Is MMA A Martial Art?

By Logan •  Updated: 11/26/21 •  6 min read

If you’re like me (a huge UFC fan and martial arts fanatic), you have probably wondered to yourself what the best fighting style is for you to learn? A friend suggested that MMA is the best, but the big question is:  Is MMA a martial art? Although this is a question of great debate, I’ve researched and asked some fighting experts, and I learned so much!

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is not a single martial art. It’s more of a sport in which competitors defeat their opponents using various martial arts techniques. In other words, MMA is a sport that incorporates several martial arts, but it is not a martial art in and of itself.

Whether you should pursue MMA or stick to a specific martial art is dependent on several factors, including but not limited to a solid understanding of both MMA and Martial Arts, your goals, and future aspirations. Let’s get into the specifics.

Is MMA A Martial Art?

What Is “MMA”?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport in which two competitors gain dominance through three broad methods: striking, finishing holds, and control. The regulations let the fighters use punches, kicks, joint-locks, chokes, takedowns, and throws, among other martial arts techniques.

Knockout, submit or stoppage by the referee, fight doctor, or a competitor’s cornerman are the most common methods of victory. NHB (No Holds Barred) is another name for MMA. However, it is no longer widely used. It’s no longer an accurate representation of today’s competitions, which have far more rules than in the past.

The only regulations in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship were no eye-gouging, fish-hooking, orbiting. Hair pulling, toe stomping, and persons getting choked by their clothes lapels were all commonplace. One infamous early bout even involved a participant slapping his opponent in the groin repeatedly.

Imagine being the fighter on the receiving end, OUCH! Luckily, all of the major competitions have a set of rules and practices that are prohibited. MMA can also refer to any modern martial arts that incorporate methods and theories from various sports; this is particularly true of MMA training methods that incorporate ground combat, stand-up strikes, and takedowns.

What Is A Martial Art?

“Martial arts” is a broad phrase that encompasses a wide range of disciplines. In general, these systems or styles aim to accomplish the same goal: physically overcoming opponents and guarding against threats. In truth, the word “martial” is derived from the Roman god of war, Mars.

Martial arts originated over 2000 years ago and have since evolved and split into over 200 styles today. History shows that Martial arts were created for various reasons, such as war, self-defense, spirituality, health, and fitness. Even to this day, new martial arts styles get created, and some evolve.

Is MMA A Martial Art?

MMA is a blend of all the most effective fighting methods, rather than a single martial art. Mixed Martial Arts is represented by the acronym MMA. There is no one-size-fits-all MMA fighting style. In some ways, MMA is a fluid sport that isn’t limited to one style. Depending on the martial arts they pursue, each MMA fighter has a distinct fighting style.

Seeing as MMA collaborates with so many martial arts, it is frequently regarded as one of the hardest sports globally. You must have a strong all-around fighting game as an MMA fighter, or your opponent will constantly exploit your flaws. Your groundwork, grappling, and the stand-up fighting game must all be on par with one another.

What Is A Combat Sport?

A combat sport (sometimes known as a fighting sport) is a type of competitive contact sport involving one-on-one combat. In many combat sports, a contestant wins by earning more points or incapacitating their opponent. Martial arts and combat sports have a long history together.

Several combat-related sports were included in the ancient Olympic Games, including armored foot races, boxing, wrestling, and pankration, introduced in the Olympic Games of 648 BCE. Combat sport first appeared in ancient China in the form of lei tai. It was a no-holds-barred combat sport that incorporated elements of boxing and wrestling.

How Does MMA Compare To Traditional Martial Arts?

Both MMA and traditional martial arts have advantages and disadvantages. Both MMA and traditional martial arts serve distinct functions. In general, people learn traditional martial arts to specialize in a specific area for a specific goal.

For example, an individual will go into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and specialize with groundwork, whereas most militaries will teach their soldiers Krav Maga for hand-to-hand combat purposes. People usually get into MMA to make a name for themselves in the sport. The UFC only accepts the greatest MMA fighters.

In 1965, Bruce Lee believed that martial arts were too steeped in tradition to be useful in a real fight. Taking a step back and approaching fighting from a purely scientific standpoint, he developed what is now known as Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee fought many times with this newfound idea, not following any style but fighting for what he felt were the most effective moves.

These same techniques can now be seen in MMA rings all over the world. Although Bruce Lee died in 1973, his enormous influence in the fighting world can still be seen today! UFC President Dana White has continued to honor Lee whenever possible. White stated in a 2014 interview for EA Sports UFC that he believes Lee started mixed martial arts.

“The Gracie’s were the founding fathers of the actual UFC, but I think the sport of Mixed Martial Arts was started by Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee’s movies, Bruce Lee’s philosophies, just Bruce Lee’s image alone is very powerful”-Dana White

Final Thoughts

MMA is a combination of all the most effective fighting methods, rather than a single martial art. There is no one-size-fits-all MMA fighting style; each fighter has their distinct fighting style. MMA can also refer to any modern martial arts that incorporate methods and theories from various sports. Martial arts styles vary a lot because they are all designed for people with very different goals.

If you’re interested in learning a new martial art, you should focus on the fighting style that best represents your personal goals!


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

Keep Reading