ARE TRADITIONAL MARTIAL ARTS MAKING A COMEBACK?
We see martial arts everywhere. In films, on TV, MMA, etc. Now especially, MMA or mixed martial arts is very popular and has to a large degree taken over a lot of the martial arts world. Even martial arts such as Western Boxing seem to have taken a backseat to MMA.
However, even though we may see MMA gyms popping up everywhere and traditional martial arts seem to be decreasing in popularity, it doesn't need to be that way and I also don't think it will be forever. Actually the way I see it, they're one and the same. Many may disagree with me, but to me the only difference between MMA and traditional arts is the training methods and what you're training for. One is specifically for sports competition and the other is primarily for self defense. Although they can also be trained for competition of course. Really, any martial art is a set of principles, theories, and techniques. What you choose to do with it is up to the school and the individual. But when done properly, both will give you discipline, respect, balance, and the other positive benefits. It's been my experience that high level practitioners of all the martial arts have a very similar mindset and really aren't that different from each other. The ones who make things difficult are egomaniacs and fan boys who don't even train! It's true there are guys who are legit good fighters who also have a lousy attitude, but that's no fault of the system they're training in. That's the individual and you're always going to have egotistical punks in anything you do.
Before going further, what exactly is a traditional martial art? Generally they are arts with a long history and are usually connected to a specific region such as Kung Fu from China, Karate and Judo from Japan, and so on. There is no absolute defining point. Styles have been combined forever, so technically they're creating new systems. But the parts are all from traditional arts so it's still falls under that umbrella.
Now why do I think traditional arts are making a comeback? Think of it this way. The current crop of guys competing in MMA are young and tough as nails. That's a fact. But have you ever wondered what they'll be doing in their 50s and beyond? It's a pretty safe bet they won't still be competing and training the way they are right now. I'm actually in my 50s myself even if I don't look it, and I also don't train quite the way I used to. Of course I used to love that rush of fighting, but there was always pain that went along with it. Contrary to what you see in movies where people can fight for 10 minutes and not get hit once, when you fight you WILL get hit! And as we get older that becomes much less desirable. But once a martial artist, always a martial artist. We're an odd group of people and we don't just want to quit and do nothing. That's where the other benefits of martial arts come in. Things like improved blood circulation, balance, internal health, calming of the mind, etc. But we're still training for real just in case we need it!
Traditional arts are also heavily focused on respect, discipline, and culture making it great for kids. Yes fighting skills are trained but so are the other elements that make us better human beings. It's true that at the heart of every martial art is fighting, but a martial art can provide much more than that. There is an expression used by many in the martial arts world that states "We learn to fight so we don't have to". There's also an old story of a tiger and a dragon. The tiger asked the dragon "How come you never fight? Maybe you're just a big overgrown coward". The dragon responded by saying "I'm not scared of my opponents. I'm scared of what I'll become when I fight and what I'll do to them".
So in conclusion, I really don't see things as "this or that". I actually see them as the same and high level practitioners see it that way too. Martial arts have been around forever and every culture has them. Trust me, they're not going anywhere. Just like how interracial marriages are much more common now than they were 50 years ago, eventually MMA and traditional arts will become one. And that is truly how I see them making a comeback. If you're of the stubborn mindset of some traditionalists who refuse to evolve or be open to other training methods and ideas, then I don't think they will survive and I frankly don't think they deserve to. But if we go back to the roots and essence of the traditional arts which is to grow, learn, and evolve, then it will indeed survive and do well for future generations!