MMA or Krav Maga for Self Defense?

When it comes to choosing a martial art for self defense, there seems to be a common dilemma that alot of newbies ask themselves - MMA or Krav Maga for self defense?

Ex- Pro Heavyweight UFC Fighter Bas Rutten was recently asked the same question:




Expanding on the points that Bas makes in this clip...


What's the difference between Krav Maga and MMA?

MMA is a sport. Krav Maga is a self defence system. If you want to learn self defense, then learn a self defense system. You are never going to learn knife defenses, tactics if faced with multiple attackers, real life scenario training (being robbed at the ATM, carjacking, rape, bar fight and so on) in an MMA class. 
"As for self defense, I think Krav Maga is pretty much the best system out there". Bas Rutten (MMA Coach and ex-UFC Fighter)


MMA or Krav Maga for self defense

Is MMA effective for Self Defense?

In an MMA class you are going to learn how to punch, kick and wrestle one person. That person will be a similar weight to you and will always stand in front of you before fighting. No surprise attacks. You must wear a groin cup, mouth guard and gloves for protection. You will only fight if you WANT to fight and can stop at any time. 

As for the rules of MMA. These are a list of "Fouls" set by the Association of Boxing Commissions and adhered to by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
  • Holding onto the cage fencing
  • Holding opponent’s clothing or gloves
  • Headbutts
  • Biting or spitting
  • Hair pulling
  • Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of an opponent
  • Eye gouging of any kind
  • Groin attacks of any kind
  • Downward elbow strikes
  • Small joint manipulation (bending fingers backwards for example)
  • Strikes to the spine or back of the head
  • Heel kicks to the kidney
  • Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea
  • Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle (collar bone)
  • Kicking the head of a grounded opponent
  • Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent
  • Stomping on a grounded fighter
  • The use of abusive language in fighting area
  • Any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent
  • Attacking an opponent during a break
  • Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee
  • Timidity (avoiding contact, consistent dropping of mouthpiece, or faking an injury)
  • Interference from a fighter's cornerman
  • Throwing an opponent out of the ring or caged area
  • Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions
  • Pinning an opponent to the floor on his or her head or neck
  • Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the round


MMA or Krav Maga for Self Defense

With this many fouls and rules, does MMA really sound like it will prepare you for realistic self defense?

All of these "fouls" happen in real street fights. 

If you truly want to learn self defense, then you should be training how to use and defend against this list of "fouls", not ignoring them. 

Take a look at this video where ex-UFC fighter and MMA Coach Bas Rutten teaches some self defense techniques for bar fights:





Did you notice something? Did Bas start boxing the guy? Did he attempt a flying armbar? No, he used Headbutts and small joint manipulations. Bas understands that the street is different from the cage, so he doesn't play by the rules. However, if you are not taught by your instructor or practicing these types of defenses in your training, you will not think to do them in the heat of the moment.

You fight how to train and if you train to set of do's and ignore the don'ts then in a self defense situation you will never perform these "don'ts" that may save your life. 

A self defense situation is never going to be fair to you, so you have to be unfair to your attackers in return. You won't have advanced warning and you won't have a choice whether they attack you or not. There will be more than one and may be bigger than you. They will probably have knives or other weapons. They intend to cause you serious or fatal injury and they won't stop until they decide to.

Still trying to decide between MMA or Krav Maga for Self Defense?


About the Author:
Daughter of a 2-9 British Army Commando and Combatives Instructor, Kelina Cowell grew up on a military base in Dortmund, Germany. Inspired by training with her father from an early age, she continued her combative journey into Krav Maga, Submission Wrestling, Filipino Martial Arts, Pencak Silat and Muay Thai. She searches for the truth in personal protection, simply keeping what can really work on the street and the discarding the “Hollywood” techniques that don’t.
Kelina Cowell is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Apolaki Combat Systems:
  • Apolaki Krav Maga – a unique blend of traditional Krav Maga, with elements of Filipino martial arts, Pencak Silat, Muay Thai and Submission Wrestling. Complete with it’s own 5 Level syllabus and gradings.
  • Apolaki Dirty Boxing – A more in-depth training into Filipino boxing, Western Boxing, Muay Thai and Pencak Silat. Complete with it’s own 5 Level syllabus and gradings.
  • Apolaki SPD: Self Protection for Dwarfs – Co-founded with her student Eugene Grant who was born with Achondroplasia (a form of short-limbed dwarfism). An adapted form of Apolaki Krav Maga suitable for dwarf body types.

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