Before the MMA we know today, back when the Ultimate Fighting Championship was first introduced to the world, the term “mixed martial arts” meant something different. it meant there would be a match where someone who trained in a striking style (like karate) would fight against someone who trained in a grappling style (like judo).
After years of watching grapplers win the tournament, people who learned striking arts realized they had to round out their training in order to deal with an opponent who was too close for them to pull off that spinning roundhouse kick. This is the point when mixed martial arts gained the meaning it has today: one martial artist who knows striking AND grappling techniques.
However, there is still some confusion over the term MMA. You might hear someone who is looking into taking martial arts say something like, “I want to learn MMA fith style!” What they don’t realize is that MMA is not a “style” in the way that tae kwon do or judo is. It is a combination of techniques from many different styles.
The next question an interested party might have is, “What are the most common techniques I would learn in an MMA school?” Well, there is no easy or short answer for that because each school will focus on whatever techniques the head instructor prefers. However, the one answer that CAN be given is what fighting styles the majority of MMA schools base the their curriculum. Network with friends about MMA fighting styles and learn more by becoming a PlayrsClub member!
Western Boxing Fighting Styles
With a wide variety of punches (jab, cross, hook, uppercut) that can be strung together in combination, a strong emphasis on footwork (to close the distance), and a healthy selection of defensive techniques (bob and weave, the slip), it’s easy to see why boxing is the primary striking art for many MMA fighters.
MMA Style Muay Thai
Know as the art of eight limbs, this is a very versatile system that includes long and short range techniques in MMA matches. The fighting style uses features such as punches, kicks, knees and elbows, as well as clinches and throws.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Style
Made famous at the start of the UFC by the Gracie family, this is the art that made many believe striking arts were useless, at least within the context of MMA tournaments. It consists of positioning, chokes and joint locks. Most fights end in submissions from the styles and techniques found in this art.
Fighting with Judo
Translated as “the gentle way,” judo is similar to jiu jitsu fighting in that it has a large groundwork and joint lock component. There are also a wide variety of throws.
Amateur Wrestling in MMA
What MMA draws from this style is an emphasis on explosive movement and stamina, both of which are critical to victory.
The Karate Fighting Style
One of the first martial arts to become popular in America, most people don’t realize that there are many different styles under the title of “karate” such as Okinawan karate, Shotokan, and Kyokushin. All of these different schools have some basic strikes in common like punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes and open-hand techniques like the knfe-hand, spear-hand, and palm-heel strikes.
Tae Kwon Do Fighting
I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but where I live, tae kwon do is probably the most popular martial art right now. It is primarily a kicking art, with an emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, roundhouse kick and sidekicks.
Across these seven fighting styles, you can find the basis for what you will encounter in most MMA schools.
There is one word of caution to be shared about jumping directly into an MMA school: while it may seem cool to fight like one of your UFC heroes, you really ought to pick one of these styles and learn the basic rules of it first. Before you go mixing and matching styles, you should have a solid foundation in one style. Even the most seasoned MMA fighters got their start this way. Anthony Pettis was once quoted as saying, “I’m definitely a traditional martial artist first and a mixed martial artist second.” (See the quote here.) You can’t break the rules unless you learn them first.
Then again, it all depends on what you want to do with your MMA training. If you aren’t super serious into the martial arts but are just looking for an interesting alternative to a cardio workout, then by all means go to an MMA school first.
Above all, remember to have fun!Want to know more about fighting styles? Become a member or get a football t-shirt to show off your appreciation for this sport today!
Steve Grogan is the creator of Bully Free Fitness, a site devoted to one simple concept: people who are bullied often have poor self-esteem. A practitioner of a martial art called Wing Chun Kung Fusince 1995 and Team Beach Body coach, and author of THE SEARCH FOR THE WARRIOR’S PATH.