Each discipline has its own merits and each was designed for a specific function in a certain place and time. Assuming that physical combat is always the same in every country and every century is a mistake.
If your only interest in martial arts is to learn how to defend yourself from an attacker on the street, then you need to consider which martial arts styles are best for this purpose. Alternatively, if you are more interested in historic techniques and ancient disciplines, then some of the more modern martial arts would be a waste of your time.
Main Types of Martial Arts Styles
- Kung fu
- Krav maga
In the eighties, everyone thought karate was the best martial art around and Judo was also a very popular form of self-defense. But learning to throw an opponent who allows you to use their weight against them is unlikely to help you against an armed attacker. Traditional boxing doesn’t involve any throws or kicks, but at least it teaches the student to keep their guard up and protect themselves when striking, while karate-style punches and blocks can leave you exposed to an opponent’s attack.
“Someone with only a year of training in boxing and wrestling could easily defeat a martial artist of twenty years experience.” – Bruce Lee
The internet and the real world are full of self-described experts who claim to know the one and only supreme Super-Saiyan martial art. Most of these people are lying and many just want to take your money. There are so many different approaches to self-defense and martial arts and so many reasons to pursue such disciplines, so the question of which martial art is best can only be answered by you.
You have limited time and money and simply can’t pursue every single discipline so read through the following list to familiarise yourself with a few of the options.
It was first developed in medieval Japan after Chinese martial arts were imported to the Okinawa islands. Karate became popular in mainland Japan in the early 20th century and went global in more recent decades. Karate is all about efficiency of movement, with direct, short attacks in straight lines.
There is no denying that Karate looks cool and teaches the student to deliver quick and powerful punches and kicks. But competitive Karate is more about style and routine than any practical combat techniques. If you like Japanese culture then this is for you, but if you just want to win more fights on the street, it isn’t particularly practical.
While jiu-jitsu is the father of Japanese martial arts and has influenced aikido and judo, the most modern offshoot is BJJ. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a more practical version which focuses on takedowns, ground fighting, and self-defense but also includes kicks, knees, and strikes. This is a great sport for those who want to be able to defeat a stronger opponent. Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of this style need only look at the Gracie family; particularly Royce Gracie who won 3 of the first 4 UFCs with jiu-jitsu.
Historical European Martial Arts are focused on reconstructing the Western fighting styles depicted in medieval manuscript pictures and the writings of fencing masters like Hans Talhoffer and Johannes Liechtenauer. Most HEMA is focused on weapons training, which is probably not very useful unless you happen to live in an area where muggers come at you with longswords. But there are also many grappling techniques and other forms of unarmed combat that have been preserved through history.
Modern martial arts are dominated by Oriental styles, so it is great that Occidental methods are being revived as these have less focus on Eastern philosophies like the negation of the self, which seem pretentious and boring to some Westerners. HEMA will keep you fit and is great fun but it’s really just a patchwork made from fragments of surviving historical methods and is not therefore as effective or comprehensive as modern mixed martial arts techniques.
This brutal Siamese discipline is focused on clinching and elbow and knee strikes to deliver swift and severe damage. Fitness is an important part of Muay Thai and most gyms will have an intense workout to prepare fighters for the ring.
Although similar styles have existed in Thailand for centuries, the term Muay Thai was first used after the introduction of British boxing to Thailand in the early 20th century. The traditional Thai styles merged with British boxing to form the highly effective style practiced around the world today.
Muay Thai fights are preceded by ceremonial dances with traditional Thai oboe music called Sarama. Many travel to Thailand specifically to train in the gyms there, but if you do this, you may require translation services if your coach doesn’t speak English. This style is a great combination of practical and effective techniques and tradition.
Despite the fact that Jews like Daniel Mendoza and Jack Kid Berg were among the most prominent East End boxers of their time, the Jews as a people aren’t stereotyped as fighters. But Krav Maga is a merciless form of self-defense developed by the Israeli military, which inherits the legacy of the hefty Hebrews.
Krav Maga focuses on practical ways of neutralising an opponent in a realistic scenario which is why the Mossad and Israeli police have developed their own versions. It’s all about efficiency and intuitive movements so it is easier to learn than other more traditional martial arts and is certainly more useful for defending against an armed assailant.
The problem with Krav Maga is that it assumes the opponent will be neutralised by a kick to the groin or an eye gouge but you can’t really practice these properly in the gym. If you take up Krav Maga, it is best to do so in a safe environment which allows students to spar and test techniques.
Systema is sometimes seen as the Russian version of Krav Maga but there are some crucial differences. Systema is not simply a style based on quickly neutralising dangerous assailants but also involves control of emotions and breathing so that you are more able to withstand and recover from attacks. Clarity of mind is important, because rather than relying on your intuitive, survival instincts like Krav Maga does, Systema requires that you remember pressure points and techniques in the event of an attack so that you can more easily execute the moves you learn in training.
Your Path to Becoming An MMA Fighter
Although debatable, MMA is frequently put forward as the fastest-growing sport in the world. It was made popular in the ’90s through an American TV contest- Ultimate Fighting Championship, where elite martial artists from various disciplines were pitted against one another to compare between the combat techniques.
Now it’s a massive sport, with big-budget networks and a global audience to back them. Even though during the UFC days, MMA didn’t exactly have a set of rules, nowadays, the sport is played with a defined set of rules like all the other sports. Even then, it’s still a growing sport. Wondering which martial art is right for you? Maybe MMA is your path.
What is MMA
MMA is short for Mixed Martial Arts. It’s a fighting sport, with combat techniques acquired from various disciplines, such as- Thai-boxing, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and boxing. Matches are mostly fought in cages.
The players are termed ‘MMA fighters’. A game is played between two fighters, where each of them tries to achieve dominance over the other, using three basic tactics- striking, finishing holds, & control.
Combat is won through in game by submission from a player, knock-outs, and decision if the referee or the match doctor deems it necessary.
Modern MMA features various sets of defined rules and techniques. It takes a lot of training and composure to fight in the highest stage that is UFC.
How to become an MMA fighter
Becoming an MMA fighter is a big commitment, as it requires a lot of passion and compatibility. You need to look out for certain points to become an MMA fighter. Here we will discuss a few in brief.
Age and gender
For most sports out there, age is a big factor. Almost all of these sports favor a young age. MMA is not any different. But it’s also true that it has comparatively favorable terms for age of entry.
But if you wish to become a proper MMA fighter, you will have to start from a very early age. Modern MMA requires fighters to be highly conditioned & trained. The perfect age to start training for MMA would be around 15-16. This is the time your body develops. If you truly want to become an MMA fighter, you can fine-tune your physique using diets and other measures, from this age.
It also gives you better fighting compatibility as you start acquiring the techniques from a very early age.
It should be kept in mind that the age of entry into professional MMA fighting is 18. UFC doesn’t allow anyone under 18 to fight in its games. You can still participate in amateur games and gain experience before reaching 18.
That being said, you can start training in your twenties even in later stages. It might even be better to tune your body after it’s fully developed. Also, as you are older, you are better composed for an intense sport like this. If you are too old for the sport, you can take on MMA for self-defense.
It’s very effective as a self-defense measure, as it incorporates various martial art techniques.
As for gender, MMA accepts male as well as female fighters. There’s a female section of UFC with listed female MMA professionals. It even allowed a transgender professional to fight despite controversies.
Gears and equipment for MMA training
It is very important to wear the right gear for MMA training. If you aren’t wearing the right protections, training sessions can cause bad injuries that will affect you throughout your career. Also, being uncomfortable in your training hurts your learning process.
If you are learning Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ for short, you will need a proper gi, which is a Japanese kimono-shaped dress, customized for this very sport. Check out MMAStation.com for some premium quality gi suggestion.
If you are learning amateur boxing, you’ll most definitely need boxing gloves. You will need it for Muay Thai also.
For Muay Thai, it’s very important to find the proper shorts. If you are uncomfortable in your shorts, you are going to have difficulty learning.
For amateurs, it’s practical to buy MMA headgear to provide the head area some cushion in training. You will also need to buy MMA gloves on a professional level. Even for a beginner is fun, to avoid putting your ready to fight hands into someone’s else’s sweaty gear 😉
Choosing your martial arts & other fighting disciplines
MMA is literally short for mixed martial arts, meaning it is composed of various martial art techniques. It is necessary to have knowledge of all of those disciplines.
Which discipline you want to start with is a major decision for you. If you want to learn MMA for competitive stages, rather than for self-defense or fun, then you will have to be serious about making this choice.
If you want to prepare for heavyweight competitions like UFC, it’s advisable that you start with Muay Thai and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. Both of them give you comparative striking & defensive abilities.
While Muay Thai will focus on off the ground combat techniques like-kicking, punching, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu will help you with on the ground combat, which is very important for professional MMA.
Boxing is also a very important part of MMA. Jabbing techniques are quite useful while striking your opponent. You will have to learn a bit about that too.
Even if you don’t become an MMA professional, it’s still useful to have martial arts training for self-defense.
Joining a gym
It’s a very crucial step towards becoming an MMA fighter. Choosing a gym is maybe one of the most important things you do for your MMA career. Because having a crew is very important in professional MMA. And the gym you work with usually provides that. A crew consists of instructors, physicists, etc. So it’s very important that you choose the right crew.
Even though in the early stage, you don’t have to worry about such stuff. Usually, the gym you join becomes comfortable for you & you get used to the crew. Then it will be hard to let them go afterward. So choosing a gym is very important, as you not only acquire a place to train, but also a family to support you later on.
Many people try to do it without gyms. It’s not advisable to follow YouTube videos or online instructions when it comes to practical phenomenons like combat techniques.
Coming down to which type of gyms you should join, the choice is plenty. You could join a Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or a Boxing gym. You could also join an MMA gym, where they teach a combination of all those techniques. If you want to specialize in a certain discipline, you could simultaneously choose an MMA gym and a discipline-based gym.
Pay care to compare the costs and make the right long-term decision. If you join a costly gym & run out of money after a short time, it may not be beneficial for you. Compare the programs and choose the best one for you at the best cost.
Fitting gyms in your schedule
Fitting the gym in your schedule is a problem for many who are studying or doing odd hour jobs. You will find gym hours are constantly conflicting with your work hours. It can leave you overstressed.
If you choose to go to the gym before work, intensive gym schedules, like those for MMA, may leave you tired at work. If you choose to do it immediately after work, you will be drained after the whole day’s work & may not be able to give your best at the gym.
So you will have to balance your work hours and your gym hours. Perhaps you can focus more on gyms around the weekends and do less overtime or even take a job with favorable hours if you are that much passionate about MMA.
Another way could be building your own home gym. We have talked about how it’s not constructive to start learning martial arts alone. But after some time, maybe if you are confident enough, you can start doing it at home.
If you can afford it, you can keep an instructor at home too.
Building your own gym at home isn’t that hard either. If you have an extra room at your house, you can use that to build the gym. Otherwise, use your garage, with a temporary setup. You won’t need to buy many instruments for your home gym.
Networking & promoting yourself as a fighter
It’s important to have some proper links if you want to reach the highest stage of MMA that is UFC. You can start by putting yourself out there.
First of all, if you are under 18, you can do amateur fights to bolster your skills as well as earn some reputation.
This way, you can go professional as soon as you turn 18. If you over 18, you can try lower-division fights and make a name for yourself. Nothing puts you on the map of the MMA world, like fights.
You can build a website for yourself. Put your profile on the relevant sites. You can highlight your fighting videos there. You can also send relevant content to the UFC. These steps may get you a fight, even a sponsor.
If none of these martial arts styles tickles your fancy then you should keep researching as there is so much more available than what has been covered in this post. If you attend an MMA gym then your coach will combine techniques from various disciplines including kickboxing and wrestling, depending on which gym you attend. That might be a good way to start and later focus on a more specific style that suits your abilities and tastes.