The MMA vs Self Protection Question Answered




This question has been around since god knows when. The answer is actually pretty straight forward. No its not going to be “well one is for the streets and one for the ring” but that is part of it.

This video below is what sparked the debate (again) This partly because people on both sides do not really understand what the other brings to the table. In most cases people aren’t willing to to try something they don’t fully understand.

Now firstly let me say this. There is a lot of BS self defence out there. Even in krav maga so do your own due diligence.  Putting all self defence instructors in one box is a little naive and the same goes for people who practice MMA or combat sports. There are people of vastly different capabilities.




To understand this fully we need to look at what each brings to the table. We are going to assume that each person is well versed in their field & only trains in that discipline.

Self defence wise we will look at what I teach. Realistic, no nonsense and gritty combatives. You should also note that I  supplement my combatives with Muay Thai, BJJ and MMA when I can. I’m not an expert in all these fields by no means, but I do cross train. This way it is unbiased! (Hint at what the answer to the question is)

MMA Pros for self defence:

  • High striking ability with extremely good accuracy, timing and the ability to chain strikes together. Plus the ability to deliver maximum power through correct body mechanics.
  • Has excellent footwork & movement. (Key for multiple attackers)
  • Excellent level of grappling, take down defence and the ability to fight and finish on the ground. Also includes tactile sensitivity to certain energies with the ability to counter from multiple situations.
  • Able to train in their chosen discipline at relatively high level of force (especially grappling)

MMA Cons for self defence:

  • Doesn’t train for typical violent engagements and focuses on mutual consent, ring craft and point scoring.
  • Doesn’t train for multiple attackers, heightening the chances of tunnel vision under stress.
  • Doesn’t train for weapons attacks meaning they either have no approach, or will approach the wrong way.
  • Likely to repeat what they know under stress which may be detrimental in the situation.
  • Doesn’t train for dirty tactics, again making it unlikely to utilize these tools under stress.

Combatives Pros for self defence:

  • Trained to recognize pre threat cues and taught to avoid conflict where possible maximizing survival.
  • Understands the law relating to reasonable force.
  • Trains to understand how the dynamics of violence works. Be first, be aggressive and get out ASAP.
  • Trains to utilize the environment and dirty tactics as needed.
  • Focuses purely on the most common violent trends and aggressive primitive attacks.
  • Trains for weapons meaning responses will be more efficient and will understand the complexities of dealing with them before the event itself.
  • Trains for multiple attackers and taught to constantly scan making tunnel vision less likely.

Combatives Cons for self defence:

  • Is designed for explosive violent events that end quickly, anything longer and the combatives practitioner may end up out of depth.
  • Doesn’t have the skill against someone who is well trained when there is no escape or weapons to hand.
  • In most cases has very limited striking ability. They will focus on power and simple strikes to overwhelm an attacker to illicit an escape.
  • Very limited grappling ability. The focus is on escaping immediately but may come unstuck if pinned and dirty tactics have no effect or cannot be used.
  • Cannot repeat most tactics at higher resistance in training due to the injury potential.

I personally feel self defence is a mindset more than anything. There are things unique to it such as the weapons defence’s.

Combatives is for that 10-20 second explosive encounter to be able to finish the threat, escape or access weapons. Anything longer than that you need added skills

There are skills that will carry across from traditional martial arts into self defence providing that you understand the context in which to use them. An MMA fighter with a Krav Maga/street mentality is formidable (look at Bas Rutten) On the flip side to that though, whether you like it or not street violence is different. It’s explosive vicious and usually from an ambush.

whether you like it or not street violence is different

If you only train for the ring you train for tunnel vision & neglect weapons. If you only train krav you going to be in trouble if the attack prolongs and you end up toe to toe with no escape.




I think purists on both sides of sport & self defence need to accept that each has useful skills. Although for different arenas it can’t hurt to train both.

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