Can You Train MMA Without Competing Or Fighting?

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If you’re considering jumping into the violent world of mixed martial arts, you probably have some hesitancy about getting punched in the mouth.

I did, too, when I first walked into my martial arts gym.

But many people train MMA without competing or fighting and still reap the physical and mental benefits.

Key takeaways 👊

You don’t have to compete or fight at all to train and enjoy learning mixed martial arts.

It’s entirely possible to ‘spar’ lightly without having to go to competition or get into any street fights.

Many of the fighting skills in MMA can be gained through training practice with experienced coaches on the pads, technique classes, and drilling on the heavy bag.

If you want to understand more about training in MMA without the competitive aspect, then keep reading.

Training mixed martial arts without competition

Training MMA doesn’t require you to compete at all if you don’t want to.

Most MMA gyms are open to all that want to learn MMA for other reasons than competing or actually getting into a fight.

Those could be reasons like improving confidence, increasing fitness levels, or learning self-defense techniques in case you ever need them.

Competition is a normal part of any combat sport, particularly in ground fighting like BJJ and Wrestling.

Jiu-Jitsu competitor receiving medal in Bali

And it’s a healthy addition, as it will teach you a lot about yourself. But it doesn’t mean you have to compete.

Some specific martial arts can be practiced without ever going near competing or even sparring, like with Boxing or Muay Thai.

You can do pad work with your coach and hit the heavy bag for the rest of your life if you want to.

It probably won’t help you get the best understanding of fighting or defending yourself, but it’ll definitely improve fitness and confidence.

Learning MMA without fighting

You can learn MMA without fighting.

But without training against a sparring partner, it’s challenging to become prepared for a real fight.

Sparring is a common practice of training mixed martial artists because it helps them to improve their skills against another person.

There are lots of great ways to learn the techniques of various martial arts, without ever punching someone in the face (or receiving one).

These options include:

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  • Practicing on a heavy bag or freestanding bag
  • Pad work classes
  • Footwork drills
  • Technique drills
  • Fight conditioning
  • Or working on any of the above with a coach

A majority of any fighter’s training time is spent working with coaches, on the bag, or in a pad work class.

That’s because it simply doesn’t make sense to risk getting beat up every day in sparring.

The sparring floor is usually twice a week in most gyms, one near the beginning and one at the end of the week.

And there are good reasons for that, like having enough rest between getting punched in the head and learning new skills to apply between sessions.

I won’t lie to you, though. Sparring can be very challenging in the early days.

It does offer some of the best gains in figuring out your style and how to defend yourself.

It also helps you learn to handle difficult scenarios that would be difficult to imitate, like in pad work or on the bag.

Sparring will raise your level for fighting or defending yourself, there is no doubt.

When sparring becomes necessary for MMA

Eventually, every mixed martial artist will reach a point where they likely can’t advance their skills, reactions, or awareness without sparring.

If you want to become a significantly better fighter, then actually fighting is the best way to get better at advanced skills like positioning, response, and countering.

Some people don’t plan to fight another person, so training on pads or the bag will always be enough.

If you don’t want to fight with another person, you don’t have to.

But go into your training in the knowledge that you may not be able to reach your fullest potential of fighting ability.

Mixed Martial Arts is, after all, about fighting to beat your opponent. And the only way to reach that potential is by actually testing yourself and learning from a fight.

Training MMA without getting hurt

You can learn MMA without getting dangerously hurt, though injuries can’t always be avoided.

Any training in combat sports is a risk.

Newbies often hurt each other because they haven’t learned self-control, even in controlled environments.

Many common mistakes can be averted by direct training with an experienced MMA coach, as most injuries happen between beginners and white belts.

If you’re new to MMA and concerned about getting hurt, here’s some of my best advice as an intermediate-advanced student of martial arts myself:

Be patient

Many beginners in MMA rush things, go too fast, and end up getting themselves or someone else injured.

I can tell you from experience that, on occasion, you will encounter other students who think they are more skilled than they actually are.

Fresh martial artists often learn a few skills, but they haven’t developed any control over them.

I’ve had various injuries caused on the BJJ mats by other white belts who didn’t control their excitement or energy to practice grappling safely.

Being patient is a two-way street. You should show patience with yourself and your abilities and tolerance for other beginners like you.

Don’t think you know how to do something safely. Use any doubt as an excuse to ask your coach for help.

And don’t presume your training partner does, either.

Let the coaches guide you into improving your skills without jumping ahead before you truly know how.

Choose a respectable gym

Who you learn from is a massive part of learning good form, great technique, and staying safe.

If you pick your MMA gym for its credibility alone, you might end up way in over your head.

Some MMA gyms can be about nothing but intensity, competing, and reaching the top.

Gyms like this are great if you have a solid base and know what to expect, but jumping in the deep end with MMA gyms is just a quick route to a broken nose.

If you’re on this article, you likely are more inclined to learn techniques, skills, and values of mixed martial arts without anything too heavy.

So you’ll want to pick out a gym that prioritizes community and support and perhaps even one that is more family orientated.

Martial arts gyms usually come in one of these two flavors: competitively pushy or bettering yourself. And the latter is what you’ll want.

The coaches you learn from are, of course, important, too as you need to find the right mentor to train with that understands your goals.

A great coach knows how and when to push you to be better but doesn’t shy away from demanding safety considerations from fighters and trainees.

What to read next

Now you’re clued up on training MMA without having to compete. You might next want to learn more from these similar articles:

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