Knowing how to join MMA (mixed martial arts) and getting involved can be intimidating. Gyms packed with skilled fighters, busy rings, and lots of noise can make beginners wonder if they’ve made the right choice. If you’re wondering how to start MMA training, this guide should be of assistance.
Learning mixed martial arts is a lifelong learning process. Although it requires dedication and patience, it’s gratifying for those who persevere. It builds muscles, strength, confidence and a competitive spirit.
Proper MMA training teaches you the rules and techniques to master. Come and look at our tips before heading to your first MMA training class. After acquiring your needed gear and setting practical goals, you should be on the right track.
Before investing in martial art tools and a training package, having a broad understanding of what the sport consists of is essential.
MMA initially started in ancient Greece and was called pankration, or ‘all powers.’ Because of their combat knowledge and skills, Ancient Greek fighters were often recruited by Alexander the Great among his warriors. This allowed MMA to travel to India. As a result, monks brought martial arts to China, giving birth to kung fu, karate, and judo.
During a trip to Brazil, Helio Gracie, a judo fighter, developed what we now know as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Contenders from across the world quickly realized that to win, they needed to incorporate as many helpful tactics as necessary. Hence, boxers started to borrow techniques from jiu-jitsu, karate fighters took from the taekwondo approach, and so on. MMA was born.
In the 1990s, MMA increased in popularity. While at first fighters had little official training, today’s contestants go under a heavy and versatile type of preparation. Although all types of martial arts are represented, Brazilian jiu-jitsu still prevails.
The IMMAF — the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation — launched, in 2012, what would become one of the most popular MMA competition leagues. To bring international MMA fighters together, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) came alive.
MMA’s Main Concepts
Most think of MMA as an exclusive practice for men. This sport is, however, becoming more popular among women. Ronda Rousey is an excellent example of this, becoming a superstar in the octagon as well as in Hollywood movies.
Professional fights usually last for three to five rounds of 5 minutes each. Amateurs’ rounds, however, tend to be shorter, about 3 minutes long.
Before getting into this sport, we advise becoming familiar with a fight setting. This will help you set your expectations and goals accordingly.
Rules of MMA
Despite the fact that regulations can slightly vary according to the fight’s organizational body, there are standard rules most agree on.
How a Fight Unfolds
A fight can end in several ways:
- KO/TKO: A KO (knockout) or TKO (total knockout) is the ultimate victory for MMA fighters. Since your rival is unconscious, the referee will step in to stop the fight to protect the unconscious fighter. Once this occurs, the fight is over.
- Submission: This generally happens during choking or when locking your rival’s joints. By tapping, you or your competitor will, therefore, forfeit the fight.
- By decision: If both fighters make it to the end of the fight with being knocked out or tapping out, the judges will make a decision. As the fight progresses, they score the fighters and award rounds to them.
- DQ: Finally, disqualification — or DQ — happens when a fighter goes against one of the golden MMA rules.
Actions that are determined dangerous and intentional will lead to being DQ’d. Here are some of the behaviors that will get you out of the ring.
As we mentioned, MMA is a combination of various martial arts techniques. Here are the main ones used during a fight:
Strikes include punches, elbows, kicks and knees. Due to this, most MMA fighters will learn boxing, muay Thai, kickboxing, karate or taekwondo.
Standard boxing focuses on powerful punches and footwork, providing the basic skills to MMA fighting. Taekwondo, karate, kickboxing and muay Thai, however, will teach you to use your elbows, knees and legs in order to strike the opponent.
All MMA fighters should master a grappling — or clinching — technique. Punching hard is great, but, in general, it won’t make you win the battle.
To hold your adversary body-to-body and onto the ground, judo, jiu-jitsu, or even wrestling techniques are predominant. You’ll learn how to lock your competitor, as well as throwing and choking techniques. You’ll be taught the best tactics to lead your rival to submission.
Gear Required to Start MMA
Fitness gyms may have gloves and other necessary equipment to get you started. Although it isn’t always the most hygienic solution, it can be convenient if you’re testing out the sport before committing further. If you’re attending a serious MMA gym, get your tools set before your first training session:
- Training gloves.
- Mouth guard.
- Shin guard.
- Groin protector.
- Rash guard.
- Fighting shorts.
During your training, gloves are highly recommended. Providing additional padding, they’re suitable for both bag work and sparring. It won’t only be softer on your knuckles, but it’ll also protect whomever you’re fighting with.
16-ounce gloves are generally the norm for sparring, while 12-ounces gloves are usually used for speed, bag or pad training.
Gloves are meant for rough use, and low-quality products can tear apart after a few weeks of intense training. If you’re looking for gloves to keep long-term, leather material is preferred.
Ensure that the gloves you use provide a tight fit and good wrist support. If you shake your hand down, the gloves shouldn’t come off.
Don’t forget to use hand wraps under your gloves. They add an extra layer of protection and are an essential piece of equipment when it comes to boxing.
If you want to protect your teeth, a mouth guard is a must. They prevent your jaw from suddenly snapping when getting hit. An unprotected mouth can cause severe damage to your teeth and mouth!
The most economical models come in different sizes to fit various jaw shapes and sizes; the more snug fit they are, the better. For this reason, we recommend investing in either a ‘boil and bite,’ or a ‘custom fit’ model. A generic model that you can’t mold will rub on the gums and won’t provide a good enough level of protection.
Shin guards are meant to protect your feet and lower legs — up to your knees — during kicks. As a result, you want the maximum padding possible, especially around the ankle joint. The guard should cover most of your feet, while still allowing it to move freely.
Ensure that it doesn’t make you slip. A strap will generally hold the guard onto your foot. Make sure it wraps under the foot arch, avoiding direct contact with the floor.
This piece of equipment might not need further explanation in terms of how beneficial it can be. Some are simply plastic cups, while other models are padded and attach around your waist.
While an old pair of shorts and a tee-shirt will get you started, investing in MMA clothing is worth it eventually.
If you’re planning on seriously getting into MMA, a rash guard will be necessary. Not only is it easier to move with a tight-fitted top, but your trainer will be able to correct your posture and style better.
Grappling might tear a regular tee-shirt at the first attempt. In addition, everyday tops wouldn’t protect you as much against the spread of skin infections — such as ringworm bacteria. This disease can be easily passed on from one fighter to another. The best rash guards are designed with antimicrobial properties for this purpose. They’re generally made with a mix of polyester and either lycra or spandex.
Choosing between long or short sleeves is a matter of personal preference. Long-sleeved models, however, can avoid burns when you’re thrown on the mat at full speed.
Boxing shorts are typically made of flexible material and usually feature double stitching. This prevents the fabric from tearing when doing high kicks.
Tight-fitting shorts are typically made of spandex or lycra and are usually the most comfortable. They’re designed with a groin protector chamber.
Boxing shorts may look similar to regular beach shorts; however, they differ in a few ways. First, they don’t have pockets, which can be a safety hazard when a toe gets in the way. On top of that, they don’t include metal parts or a zipper, another dangerous component.
Instead, they’re made with a velcro strap or a string to tighten the short. If neither of these options seems appealing, you’ll find shorts combining both types.
Before signing up for your first class, think about what your goals are. Are you looking to learn MMA as a hobby? Do you aim to become an amateur or professional MMA fighter?
This will significantly impact the budget you dedicate to your training and equipment. Keep in mind that once you start competing at a professional level, you won’t be able to fight again as an amateur.
If you’re looking to take part in a competition, your weight will be an important factor to consider. Depending on the category you aim to compete for, you might need to make drastic dietary changes:
Although it can vary depending on the organizational body, women are generally only allowed to compete in the featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight categories.
Finally, most professional MMA fighters start by specializing in one type of martial art before venturing into different types of training. If this is your intention, choose the primary martial art you wish to master.
Selecting an MMA Gym
Selecting an MMA gym isn’t that straightforward. It also relies on how serious you are about learning MMA and the different types of gyms out there.
Types of Gyms
If you have a limited budget, youth centers might be a good place to start. You’ll generally find all types of fighters, both men and women, adults and children and people with various experience levels.
Boxing clubs should feature a large fighting ring in the center. Some of them can provide intensive training. If you’re expecting a pat on your back after every round, this might not be the right training center for you.
Dedicated MMA Gyms
MMA gyms would be the best learning environment for serious students. Don’t get fooled by commercial ones though. A good MMA gym will only provide mixed martial art classes and will focus heavily on combat techniques.
If these options seem too intense, starting in a regular fitness gym might be a good choice. Although you’ll be far from the real MMA training experience, a kickboxing class could be a soft introduction to this sport.
Finally, if you’re a self-learner, you’ll be able to set up a training room in your house. A heavy bag and a speed bag should get you punching and kicking without leaving the comfort of your home.
Tips to Find the Best MMA Gym
Here is our advice when searching for the best MMA gym:
- Meet your trainer before purchasing a package.
- Select a gym with a busy ring/octagon and several trainers available.
- A good MMA training center will display pictures of their winners.
- Look for gyms offering both striking and grappling teachings.
- Don’t hesitate to register at different centers if needed. For example, you might want to attend boxing courses in one location and judo in another.
- Try a drop-in class before committing. Some places even offer one or two weeks of free trial classes.
- Check your future classmates’ level and skills; you don’t want to be the most experienced fighter.
- Fight Resource and Find MMA Gyms can be a good starting point when looking for a reputable school.
Getting Ready for Your First Class
Your first training session can be intimidating. Here is some guidance to help relieve the apprehension:
- Arrive at least 20 minutes early. Take your time to get ready, take in the atmosphere and wrap your hand.
- Listen to your instructor. Leave the ‘my friend told me’ or ‘I watched on YouTube’ type of sentences at the door.
- Be patient. Know your limits and when it’s time to stop or rest.
- For the best results, attend at least three classes per week.
- Expect to shake your opponent’s hand before and after a sparring session.
To the Point
Starting MMA requires patience, commitment and passion. With dedication, you can become as good as your trainer, which is why choosing the right MMA gym is critical.
When beginners hear about MMA, they tend to think of boxing only. Punching is, however, only one of the many aspects of martial art. Grappling techniques should also be taught to win a competition.
Whether you’re looking for casual or professional training, this comprehensive guide should make you feel more comfortable with getting into MMA.