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MMA Training vs Krav Maga Training: A Deep Dive

Krav Maga vs MMA - A woman applying self defense and what she learn in the Krav Maga training

In today's article we are going to tackle the question many dedicated martial arts fans have on their minds. How would a Krav Maga expert shape up against a seasoned MMA veteran in multiple fight formats? What are the differences between MMA training and Krav Maga training, and which style is likely best for you.

Martial arts in general have long captivated individuals seeking both physical prowess and mental discipline. From the days of movies such as Bloodsport and Hong Kong legends of the past like Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba - people have a fascination with fighting.

While Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Krav Maga may share common traits and are often used in self-defense and personal development, they diverge in various ways that make each discipline unique.

Krav Maga - What is the History of the Martial Art?

While the history of MMA may be in your face as a result of the success of Dana White and the UFC, the story is very different for Krav Maga. What is the history? Where and why was it developed?

As it turns out, Krav Maga has a fascinating history that begins during the 1930's in Eastern Europe. The name itself translates to "contact combat" in the Hebrew language referencing its close quarters combat focused style.

Imi Lichtenfeld developed the discipline in response to heavy anti-semitism during the period as a way to protect Jewish communities that were under constant threat.

Weaving his experience as an accomplished wrestler and boxer into a martial art that would be more effective in extremely dangerous real world situations, he birthed Krav Maga into the world.

This practical, no nonsense fighting style would prove to be so effective that he would go on to personally train paramilitary groups such as the Haganah and eventually even the Israel Defense Forces.

Often in Krav Maga training, you will start in a disadvantaged position, at times against multiple opponents brandishing various weapons. A Krav Maga class will be nothing if not intense when compared to pretty much any other martial art.

Krav Mage vs MMA - Man doing self defense in Krav Maga Classes

Though training in Krav Maga will certainly differ from the experience you will find in an MMA gym, it is not uncommon to see flashes of Krav Maga in the cage or ring.

What is MMA Training Like Compared?

With all that being said, what is MMA in terms of a self defense system and how does MMA training differ from Krav Maga?

Probably the biggest differences between the two are the use of small joint manipulation, weaponry and fighting multiple opponents.

Much of what you will learn in an MMA gym is certainly effective in real world applications, especially in general hand to hand self defense that doesn't involve a weapon - though even then there are techniques that will help you there as well.

Krav Maga vs MMA - a women doing self defense in MMA Classes

MMA fighters over the last 20 years have been seen coming to the aid of civilians being attacked with greater frequency. Even if there are instances such as the recent street fight with Nate Diaz choking out a random guy for seemingly no reason, a typical MMA fighter will be much more capable of defending themselves in a similar situation.

However, in an MMA fight, you are in a closed setting against a single unarmed opponent. In the streets you may be facing several opponents at the same time and your MMA training will only get you so far in that scenario.

Training in Krav Maga - Martial Arts that are Complementary

When you are training in Krav Maga, martial arts such as Muay Thai, Boxing, even Karate, Taekwondo, Judo and wrestling will make up many of the strikes, holds, transitions and positions you use.

Krav Maga is a hybrid and you will likely find the same while training in MMA. MMA is not in and of itself a martial art, it's a blend of every martial art that is legal within the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

If you really want to take your Krav Maga to the next level, training MMA alongside certainly won't hurt. The same goes for perfecting your MMA game, Krav Maga training can definitely help you in several areas - especially if you do hard sparring or competition.

Krav Maga vs MMA - A did practicing self defense in Krav Maga classes

Realistically the two are not so distant cousins that have basically become the adopted children of the martial arts world. You simply cannot deny that where there used to be Karate and Taekwondo dojos in basically every strip mall in America in the 80's, 90's and early 2000's - there now stands an MMA gym that frequently offers Krav Maga training in their place.

When You Train MMA, is Krav Maga Part of the Curriculum?

This will certainly depend on the gym you have enrolled in to train MMA. Some gyms will offer Krav Maga training regularly, where others may only offer a class when a specialist happens to be coming through town - some not at all.

One of the reasons for this is that in Krav Maga, force can be applied to small joints and techniques such as eye gouging and groin strikes are allowed. This can lead to confusion when an MMA fighter is in a professional fight - in the heat of the moment they may slip into their Krav Maga training and be disqualified.

Who Wins in a Fight between a Krav Maga Specialist and an MMA fighter?

This would definitely depend on the context of the fight. Someone that focuses entirely on Krav Maga training would most likely be overwhelmed by a professional MMA fighter when fighting under the Unified Rules of MMA.

Techniques such as cage and octagon control would make it difficult for the Krav Maga practitioner to get the upper hand - let alone not being able to use small joint manipulation and other techniques.

Change the rules and pin a group of MMA fighters in an alley including weapons, the odds increase to favor the fighters with a heavy amount of Krav Maga training.

If it's pure hand to hand close quarter combat in an open format with no ring or cage, then the odds are closer to even betting lines.

The Breakdown

Realistically when comparing MMA training and Krav Maga training, it's essential to consider your personal goals and the situations you're likely to face. While both disciplines offer valuable skills and techniques, Krav Maga focuses on real-world self-defense, handling multiple opponents and neutralizing an armed opponent whereas MMA training hones skills for one-on-one combat in a controlled environment.

Ultimately, the best choice for you may be to incorporate elements of both disciplines into your training, capitalizing on the strengths of each and creating a well-rounded and versatile fighting style. So, whether you're drawn to Krav Maga for its practicality or MMA for its competitiveness, remember that your martial arts journey is unique, and it's up to you to define what works best for you.



What is a better discipline MMA or Krav Maga?

Determining which discipline is better, MMA training or Krav Maga training, depends on your objectives. If you seek competitive fighting and well-rounded skills, choose MMA. If your goal is practical self-defense in real-life scenarios, Krav Maga is a better fit. Consider a combination of both for a comprehensive approach.

Can training in both MMA and Krav Maga be beneficial for a martial artist?

Yes, training in both MMA and Krav Maga can be advantageous for a martial artist. The same as training in any martial art or even practicing yoga and ballet. MMA helps develop diverse techniques and athleticism for competitive one-on-one combat, while Krav Maga enhances situational awareness and real-world self-defense skills. Combining elements from both disciplines creates a well-rounded and versatile martial artist prepared for various combat situations.

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