Is MMA Good for Self Defense?

Is MMA Good for Self Defense?

Most martial arts encompass some form of self-defence training and that is among the most common reasons why people start doing martial arts or combat sports. Life can be pretty unpredictable and although you’ll probably try to avoid a fight, you won’t always be in a position to do so. So, if you really have to, it’s better that you’re prepared to defend yourself than not. Self-defence is a complex system of moves whose goal is to teach a person how to defend him/herself in a potential fight. It encompasses a variety of situations – regular fighting, manual weapons, guns, etc. – and if taken seriously, can be quite an advantage in tricky situations.

MMA is very good for self-defense. In fact, it is second only to Krav Maga, which was developed for the sole purpose of defending yourself.

That was quite a narrow answer. We must delve into the topic a little bit deeper. So, how exactly does MMA figure into all of this? Well, let’s find out. 

General Benefits of MMA

Before we start with the defensive aspect of MMA, we’ll list some general benefits of doing MMA, so that you can see how much it can offer:

  1. The benefits of physical activity – any physical activity is highly recommended and MMA is certainly a discipline that demands a lot from you, but also gives you a lot of benefits. You’ll be healthier, more mobile and will generally look and feel better. 
  2. Socialisation – although MMA is an individual sport, training sessions, going to the gym and sparring sessions all require close social contact and can, perhaps, lead to the formation of a strong friendship or relationship with someone. Just remember how Rocky Balboa, the main character of Stallone’s cult franchise, had a close relationship with his coach. 
  3. Discipline – MMA is a martial art that requires a lot of determination and is very demanding. Not everyone can do MMA the way should be done and if a person does not have the required discipline, he may quit. Luckily, MMA does build one’s discipline so it can be beneficial in that aspect likewise. 
  4. Learning your limits – since doing MMA requires a lot of discipline, it has to teach its fighters to control themselves. You do not fight to kill someone; you fight to win and there are certain limits you’ll have to adhere to in order to be a good fighter. 
  5. Self-defence – people who take on MMA while learning how to attack, also learn how to defend themselves. Although you should always avoid confrontations when possible, life sometimes doesn’t allow you to escape or avoid a conflict. In such situations, it is better to know hot to defend yourself than not. 
  6. Building confidence – while teaching you how to attack, how to defend and how to win, MMA also builds on your confidence. It allows you to create a better, a much stronger image of yourself and the confidence you have in the ring, during a fight, will emanate to all other aspects of life. 
  7. New knowledge – MMA is not just punching and kicking, it is a very complex martial art where tactics usually play a much bigger part in winning, than just pure physique. Learning new tactics and tactical approaches, but also new fighting styles, doesn’t just increase your knowledge, it stimulates your brain as the adrenaline of a fight demands for a quick response. 
  8. You’ll feel younger – this one is more for our older readers, as the physical and health benefits of MMA will, undoubtedly, result in your body, and with it your mind, feeling younger. The mere fact that you can hold out and win a fight against someone who’s probably younger than you will be a boost so strong that you’ll probably feel at least 10 years younger. 
  9. You’ll grow as a person – each new experience is special and enables you to develop yourself as a human being. MMA has a lot of different aspects and approaches, and learning (about) them will certainly enable you to grow as a person. 
  10. You never know… – relating to the above-mentioned stories, you’ve heard that legendary boxer Rocky Marciano started at the age of 25 and ended with an unbeaten run. You never know what the future hold, so even if you start at a later date, just remember that you might become the new Marciano. 

Is MMA Good for Self-Defense?

Now that we’ve gone through the general part, we have to see whether MMA is really good for self-defence. You’ll find opposing opinions on the Internet. Some people will say that it’s not that beneficial, while others will state that it’s the perfect technique for self-defence. So, what’s true?

Those who don’t think MMA is beneficial for self-defence usually state that it’s move set is more focused on attacking, rather than defending. Surely, you’ll learn how to defend yourself – and the fact that MMA is a combination of martial arts will allow you to practice different defensive approaches – but the focus of MMA lies with the offensive, rather than the defensive.

You will, the critics say, learn how to fight, how to beat someone up (to use street language) and how to defend yourself against someone less skilled than you, because you’re better prepared, but that’s it. There is no focus on defensive moves or tactics, there is no specialised self-defence. You’ll learn how to deflect or block a shot, but nothing more.

They often use real-life examples from fights and incidents as examples, also the fact that some MMA fighters, like Conor McGregor for example, have no chance against someone taller and heavier than them, because of their physique. This is where the lack of precise defensive training kicks in.

Although it combines a lot of martial arts, MMA doesn’t use the sophisticated teachings of some Oriental martial arts, which are highly focused on self-defence and learning how to defend yourself in a variety of different situations. 

On the other hand, people who support MMA state that it’s the best possible discipline for self-defence. Why? It’s complex, it’s diversified and it teaches you a lot. Certainly, MMA is a regulated sport and the cage fights aren’t completely identical to street fights, i.e. real-life fight you might be a part of in an unavoidable situation, but they teach you a lot.

The combination of different styles can be extremely beneficial for your defence. It is exactly what the critics say is wrong with MMA, but many practitioners say that this diversity is the best thing about MMA’s self-defence techniques. Of course, MMA’s self-defence isn’t your standard self-defence you can see in Oriental martial arts, but is rather an offence-based self-defence style; sometimes, offence is truly the best possible defence.

If you combine this with the afore mentioned general benefits of MMA, you’ll realise you will not only improve your defensive skills – you’ll improve your whole physique, your mind and your skills in general. That’s how good MMA is for you and that’s how you’ll be better prepared to face any opponent. 

Here is a very good video that explains the usage of MMA for self-defense, and what are some of the differences when it comes to using MMA skills in the gym and being in a situation to defend your life in the street.

Other Disciplines Good for Self-Defence

Despite being focused on MMA, we’ll give you a list of other disciplines that can be beneficial for your defensive skills:

  • Muay Thai and Kickboxing
  • Judo
  • Taekwondo and karate
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu
  • Krav Maga

The first four points can be and usually are studied during MMA training, but Krav Maga is a very specialised skill that is almost exclusively defensive. In a way, it is a very sophisticated self-defence course and if you don’t want to work on anything else but your defence, Krav Maga is certainly going to be a good choice for you. 

Also, be sure to check out our complete breakdown of 11 best martial arts for self-defense, and how do they rank when it comes to defending yourself.

And that’s it for now. Keep checking to see our new content and more on the topic of martial arts. 

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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