It’s amazing to think that MMA was just a baby 10 years ago. MMA has moved from a little-known sport to a billion-dollar industry. The roots of this exploding sport is found in Brazil’s Vale Tudo and Japan’s Shoot-fighting. When the Ultimate Fighting Championships came on the scene in the early 90s, spectators got to witness fighters from different styles competing with no time-limits, no weight classes, and almost no rules. Since then, the UFC has risen to the top as the premiere organization in the sport. Rounds, referees, and safety rules have been created to make MMA a safe and legitimate combat sport.
Striking & Grappling
Gone are the days of a Karate fighter pitted against a wrestler. Today’s MMA star is a well-rounded martial artist. No longer is it viable to train in just one style. To succeed, a fighter must be proficient in both striking and grappling. They must be comfortable standing up, in a clinch, and on the ground. For this reason, MMA camps and gyms have started to outgrow the number of traditional martial-arts studios.
When To Begin
As the sport grows, more athletes will be starting earlier in life to train for the sport. It can be difficult knowing where to begin and what gear is needed. If you begin early enough, wrestling in school is a good start. For this you will need the wrestling uniform of the organization or school you compete for. You will also need to purchase an ear guard and possibly knee and elbow pads. Wrestling is arguably one of the best bases for the mixed martial artist.
If you start later in life, how you train will depend on the gyms and schools in your area. It’s always a good idea to join a conventional gym to do both cardio and strength training. There are boxing gyms virtually everywhere with low fees for training. For this you will need bag gloves, sparring gloves, mouth-guard, and some pro-gloves. Schools that also teach kick-boxing or Muay-Thai may be even better as they teach the use of kicks, knees, and elbows.
For training in grappling, you can’t go wrong with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or submission wrestling. For BJJ you will need to purchase a gi, or traditional martial arts uniform. For grappling you should always buy a heavy-grade gi with reinforcement at the collar, knees, and elbows. If you find a submission wrestling school, you will train without a gi. Some MMA fighters like this option due to the fact that gis are not used in MMA competitions. For this you will need the same equipment as a wrestler. Another often-cheap alternative for grappling, is Judo. Judo clubs are almost always much cheaper than BJJ schools. Some are even completely free. For Judo you will need a Go that is similar to those used in BJJ.
Another option for the potential MMA fighter is to cross-train in a traditional martial art. These include styles like Karate, Kenpo, and Taekwondo. Just be aware that the school must spar and do realistic training to be effective with MMA. These dojos usually require a gi, athletic supporter, mouth-guard, and sparring equipment.
If you can find a designated MMA gym, this may be your best bet. You must decide if you want to specialize in one area such as grappling, and then become adequate in striking, or if you want to just train all at once. If you join an MMA gym you can train in all areas and get a better understanding of how to put it all together.
Essential MMA Gear
At a bare minimum, here is a list of essential MMA gear for the aspiring MMA fighting star:
- Mouth-guard (essential!)
- Rash-Guard or MMA shirts
- MMA Training gloves
- MMA headgear
- Athletic supporter (For the guys)
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