Is MMA as REAL as it Gets for Self Defence

Is MMA as REAL as it Gets for Self Defence

The UFC uses the tagline ‘As Real as it Gets’. Meaning that MMA is as real as it gets to fighting in the real world. Is that really true? The degree of violence in an MMA contest is often compared to a street fight or violent encounter. People think it’s the same and by default that MMA is best for self defence. However, the issue is not as simple as you may think. There is a difference training for a real violent encounter, compared to an MMA fight.

In this article I will highlight the difference and suggest what you really need to know if you are serious about your self defence. First, we should take a brief look at what we mean by violence.

Understanding Real Violence

To address the question ‘What is real violence?’ You have to look at the people who are best at using violence. Surprisingly it’s not the top professional MMA superstars. The best information comes from the worst people in our society. Individuals that are highly skilled at using violence as a weapon of power and control. That operate without moral or social boundaries. What we call (in Criminal Psychology) predatory criminal individuals. These people have zero training in combat sports and martial arts. Yet they are by far the best at killing with their bare hands or improvise tools.

Just compare a typical prison to an MMA show. In both instances’ violence is key. Yet, the majority of offenders in a prison use violence as a currency of power. These individuals are more specific in their use of violence. They’re not trying to compete in MMA, rather physically harm you. Therefore, the use of violence and the intention is different.

Now these points may seem obvious. However, the implication is that a criminally motivated violent encounter is likely to be more extreme than a typical MMA fight or martial arts sparring. You are likely to be fighting for your life.

Is MMA Best for Self Defence?

Many martial arts instructors hide behind the argument that their techniques are too dangerous for MMA competition. Or that martial arts competitions have too many rules that restrict their ability to fight as they would in the real world. We’ve all seen this argument played out in challenge fights between MMA fighters against traditional martial arts. Of course, in this context MMA is better for fighting. Even with a limited set of rules. However, does that prove MMA is best for self defence?

Well, consider real self defence as not a contest between two fighters. It is more often a predatory attack on a weak and a vulnerable person. An attack is often by surprise. There are no rules of engagement, no referee, no help or support from your corner. Criminals pick their moment, and they have no boundaries in their violent behaviour.

Some may remember the terrible incident in which Anderson Silva shattered his shinbone (watch the video above). The fight was immediately stopped for safety of the fighter. Now consider the same act in a street fight. Even in robbery or home invasion. Imagine you kick the bad guy and broke your leg. Does the attack stop? Will the offender leave you alone because you are injured. Do you really think he will feel sorry for you? You can answer that question yourself.

What Are Your Rules of Engagement?

My point is that combat sports have rules designed to minimize injury in combat and this may place a boundary on how far you are willing to go. How capable you will be fighting for your life in a real situation. Of course, you will never know until you are tested. However, the reliance of training with rules does limit your awareness of how real fights can drastically change.

Recently, in our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Class I asked my students to pass the guard. Now there are certain expectations of the rules of passing the guard in BJJ. These do not include the guard passer pulling a knife while trying to pass your guard. Needless to say, when I through a knife and/or hand gun onto the mat the guard passing changed. My point is that training with a strict set of rules limits your adaptability for real confrontations.

I agree that we need rules for safety. Consider the UFC has 31 rules prevent injury. Twenty seven of those rules prevent injury to the human body. Ultimately the safety of a fighter is the main concern, therefore it isn’t ‘As Real as it Gets’. It’s violence in a controlled environment.

Many of the rules in the UFC ban certain physical attacks that are common in street fights. For example, striking the spine, the kidney, even head butting and hair pulling. How often do you see hair pulling in street fights? Even kicking or kneeing a ground opponent? Think about the amount of times when you’ve seen someone who’s on the ground being kicked in the face. These actions are common in a street fight. They’re common in a self defence situation, especially when people are angry.

Now this doesn’t mean that MMA fighters aren’t capable of fighting dirty. What I am suggesting is that the mental preparation for a violent encounter in the street will be very different to that of MMA or martial arts in general.

So What’s the Takeaway

Real violence happens in a context. The degree of violence that you’ll experience in a surprise attack perpetrated by a criminal offender intending to harm you for your valuables differs from an MMA context. It’s not comparable.

In the real world the reality is there’s only one rule: ‘there are no rules for the bad guy’. That said, you have to act in your own self protection. Nothing is best for real attack by committed criminal. No martial art will prepare you. Now this doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be an answer to your own self protection. There is, but it has little to do with which martial arts is the best style for self defence. It has more to do with your mindset. Preparing your mind to cope with violence.

That said, MMA is definitely all encompassing for fighting, but not necessarily for dealing with violence in an uncontrolled environment. Remember a bad guy, won’t stop his attack just because you’ve been injured and you can’t fight back. He will also attack you at your most vulnerable. That is his objective.

Thanks for reading.


The London Wing Chun Academy is a martial arts and functional fitness gym based in North London. Open 7 days a week with gym and functional fitness equipment. Our gym provides group fitness and martial arts classes in Wing ChunSan Shou KickboxingBrazilian Jiu JitsuFunctional Fitness, and non contact Fitness kick Boxing. Visit our gym today for a taster class. Get Started Now >>

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