How can MMA be considered to be good for self defense? It’s a sport. It was not designed for anything else?

I think this hype with the UFC is getting annoying. If you read across the internet or talk to people within the martial arts world a lot of them bash traditional styles. I don’t understand that. These traditional styles that people are bashing were desgined for life and death situation, they have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years. MMA has been around for like 20 years and it’s only the last 5-10 years that it’s gotten a breakthrough. It’s a sport, filled with rules and restrictions.

Real life does not have rules and restrictions. I just think that when it comes to self defense classical arts such as kung fu, karate, TKD, jiu jutsu and so on are unbeatable. There is nothing wrong with doing MMA. Just as people train basketball. But I don’t think it should be used for self defense.

Where is this hype about this sport coming from? What can be done to prove that when it comes to self defense traditional arts are better?

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18 Responses to How can MMA be considered to be good for self defense? It’s a sport. It was not designed for anything else?

  1. John says:

    I think you are one of those people who will never be able to change their mind. I could take you to a tournament where MMA fighters face off against TMA fighters and the TMA lose every fight and I bet you would still make excuses. Excuses sucha as “He was not allowed to use his deadliest techniques, he had too much respect for his opponent to use all his force..” and so on, and so on.

    I am not questioning the traditional martial arts itself. I am questioning their training method. I could honestly write an entire essay why I disagree on how a lot of these arts train. Like no sparing, no improvisation, just simple one step techinuqes. If you do that, then I do this type of thing. I think it’s BS.

    In real life how does a fight look like? A fight is messy. People kicking, punching, wrestling all over the place. How does a MMA fight look like? It’s something similar right? How does a TMA training look like? Does it even resemble a fight at all? Or anything similar to a fight. Mostly no and that is the problem.

  2. ShyGuyBoo says:

    It stems from the ignorant media. Now to say traditional martial arts or MMA is better for self defense is not so. It depends on the individual. Some people might be able to apply MMA techniques in a self defense situation more effectively as opposed to them using a traditional martial arts style and it goes both ways. It is really about the quality of training you receive. But like you said, real fights have no rules, at all. There will be things that will be done in a real fight that nobody can train for. So, it just comes to what works for you.

  3. Paul says:

    mma is a very shallow word or lack there of
    it makes things increadibly confusing
    just replace mma with ufc or it
    can be replaced with nhb(no holds barred or combat sport)
    so your combing an art with another aspect of another art
    bjj with muai thai
    boxing with wrestling etc etc but this doesnt not equat mma because
    there is no definition so this word must be obliterated for all
    intense and purposes

  4. SiFu frank says:

    A lot of schools shifted to MMA curriculum with the popularity of the MMA on sports networks. It was good for business and a way to get young folks interested in training. It was more about money and less about self defense. Traditional martial arts is a hard sell against all the free advertising and the popularity of the Kings and princes of BJJ. Of course these schools will vehemently deny this and say they can kick but. Sure some may; however the comparison of purposes is like apples to oranges. Sport only vaguely resembles self defense. If your on the ground in a self defense situation it is because your loosing it bad. The techniques used for self defense make for lousy TV. Matches would last seconds instead of minuets and the spectators would become bored and feel cheated. The last time someone did some real good successful martial arts in the ring they the match was booed and everyone ranted on here for days. about the guy that didn’t put up a good show.

  5. Frank the tank says:

    Because they train fighting techniques with resisting opponents.

    MMA is nothing new, it has just changed names, look up pankration, which is very much like modern MMA, and about 2000 years old.

  6. Donald says:

    Sometimes one person’s opinion and $1 will buy you a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.

    Would YOU like fries with that?

    Come on. MMA isn’t being promoted as self-defense. You’re setting up a straw man, a false argument, just so you can knock it down. Yes, it’s a sport. You want self defense? Take a self-defense course at a local police station.

    Having made the point that MMA isn’t being promoted as self-defense, I’ll now go out on a limb (not a very long limb, though) and argue that MMA is better than nothing. Further, it’s better than most, if not all, TMAs if a practitioner were put into a self-defense situation.

    Maybe TMAs were developed “for life and death situations.” Hundreds or thousands of years ago, as you note. They’ve evolved, too. Talk about rules and restrictions. Have you been to any karate tournaments recently. I have. Let’s omit forms. Let’s omit musical forms. Let’s omit breaking. Let’s just consider sparring. There are tons of rules and restrictions.

    Let’s consider MMA fighters. Sure, there are still rules and restrictions. But you can do takedowns…which you can’t in many TMAs. You can do submissions which you can’t do in many TMAs. You can do ground control, which you can’t do in many TMAs. You can use your elbows and knees, which you can’t do in some TMAs. In brief, the MMA fighter has many more tools at his or her disposal than a TMA practitioner.

    Where my son studies MMA, there are a couple of students with solid Tae Kwon Do backgrounds. One is a second degree black belt in TKD (going for her third) and she teaches TKD at the gym. Her boyfriend is a third degree black belt in TKD and has had (and won) MMA fights. They both take MMA classes. Their striking is excellent, but they’ve added additional skills (he’s a purple belt in BJJ; she’s a blue belt) to become more well-rounded.

    No, real life does not have rules and restrictions. You’re correct. But in the real world, the person with the most skills is going to have an advantage over someone with fewer skills.

    You ask: “What can be done to prove that when it comes to self defense traditional arts are better?” I’d suggest matching an MMA fighter up against a TMA fighter. You’d still need some rules, but strip away as many as you can. Hold the competition at a local MMA tournament. Or at a local karate tournament. Have the two of them fight. See who does better. (Note: There are plenty of videos on YouTube along those lines.) That’s a simple and pretty definitive way to determine which approach–MMA or TMA–is more effective.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Artist says:

    You are completely right.

    MMA is a combat sport, nothing more. It can not be used for actual self defense. Many MMA guys claim that their training is realistic and close to what you’d be actually doing in a fight, but really, that’s not true:

    -In MMA, you have rules and restrictions, like not being able to hit the groin. On the street you don’t – anything goes.
    -In MMA, you fight against one opponent. On the street, you could be facing multiple opponents
    -In MMA, there is no weapon defense. On the street, there are weapons (knives, clubs, etc.)
    -In MMA, you wear gloves and other protection equipment. On the street you don’t.
    -In MMA, you are trading blows with someone and fight in rounds lasting several minutes. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if you trained in an art that involved finishing off the opponent in less than 10 seconds without taking any hits?

    MMA is a sport that trains under these conditions. I’m not against it, I’m just against the fact that it’s practitioners bash other styles so much and think MMA is superior for self defense. But really, when you look at those points I just made, MMA is extremely limited in actual self defense.

    Traditional arts train you for what you will actually face on the street, which is why they are the only ideal means of self defense.

  8. Cybernator says:

    Its just that effective.

    Its not ideal, JKD trained properly is ideal.

    But its still very potent it contains many arts that are very suitable for the street, and the way its all mixed together is great training for a fight, boxing will help you alot on the street but a boxer isnt used to some guy pulling you around tripping you up getting you into a headlock etc where as an MMA guy can utilise his boxing for a greater number of circumstances.

  9. callsignfuzzy says:

    Yes, how can learning to punch, kick, tackle, throw, clinch-fight, ground-fight, lock, and choke, and learning to defend against the same, be any good in a fight? How could the fitness levels required for such activity possibly translate into usable fight conditioning?


    Practitioners of MMA don’t “bash” traditional styles. Most of us practice them. However, what MMA did was dispel a lot of the myths that were going around at the time- that ninja were unbeatable, that a single strike from a karate master would kill, that a Kung Fu expert would use a Poison Hand Death Touch and end the fight with a poke to the arm, that a Hapkido practitioner would catch a punch mid-air and secure a fight-ending wrist lock, etc. It led to the realization that using a “sport” format to train would be the quickest way to translate theoretical skills into usable ones.

    You’re focusing a lot on what MMA doesn’t do, but what about what MMA training DOES do? All that stuff I listed above is useful in a fight, and what you’ll find in even a semi-competent MMA program. The fact is that most systems that self-identify as “traditional” will have their own restrictions. “We don’t learn to fight on the ground because we don’t want to end up there.” “We don’t spar full-contact because someone might die.” “We don’t throw closed-fist punches to the head because you might break your hand.” As Judo’s founder discovered back in the late 1800’s, if you “nerf” your training format a bit for safety, you end up developing a LOT of usable skills. That’s really the biggest division in the mindsets of practitioners of MMA vs. a lot of MMA-hating traditionalists. I’ve spent years in karate, spent a few in Wing Chun Kung Fu, been to seminars in Hapkido, Aikido, and traditional JJ, and although I learned from the experiences, it wasn’t until I started “sport” training methods- kickboxing sparring, submission grappling, blended MMA training- that I was able to apply my skills. There’s just too much theory and not enough experimentation in “traditional” martial arts culture. The MMA format, on the other hand, is ALL about practice, not relying on untested theory.

  10. The Evil Potato says:

    Pro wrestling is good for self defense
    Try it

  11. DMac says:

    MMA isn’t self defense, it is just plain fighting. MMA seems to be the techniques without the philosophies and discipline. If you are in a life or death situation, you shouldn’t really be concerned with rules; go for the ears, groin, temples, knees, necks, and noses. UFC fighters could probably kick my butt easily in a fight, but if he tried to jump me on the street I would go for the throat, groin, and knees until I could run away. MMA is meant for sport and classical styles are meant to teach the art and philosophy of of defense.

  12. KyKarateka says:

    If you have an advantage in a fight whatsoever, you can use it to defend yourself. Simple as that.

    The bashing of TMA by modernists is ridiculous because they tend to group all arts under that TMA label. However, they do have a point to some degree, many TMA schools don’t train realistically therefore they forsake themselves in real fight that isn’t in the ring.

    Sure MMA has rules but instead of relying on techniques that aren’t available. Why not just adapt to the situation like any fighter would? If your hand is crippled on the street are you going to keep punching?

    TMA are just as effective as modern martial arts provided they are trained realistically and with a good teacher.

    – Hope this answers your question

  13. Halo says:

    They still train for the fight, under intense conditions.

  14. WildAtHeart says:

    1. It can be used very successfully in self defense.
    2. You are right that it’s main emphasis is sport.
    3. It’s a different mindset. A martial art is something made for war in which you kill or seriously injure your attacker. MMA is a combat sport where you knock out, tap out, or put your attacker to sleep.
    But, I am almost certain that GSP can take on just about anybody on the street and either kill or seriously injure them.
    But the whole thing martial art vs mma, is that a real martial arts FOCUS is to kill or SI an attacker.
    4. There are a-lot of things that training in MMA does not have that it should.
    – “Harsh technique” technigue designed to break bones, dislocate, paralyze, or kill.
    5. Real fights are violent and should be ended with brutal effect and ruthlessness. You can not try to fight for 2 minutes or more. A fight should last a few seconds at best.
    EX: I fight some fool and knock him out. I am not done. I will make sure that he can not get up and attack me afterwards. I will make sure he is not a threat.

    But this also doesn’t mean that MMA fighters do not have that mindset as well. I used to do MMA and was considered semi pro, and some of my friends were pros. I know that some of them agree with that mindset. But also MMA while great, is very basic. I don’t know how many things I have brought up with them that they have never seen before. Some were basis yet effective, and others were more advanced like throws from the clinch etc. Heck, my friend Justin who fights Pro MMA was very happy bc he used a throw from the clinch that I taught, much to the delight of the announcers, who said they have never seen such things.
    In short it is lacking but effective. Some say, “It is the fact that it is lacking is what makes it so great”, and I know what they mean. “All that fancy $hit is useless”. It’s not that it’s useless, they just don’t now how to apply it, to be quick, fluid, and precise. Some of these technique can take months to master. The more you know the better.

    Anyways, I’m getting off topic. Hope that helped.

  15. Mild Max says:

    How right you are.

    What could possibly be useful about training to fight by pitting yourself against other trained fighters of varying disciplines in full-contact matches where the idea is to pummel, choke or torture the other guy into submission or knock him out cold while he’s trying to do the same to you?

    People bring up multiple person defense situations as a fault in MMA but absolutely nobody takes on four people at once and wins, you break them up so you fight one person four times and who wins that kind of confrontation the most often? I’d put my money on the guy who has been trained for 1v1. The reason MMA practitioners laugh at the multiple person scenario is because it’s usually being preached to them by people who can’t even beat one assailant without being troubled by outside interference, do they honestly believe that having their assailant’s buddies join in is somehow going to give them an advantage?

    MMA as an ideal and a training method has been around since the dawn of martial arts, it’s only in the last twenty years that it’s been labeled MMA. People who call themselves ‘traditionalist’ seem to constantly forget that their styles were made by Mixed Martial Artists.

  16. jacob says:

    It good for self defense because the fighter with better convential techniques will win. let me discuss these rules that supposedly inhibit MMA.
    eye gouging- how can you eye goug someone if you cant get past a superior flurry of punches, kicks, and knees? What good is eye gouging an opponent that’s on top of you going for submissions and ground and pounding you? have you disabled him, no, is he still in the dominant position; yes.
    groin strikes- this also a lame argument. they can be blocked the same way a leg kick or body can be. A MMA fighter can also direct his kicks to the groin the same way he throws a leg kick. so MMA is at no disadvantage there.
    back of the head/spine strikes- in order to aplly these you first have be in dominant ground position by first outwrestling your opponent and than taking his back. Again with these an MMA fighter is free to direct his GnP towards these areas if he chooses.
    finger/toe locks- What do you gain with these submissions? I’ve broken my hand in the first round and still fought the remaining rounds and won a decision. That was my whole hand, not just a finger. They cause discomfort and nothing more.
    Neck strikes- In any convential MMA or kickboxing/boxing the neck is not a target. the shoulders and arms covers the sides and a tucked chin covers the throat. Besides the fact if you watch you watch Barry vs hardonk; Pat barry(240lbs k1 kickboxer) lands a full power straight to hardonks throat and he doesn’t even flich. So please I’d like to see you challenge these points. BTW why don’t you email the area where you live. If I live around there I would be more than happy to have a sparring session to show you in person the effectiveness of MMA.

  17. Jonathan says:

    The origins for this hype is from the BJJ/Gracie phenomenon. The Gracie family has been promoting their BJJ and MMA as the ‘ultimate solution for everything’, and bashing traditional styles along the way. They are largely responsible for this line of thinking in much of the general public, just a Bruce Lee contributed to the traditional styles craze back in the 1970s-80s.

    If you wish to read more about the differences between styles and the things which they focus on, please consider reading an article I’ve written with the intention of answering these questions, as well as many others:

  18. captainslone says:

    I think you’re correct when you say traditional arts (when taught and trained properly, mind you) are more effective than MMA. However, MMA is perfectly capable of being used in self defense just like boxing can. The biggest advantage MMA has over other self defense arts or sports is their physical fitness. You can walk into most dojos around the country and see a fat guy wearinga gi. Not so an MMA school (unless they’re just beginning). MMA has legitimate techniques but yes, they are taught to fight by rules and they learn to fight one person at a time. Personally, I think they compare themselves to the average martial artist of today that goes to a McDojo twice a week after school or work and really doesn’t do much more training. They could certainly wipe up the floor with some of the hobby martial artists out there today.

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