMA that has been missing; soul. The positive effect someone like Machida could have upon the evolution of MMA is extraordinary.
(Check out Josh Gross’s entire interview with Yoshizo Machida at www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
By: Jack Bratcher