Today I’d like to do a salute to the martial arts masters who took the conventional wisdom of the day and decided to ignore it in favor of doing their own thing. This list isn’t a list of the strongest fighters, but the ones who made it using something unique.
4. Dave Camarillo. Here’s a man who’s martial arts are unique. He started out as a world class Judoka on track for the Olympics. When things didn’t work out, he took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Ralph Gracie. Then he started using flying attacks in judo competitions (they’re banned now, thanks Dave!), and to many of us became the father of flying submissions. He started his Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu organization which teaches judo and BJJ together in a way that is really different that the approaches of either of those arts. He has also been the grappling coach to BJ Penn, Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick and others.
3. Loyto Machida. Everyone in MMA probably has a black belt in something tucked away somewhere, but to be honest, when was the last time you were able to identify a particular martial art other than BJJ, Thai boxing, western boxing and wrestling? Machida said he was a Shotokan fighter, and darn it, we can all see it. This has lead to his being loved and hated. Loved by traditional martial artists everywhere and hated by people who hate karate. The Machida family took a style that is known for its love of kata practice, and turned it into a striking style that took fighters forever to figure out how to face it. The lead hand and lead leg strikes, the weird hip movement, even the refusal to put his hands in front of his face are all so karate-ish it blows the mind. How is this unique? He took a style everyone in the “in” crowd had dismissed, and became the UFC light heavy weight champ. He adapted his karate in a way that surprised most other karateka.
2. Cung Le. Kung fu of any kind has been having a rough time in modern competition. Cung Le showed that he could take his style San Shou, (Which few of us had heard of before he appeard) and much in the same way as Loyto Machida, adapt it to make him and his style icons. There is contraversy that he’s never competed against the best in the world, but I say anyone who can pull off the moves he does in a real fight is ok in my book. I just wish there was a place to train San shou around here.
1. Bruce Lee. The list isn’t complete, but it would be totally incomplete without saying something about Bruce Lee. He stood the wisdom about fighting in his day in age and stood it on its ear. He ditched kata completely, added western boxing to his kung fu, and pioneered the now common idea, “If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.”. There isn’t a style of martial arts that hasn’t been changed by Lee’s innovations.