Finding Inner Peace in an MMA Gym
This article from 2020 makes some observations about the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the UK, a sport that has grown significantly since its popularization in the 1990s. seen significant growth over the past decade. Sugden may have initially expected a hyper-masculine and brutal environment, but instead found a welcoming and socio-economically diverse community, where close bonds are formed through the shared experiences of training and competition.
For those who aren’t familiar with BJJ, it can be mind-blowing to be exposed to an art designed to overcome strength with technique. Sugden’s gym seems like a great space for the kind of mindful practice that martial arts should probably embody, requiring calmness, strategic thinking, and emotional control.
The mental health benefits of MMA training are a significant focus of the article. Many gym members, including Sugden, found that the physical and mental challenges of training provided an important outlet for stress, anxiety, and depression. Despite the risk of injury, he learned how the discipline and resilience developed in the gym also translated to other areas of life. Inherent in his experience is the paradox of MMA training: it simultaneously confronts and reinforces certain masculine stereotypes, while also offering a valuable tool for mental wellbeing.
Can MMA be more than just a brutal sport? Sugden makes the case that it can. But I think it’s still important to remember that students have to do their due diligence and try to find a gym that approaches training in a way that matches their own goals. Any martial has the potential for injury, and BJJ-based arts have drawn scrutiny lately for this issue.
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