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MMA - sport or real life self defense?

Posted by Mark C.

It seems mixed martial arts is all the rage now. While I appreciate the pragmatic approach of taking the best and most effective techniques from different styles, when I looked up a local MMA school it seems there is more emphasis on competition, and the obvious question in my mind is what about real world self defense situations? Does it depend on the school, or is MMA really considered another sport now?
Answers (12)
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Rules = Sport. In MMA, there are rules like no biting, pressure points, groin strikes, etc... So, in my opinion, once you slap down a rule, you've made it a competition. When your life is at stake, you do whatever it takes. If you're interested in learning self-defense, I would recommend a jujitsu class. It combines many different techniques for various situations and also includes a bag of "dirty tricks" for use in self-defense situations.
Thanks. That is really good information. I wouldn't have thought of the question or the answer!
depends on the school. At our fighting academy, our coach not only teaches self-defense classes (for free!), women only classes, kids' classes, grappling classes, and Kali classes, he also has regular classes. In the regular classes, he not only gives the fighters extra info so that they can go that extra mile in their training but teaches the rest of us what we need to know in order to learn basic Thai boxing. He always explains why we're doing certain drills and how they fit into situations both in the ring and in the day-to-day world. He even has his own coach come in to teach us and has a boxing coach come in to do training sessions with the fighters only. There is a lot of focus on conditioning (as is often the case in Muay Thai), so his classes are beneficial to everyone, not just the chosen few. If he focussed mainly on fighters, I wouldn't be there.
Strictly Combat MMA. Yes, there is strictly combat MMA: Hapkido, Krav Maga, Kombato. I am sure more for all the Bruce Lees out there.
Both. Like any martial art.. it is what you study, how you apply it and how it is taught. MMA trains you for more realistic situations.. on how to fight while standing and while on the ground.. while in a vulnerable position or a dominant position MMA is exactly what its name states.. a mix of martial arts because there is no single one martial art that fully encompasses both ground and stand-up fighting in a realistic manner.
As brutal and realistic as MMA is, in the end it focuses on competition. I've never taken a class or attended a MMA seminar, but I don't think they offer anything in the way of weapons disarms, dealing with multiple assailants, or most importantly - preventive measures. A traditional martial arts school would include all these things in addition to developing awareness, using and understanding psychology and other areas that fall outside of actual combative techniques.

Very tough question. My opinion is that the training philosophy and not the style is the most important consideration. An MMA school where you spar at varying levels up to at least occasional full contact, pressure testing your techniques against non-compliant opponents will be much more practical for self defense than a traditional school that does not do these things, regardless of how comprehensive the curriculum. So, I guess what I'm saying is that, in my opinion, it's more the school than the style.

MMA is a sport. When you add time and rules and safety gear are limiting variables ..these control factors make MMA training and reality fighting or street combat kickboxing different.(check out Robb
Competition and sparring in and of itself teaches you self-defense. The MMA techniques are not completely geared for self-defense, but it is the physical conditioning and mental toughness that you develop from competition and sparring that allows you overcome technique. Biting and eye gouging are great, but hard to do when someone is on top of you raining down a barrage of elbows.
Reality self defense and MMA are not the same , MMA is a sport ....a brutal one but a sport.

Mark, MMA training can provide a lot of benefits with regards to partially preparing a person for real life self defense situations. The conditioning, learning what it feels like to train against a resisting opponent, and knowing how to defend yourself against strikes in a manner that is based on empiricism and not theory are all benefits of training MMA.

However, sport MMA only deals with learning how to "win" the ring. "Winning" on the street requires an entirely different mindset, tactical approach, and additional skill sets.

So, my advice is to find a good reality-based self defense school, and also to train a few days a week in a good MMA class, or take some Muay Thai and BJJ (taught at most MMA schools).

Good luck!

Mike Massie - Austin Self Defense Classes


But if you still want to try out a MMA I recommmend the original MMA, Kaujukenbo.

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