Sports

"The nature of martial arts is a lot like dancing."

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Does the First Amendment protect the right to stage a mixed martial arts contest before a paying audience? That's what the Ultimate Fighting Championship is arguing in a new lawsuit challenging New York's 1997 law prohibiting such bouts. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

While the arts are protected, no court has ever directly confronted the question of whether athletes have a First Amendment right to be seen in action, said Barry Friedman, a professor at New York University School of Law who is representing the plaintiffs.

"This is the first time to my knowledge that a professional athlete is claiming a First Amendment right to communicate with fans in a live event," said Friedman.

The courts needn't declare all sports protected by the First Amendment, because MMA — which, as the name suggests, draws on a mosaic of different fighting styles — is special, Friedman said.

"It's martial artistry," he said. "The nature of martial arts is a lot like dancing."

Read the full story here.

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  1. “New York and Connecticut are two states with a ban on live MMA fights.”

    It doesn’t why, or if it’s just MMA.

    1. No one knows?

  2. Your right to stop me from swinging my fist ends at my opponent’s nose.

  3. Ground and Pound. It’s the new Freak Dancing…

  4. (hic) Victory!

  5. The courts needn’t declare all sports protected by the First Amendment, because MMA ? which, as the name suggests, draws on a mosaic of different fighting styles ? is special, Friedman said.

    Um… how is it special? Or is it special in the same sense that the health insurance market is special (even if it shares those characteristics with a bunch of other markets)?

    SLD: I don’t think the event needs to be special. If two guys consent to beating each other up and people want to pay, let them. However I’m not sure this is a First Amendment case.

    1. Why can’t it be? The first amendment applies to all expression, not just literal speech.

      1. That’s right! Sleeping in a park? First Amendment!

    2. I’m not sure this is a First Amendment case.

      I’m sure it’s not.

    3. They had to say that it was “special” to seek the First Amendment exemption, because otherwise they would have to argue that all sports are protected, and the court would never go for that.

  6. They’d ban artwork like “Ow My Balls”
    Fucking Philistines.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAg1r6zw7Bg

  7. Capoeira is somewhat like dancing. MMA is more like bar brawling.

    1. actually MMA is moar like wrestling since most MMA fighters started as wrestlers.

      1. my sp;elkjign is moar like marbl,.asdmna in my adf;lam mouf

        1. odl mexs spoff >>

      2. Lay and Pray wrestlers, FTL.

    2. MMA is nothing like bar brawling.

    3. MMA is very nuanced if you know what to look for. Just a tiny difference in an opponent’s body position may present the opening needed to gain control and win a fight. It’s very technical because there are so many possible ways to win, and so many mistakes one can make that would cause one to lose, that the top fighters in each weight class could all beat each other, depending on who’s having a good or bad day.

      Not like a bar fight at all.

  8. “The nature of martial arts is a lot like dancing.”

    Yup — except it’s dancing on top of another person.

  9. Its a 9th amendment right, not 1st.

    Tulpa will disagree.

    1. Tulpa would also disagree if you said “Its a 1st amendment right, not 9th.”

      I say it can be both.

      1. It’s neither.

        1. Its clearly 9th.

  10. This raises the important first amendment question of who is the greater artist: Sasha Grey or Sahsa Mirvic?

    1. Grey. She’s an actress, musician, and author.

  11. I love MMA and I love the 1st Amendment.

    But this argument is daft.

  12. This is actually a general question of personal freedom vs. government powers. Because this question is arising at the state level, it’s entirely dependent on what powers are granted to the states involved by their constitutions.

    Not being an expert on the New York State constitution, I can’t say, but I’d love it if someone knowledgeable could chime in.

  13. This is actually a general question of personal freedom vs. government powers. Because this question is arising at the state level, it’s entirely dependent on what powers are granted to the states involved by their constitutions.

    Not being an expert on the New York State constitution, I can’t say, but I’d love it if someone knowledgeable could chime in.

  14. I’m a martial artist (a real one–Shotokan Karate), and I get that real martial arts do indeed have an artistic side (much like, say, gymnastics or olympic diving, which are scored similarly to karate kata tournaments). I’m not convinced that MMA is any more a martial art than boxing or wrestling, and to be honest, I’m not sure which of the latter two it resembles more (assuming, as I do, that boxing involves a real contest, while wrestling matches are pure entertainment, and somewhat scripted).
    Nonetheless, all participation is not only voluntary, but enthusiastically so (I’ve known a couple of MMArtists, and they train really hard). Consequently,it’s none of the government’s business. Whether you could get the Supremes to buy that is another question, of course.

    1. What about real wrastling?

    2. I think you mean “wrassling”. Wrestling is what they do at the Olympics. Wrassling is scripted and what they show on TV.

    3. To be fully serious, the issue of whether MMA is art is not a big deal. Courts have long allowed restrictions on commericial speech, and would likely allow CT and NY to continue their bans on commerical MMA matches.

    4. LOL. How is karate a “real” martial art, but boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, judo, samba, and jiu-jitsu aren’t? Not to mention several MMA stars such as Georges St. Pierre and Lyoto Machida have a background in karate.

      1. I never said they weren’t. Of course they are. MMA is primarily entertainment, but anybody who’s good at it has learned (at least) one real martial art, like the ones Montani mentioned. No argument at all.

        1. MMA is arguably more of a “real” martial art than karate

          1. Agreed, the more recently developed martial arts that have recent history of actual combat use are more “real”. Some of the older arts have become more sport like, i.e. Tae Kwon Do. I believe MMA has origins from competitions in Japan around 1900 or so to find the most effective martial art skills.

          2. Doesn’t this depend on whether your argument stressed the word ‘martial’ or the word ‘art’?

        2. I’m a martial artist (a real one–Shotokan Karate), and I get that real martial arts do indeed have an artistic side (much like, say, gymnastics or olympic diving, which are scored similarly to karate kata tournaments). I’m not convinced that MMA is any more a martial art than boxing or wrestling…

          Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn’t really prepare the student for actual combat. A guy could get clobbered while getting into this classical mess. Classical methods like these, which I consider a form of paralysis, only solidify and constrain what was once fluid. Their practitioners are merely blindly rehearsing routines and stunts that will lead nowhere.
          I believe that the only way to teach anyone proper self-defence is to approach each individual personally. Each one of us is different and each one of us should be taught the correct form. By correct form I mean the most useful techniques the person is inclined toward. Find his ability and then develop these techniques. I don’t think it is important whether a side kick is performed with the heel higher than the toes, as long as the fundamental principle is not violated. Most classical martial arts training is a mere imitative repetition – a product – and individuality is lost.
          When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style. – Bruce Lee

    5. Oh, and hopefully this picture should answer any questions about whether or not MMA is scripted or a real fight. Again, LOL.

    6. A martial art is a fighting or war art and not just the Asizn martial arts, i.e. Karate, TKD, Wing Chun, Judo, Jiujitsu, Muay Thai, Silat, etc, etc. Western boxing, real (olympic) wrestling, BJJ and Krav Maga are also martial arts. For that matter, fencing and marksmanship are technically martial arts.

  15. since NYS allows boxing, i think the best argument is that their ban on MMA is arbitrary

    1. Still not sure how it rises to a Constitutional issue, though.

      1. It doesn’t.

      2. the issue is that it’s an ARBITRARY restraint of trade, etc.

        iirc, boxing has a higher death rate, and a comparable injury rate.

        since they allow boxing, their refusal to license MMA is arbitrary

    2. Still not sure how it rises to a Constitutional issue, though.

      1. Fucking aquirrels!

      2. It still doesn’t.

  16. Dumb argument, which, if the court buys it, will create bad precedent.

      1. Because the First Amendment protects your freedom to SPEAK. The SCOTUS has expanded that to cover “expression,” which includes certain actions that nobody in their right mind ever would have characterized as speech, but can be understood as expressing a viewpoint or idea.

        What we’re heading towards is anything and everything being guaranteed as a constitutionally-protected right.

        I also don’t buy the argument that a pole dance in a titty bar is protected by the First Amendment.

        Too often, people rush to the courts to force their desired choice when the legislature has already decided otherwise, by claiming that their desired choice is somehow magically guaranteed by the Constitution. See Roe v. Wade.

        Do I think two big palookas should have the right to beat the shit out of each other while others pay to watch? Sure. Is that “right” protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution? Shit no. Is it protected by the Ninth? I highly doubt it. The Constitution doesn’t really have much to say about it.

        Most of these types of things really are simply questions of public policy, for which we have elected representatives. At a certain point, despite our libertarian desires for ultimate individual freedom, the will of the majority does have to have some degree of legitimacy in determining the law of the land. If the current legislature has determined that it is against the public policy of the state to have to guys beat the shit out of each other while others pay to watch, I’m having a hard time making a constitutional case out of it.

        Find that the First Amendment protects this, and then maybe it protects the “Occupy” hippie’s right to drop a deuce on the sidewalk.

        1. Its better than anything and everything being categorized as something that the government (or the majority) can restrict. If it is a negative action, I have no problem. (That means taking a shit on the sidewalk isn’t legitimate.)

  17. Hey, the ‘human cockfight’ scare was trendy in 1997, any surprise that New York passed laws based on Date Line fear mongering?

  18. I think you could also call it a violation of the freedom of religion.

    The original Olympics, and all similar sport competitions in ancient Greece, were all religious festivals.

    The MMA guys should declare that they are battling each other for the greater glory of the Life Spirit.

  19. Will the First Amendment become the new Commerce Clause?

    “I don’t know or care what it actually says, but I think it means I can do as I wish! Stop OPPRESSING me!”

    1. When the court acknowledges that the 9th covers all inalienable natural law rights, which would include MMA, then, no, the first wont become like the commerce clause.

      The 9th SHOULD be very expansive, that was its purpose. To me, anything that is a negative right under a “desert island scenario” that isnt specifically mentioned elsewhere in the constitution is a 9th amendment right.

      1. The first is kind of like that, too. Negative rights of expression.

        1. Sure, but it covers 5 or 6 specific things (depending on how you want to count). The 9th covers all the rest.

  20. It is my understanding that throughout U.S. history, sporting events (and public performances generally) were regulated by local governments.

    In one 19th-century university town, entertainers needed the university’s permission to perform. So that the students could be spared from unedifying spectacles (except in the next county over).

    1. Bad precedent should be ignored.

    2. weird, how ten year old kids are encouraged to become spectacles for adults by playing organized pee wee football, but having them work in a factory to support their families offends the sensibilities of America’s middle class soccer moms ever so concerned about the plight of the poor, unless that poor kid can catch a ball while getting smashed around. Fucked up priorities based on irrational sentiments rule the day.

  21. “Hey, check me out everybody! I’m dancin’, I’m dancin’!”

  22. That’s what the Ultimate Fighting Championship is arguing in a new lawsuit challenging New York’s 1997 law prohibiting such bouts.

    A law passed by the same halfwits who believe that bareknuckle boxing is more dangerous than gloved boxing.

  23. I’ve heard a lot of conclusions that this is not a FA constitutional issue, but I haven’t seen any explanations why not. Do theater performances have FA rights to perform? Can NY ban theater without infringing the FA? If not, how about professional wrestling? Is that materially different from theater? It’s clearly a performance. So how is MMA different from theater or professional wrestling?

    As for the comment regarding restrictions on commercial speech, what is MMA selling? Is the same thing that TV/Movies/Theater is selling? Commercial speech is advertising for a product, the “commercial speech” cannot be the product itself.

  24. Correct Amendment, wrong clause. They should argue freedom of assembly, not speech.

  25. Dancing: Lame.

    UFC/MMA: Lame.

    So, under the Lameness Doctrine, yes, it’s protected.

  26. Despite what this post claims, the UFC seems to be focusing on a different, and (I think) more compelling argument related to the first amendment. They will argue that NY state legislators clearly wished to ban MMA in the state because of the negative messages it sends to society about violence–think of the children! If these legislators wished to prohibit the communication of a message, that seems to be grounds for challenging the ban on a first amendment basis.

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