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What Martial Arts Style Should I Learn for MMA?


Competition-oriented martial arts students always ask, "What style should I learn for Mixed Martial Arts?"

As I answer this question, we have to clear up two large misconceptions.

Misconception 1: I should train like a High Level Pro Fighter.

 There is a big difference between how a professional fighter needs to do a training camp and how an aspiring fighter needs to do one.

For instance, take a boxer like Floyd Mayweather. He has been boxing and competing since he was a child. Most of his skill development has already taken place. For him, a training camp consists of getting in shape, and adjusting what he already can do to different situations and different opponents.

What Mayweather needs is different from a guy who is about to make his Professional debut. A new fighter is going to need to develop certain skills. For example, how many young fighters do you know that can throw a proper roundhouse kick? The answer is not many.

Its a hard skill to acquire so many fighters simply avoid it and "hide" their lack of ability with strengths in other areas.

For a young fighter, who has the time to develop skills in all areas, it is important to emphasize new skill development as much as simply doing a camp and "train hard".

Misconception Two: Its all about what you're learning rather than how you're learning it.

Aspiring martial artists must also recognize that the opportunities to compete are just as important as what techniques you're learning. For example, wrestling is considered one of the best bases for Mixed Martial Arts. However, this is not only because the wrestling techniques are effective but that the competition circuit for wrestling is so intense.

A high school wrestler gets the opportunity to compete 2x a week every season. Compare this to an amateur MMA fighter in the USA - how many amateur matches can he or she participate in during that 3 months? Most MMA fighters in the US, especially on the East Coast, will not get more than 8-10 fights per year (more likely 5-6 if they are really pushing it). That is the equivalent of 2-3 weeks of wrestling in terms of matches.

At the end of a season, the wrestler, even if he is learning "worse" or "less applicable" techniques than an athlete who is training pure MMA, he will be far more developed as a competitive athlete because he will have competed so much more.

This athletic development is very important. Its way easier to take a D1 athlete or a Jiu-Jitsu competition-grade Black Belt and start teaching them other techniques – than someone who has doesn't have that experience.

So what style is best for MMA?

All fighting styles have their place. There is something to be learned from all martial arts – its just a matter of how much is effective and how fast you can learn it. I would personally recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai for adults. If you are in school and have access to competitive wrestling, I would definitely start there. So what style is best? Whatever realistic martial arts style that is being taught at a high competitive level and is actually available to you.

-Julius Park

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