Not long after the first Ultimate Fighting Championship aired in the fall of 1993, the sport of cage fighting where “no holds were barred” became identified by the media as reality fighting. Those that sought to practice and develop martial arts that were intended for the street were also dubbed reality martial artists (RMA). The reality martial artist freely picks and chooses skills and drills from a variety of martial arts that are best suited for the spontaneous reality of street-defense or the cage.
In my first MMA and You column for Taekwondo Times, I wrote about the Biblical account of David and Goliath. Goliath had at his advantage size and strength, a career of military success and the best weapons of his day. David had only his resourcefulness and a strategy that included immobilizing the opponent before moving in to finish the attack. In defeating Goliath, David proved that even a smooth stone that hits its mark is going to be more effective than a giant’s spear that misses its mark. Those that practice RMA understand that it’s not the art that’s important; it’s the individual. It’s not the technique that makes the difference; it’s the delivery.
Most traditional martial arts can be said to have as a primary goals a combination of culture, sport, fitness and self-defense. In contrast, MMA and RMA share in common the emphasis on being performance-based, meaning that success in the cage or in the street are singular goals. RMA, it can be argued, is equivalent to MMA for the street. Recently I was asked to come up with a list of the ten most effective martial arts for street-effective MMA (aka RMA). Before reading the list keep in mind that being in shape is often just as important as knowing different tactics in actual street combat. Train with purpose; the more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed on the street. Here’s the list. They are in no particular order.
1. Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee’s method of scientific street-fighting is among the most simple and direct martial arts.
2. Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan: The 1960s version of TKD was hardcore with an emphasis on training the body as a weapon.
3. Kobudo: A street-savvy warrior will take a weapon over his empty hands every time. When you become an expert with traditional weapons, you have an advantage in real combat.
4. Krav Maga: The gun and knife defenses taught in Krav Maga are perhaps the best in the field.
5. Muay Thai: Its a realistic combat art with an emphasis on training and conditioning.
6. Kano Jiu-Jitsu: The forerunner of Judo, this early 20th century art developed by Jigoro Kano was more street-wise than ring-wise.
7. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: The Brazilian form of grappling has been proved effective in street combat in the toughest cities in the world.
8. Kyokushin Karate: If you complete the 100 fights required for a black belt in Kyokushin Karate, you possess the attributes required for self-defense.
9. Dirty Boxing: While many fights end on the ground, almost all fights start standing up. Dirty boxing, aka clinch boxing or “trap boxing,” prepares you for strikes that work in stand-up grappling and moves that are illegal in the boxing ring.
10. Arnis: This Philippine art contains the most street-lethal knife skills available.
And there you have it. I am by no means suggesting that you have to master all ten arts to become street safe. Rather, you should learn the gun defenses from Krav Maga; the knife skills from Arnis; the elbow and knees from Muay Thai; the in-fighting tactics of dirty boxing; the grappling skills of Gracie/Kano Jiu-Jitsu; the classical weapons skills of Kobudo and the focused power of Karate and TKD. Feel free to compose your own top ten lists.