MMA is practically synonymous with violence and no one ever seems to question whether it’s violent or not, only to what degree. Asking if It’s too violent for sport or more violent than boxing, etc. But is it really violent?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines violence as “the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy.” But is that the intended definition of violence? Or has it been confounded over time, no longer reflecting the original meaning?
Oxford English Dictionary has a nearly 300-year-old definition of violence which doesn’t mention force at all but says: “a violation of some condition.” What if that’s the true intended meaning? Violence shares the same root as violation. They both come from the Latin word, violare meaning: “to violate or dishonor.”
If violence really means “to violate,” MMA is not violent. No violation occurs in an MMA fight. It’s a consensual competition between free participants. Of course, they get bloody, orbital sockets chip and limbs break, but none of that violates any rights or conditions in the context of an MMA fight and therefore does not equate to violence.
Consequence of force might be a better description. Going back to Merriam-Webster, force is “strength or energy exerted or brought to bear.” We use force in non-violent ways all day, every day. I’m using force to type these words. It would only become violent if it was used immorally in a coercive, compelling or restraining manner because such use would violate the rights of the subjected.
In this context, force is moral and violence is immoral, two diametrically opposed opposites. Accordingly, MMA (force) is moral and opposite to violence (immoral.)
Unironically, MMA was born as a test between different styles of self-defense, all designed and intended to oppose violence. A corresponding principle states, “If someone is committing violence against us, we reserve the right to use force to end that violence by whatever degree reasonably necessary, up to and including lethal use.”
To me, MMA celebrates the art of self-defense. It gives occasion to showcase styles implemented at their highest levels of proficiency. I think it holds befitting relevance in a non-violent society by deterring violence through the development of ways to counter it and defend against it.
Perhaps when MMA became synonymous with its polar opposite, words failed us. The perceived meaning slowly slid away from the actual one until we were left to gross elaboration and needing an entire page to explain one word.
MMA is not violent, rather a modern-day manifestation of an ancient spirit that opposes violence. It’s the antithesis of violence. One is right, the other wrong. We have the right to train and compete in MMA, but we do not have the right to enact violence.