Sport Vs Self-Defense
There has been a conflict and debate within the martial arts community between those that do it for sport and those that do it for self-defense. The ones in the self-defense camp say that sport, including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), has too many rules and that it does not truly mimic real life situations. Rules against eye gauging, groin hitting, throat shots, knee shots, and back of the neck and head shots eliminate the most effective and necessary techniques for self-defense. Those engaged in sport do not get the necessary knowledge of moving to defend these techniques and to apply them.
Those that participate in combat sports, particularly MMA, say that sport is the most realistic, efficient, and safe way to practice martial arts and to become a more proficient and better fighter. You cannot practice the illegal techniques without risking severe injury even paralysis or death.
Who is Right?
In a sense both the self-defense and sport camps are correct. Sport is not combat and rules eliminate techniques that should be used in self-defense. However, sport gives martial artists many benefits. Navy SEAL and martial artist states that sport develops attributes necessary to be a better fighter such as: timing, sensitivity, technique proficiency, movement, speed, strength, and endurance. The problem with many “self-defense” programs is that techniques such as knee shots and neck shots are almost impossible to safely practice in real time. So self-defense students do not get the real life speed and veracity of a real fight. One is going to do what he or she has practiced in the adrenal state which sport and sparring provides. Marc Denny of Dog Brothers states that the lack of adrenal state training is the reason why so many martial artists freeze up or forget their techniques when confronted.
Mindset and How to Train
With that said athletes should be aware that sport is not real life and should also practice, defend, and be aware of techniques that are illegal in sport. The athlete should be aware that maybe that inside leg kick is really a groin kick or that their jab may be a palm strike or eye gauge. Athletes should every once in a while spar multiple opponents and work with weapons.
Ultimate Fighting: Then and Now
However, martial artists involved in only self-defense should also realize that the early UFC had many of those “self-defense techniques” legal and they did not work very well. Royce Gracie using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu beat everyone in the early days including opponents that were much bigger. Proving wrong people that state certain techniques like groin shots and hair pulling is all that is needed to defend oneself, and proving wrong anyone that states BJJ is not good for self-defense. BJJ legend Rigan Machado stated when asked about techniques like eye gauging and hair pulling that “I can do that too, but I will be on top.” This shows that people in the self-defense camp should grapple and spar once in a while because not only will it make you better but it is also fun!