MMA or mixed martial arts: what it is, technique, gloves and how to dress, benefits and contraindications

MMA or mixed martial arts: what it is, technique, gloves and how to dress, benefits and contraindications

The modern MMA (in English mixed martial arts) were born in the 90s to answer a widespread question in the general public since the phenomenon of martial arts films exploded in the 70s: “who would win between a boxer and a karateka ?Wrestling or kickboxing is better?’

Today MMA has become a worldwide phenomenon and is increasingly successful as an amateur sport to improve one’s physique, relieve stress and also for self-defense.

For example, the US military has developed a hand-to-hand combat program based on MMA training methods and techniques. Recently, however, the Italian champion Alessio Sakara has become a consultant to our very famous navy raiders, the flagship of the Italian special forces.

In MMA fights and in pair training it is always mandatory to use a mouth guard and groin protection. In sparring and in fights, free finger gloves are mandatory (4 ounces for professionals, 6 ounces for amateurs and in MMA Light).

Mentally, MMA, like all combat sports, teach the practitioner control of anger, to overcome their fears, to make immediate decisions under stress and a sense of responsibility. Indeed, by training in MMA one becomes aware of how dangerous the improper use of these techniques can be, for oneself and for others.

MMA: what are they

MMA, English acronym for Mixed Martial Arts, or mixed martial arts is a full contact combat sport whose regulation allows the use of all martial arts sports techniques: karate, Muay Thai, judo and combat sports:

  • freestyle wrestling.
  • Grappling.
  • Boxing.
  • Kickboxing.

Conor McGregor and the most famous champions of MMA

Some MMA athletes have also become famous outside the realm of the sport and have contributed to making MMA known to the general public, making it a sport capable of making millions for its stars.

The first to mention is the Irishman Conor McGregor. In 2017, he earned $30 million for a boxing fight against boxing champion Floyd Mayweather that garnered worldwide media attention.

He and Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov were listed by American sports TV ESPN, respectively in fifth and fifteenth place, in the top 20 most famous sportsmen in the world in 2019.

Notably, McGregor has surpassed athletes such as tennis players Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams as well as soccer players such as Paul Pgba, NBA star Stephen Curry and golfer Tiger Woods.

Instead, Ronda Rousey, the first woman in MMA history to be paid more than 1 million dollars for a single match, has also become famous as a model, WWE star and actress in films and TV series such as The Expendables 3, Fast & Furious 7, 9-1-1 and others.

Gina Carano also became famous in America by playing “Cara” Dune in The Mandalorian.

In the USA, Japan and Brazil, the countries where MMA has the greatest following, several champions have become testimonials for large companies. In America, however, Alessio Sakara has become a TV character (Tu si que vales, Beijing Express, Amici) and an actor in films with Claudio Bisio and Nicolas Vaporidis.

Training in amateur MMA: how it works

More and more men and women are starting to practice MMA not to fight but just to keep fit, let off steam and learn self-defense. Usually these people train 2 or at most 3 times a week.

On the other hand, those who want to fight as an amateur support 4 sessions a week on average.

The scheme of a typical workout differs between amateurs and amateurs essentially only in terms of duration and intensity. An amateur settles on 60/90 minutes per session while a fighter even reaches 2 hours and with a greater athletic effort.

Typical outline of a training session

The typical scheme of a session includes:

  • Initial warm-up with a little running and joint mobility, on average 10 minutes.
  • Athletic training. The most widespread system consists of a number of rounds equal in number and duration to those of an MMA fight or slightly longer. They will then last 3 to 4 minutes. Each round is a non-stop succession of exercises involving both aerobic and muscular effort. Each of them can last from 20 to 40 seconds maximum. They are dynamic exercises in which the typical handling of an MMA fight is replicated. They can be free-body or, more often, with the help of tools such as small dumbbells, fitballs, kettlebells, ropes and more. Overall, this phase lasts around 15/20 minutes but, let us remember, it is highly intense and, as we will see, it does not exhaust the athletic effort of the training session.
  • Stretching to increase muscle elasticity which is essential for performing techniques in MMA, 10/15 minutes.
  • Study of one or more techniques in pairs with training partners and their execution with bags or pads, on average 20/30 minutes per session.
  • Sparring or a sort of combat simulation between gym mates. It is normally performed without bringing the blows to full power to avoid trauma to the practitioners and this makes MMA practicable by anyone. Only those preparing for official MMA matches support “heavy” sparring or sinking blows but not often, as it would be too strenuous for the body. Usually you do 3 rounds of 3 or 4 minutes each with a 1 minute interval between them.
  • Final cool down, 5 minutes.

Sportswear and equipment

In MMA matches and training, loose shorts are worn that allow maximum freedom of movement of the legs.

In training and in amateur MMA matches, a t-shirt made of breathable and adherent material, known as a “rash guard”, is also worn. For safety reasons, any garment with pockets, buttons and zippers is always forbidden.

In amateur and Light matches, shins and foot protection are also mandatory and, in some cases, even a protective helmet.

Benefits of MMA

By practicing MMA it is possible to obtain various psychophysical benefits.

  • Intense aerobic activity burns fat and helps you lose weight.
  • At the same time it is one of the few sports that also makes the muscles work a lot and therefore tones and firms. In particular, the abs, legs and buttocks are put under great strain.
  • Improve reflexes and coordination.
  • Improve balance.
  • It releases stress.
  • Improve self-esteem.
  • It is useful for self defense.
  • Improve circulation.

Who is this activity recommended for?

As we have seen, MMA is practiced by both men and women, the latter are indeed constantly increasing given the psychophysical advantages of this sport.

Competitiveness can begin at 14 for both sexes with MMA Light. Today, many gyms also accept practitioners aged 12 and over.

The larger establishments also have activities for younger children, in the primary school age range. In this case we are dealing with preparatory activities and not with real MMA.

In practice, an athletic preparation takes place aimed at developing a physique suitable for MMA. Instead, from a technical point of view, lessons are held in Kickboxing, Wrestling and Ju Jitsu, disciplines in which one can

MMA: regulation

The myth that in today’s MMA it is possible to use any technique must be dispelled.

In fact, modern MMA is a sport that follows precise international regulations. For professionals they are the “unified rules” while for amateurs the regulation of the International MMA Federation is used.

What can be done

In summary it is allowed:

  • Punching (straight, hook and uppercut as well as hammer punch).
  • Open hand strike.
  • Throwing kicks (front, side, circle, turn, ax and hook).
  • Hitting with knees.
  • Hitting with elbows.
  • Use any type of grappling throw except those that drop the opponent directly on the head.
  • Use “submission” techniques or locks, strangulations and muscle compressions that force the opponent to ask the referee to stop, declaring himself defeated.

Prohibited moves and behavior

  • Affect eyes, throat, genitals, nape and spine.
  • Biting and scratching.
  • Pull warheads.
  • Break your fingers with a lever.
  • Kicking the head of an opponent who is down.

MMA: difference between amateurs and professionals

To these limitations, among amateurs, there is a ban on knees to the face and the use of elbows. In addition, some grappling techniques such as ankle and knee twists are prohibited.

In America, amateur fights are also held for beginners with the use of padded helmets with a bar in front of the face that prevents blows from hitting.

In addition, MMA Light is practiced. In this version of MMA, the KO is forbidden so the blows must be controlled as in karate competitions or other martial arts.

Professional MMA fights consist of 3 bouts of 5 minutes each with 1 minute rest between rounds. When there is a title up for grabs, the rounds become 5.

Instead, among amateurs, the duration is reduced to 3 rounds of 3 minutes. Finally, in MMA Light, only one 4-minute round is fought.

You win for:

  • Ko (except in Light).
  • Submission (when an athlete requests a stop following a lock or strangulation).
  • Points like in boxing.
  • Injury of the opponent.
  • Disqualification.

But a match can also end in a draw.

Ring or competition area

The competition area, known in the jargon as the “cage”, is a raised ring, with a padded carpet to cushion falls. It is usually octagonal in shape but sometimes also circular or square.

It is delimited by a net or, more and more rarely, by…