Jack Bratcher: So what’s been happening Doc? Did you watch any football this weekend or check out any of the fights?
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: Jack, this weekend was a busy one for me brother. After teaching class on Thursday night at my school, Tampa Florida Judo, I hopped on the road and headed down to Fort Lauderdale.
This weekend I attended a seminar held by the International Judo Federation that addressed the new rules and changes in the sport of judo and the Olympic Qualification process. I attended due to my position as a Technical Advisor with the Bahamas Judo Federation. It was informative, very long and a tiring trip. The commute was hurtful. It’s five hours each way.
Jack Bratcher: Well that segue ways me into my next question Doc. With the introduction of Ronda Rousey into Mixed Martial Arts and with the Alida Gray challenging Jessica Aguilar this past weekend in the World Series of Fighting – both of which are former Judo players – do you feel that Judo is a viable option for Mixed Martial Artists?
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: (Dr. Ferguson starting laughing) Of course I do. Just as I feel that 800 meter training is great for fighters as well as playing chess. All of these things are good for fighters. I’m sure you are talking about foundationally. Well, in my opinion, I believe so.
Jack Bratcher: It seems like wrestling is generally perceived as the best fit for the sport as a foundation.
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: Yes it does seem that way but it’s a false read that people are getting. What you see in MMA is called a convenient sample. You are looking at a sample of population of people which has a huge North American/United States bias and slant on it. There are more practitioners of martial arts in the world than there are wrestling practitioners. And if you don’t think so, just look at the adult population. There are more adults practicing martial arts than are wrestling. Let’s just be real. I’d love to sit down and run the numbers for you but it would be a waste of time. Just like when I try to tell people that there are more people worldwide that practice Judo than Brazilian Jiujitsu. Or when people come up to me and tell me that MMA is taking over boxing (Dr. Ferguson starts laughing again). Look. Martial Arts does not have a culture of fighting attached to it. The people in the arts are not encouraged to fight. The people in the arts are taught self-defense. There are many sporting federations that discourage the entry of their practitioners into MMA. Wrestling is a sport. It is an art, without a doubt. But it does not fall under the martial arts. It has deviated far from that like boxing. Both are combat sports and serious ones at that. But they have a culture of fighting and confrontation in order to settle an unknown. And that unknown is, who is the best. The martial arts culture is not about that. Now we have a sporting aspect of our arts that is seen and showcased in the Olympic Sports and in some of the non-Olympic sports like Karate and BJJ, but as a whole the goal of a martial arts is self-improvement. Self-improvement is a continuous process, therefore when an athlete reaches another level in a martial art, he or she never thinks about, “What’s next?” What’s next is always self improvement, enlightenment, learning and teaching. When one finishes wrestling, one is looking for the next battle. Many wrestlers leave the landscape or sport of wrestling looking for the next conquest. They miss the battle, the fight, the conflict. They are made differently and the sport encourages a different aspect of life. The golden thread in martial arts, from youth and entry, is to never use your knowledge to fight. The sport of MMA is in diametrical opposition to the tenets of martial arts. Trust me when I tell you that, no matter how popular you think MMA is, it is not taught as a viable option in most Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Jiujitsu or Aikido dojos as an option. It may be used as a sales tool to get kids and practitioners in the door to practice but it is not the goal. The pathway is not, black belt and then MMA. Not at all. You pretty much get forced out of wrestling at a certain point. You wrestle until high school or college and then you are done. The good ones keep going on to the Olympic hopeful path and the others, well…. they stop wrestling. Some go into BJJ, some into Judo and some into MMA. So when you say that the best MMA fighters come from wrestling what you are saying is not true. When you say that wrestling is the best foundation for MMA, well that cannot be accepted as true either. What you can say is that most fighters who have achieved a considerable amount of success in American-Based MMA organizations come from a wrestling background. That would be correct. But you have to be careful how you word it when having conversations colloquially because what you could be saying, could most definitely be false.
And the BEST foundation of Mixed Martial Arts cannot be properly identified because it is, by default a mixture of martial arts. So I cannot say that wrestling is the best foundation, nor can I say that judo is the best foundation or that boxing is the best foundation. All martial arts are nothing more than an extension of the sword. If you learn the concepts of the sword and of budo, through study or from someone teaching you without knowing that you are being taught it, you will have a good foundation for MMA – this does not mean you are going to win but you will have a good foundation. Just understand that there is a barrier of entry into the sport from the traditional martial arts side based upon the incongruent nature of the culture of traditional martial arts and mixed martial arts.
Jack Bratcher: Doc, I never thought about it like that. Man, you have a way of putting things that makes people look at situations and circumstances differently.
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: Thanks bro. That’s really why I love coaching. It allows me to convey a different message, a different level of experiences if you will to the life of another person. It’s the slight difference in coaching and teaching. As a teacher, I am conveying a thing or an accepted truth. As a coach, I get to challenge your particular truth and allow you to form your own set of ideals and rules. I may already know the answer, but telling it to you and allowing your to figure it out on your own will yield two different levels of memorable adherence. One you will link to an experience, the other, will most likely be heard and forgotten. It’s the process of manipulating one’s tacit knowledge base. Michael Polyani was a great researcher who, I’m sure, some coaches and athletes would like to read. I think what we all have to understand is that, we really do not know that much and as Daniel Kahneman explained in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” – what you see, is all there is. Meaning, wrestling winning the UFC does not mean anything expect that wrestlers have won and are winning in the UFC. It means nothing more beyond that.
Jack Bratcher: So what did you want to talk about today, you basically answered my questions.
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: Jack, I just wanted to say congratulations to Jessica Aguilar. This weekend Jessica Aguilar established and achieved something that she has been training for years to attain. She solidified herself as the number one strawweight in the world. Belt be damned. A belt really doesn’t matter, but it’s a great bonus to be recognized with such a piece of adornment. The reason why the belt doesn’t really matter in this case is because there will be other organizations and other belts but the recognition as the best 115 pound women’s fighter in the world is a distinction that is unrivaled. Soon the new UFC Strawweight Champion will be crowned and that person will not be considered the best in the world at 115.
I think that Jessica Aguilar is an outstanding individual and person. She’s lovely to be around and is absolutely beautiful. And when I say beautiful, I mean on the inside and the outside. I’m just very happy for her and glad that she can lay her head down at night and now be exactly who she knew that she was. The best in the world.
Jack Bratcher: Well, Doc thanks again for another Monday morning quarterbacking session. I never know what we’re going to really talk about but I know its going to be interesting. Have a good one.
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson: You too bro.