young fit woman fighting a man

Is MMA Good for Self-Defense?

MMA has recently become very popular. It is a real fight involving strikes and grappling but some moves are not allowed. So, in this article, I will explain if MMA is good for self-defense.

As a general rule, MMA is good for self-defense. MMA teaches a skill set that covers all parts of a self-defense situation. This includes stand-up striking, as well as, grappling and fighting on the ground. Unlike, some other martial arts that only cover one aspect of the fight.

There are many different martial arts to choose from, and many are very effective. And involve sparring or real fights that are applicable to a self-defense situation. Today, I will explain how MMA compares to other martial arts for self-defense, how good it is for a street fight/self-defense situation, and if MMA or BJJ is better for self-defense.

Is MMA the Best for self-defense

A self-defense situation is not something a person willingly chooses, and although it’s generally rare, it’s very important to prepare for the worst. An MMA fight is virtually identical to a real fight, but is it the best martial art for self-defense?

Overall, MMA is one of, if not the best for self-defense. Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is also one of the best martial arts for self-defense. For self-defense, it’s preferable to have skills in both striking and grappling. MMA and BJJ, in general, have good skills for both of these aspects.

Some other martial arts only teach one aspect of these aspects. Either, striking or grappling. For example, wrestling (collegiate/Olympic) is one of the best grappling sports. 

A good wrestler can easily put an untrained fighter on the ground and hold them there for as long as they like. However, wrestling doesn’t teach any skills in striking. Such as, how to throw a punch or a kick.

By comparison, striking sports like kickboxing or boxing only teach striking. But, only a limited amount of grappling. Muay Thai kickboxing is a little bit different from other striking sports because it does have quite a lot of grappling. However, it doesn’t teach any skills on the ground. Such as how to keep on top of an opponent and stop them from standing up.

A study published in the Journal of Academic Podiatry found that people have two different personalities for conflict. They are either fighters or non-fighters. Non-fighters will walk away from a fight, ignore insults, and only fight as a last resort. Whereas, fighters will use violence to solve conflicts.

As part of the study, they found that fighters report the reasons they fight are:

  • Self-defense
  • To gain or maintain respect
  • Because they are angry

The two options that can occur in a self-defense situation

In a self-defense situation, one person is generally the aggressor. Someone will do something that really annoys and makes the other person angry. However, it’s also possible someone can be crazy and/or on drugs and just decide to attack a person without any warning.

When this happens they will either start throwing strikes, typically punches and kicks. Or, they will try to tackle the person to the ground and then throw strikes. When only punches, kicks, knees, elbows, headbutts, slaps, and eye pokes are involved this is called striking. 

Whereas, if in the fight people grab each other and start wrestling, or the people fighting fall to the ground this is called grappling. Here’s a separate article where I explained what grappling is, and what sports are grappling sports. It has a more in-depth discussion about what grappling is and what grappling isn’t.

The main martial arts that you will learn when doing MMA are:

  • Wrestling
  • Kickboxing
  • BJJ
  • Boxing

Wrestling and BJJ are both grappling martial arts, whereas, boxing and kickboxing are striking martial arts. Therefore, your martial arts skills will be very well-rounded. Whereas, if you do only one of these martial arts you will be lacking a little bit in striking or grappling.

What Is Better for self-defense MMA or BJJ

If you watch a BJJ match most of the time competitors are rolling around on the ground. This can raise some questions about how good it is for self-defense, so here’s a summary who which is better for self-defense MMA or BJJ.

Overall, MMA is better for self-defense. Training in MMA commonly involves getting punched or kicked for real. Whereas, in BJJ this rarely happens. For this reason, MMA is better preparation for self-defense and a real fight situation.

In certain BJJ schools, you will learn how to avoid an aggressive person who is throwing punches. For example, here’s a video that shows how BJJ works against an opponent who is striking:

But, it can be argued that actually getting punched or kicked in the body is a bit different. And until you experience it for real it’s impossible to know what to expect. To experience getting punched and kicked firsthand does vary by BJJ school. 

Whereas, at an MMA academy you will definitely do competitive sparring at some point. Which will involve getting punched and kicked for real.

Generally, however, you will start slow and only strike at 25% in the beginning.

Is MMA Good in a Street Fight

A street fight is typically an unexpected and chaotic situation that is extremely dangerous. So, being able to protect yourself with martial arts and get out of the situation is very important. This is whether MMA is good for a street fight.

As a general rule MMA is good for a street fight. MMA involves avoiding strikes and throwing strikes. As well as, getting to the clinch, avoiding getting thrown or taken down, and taking down an opponent. This covers virtually all aspects of a street fight.

However, MMA typically does not cover ‘dirty’ strikes such as headbutts. The reason is there are specific rules in MMA, that prohibit ‘dirty’ moves. Such as groin strikes, and eye gouges. Therefore, an MMA fighter needs to train these specifically. Or, have a mindset where they’re watching out for these sorts of moves.

They also typically won’t have learned defenses for weapons such as knives, and baseball bats. For the most part, specific defenses for these aren’t taught at MMA academies. But, this is a part of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu curriculum, and in some other martial arts.

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