MMA became so popular quickly because it's the closest we get to a real-life fight while remaining civil enough to be a respectable athletic competition. The spectacular rise in popularity of the sport has given birth to countless gyms worldwide with a vast number of practitioners.
So it's only natural that you may be someone who wants to learn the art of MMA. It's almost certain that every respectable gym you step your foot into will provide you with all the necessary info you need.
Still, we get this may be a daunting task. So, with this article, we would like to prepare you for what to expect from your first MMA sessions and what you will need to get started.
What Is MMA?
MMA is an abbreviation for mixed martial arts. A combat sport allowing striking, wrestling, and grappling to knock out, submit, or outpoint the opponent in a full-contact one-on-one fight.
MMA became so popular because it answered an age-old theoretical question in practice—what would happen if two martial artists from different styles fought. MMA quickly became its own combat style, an evolving amalgamation of countless styles and techniques shaped by its own rules set.
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The frantic nature of the controlled violence inside the cage is brutal. And not everyone is cut out to be a fighter. But the incredible popularity of MMA means that many people train without competing. And as training methods and science evolve, MMA practice becomes more accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Some still believe that MMA is only for fit and aggressive young people. This obvious misconception gets dispersed the first time you step into a gym and see the enormous variety of trainees.
If you wonder, "is MMA right for me?" I can answer you with a clear "yes" without the need to know you.
Benefits Of MMA
After that short "motivational speech," let's look at the main benefits of practicing MMA.
One Of The Best Ways To Be In Shape
No one can argue that being in reasonable shape is a vital element of a healthy life. There are many ways of exercising and staying fit, but few can match the effectiveness of MMA. Fitness is great, but MMA is one of the best methods for developing functional strength.
The need to learn striking AND grappling means the body develops physical attributes in all planes, which gives MMA an advantage over more narrowly specialized martial arts.
Strength and conditioning are also an inseparable part of MMA training, so you will surely build strength, endurance, cardio, and flexibility over time.
It’s Practical For Self Defense
There are specialized self-defense systems, but many of them are rubbish. MMA has limitations in self-defense scenarios because it's still a sport with rules, something absent from a street fight. Nonetheless, the variety of techniques, both on the feet and the ground, and the sport's harsh competitive nature, prepare the body and mind for conflict and violence.
Discipline, Commitment, and Self-Esteem For The Modern World
The instillment and development of discipline, commitment, and confidence is not unique to MMA but a great benefit of all martial arts. Enduring hardships and overcoming challenges in the gym will progressively strengthen your mind and resolve for everything else in life.
What Equipment Do You Need For MMA Training?
Now that you’ve decided to start your MMA journey, you will need some equipment to train with. But don’t worry, the amount of gear and money you need to invest is a lot less than many other activities.
The mouth guard is perhaps the first thing you need aside from comfortable clothes. You will likely start to wrestle and grapple before you start sparring and getting hit in the face, so the mouthpiece should always be in your gym bag.
Striking sparring and drills in MMA are done with boxing gloves, not MMA gloves. So the first pair you should buy are some nice boxing gloves to hit pads, the heavy bag, and partner drills. You will likely need another pair of 16 oz gloves reserved only for sparring when you start sparring.
Another essential piece of gear is the shin guards. They lessen the impact of the kicks and protect both the kicker and the receiver of said kicks from injuries. There are different types of shin guards, so for more details, you can learn here: (link to shin guard article).
By now, you have probably noticed the pattern that most of the things in your MMA gym bag are for protection. The groin cup is a must for men in every sparring session. If you need some help choosing the right cup, you can find the best MMA cups here.
Eventually, you will need to buy MMA gloves as well. After all, it's MMA training. They are used for many different striking and grappling drills, as well as for MMA sparring. MMA gloves vary from 4 to 7 oz, and if you plan on sparring a lot, it’s better to go for the heavier ones.
Rashguards and Shorts
MMA-specific clothing is nice to wear in the gym because it's designed specifically for that purpose. Rashguards protect the skin and look cool. MMA shorts give you unrestricted movement and make you look like a fighter.
But if we are honest, they are not mandatory. You can train effectively in any comfortable t-shirt and shorts as long as they don't have dangerous things like zippers and buttons.
How To Find An MMA Gym
The answer to any "how to find" question is usually Google. But a lot depends on where you live. Smaller cities and regions may have only one gym in the area, so you are generally stuck with that.
But in larger areas, you will always have a choice. Google the available gyms, see how they look, read a few reviews, and speak with people who train there if you can. Determine your goals and pick the gym you think best fits them.
Another piece of advice, especially early on, the best decision is to pick the gym closest to you.
There may be slightly better gyms that are further away. As a beginner, every gym will teach you what you need to know, so the most important thing is to show up. And the closer the gym is to the place you live, the better chance there is for that to happen regularly.
What Does A Typical MMA Training Session Look Like?
A typical MMA workout is very different for a pro fighter and a beginner. Scheduling optimal sessions for athletes is a science in its own right, but we won’t do that here. We will cover what a typical session for a newcomer looks like.
Given that MMA encompasses many disciplines, different days of the week cover different aspects. Especially early on, one day is dedicated to striking training, another to wrestling, and another to grappling. Strength and conditioning for MMA are also included in the routine, either as a separate session or after the skills session.
Here is how an example MMA session may look.
No training session can go by without warming up. You must prepare the body properly for the session ahead. The muscles and joints must become warm and loose, and heart rate must go up. The specifics will vary from gym to gym, but the warm-up is always present.
The bulk of the training is reserved for skills training. Usually, these are separated by days. For example, Monday is for boxing and Muay Thai, Wednesday is for wrestling, and Friday for BJJ. Some of these become more MMA-oriented and not so specialized as you progress.
Strength and Conditioning
Some gyms prefer to use this as a separate session, while others cut down the time for skill training and allocate it for strength work. This may include many things (burpees, battle ropes, weights, and countless other exercises). Still, the goal is always to improve overall fitness for MMA.
Live sparring and rolling is where you test your skills. It is an essential part of training that distinguishes modern combat sports from most traditional martial arts. Nothing hones the skills like testing them against a live, resisting opponent.
Once the work is done, the body needs to wind down. Five to ten minutes of stretching is usually enough to help the body recover better for the next day.
Should You Start With MMA Or Another Martial Art?
Many people will tell you that it’s better to start with another martial art like wrestling or boxing and then transition to MMA once you have a sturdy base. This is sound advice, but it’s not the only way.
There are still specialists who become champions in MMA, but many hot prospects also started with MMA. The benefit of that is there are no bad habits to get rid of that don't work in MMA. After all, if you want to be the best in MMA, you need to do that.
But these considerations are valid only if you want to pursue MMA professionally. If you are not sure, there is no point in overanalyzing. Just go to the gym and start training. And even if there is no nearby MMA gym, start with what you have available, regardless of whether it's BJJ or Muay Thai. Every training is much better than no training.
How To Start MMA At Home For Beginners
Home training can't replace the gym with coaches and training partners but can significantly speed up the learning process. You can start learning some techniques on your own or go to the gym and complement the training with sessions at home. Let's see a few things you can do in the backyard or living room.
Strength and Endurance
The main attribute you need for a meaningful MMA practice is endurance. Specific combat skills can be learned and reinforced only through repetition and practice. To rack up the reps, you need endurance. The building block of MMA training is being in reasonably good physical shape.
This does not mean you need to be in peak condition to start. But if your last few years have been sedentary, most likely, your body is not ready for the rigorous MMA training. So you can start with some light running, gradually increasing the distance and intensity. Home HIIT routines will also build cardiovascular and muscular stamina.
You can also do striking training at home. MMA borrows striking techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, karate, and other arts. You need first to grasp the different striking techniques before you start chaining them into combos.
Start learning the basic punches.
Then add some kicks.
Explore the correct techniques and practice all of them. At the same time, it's time to start learning the footwork. Throwing strikes is great, but hitting a real opponent will be only a mirage without adequate movement.
A reliable fighting stance is something that binds everything else together. Depending on the fighting style, the stance can vary quite a lot, from wrestlers to grapplers to strikers. Still, as a beginner, it's best to start with a basic stance and learn the fundamental footwork patterns. And these can be done comfortably at home, given you have open space.
Grappling training is the hardest thing to do alone. But there are still some things you can do. Search around for solo wrestling exercises like bridging and BJJ drills like shrimping, and you will have at least something to improve on at home.
Training at home can be a useful tool, but don't make it your primary training unless you have no other choice. Find a gym and train there. You will never be able to progress quickly without a coach to observe and correct your mistakes and without practicing your skills against live partners. Then use your home training as a supplement to the "formal" training in the gym, and you will undoubtedly see fast results.
Starting MMA is a daunting task. Training is difficult on the body and mind, and there are many skills to learn. But it may also be among the most rewarding things you do in your life. Not everyone is destined to be a fighter, and not everyone even likes to practice. But if you've got the itch, don't hesitate and start your MMA journey.