Is MMA Good for Self Defense?

is mma good for self defense

Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world due to its exciting nature, big personalities, and technical prowess displayed by incredible athletes.  Its evolution has separated the wheat from the chaff when it comes to martial arts.  That is to say, it has shown what martial arts work and which ones don’t.   However, this begs the question – does the proven efficacy of these martial arts only apply to the cage, or does it apply to the street too?

After all, this surge in popularity has caused many people to train MMA in order to give them the confidence to survive difficult encounters.  As with any martial arts practice, there will be pros and cons of training MMA for self-defense, but what are they and are there other training options?

What is MMA?

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. It is a full-contact combat sport that allows a wide range of fighting techniques, from a mixture of martial arts traditions and non-traditions, to be used in competition. The rules allow for the use of striking and grappling techniques, both while standing and on the ground. Whilst the sport has similarities with the Ancient Greek Pankration, modern MMA competitions have been held since the early 1990s. The sport has gained a great deal of popularity in recent years and regional organizations have sprung up all over the world.

Part of this growth is due to MMA’s effectiveness as a form of self-defense.

why is mma effective for self defense

Why Is MMA Effective for Self-Defense?

MMA can be an effective form of self-defense because it teaches practitioners to defend themselves against a variety of different attacks and to respond appropriately to a range of different situations. Training involves learning various strikes, such as punches, kicks, and knees, as well as grappling techniques, such as throws, takedowns, and submission holds.

Along with learning the techniques themselves, MMA students typically spar regularly. Whilst significantly different from a street fight, this sparring should help the student develop greater control over their fight or flight mechanisms and help them feel more comfortable with contact and physical confrontation.

MMA helps practitioners develop confidence in their ability to defend themselves and to stay calm under pressure. It also helps to improve physical fitness and coordination, which can be important factors in self-defense situations.

How Can A MMA allow Smaller Fighters to Overcome or Restrain a Larger Opponent?

MMA fighters have a number of combat tactics they can employ to defeat a larger opponent in a street fight. Some tactics that a smaller fighter might use include:

  • Apply leverage: Techniques such as joint locks, chokeholds, and other submissions, a smaller fighter can utilize leverage to their advantage to control or subdue a larger opponent.
  • Speed and quickness: Smaller fighters may have an advantage in terms of speed and agility. This can be used to their advantage by outmaneuvering their larger opponent and attacking them with quick, powerful strikes.
  • Technique: Even if a smaller fighter doesn’t have the same physical strength as their larger opponent, if they have trained MMA, they may be able to compensate with superior technique and skill. A smaller fighter may be able to use their footwork and head movement to avoid their opponent’s attacks before they counter with well-placed leg kicks or crafty hooks. Many people entering into a brawl will only be thinking about using their hands, but the greater arsenal of an MMA fighter involving elbows and knees may be very useful.
  • Strategy and Composure: If a smaller fighter is trained, they may be able to think more clearly under the pressure of having a larger attacker. An untrained attacker may try to use their size and weight to bully a smaller foe, which may initially seem intimidating to someone untrained. A trained fighter may be able to handle a larger adversary by staying calm and having a strategy. As the old adage goes “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
  • Grappling: It is worth noting that most people haven’t spent as much time learning to grapple as MMA practitioners. If a smaller combatant takes their opponent to the ground and knows how to apply holds and submissions, they may be in a very strong position. If your opponent attempts to grapple with you, use bridging and shrimping techniques to escape. Bridging is done by creating space between you and your opponent by lifting your hips and driving your weight through your shoulders and arms. Shrimping is done by using your legs to drive your hips away from your opponent while simultaneously protecting your neck.

How Does MMA Allow You To Safely Subdue an Opponent?

Defending yourself from an attacker or multiple attackers is a great thing to learn, but no one wants to find themselves in legal difficulties due to unnecessary permanent damage caused.

Like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, MMA provides the user with submission holds, which involve using techniques such as joint locks and chokeholds to force an opponent to tap out or otherwise signal their submission. These techniques are designed to be applied with precise control so that the practitioner can apply enough pressure to subdue the opponent without causing serious injury.

Other techniques, such as throws and takedowns, can also be used to safely take an opponent to the ground, where they can be controlled and subdued without causing significant harm.

If you are a trained fighter who is able to evade an opponent’s strikes, and then take them to the ground, their experience should provide them with a great deal of control. For those who haven’t trained in grappling techniques, the feeling of ground fighting can be compared to swimming for the first time. The sense of panic will often cause someone to clench up and become exhausted. If a fighter finds their opponent in this state, chokeholds can be applied to immobilize them and prevent them from fighting back.

It’s important to note, however, that MMA is a full-contact sport and injuries can still occur, even when techniques are applied with proper control whether in the gym or on the street.

How do you neutralize an opponent’s strikes with MMA in a street fight?

In a street fight, successfully neutralizing an opponent’s strikes with the MMA technique can be challenging, but it is possible. To begin, the most important thing to do is to remain calm and keep your distance. If your opponent is trying to close the distance and engage you, use angles to evade their strikes and move away. Once you are in a safe distance, use footwork to create angles to attack your opponent while staying out of range of their strikes.

When defending against punches, using parrying and blocking techniques can deflect and absorb the impact of the punch. Parrying involves using your arm or hand to redirect the punch away from your body. Blocking refers to bracing your arms in front of you to absorb the impact of the punch.

When defending against kicks, the best technique is to use check and sprawl techniques. A check is done by raising your leg to block or “check” the kick, preventing it from connecting with your body. A sprawl is done by pushing your hips back, dropping your upper body, and arching your back to absorb the kick’s impact.

What Are the Disadvantages of MMA for self-defense?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is an effective form of self-defense, but it does have some drawbacks.

It Takes time to Develop Skills

One of the main disadvantages of MMA for self-defense is that it requires a significant amount of training in order to become proficient. While basic techniques can be learned relatively quickly, developing the necessary skills to use them effectively in a real-world self-defense situation takes time, dedication, and practice.

Like any other skill, the difficulty of learning MMA will depend on the individual’s natural abilities, previous experience in martial arts or other sports, and the amount of time and effort they are willing to put into training. Some people may find it easier to pick up certain techniques, while others may struggle more with certain aspects of the sport. Some people prefer grappling, whilst others prefer striking.

MMA may not be the most effective form of self-defense for everyone; individuals with certain physical limitations or disabilities may struggle to use the techniques properly.

MMA is a Sport

A common critique of MMA is that it only trains a user to fight under the rulesets of MMA. MMA fighters do not practice techniques banned in the sport such as eye gouges, throat strikes, minor joint manipulations, or headbutts. It should be noted though that whilst there are a handful of martial arts such as Krav Maga, Muay Boran, and various forms of Kung Fu which have these techniques in their syllabus, it is almost impossible to practice them in sparring due to the risk of severe long term damage that could be caused to friends and training partners.

Another overlooked disadvantage is that when someone finds themselves in a street confrontation, the best response is to try and extricate themselves from the situation, either with de-escalation tactics, alerting law enforcement through making noise, or by creating an opportunity to run away. MMA fighters may be inclined to look at street conflicts in the same way they would look at a competitive fight rather than looking for ways to prevent a situation from becoming violent.

MMA Doesn’t Train With Weapons

If an attacker has a weapon, even a highly trained MMA practitioner may be unable to defend him or herself properly. MMA techniques are often ineffective against multiple attackers, as it can be difficult to incapacitate all assailants at once.

Finally, while MMA is an effective form of self-defense, it can still be dangerous; even if you manage to successfully defend yourself, you may still sustain injuries. For this reason, it is important to ensure that you are adequately prepared before attempting any type of self-defense.

Differences Between MMA and Street Fighting

The Differences Between MMA and Street Fighting

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and street fighting are two different forms of combat. MMA involves a variety of martial arts techniques and training methods. Street fighting, on the other hand, is an impromptu physical altercation that typically occurs in public places.

 The most significant difference between MMA and street fighting is the rules and regulations that govern each form of combat. In MMA, there are specific rules and regulations that participants must adhere to in order to compete safely. These rules include weight classes, time limits, no striking to the back of the head, and no eye gouging. In contrast, street fighting does not have any rules or regulations. As such, it can quickly become dangerous for all parties involved.

 Another major difference between MMA and street fighting is the level of skill required to be successful. MMA requires a great deal of skill in order to be successful. Participants must be well-trained in a variety of martial arts techniques, including striking, grappling, and submissions. This type of training takes many years of practice and dedication. Conversely, street fighting does not require any specific skills or training. It simply involves two people engaging in physical violence without any formal rules or regulations.

 Finally, another key difference between MMA and street fighting is the level of danger posed by each. MMA, whilst an undoubtedly dangerous contact sport is considered relatively safe to unrefereed street fights, as long as the rules are followed. Street fighting is considered very dangerous due to the lack of rules and regulations. It can quickly escalate into a violent situation with serious physical and legal consequences for all involved.

Benefits of MMA

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an ever-evolving combat sport that combines elements of multiple martial arts disciplines, including boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and more. MMA provides a wide range of physical and mental benefits that can help both experienced athletes and beginners alike.

 The physical benefits of MMA are quite extensive. MMA training helps to build strength, endurance, agility, and power, as well as improve balance, coordination, and reaction time. It also helps to increase flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular health. MMA training also helps to develop core stability and muscular endurance, which are essential for functional movement. Additionally, MMA has been known to burn a significant amount of calories, making it an effective way to lose weight and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.

 In addition to the physical benefits, MMA can provide numerous mental benefits as well. Training in MMA requires focus, discipline, and determination, which can help individuals to become more disciplined in other aspects of their life. MMA training can also help to reduce stress, increase concentration, and improve self-confidence. Furthermore, the sport encourages self-defense skills, which can be helpful in many real-world situations.

 Overall, MMA is a great way to improve your physical and mental well-being. It provides a wide range of benefits that can help to make you a stronger, healthier, and more confident individual. Whether you’re looking to compete or just want to stay in shape, MMA offers something for everyone.

Related Questions

Is MMA better than boxing for self-defense?

Whether MMA is better than boxing for self-defense depends on a number of factors. Both sports require strength, speed, agility and good technique to be successful, so the effectiveness of either for self-defense will depend on the individual’s level of training and experience.

 MMA is generally considered to be a more effective form of self-defense because it combines different fighting styles, such as striking, grappling, and submissions. This means that practitioners have a wider range of techniques they can use in any given situation. Additionally, MMA fighters have access to various pieces of protective gear, such as headgear, shin guards, and gloves, which can help protect them from serious injury in a fight.

 On the other hand, boxing is generally thought of as being less effective for self-defense due to its reliance on striking techniques. While punching can be effective for defending oneself, it is often not enough to disable an attacker. Additionally, boxing does not provide the same level of protection as MMA, as boxers are not allowed to wear protective gear in the cage.

 It is also of note that whilst both arts will have fighters spar in gloves, MMA gloves are smaller and more akin to fighting barehanded. It is not uncommon for boxers to break their hands, particularly when fighting on the street. The support which boxing gloves provide, particularly to the wrist can give boxers a false sense of security. A bare-handed fist landing against some of the harder parts of the skull may result in broken hand bones.

 Ultimately, the best form of self-defense comes down to personal preference and the individual’s skill level. If someone has experience in both sports, they may be able to choose which one works best for them. However, if someone is just starting out, they may want to consider taking classes in both and determining which one works best for them.

Related: Boxing Gloves vs. MMA Gloves

Is MMA Hard to Learn?

MMA is a challenging and complex martial art that requires dedication, hard work, and determination to master. Learning MMA is no walk in the park, as it involves learning a variety of techniques from multiple disciplines like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, and more. It takes time and effort to learn the correct technique for each move, as well as the timing and rhythm needed to effectively apply them in sparring and fights.

 It’s also important for those learning MMA to understand the mental game, as being able to control one’s emotions and stay focused during a fight can be just as important as physical skill.

 If you are interested in learning MMA, it is important to find a good instructor and training facility and to be patient and consistent in your training. It may take some time and effort to become proficient in the various techniques and strategies used in the sport, but with dedication and hard work, it is possible to make progress and improve your skills over time.

Lastly, proper nutrition and conditioning are essential for any serious MMA practitioner, so eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep and rest between training sessions are key. In short, while learning MMA can be difficult, with the right attitude, dedication, and hard work, it can also be incredibly rewarding.

Which One is Better for Self-defense: Krav Maga or MMA?

Deciding which one is better for self-defense between Krav Maga and MMA can be a difficult decision as both martial arts have many different benefits. Krav Maga is a form of self-defense created by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1940s, then further combat developed by the Israeli Defense Forces for military and law enforcement settings. It is designed to be used quickly and effectively against an aggressor to disable them without causing long-term injury.

 The techniques used in Krav Maga are simple and effective, making it an ideal choice for those who want to learn self-defense techniques quickly.

 On the other hand, as MMA incorporates techniques from many traditional martial arts styles, it is a more complex system than Krav Maga. It requires practitioners to learn multiple techniques that can be combined to create effective combinations. MMA also requires a great deal of physical fitness and

conditioning, making it a good choice for those who are looking to develop their physical fitness as well as their defensive skills.

 As mentioned previously, MMA fighters may be more prone to treating a real-life altercation with the same mindset as a sporting competition. Many Krav Maga students on the other hand may be more likely to look for ways to escape, potentially using eye gouges or attempting to create distractions. Other KM disciples may have a “kill or be killed” mindset and feel that brutal violence, sometimes with improvised weapons found in the vicinity can be used. This can lead to severe legal difficulties.

 One thing to note is that MMA gyms will typically have fighters who compete in the sport. The records of the fighters in the gym will help determine what standard the coaching is in the gym. Krav does not have the same competitions and the standard of coaches can fluctuate wildly. If you find a gym with a former IDF instructor, you are likely to experience real “authentic” Krav Maga.

 Conversely, in recent years there has been a boom of Krav Maga McDojos. McDojos, a portmanteau of McDonald’s and Dojo, is a way of describing gyms much more centered on making money than on developing the ability of students.  It is good to keep an eye open for this.

 In the end, both Krav Maga and MMA have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to self-defense. It is important to consider your individual needs and goals when deciding which one is best for you. If you are looking for a quick and effective self-defense system, then Krav Maga may be the better option.

 If you are looking for a more comprehensive system with a focus on physical fitness and technique, then MMA is probably the better option. Ultimately, the decision is up to the individual and what they feel will work best for them.

Are MMA Fighters Allowed to Street Fight?

Generally speaking, street fighting is a form of criminal activity and any physical altercation in a public place can lead to legal repercussions for those involved, whether they are professional fighters or untrained citizens. This means that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters are not allowed to street fight almost anywhere.

 Furthermore, the techniques used in MMA competitions are typically much more dangerous than those used in a street fight. If an MMA fighter were to engage in a street fight, they or their opponent could be severely injured or even killed due to the lack of proper safety precautions. Additionally, being involved in a street fight may damage an MMA fighter’s professional career and reputation. For these reasons, it is strongly discouraged for MMA fighters to participate in street fights.

 The UFC, which is the most prominent MMA organization in the world, has a code of conduct that forbids its fighters from engaging in any type of unsanctioned, unregulated combat. This includes street fights, as well as other types of unprofessional conduct. The UFC also has a strict set of rules which all fighters must adhere to, and any violation of these rules can result in serious penalties or even the termination of their contract.

 Despite there being various myths of fighters having their hands or feet registered as deadly weapons, this is a widespread misconception. No such register exists, but should the fight result in a court case due to serious injury, or even accidental death, a fighter may be more heavily scrutinized by the prosecution for showing a lack of restraint.

 Even if the martial artist was sober at the time of the incident and acted in self-defense against a person who was drunk and aggressive, there is a chance that the single blow can render the other person unconscious and they might fall and hit their head, resulting in death. It is vital to understand that this risk exists for everybody – one punch has the potential to cause someone to be disoriented and fall, leading to a fatal injury.

 A major vulnerability of humans is that our heads are located at a great distance from the ground, making it dangerous to encounter the ground when we fall. Furthermore, we have manufactured materials such as cement, asphalt, and hardwood flooring which make it even more hazardous if someone were to hit their head when they fall. So, it is not just the one hit which is lethal – it is the impact of the victim’s head on the ground that is dangerous. This risk is ever-present.

 There are various examples of professional fighters getting into legal difficulties because of their decision to use violence in the street. Several years ago, former Light Heavyweight Bas Rutten fought six bouncers in a Swedish nightclub. Despite coming out of the fight relatively unscathed, this event saw him doing some prison time.

 More recently, Jorge Masvidal decided to “sucker punch” his former friend-turned-rival, Colby Covington. This resulted in Masvidal seeing legal issues and a suspension from competing in the organization.


MMA can help you develop self-defense, build your confidence, give you new knowledge and arguably make you feel younger due to the mental and physical health benefits it provides. However, if you are training it purely for self-defense, it is worth cross-training with arts such as Krav Maga, or getting some classes in conflict management.

Many self-defense experts argue that having a strong situational awareness is often the best way to protect yourself as it should allow you to remove yourself from a potential conflict before the first punch is thrown. Others will also point out the efficacy of a great 400-meter sprint. This sprint can be great not just for getting away from a dangerous scenario but should help you develop your cardio, which is of critical importance in any martial arts practice.

It’s always great to try different disciplines to see what you enjoy as much as what you think will be useful to you.

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