I imagine the debate between what is better, traditional martial arts or mixed martial arts, of for that matter, reality based martial arts.
Of course, there is no real clear cut answers. Each have strengths and weaknesses. I suspect there really isn't as much of a gap between the arts. The quality of the teacher and the mindset of the student are the most important elements.
To touch on the TMA vs. MMA debate:
One argument in favor of MMA is that there are resisting opponents. The lack of uncooperative training partners is often this is cited as one of the main failing in some traditional systems. And I agree, it is...to a point.
The cooperative partner is a problem, yes. Operating under the illusion that your opponent will be compliant is not only unrealistic, but dangerous.
This is why the effective use of distraction, or softening techniques, and a corresponding understanding of the body's reaction to pain is essential to practice realistically. If this is not covered then MMA is probably a good idea because at least you've experienced some form of a struggle or a fight (albeit with a low chance of injury, it has rules after all).
In my opinion, if you understand action and reaction, then non 'rules based' traditional systems are superior. It's just harder to judge the outcome for those who have never used any of the techniques in a real environment or in real confrontations.
Having said that, one of the biggest challenges in TMA is how to train realistically. After all, how can you practice an elbow joint lock and break against a resisting partner? Overcoming the resistance ends with a broken elbow.
That why learning and practicing to be a good uke is so important.
The use of a responsible amount of force in the softening techniques will illicit at least a moderate realistic physical response, allowing you and your partner to learn to react appropriately to the application of a technique.
Mix it up so the uke doesn't know where you'll hit, pinch, kick, or slap next. This will give a reasonably accurate marker of the natural pain and shock response.
If you don't study how a resisting partner will react to pain, distraction, techniques and follow up, you're really only studying half of what you need to know.
MMA has a lot going for it. Working with a resistant partners is sometimes overlooked in TMA circles. MMA is also very demanding and great for fitness, timing and sport fighting. It's also very entertaining. Hey, I'm a fan who watches the events.
For those who don't have access to teachers who understand the body, pain, action and reaction, adrenaline and stress, MMA may be the better choice. After all, you get a peek at all these areas, all the time.
The bottom line though, is that MMA is too geared towards the safety of the participants to be deemed a truly effective system for actual street combat. TMA is superior to MMA for effectively responding to real violence, but only if the teacher and student understand the cause and effect of the techniques being learned.