MMA and the Military

I was brought on board to investigate the positive relationships between MMA and martial arts and military training. There are many natural overlaps in the areas of physical readiness, close quarter combat, and mental preparation. This can be approached a lot of levels, from the macro to the micro, from strategy to specific physical techniques and how they apply across both disciplines. By nature both require an integrated approach. Where there are useful similarities, we’ll explore them and put them in the proper context.

Let’s start with some of the similarities.

MMA fighters and soldiers both require the following: intense physical and mental preparation, knowledge of multiple fighting techniques, integration of techniques into a whole, knowledge of and ability to apply strategies and tactics, a high level of tolerance for discomfort, physical and mental dedication, motivation to persevere in challenging situations, and many of the same specific functional skills are needed. Some of the specific technical skills are also mutually beneficial and finally, both disciplines are on the cutting edge of human performance.

It is necessary to acknowledge a couple very basic differences. The most obvious one is that of the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t want to diminish in any way the challenges of the sport fighter’s routine or preparation. An MMA fighter will sacrifice a lot, his short term and long term health, time away from family and friends, but it is a sport. A soldier knows that doing his or her job means putting their life on the line for something greater than themselves.

Which bring us to the 2nd major difference. Sport fighting is a solitary activity, and nobody risks more than the person in the fight that night. A soldier has a host of people that he or she will be fighting for and with, the closest of which is their unit and includes every citizen they are sworn to defend. That being said, it takes a team of coaches, training partners, family and friends to create a good fighter, and this is even more true for the soldier. So the similarities extend to the group around the fighter as well, but they end when the sport fighter enters the cage or the ring, and they fight alone.

All things considered, I hope you’ll agree that there is a great degree of overlap and there is rich ground to till in the fields of training for both soldiers and MMA fighters. Here are some of the areas I’ll be looking at in upcoming articles.

At a high level, we’ll look at common tactics that are employed both in battles and MMA fights such as using timing, taking and keeping higher ground, misdirection and feints, choosing where the fight takes place, using the environment, tactical retreats and more. At a detail level, we’ll look at techniques for physical fitness such as the TRX and other cutting edge training modes, techniques for MMA striking, scrambling, and grappling as it can be applied to combat situations, and any other aspect of training for MMA that is useful for soldiers.

I’ll also be interviewing fighters, soldiers, coaches, and experts so we can hear from the men and women who put the latest skills and techniques to the test every day. If you have suggestions on what you’d like to see covered, or any questions I can help to answer about your training, I welcome your input.

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  1. Wild Bill says:

    Just wondering what ever happened to the combat judo the military used to teach? I mean I know a lot of MMA and BJJ borrow their techniques from wrestling and judo to begin with, but why not just continue to call it combat judo, or judo?

    Anyways, just wondering.

    • Peter Pryputniewicz says:

      I did not know the military taught combat judo in the past, but I will definitely look into it now! Thanks for the question.

  2. Crazycrow says:

    Just as an FYI, I believe it was primarily during WWII when judo was taught. However, I would like to add that I am police trainer with a good base in Gracie style BJJ. My experience is not limited to that alone of course. A good mix is always the best idea. As far as the crossovers of MMA for sports and soldiers, it is good. However, being on the street there is a big difference between that and the ring. The biggest difference is lack of rules on the street. I have been asked several times why I don’t compete. My answer is the same everytime. I do not want to get confined or conditioned to rules. I think that is major gulf separating the two.

    • Thanks Crazycrow! I will look at this more deeply. I agree, a good mix is best. As far as competing or practicing the more lethal skills, it seems to be mostly a matter of mindset. We can’t practice these skills against training partners either, so it comes down to intent and visualization. I agree that mental conditioning in the opposite direction (restraining oneself to rules) is counterproductive to survival mindset, again a major difference between sport fighting and survival combat.

      Any chance you are interested in a longer conversation? If you have experience adapting sport fighting techniques for use in police work, myself and my readers would love to learn more.

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