I have always been cautious about being able to defend myself in a tricky or violent situation.
I wanted to feel that if a confrontation presented itself that I could handle it. My MMA training has given me a lot more confidence but is MMA good for self defense?
MMA is very good for self defense if you build up a solid foundation of both ground and striking skills in your training. MMA will increase your awareness, confidence, and stamina for defending yourself. But you still have to be cautious of “illegal” strikes.
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 go picking a fight.
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.
Let me tell you why the beautiful mixed martial arts will give you a fighting chance.
It combines the very best martial arts into one style
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 track record for being so successful.
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.
Is MMA effective for self defense?
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 as well as on the floor.
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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.
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, then you would be in a good position to defend yourself against any attacker.
But that’s the key thing, you need to 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 it when it takes several years to become competent in Jiu-Jitsu.
Why MMA can be bad 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 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 quite likely that it will be with a complete 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 just have a professional boxer on your hands, and you don’t know it. A boxer’s hands can be lethal weapons, even on the street.
Reasons to choose MMA for self defense
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 of the 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
Confidence is a big part of improving your mind when training in MMA. But there are more benefits you will find in learning this sport.
Martial Arts push extreme demands on your body and your mind. After training MMA for some time, you’ll begin to 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 practice in mental strength, and it does improve over time.
MMA will strengthen your body
Of course, the pressure you will 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 being able 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.
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 of the challenges to face when in the middle of a fight.
In Mixed Martial Arts, you must deal with various attacks, counters, and defense.
To be able to handle each situation as it changes is a lot of stress for the brain. Building natural responsiveness to what comes your way can take a lot of practice.
Training any martial art or combat sports will help you with this kind of 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.
How to pick the right base for self defense
As I mentioned earlier, the four primary martial arts studied in MMA are Boxing, Muay Thai, BJJ, and Wrestling.
There is a lot of debate amongst students of the sport and fans about which is most important as a base for a fighter.
Some say that Wrestling is fundamental to being able to control your opponent. That is, if you want the fight to be on your feet, you can.
If you want the fight to be on the floor, you can. Wrestling gives a fighter the option to choose where to take the fight.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers some of the most technical control skills. Which is very effective when the fight is on the floor. These techniques can help you to control an attacker, even if they are much taller or heavier than you are.
You could expect that most fights would stay up on the feet. Most people don’t have any experience in Wrestling or BJJ, so it wouldn’t be their first instinct unless they plan to use their weight as an advantage.
If that happens, having a good level of Boxing and Muay Thai would allow you to handle someone without this experience much easier. Weaving, counters, and devastating kicks to the body and legs would make them think twice.
Having experience across all these martial arts will give you the best ability in a fight.
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.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.