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MMA vs Kickboxing For Self-Defense Which Is Truly The Best

MMA fighting vs kickboxing which is better.

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People need to defend themselves during altercations that take place on the street. And if you have ever been involved in a street fight, you would know that it’s not two people squaring off and agreeing to some predefined rules. It’s usually a melee of swinging arms, legs, and heads. So how does say, MMA vs Kickboxing perform in a self-defense situation?

MMA is very much a hybrid of boxing, wrestling, submissions and kickboxing. And in terms of MMA vs kickboxing when it comes to self-defense. MMA offers more practical options in a fluid-fighting situation.

Self-defense means that you are the victim in a situation trying to fight off an aggressor or attacker. Say in a given scenario where it’s a person who for whatever reason, has decided they are going to try and punch you.

Well, in a straightforward situation where an individual is going to try and punch you. But not run at and jump on top of you, then kickboxing is ideal.

Using your kickboxing, you will know how to defend against a punch. With experience in sparring or competition, you will already be familiar with how a punch is thrown. And perhaps more, if not equally important, is the lead-up to a punch.

So before this person even has the opportunity, the first thing you will be aware of is keeping your distance. Knowing about the zone in which you are safe before someone steps inside and then becomes a threat. With the idea being that you don’t allow them that opportunity.

Kickboxing For Self-Defense

But if your attempt to stop someone who is determined to carry out their attack fails. Then you can already have the right mindset and spatial awareness learned from your time in the sport to deal as best you can with the situation.

A class for American style kickboxing with students learning kicks.
Self-defense classes in American-style kickboxing.

The great thing about kickboxing is that it is more of a boxing-based martial art than say, Muay Thai, which is more kicking-based. Amazing when you have space to make use of the kicks in a self-defense situation.

But say in a situation where you need to avoid and counter-throw a punch, get in and get out quickly, then kickboxing is a great martial art. In fact, many kickboxers have made the move across to boxing with many people also cross-training in both sports.

It is for instance why we saw a dominant style of the sport that originated in Holland. Where fighters from their country had travelled throughout Asia. Brought home the very best elements of Muay Thai and combined them with traditional western boxing to create what became known around the world as Dutch Kickboxing.

The history of K-1, at one point the premiere kickboxing promotion on the planet. Is strewn with a long list of its champions from the small western European nation. Because it was simply the best form of kickboxing out there.

Benefits of MMA Over Kickboxing

But the only problem with defending yourself in a self-defense situation where you do not know what is going to happen. Is that there’s no referee who is going to step in and call time for an illegal blow? There’s no cornerman to advise you on what to do next in terms of tactics.

So you get into an altercation with someone and it’s not as straightforward as them just trying to punch you. Now you have someone who is rushing at you determined to get their hands on you. There may even be two of them!

Two MMA fighter competing inside the cage.
Two MMA fighters sparring in the cage.

So what happens now? Your kickboxing won’t be of much use once someone has grabbed you and wrestled you to the ground. What is it like on the ground when you have a fully grown, strong man on top of you? I’ll tell you right now, it’s not pleasant.

So you have to get out of this situation as quickly as possible, especially if you have a second attacker following behind. You do not want to be on the ground and open to attacks from multiple people. And with training in MMA, one of the first things we learn is to escape from the bottom.

To push off and wiggle out of their clinch and get your feet back under you. If it’s an individual attacker, then it is different. But for multiple attackers, kickboxing or boxing will not give you the training necessary to deal with being put on your back.

Getting Back To Your Feet

And so it’s critical in this situation that you know what to do when on the ground and as importantly when back on your feet. As when you now get back on your feet and your assailant is once again crowding you. This may be the perfect opportunity to use elbows in close.

Elbows are a staple of Muay Thai, and something used in MMA, a lethal weapon when used correctly. And when in close quarters where you don’t even have enough room to throw a punch so they are an excellent weapon for self-defense. A short elbow strike across the jawline or in an upward motion from 6 pm to 12 am, could be the money shot required.

Two MMA fighters sparring on the mats working on submissions.
Two MMA fighters sparring on the ground.

In fact, the example my Muay Thai coach would always give for throwing this technique was never competition-related. But we’re always around someone attacking you in a pub. He was born in England of Irish heritage, and for some reason, all of his scenarios always seemed to revolve around the pub.

So say for instance you were dealing with a single attacker and they did manage to get you to the ground. This may very well be the worst decision they ever made, because trust me on this.

If you don’t know anything about fighting on the ground. And you come up against someone who isn’t necessarily a purple, brown or black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But they have experience in submissions and rolling on the mats, it is not going to end well.

While the attackers are flailing trying to punch or scratch you, basically trying to do you harm. They will be reaching out and giving you opportunities to snatch their arms or their neck.

Being Helpless On The Ground

It’s akin to when you see a cat playing with a rodent, usually a mouse. They keep it alive and tap it around, allowing it to wiggle free and maybe even run free a little in the corner. Before finally deciding to end it all.

Rolling on the ground without experience is very similar to this. Even if you are very strong, against someone much lighter, even weaker. They will be able to get you in positions and holds which will quite literally leave you tied up in knots.

With a deeply sunk-in rear-naked choke, or a triangle as they slowly cut off the blood and oxygen to your brain. Some kid half my age and 20 kilos lighter getting the upper hand each and every time. Purely just down to superior technique, it’s frightening.

Or how about an armbar? So now there’s no tapping out, you were just attacked by this person and now they want you to take it easy on them? Sorry my friend, but you cashed out when you decided to try and hurt me, and now, well, I’m going to hurt you badly.

A BJJ player sinks in a choke hold on his opponent.
A BJJ player sinking in a chokehold.

Mixed martial arts simply give you more tools in your toolbox in these types of situations. You may not be an elite-level striker, but do you need to be against a drunken fool? But even if the other person has trained in say kickboxing or boxing, which are quite common.

Time and time again we have seen that taking someone to the ground in closed quarters, who has no experience in that environment. It’s like when you see a turtle or a sheep that cannot self-right. And until you are put in that situation you will never know just how helpless you feel.

In Conclusion

So I have hopefully given you some food for thought when it comes to both of these fighting styles. In a holistic approach and taking everything into account. MMA is best suited to deal with a range of potential self-defense situations. Meaning in terms of an attacker who has either trained or has never set foot inside a gym.

While kickboxing is excellent for keeping range, with its high-level kicking and boxing techniques. It is a sport with some very stringent pre-defined rules, and stances and is only suitable for standup exchanges.

If a kickboxer is unlucky enough to be taken to the ground then all bets are off. It really is like being a fish out of the water and in a situation where a person is being attacked and unable to get off their kicks and punches. Then, in my opinion, kickboxing simply does not tick enough boxes.

MMA was very much developed from a real, no holds barred situation. With its roots in Vale Tudo (anything goes) which originated in Brazil. It’s a discipline that allows for almost any type of scenario.

And while an MMA fighter may not do well in a kickboxing bout. Put a pure kickboxer inside the cage with a competent MMA fighter who is able to nullify their kicking game, not always it has to be said. But nine times out of ten on the street. When it comes to self-defense situations, my money is firmly on the MMA fighter and I will be making bank.