1. MMA provides a good base but must be adapted
Mma is one of the most popular and effective forms of martial arts. To the point, mma practitioners scoff at the idea of using other martial arts for practical fighting. This attitude is most prevalent in regards to discussions about mma and “self-defense training for the street”. Mma practitioners think it’s ridiculous that trained athletes skilled in a variety of combat sports disciplines need to alter their training to defend themselves in the street against untrained opponents.
Generally, fighters argue you’re either able to defend yourself or not. However it’s not that simple, as mma fighters are prepared for many situations but still, there training isn’t the BEST preparation. They have a good base for developing an effective program but must alter their striking and ground strategies for optimal preparation to defend against deadly criminal assaults. This means your fighting stance, striking, range utilization, and ground fighting strategy must be altered to better meet the demands of criminal assaults.
A fighting stance generally needs to be modified for a more realistic and sensible way to deal with the beginning of a real-world assault. In a combat sports match, it’s sensible to begin from a “fighting” stance. This ensures each of you has a fair chance to engage one another. On the contrary, a stance makes less sense at the beginning of an assault. When a criminal is interviewing you, it doesn’t make sense to go into a stance and THEN begin hitting. First, you come across as the aggressor in an aggressive fighting posture and you miss your one chance to preemptively strike your opponent. This is why it’s smarter to train to immediately adopt a “relaxed ready” posture that doesn’t alarm your assailant and allows you to hit FIRST.
Also, combatives training doesn’t rely on retreating into a stance because in no rules altercations there’s ALWAYS an opening to take advantage of. While in a sporting match combination punching is practical because it’s difficult to continue attacking your opponent without them blocking this isn’t the case in no rules engagements. In a no rules altercation if he covers his head hit him in the back of the head, or knee his groin and if he blocks his body, grab his ears and rip, elbow him to the side of the head, stomp his feet hard with your boots etc.
Combinations must be interchanged for a more practical way of striking that allows you to stay close to your attacker without giving space enabling your opponent to recover. In Guided Chaos we teach this by utilizing a concept called multi-hitting. For example, when we throw a palm-strike instead of hitting with the other hand or retreating back into a stance, we immediately hit with the elbow of the same hand WITHOUT bringing your hand back to your face first. After hitting with your elbow immediately hit with a chop or hammer fist right from the position you were in after hitting with the elbow. The idea is you keep hitting in this manner without retreating, stepping back or resetting. This gives minimal chance for you assailant to recover and keep fighting or grab a weapon.
Various ranges are used in combat sports but they have limited effectiveness in self-defense. Much of the striking seen in mma sparring is done with a certain amount of distance between the combatants. There’s a striking exchange and then they step back and maintain the distance again to look for another opening to hit.
In self-defense we should strive to stay as close to our assailant as possible at all times. If they try to move back we must keep moving forward and stay attached to them. It’s important we don’t create a pause in the action unless we know our assailant is done or we’re able to escape safely. We certainly shouldn’t step back creating an opportunity for them to grab a weapon, recover, signal to friends etc. Remember in mma you’re able to win on points whereas in a self-defense situation you have to END your attackers.
Grappling on the ground should generally be avoided considering the environment, multiple assailants and the appearance of weapons. To be clear, this is not the same as saying grappling doesn’t “work”. Grappling obviously works but it requires ideal conditions to be met to work optimally. Grappling on the ground which is crowded with debris and hard objects makes grappling difficult. Also, multiple assailants and weapons make grappling even more difficult especially considering they typically come out AFTER the initial assault begins. In other words, you could be grappling on a sidewalk when his accomplice comes and starts kicking you in the back of the head without you being able to react.
A more practical ground fighting method involves avoiding taking your opponent down intentionally and if you do fall using aggressive kicking/ evasion skills to avoid being in once place. This makes it very difficult for people to kick you because you’re not staying in one place. Furthermore, be very careful with taking your opponent down and following him once he’s there. While it’s true you’re able to reliably control a single person you never know if a second person is coming to attack you. So it’s far safer to avoid taking your opponent down and if you do don’t follow him.
Lastly, if we find ourselves on the ground it’s safer to switch our strategy from “positional control leading to a submission” to strikes that damage/disable then escaping. Regardless of your level of skill in any grappling art, it takes time to set up a submission in a chaotic life and death fight against a person who outweighs you by a substantial amount of weight. Also, the act of finishing a submission hold takes time against a struggling person. During this time you’re not capable of defending yourself from potential secondary attackers due to your inability to disengage.
I hope that readers are able to find some value from this blog. Once again it isn’t my hope to conclude that “mma doesn’t work”. As I’ve stated that’s far too simplistic of a statement. So if you’re training in mma I don’t think you should completely abandon your training. Consider adapting your training to better meet the needs of realistic self-defense and you’ll be on a better path towards being fully prepared for self-defense!