Martial Arts Instructors Have Mixed Reaction to Streep’s MMA Dig

Experts: Martial arts are an art form, competitive fighting less so

Meryl Streep / AP


Actress Meryl Streep's denigration of contact sports drew a sharp backlash from Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters and promoters, but martial arts instructors and practitioners in Washington, D.C., were a bit more forgiving of the actress's comments.

Streep caused the kerfuffle during her acceptance speech for the Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement.

"Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners," Streep said. "If we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."

UFC President Dana White blasted the actress to TMZ.

"It’s not going to be everybody’s thing and the last thing in the world I expect is an uppity, 80-year old lady to be in our demographic and love mixed martial arts," he said.

Sensei Bob Lowry of D.C.'s Samurai Training Academy told the Washington Free Beacon that the comments "initially bothered me as an insult to my art form." Lowry, a banker by day and instructor at night, has spent 26 years training in karate, jiu jitsu, and swordplay, and even spent time with Brazilian jiu jitsu legend Rickson Gracie.

"Art is the expression of oneself. When she's on the silver screen she's expressing herself through her character," he said. "When you're in the cage fighting, you're expressing yourself."

Some of his students are traditionally trained dancers and he says they have an easy time picking up the movements of jiu jitsu and martial arts because his trainings "does a dance no different than a choreographed dance."

"You're Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers out there," he said. "When [opponents] pull each other there's energy, they're flowing. It's a connection."

Lowry said that Streep is "not all wrong" if her comments only applied to the UFC. He said there is art to how a fighter trains, but not in competition. Martial arts "are about achieving balance. In MMA you only have a trophy."

Sensei Meipo Martin, assistant chief instructor at Capitol Hill Aikikai, said that once a martial artist enters competition the art of training becomes a sport because fighters weigh one another by "external standards," namely, "brutality … there are many ways to kick ass."

"Martial art is about discipline, the study itself. MMA is an event. The competition itself is not an art. It's a game," said Martin, who has trained in karate and aikido for 25 years.

One veteran politico, who requested anonymity for fear that he'd have to register his hands with the federal government, said that Streep's comments appeared to go beyond the scope of competition and diminish all combat arts.

The politico, who has trained in aikido, escrima, tai chi, and boxing, said that Streep should not denigrate immigrants and the children of immigrants who have contributed so much to Hollywood, such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.

"MMA and the modern Hollywood action movie come from the same parent—Bruce Lee. Hollywood as such doesn't exist with Bruce Lee—unless you think 500,000 Jill Stein voters are going to pay for enough mediocre independent film to keep folks like Ms. Streep in the heavy cream," he said. "Ms. Yale Drama should probably check her privilege."

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is

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