Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Limitations of MMA

Events such as the UFC,WEC,Pride etc. often labeled "Mixed Martial Arts" are nothing more than "Sports", plan & simple. While it does have lessons to be learned for the reality based Martial Artist , but it is in no way representative of real world self defense.First, in MMA the competitor's are there by their own free will to engage in this "sport"& under it's rules. There is no alternative to "fighting",but in self-defense, fighting is not the only solution nor the only option. Avoidance/Escape, de-escalation and negotiation are important elements of true defense.The goal of real world defense is to avoid having to fight in the first place & the "defender" should not be a "willing participant"even in the case of pre-emptive or intervention on behalf of another defense .True voluntary engagement in violence without rules or limitations should be labeled Combat ,which again is VERY different than Sport-fighting or Combat Sports.

Current Rules/Fouls in MMA

No........ Headbutting,Eye gouging,Biting,Hair Pulling,Fish Hooking,Groin Attacks,Finger in any "orifice",small joint manipulation,strikes to the spine or back of head(rabbit punch),Throat Strikes(including grabbing trachea),Downward elbow strikes,Clawing,Pinching or twisting of the flesh,Grabbing the Clavicle,Kicking the head of a downed opponent,Kneeing the head of a downed opponent,stomping a downed opponent,Kicking to the kidney,Pressure Point Strikes,Spiking an opponent on his head or neck,Throwing an opponent out of the cage,Holding the gloves,spitting,Unsportsmanlike conduct that may injure opponent,holding ropes or fence,abusive language,attacking opponent.........on the break,after the bell,while being attended to by referee.Timidity,avoiding contact with opponent,faking an injury,interference by corner.

Pretty extensive list and as you can see these rules make current MMA competition very different from what you might encounter in a real street situation. The current rules prohibit many of the cornerstone techniques & tactics that are the go to methods used in reality based defense.MMA restricts some of the most effective counters you could use to keep a grappler/wrestler from taking you to the ground.I recommend avoiding going to the gound/"goundfighting"(in the mma sense)in an actual encounter. There is of course no consideration to the introduction of weapons or multiple opponents in MMA because it is a sport.In the real world there simply are not any rules or a referee to save you."Tap Outs"are irrelevant and even if your attacker verbally agrees to cease hostilities doesn't mean he will.
Also ask yourself what happens if your grappling technique fails.Even if you break someone's arm doesn't necessarily mean the fight is over or he still won't attack.A drug crazed thug may not even be aware that you broke his arm.While certain joint locks & manipulations will bring submission victory in a sporting match,they may not incapacitate a real assailant.Choking someone unconscious definitely puts an attacker out of commission,but you have to be really close to the apply it. IMO most arm locks & leg locks have limited applications except as a control technique for Law Enforcement or to use appropriate force according to the "ladder of force"(only enough to defend oneself or neutralize the threat compared to too much/ excessive force). Grappling must be used cautiously due to the risk of intervention by multiple people as well as the possibility of introduction of weapons.Imagine applying a perfect lying side arm lock,but the perp grabs a pocket knife with his free hand and starts slicing your legs and stabbing you repeatedly. The same dangers apply to Chokes & Strangles.Never put yourself in a position that you can't easily disengage from,get to your feet and create distance
"You fight like you fight train" is a common quote that is probably pretty accurate in the difference between training for sports & training for the real world.If you never train the "illegal"techniques, it's not likely you'll instinctively use them when the chips are down.Perhaps if you are in a static grappling position and are aware of them,but not by reflex in a scramble.
However, no one could argue that we(reality based Martial Artists)have not gained much knowledge of value from MMA.We have learned the importance of Grappling/Counter-Grappling & the need to have a diversity of skills just like Bruce lee preached to us many years back(some such as myself luckily realized this long ago).We learned that you had to test & train your techniques against fully resisting opponents & to train like you fight(this is why grappler's dominated early events). You can still train the "illegal" techniques,but you really need some kind of protective equipment(padded suits,helmets and the like)to train them in a dynamic realistic manner.If you don't have access to quality gear,then you'll have to stick with controlled drills and non-contact sparring simulations. Tony Blauer's website is a good source for info on the gear as well as how to use it in reality based training.

Also,there's a good article on the topic of this entry at