Clergy rallies against MMA in Albany, local martial artists fight back

Martial Artists work out in Syracuse on Tuesday night

Clergy against mixed martial arts visited lawmakers on Tuesday, lobbying against legalizing the sport in New York State. But locally, back in Syracuse, martial artists defended their sport, saying the detractors do not understand it.

So far, the New York State Senate has passed legislation that would legalize MMA, but the State Assembly has held the legislation up for seven years.

Multiple martial artists took part in routine classes at Inner Circle Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Court Street Road in Syracuse Tuesday night. As the sweat poured, martial arts enthusiasts took time to speak about the rally going on hundreds of miles away in Albany.

"I tend to think the people that are rallying against it are generally more misunderstanding or aren't educated about the sport," Inner Circle BJJ owner and coach Walter Johnson says.

Johnson argued that MMA is safer than some of the more respected sports in society, saying football and basketball injuries were more common than MMA injuries. He also mentioned boxing, saying a boxer gets knocked down and has to keep fighting for multiple rounds, but in MMA, the fighters just need to 'tap out', without the repeated breaks and ten-counts, to end the fight.

While the martial artists admit MMA can be a brutal and intense sport, they also recognize the 'arts' side to martial arts. April Parks, a female trainer at the gym, works there five to six days a week. She says she appreciates how many types of arts there are which can be combined like judo and boxing, citing the culture that comes with it, which breeds sportsmanship.

"Yes, we might be beating each other up so to speak, but it's like, I am so respectful of anybody that does the same thing that I do, that it's probably the best sportsmanship I've ever seen," Parks says.

While the resistance continues, these martial artists hope that New York can become the 49th state to legalize MMA.

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