Since I began learning mixed martial arts (MMA), I have consistently wondered whether my training would be impactful in self-defense.
Learning to fight will always be useful in self-defense, but training in MMA does come with rules that can limit your effectiveness.
In this article, I’m going to tell you what I think about using MMA for self-defense from my own experiences of training in mixed martial arts.
Table of Contents
Is MMA good for self-defense?
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is good for self-defense because it teaches you how to fight while standing and while on the ground and how to combine them. MMA increases your confidence, awareness, reactions, and stamina to defend yourself.
But let’s go further into some of the reasons why MMA is good for self-defense as well as a few things to keep in mind before you pick a fight.
Reasons why MMA is good for self-defense
Sometimes, avoiding unnecessary confrontation is the best tactic for defending yourself. But when you have no other choice, it could be critical to be able to protect yourself and others if the time comes.
In my practice of MMA, I’m now more confident that the sport has given me a set of tools I can use in a confrontation.
Studying mixed martial arts may not be a perfect solution for self defense. But, it will give you many skills that will help you to prevent harm to yourself and protect others.
Let me give you a few top reasons I think you could pick MMA for defending yourself.
MMA will build your confidence
Having high confidence and belief in yourself is important in any confrontation.
You can show dominance over others with a healthy measure of testosterone and courage when needed.
If a difficult situation arises, you will have the spirit to handle it. Whether that is to defuse it or to take stronger measures.
Training MMA will build your confidence. In mixed martial arts training, you have to face problems head-on.
Sometimes you will do this with ferocity, and other times with patience, counteraction, and defensive poise. Knowing the difference and when to act with each is what could make you strong.
MMA will strengthen your mind
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Martial Arts push extreme demands on your body and your mind. After training in MMA for some time, you’ll understand what it’s like to push yourself further than you ever thought you could.
I have often found myself two hours deep in back-to-back training sessions, feeling dizzy and unsure which way is up.
Somehow, I have dug deep into my spirit and demanded more of myself. This is a mental strength practice, and it improves over time.
MMA will strengthen your body
Of course, the pressure you put your body under will produce results in fitness (with the right rest).
Boxing is very demanding on your body’s stamina and explosive power.
Muay Thai is the same whilst challenging you to use more resource-heavy attacks like big kicks.
BJJ, Wrestling, and Grappling push your mobility and ability to utilize your strength over long periods.
All these arts will develop new muscles and depths of your lung capacity that you may not have experienced before.
Combining them all, like in MMA, offers the greatest benefits for your fitness and physical ability.
By having a fit, explosive, and energized body, you will be ahead of most people when it comes down to using it for a fight.
MMA increases your situational awareness
There is nothing quite like the experience of receiving a punch to the face or a kick to the stomach. These are only two challenges to face when in the middle of a fight.
In Mixed Martial Arts, you must deal with various attacks, counters, and defenses.
Handling each situation as it changes is stressful for the brain. Building natural responsiveness to what comes your way can take a lot of practice.
Training in any martial art or combat sports will help you with this awareness. MMA will challenge you to deal with them all at once.
Being confident in your ability to adapt is a powerful tool that will give you the upper hand over most people.
Combined martial arts into one modality
There is a reason that the biggest competition in the world for MMA has the name “UFC”: Ultimate Fighting Championship.
MMA is a unique sport that allows each fighter to bring any mix of unique fighting styles that they have. They only have to win the fight.
Barring illegal strikes, each fighter can present any fighting skills they choose to use.
Over time, some fighting styles and martial arts have risen to the top from being the most effective. And so now, most fighters specialize in one or more of:
- Muay Thai
- Wrestling / Grappling
There are examples of some high-level fighters who have used martial arts like Judo to be successful, too. But the four above are the most prevalent in the sport.
MMA fighters must have a mixed base of all four to succeed. They focus on these four martial arts because of their successful track record.
Some professional fighters with backgrounds in other martial arts – such as Karate, Kung Fu, and Krav Maga – have used these skills in the cage. But none quite to the success of specialists in the previous four.
Effectiveness in self defense situations
MMA is typically very effective for self defense. In learning mixed martial arts, you’d be developing skills that help you respond to various unique situations while in a stand-up fight and on the floor.
The mixture of learning stand-up fighting (also known as striking) with Boxing and Muay Thai alongside ground fighting with BJJ and Wrestling is quite potent for defending yourself.
Reasons why MMA isn’t best for self defense
A street fight is always about being realistic. Actions create results. So it’s key to understand what could go wrong and not rely on MMA being the perfect solution for defending yourself.
Let’s go into some reasons why MMA is bad for self defense.
A street fight doesn’t have rules
The sport of MMA has rules such as:
- No eye poking
- No groin shots
- No hitting the back of the head
In a real street fight, there are no rules. If you find yourself in one, you are at the discretion of your opponent’s good nature.
Whilst some fights might be to settle an argument over dominance. Others could be less civil. They might have a weapon.
MMA will give you a lot of fighting-related skills. Still, there isn’t a perfect solution to avoid a low blow or to use an actual dangerous weapon if your opponent chooses it.
When weapons are involved, you might be better off with a self-defense art like Kali or Krav Maga.
The situation could change fast
A street fight might start as a simple game of fisticuffs but could escalate quickly.
What is, at first, one opponent could become two or more, and you wouldn’t spot it happening before it was too late. An extra attacker could come from behind or anywhere.
You won’t be able to control the situation when you are already too far into it, and it could be difficult to escape.
The history of self defense is a troubled one, and often neither the attacker nor the victim comes out on top in the end.
That’s why it can often be the most responsible for avoiding it in the first place.
You don’t know your attacker’s skillset
If you get into a confrontation, it’s likely that it will be with a stranger.
You’re unlikely to know much about your attacker and whether they’ve had a history in any martial art or combat sport.
You might have a professional boxer on your hands, but you don’t know. A boxer’s hands can be lethal weapons, even on the street.
Is MMA best for self defense?
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is typically one of the best fighting styles to learn for self defense because you would develop an all-around ability in fighting. Knowing how to deal with an attacker on the feet or on the ground would help you defend yourself well.
If you can learn fundamental skills across the main four martial arts used in MMA, you can defend yourself against any attacker.
But that’s the key thing. You should dedicate enough time and energy to each type of martial art in MMA.
It’s easy to do a few BJJ sessions and think you know how to use it when it takes several years to become competent in Jiu-Jitsu.
Is Boxing or MMA better for self defense?
Boxing is a really good base for self defense because most street fights take place while standing. But fights almost always end up accidentally on the ground, and knowing how to escape a bottom position makes MMA even better for defending yourself.
If an opponent is sitting on top of you while you are grounded, then it doesn’t take an expert fighter to be able to deal significant damage. Particularly when past your guard.
Your guard is your legs (a common term used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), and they are protective because you have a lot of strength and protection by using your legs in defense.
You can wrap your legs around your opponent to control them or use your legs to block incoming strikes or attempts to grapple you.
Mixed martial artists will almost always practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to learn techniques like using your legs (guard) to protect yourself, control your opponent, and end up on top.
That’s what differentiates MMA from Boxing in terms of versatility to protect yourself in different situations.
On your feet, you can use common punch-blocking techniques for the most part.
When you’re on the ground, you need a ground fighting style like Wrestling or BJJ to stand a chance.
Final thoughts on MMA for self defense
Learning Mixed Martial Arts is definitely going to give you a strong level of skill for a fight. Most people don’t know how to fight other than to swing hard.
If you are smart enough to avoid and counter an amateur’s attack, you will have the upper hand in a fight fast.
Each of the most effective martial arts in MMA is for specific situations, such as on the feet or on the ground. Knowing only one of these may give you the upper hand in some scenarios.
But knowing and learning them all is what makes MMA effective for a fight.
Learning the sport in a reputable MMA gym and practicing often will give you the best preparation for a fight.
But as they say, the best way to win a fight is to avoid starting one in the first place.
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