MMA Style Training In Defensive Tactics

I Know Smith And Wesson

Once, when training on the campus of Utah State with an old friend of mine, a passer by was compelled to go out of his way and approach us in a quiet room in the basement of one of the dorms. “Yeah, well I know Smith and Wesson.” was how he chose to make his presence known. My reply was, “Is he here with you now?” The guy lowered his eyes, let out a sigh and walked on.

Have Firearms Made Martial Skill Obsolete?

Defensive handgun skills are a perfectly viable and important aspect of self defense and personal safety. However, I’ve seen far too many gun fixated individuals who simply don’t understand to true nature of personal conflict and violent situations. After all, The simple state of owning a firearm does not ensure proficiency in their use or even in their safe and responsible possession.

Last week while at the range, a Range Officer started up a conversation, not knowing me personally, nor of my background in the Martial Arts. The conversation turned to self defense and he mentioned that most defensive handgun situations would take place in under 10 feet. I though to myself, using a firearm, while definitely effective, can sometimes be quite impractical. Both from a legal standpoint as well as from a physical one.

Guru Dan Inosanto and Tuhon Leo Gaje Jr. have done much research and contributed greatly to the tactics involved with close quarters weapons based tactics. The video above was from a Law Enforcement Training video entitled “Surviving Edged Weapons”.

Guru Marc Denny has also contributed to this body of knowledge with his collaboration with Gabe Suarez in their “Die Less Often” series.


Experts such as these have helped to establish a principal well known to Law Enforcement as the “21 foot Rule”. But as civilians, it’s going to be hard to justify drawing down on a probable threat at 21 feet. If you are attacked, chances are, the gap has already been closed and familiarity with empty hands techniques will be necessary to stave off the initial attack and make the time and distance necessary to deploy any sort of self defense weapon.

The Role of MMA Style Training In Defensive Tactics

Will MMA, Submission Grappling, Striking or Jiu-jitsu skills be able to totally nullify the Edged Weapons attacks presented in the videos above? Not necessarily. However, neither will possession of a Firearm, Baton, Blade or even expertise in Edge Weapons techniques, in my opinion. But training in any of the above, and especially cross training in the various disciplines will definitely increase your likelihood of survival… or as Guru Denny puts it, will help you to “Die Less Often”.

In particular, what I feel training in MMA, Submission Grappling, Striking or Jiu-jitsu gives you is a sense of time and distance, of conditioning levels, principles of sensitivity, body mechanics and leverage. They familiarize you with angles, positioning and body contact. So that when you pick up a weapon, you better understand it as simply an extension of self vs. as a be all end all magical tool that will ensure victory under any circumstances over any adversary or group thereof.

Martial Arts Go Beyond Simply Aiding Defensive Training

Many of the so called friends of Smith and Wesson (and we use the name here simply as a metaphor for the gun dependent individuals and not as a slight against the actual gun manufacture who I believe produces quality products and provides the public with a valuable service), will suffer from heart attacks and corronary heart disease long before they ever use their firearms skills… if they do in fact have them.

Martial Arts provide much more than simply techniques, and training for defensive situations. They provide a base level of fitness and health that extend beyond the very practical aspects of self defense.

Some will say the chances of you ever using your Martial Arts are so slim that they simply aren’t worth the investment in time and money. I’d venture the same bet for home insurance, something which you could live without if you absolutely had to. And yet, these same people dutifully pay their premiums, month after month, attempting to insulate themselves from a situation that they hope will never, and probably won’t ever happen.

What About Empty Handed Threats?

I definitely believe the best way to learn about and handle weapons based attacks is from experts in weapons based arts such as Kali, Escrima, and Arnis. But what about an unarmed attacker? I think the same goes for empty hands. Seek out an expert in empty hands instruction. Having the ability to go empty handed gives you a lot more options versus immediately escalating to the use of a firearm or other lethal weapons.

Having skills with empty hands also gives you skills that will only contribute to your use of weaponry should the need ever arise. Breath control, fine motor skills, stance, all of these are integral parts of marksmanship fundamentals. Footwork and angulation are hugely important in the weapons based arts of the Philippines.

Empty hand Martial Arts are still the safest, most versatile and beneficial form of self protection and defense. And no one ever said that Martial Artists aren’t good friends with Smith and Wesson too.

What Are Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on the role MMA, and related Martial Arts play in Self Defense and Defensive Tactics Training?

17 replies
  1. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Shortly after publishing this article, a friend put up a thread with this link in it:

    I would agree with the importance of footwork 100%. It’s the first thing we teach our students and was the second set of videos we shot for the Members Only Area. Stance and Footwork are rudimentary elements of our method.

  2. joe from tampa
    joe from tampa says:

    i can draw aim and fire my sub compact 9mm in less than a second. nuff said. i respect martial artists for their skill, dedication, and their abilities to fight without manmade weaponry. but the fact remains, if you bring a fist to a gun fight, it’s likely you’ll be on the losing end.

  3. wylothar
    wylothar says:

    This is the golden argument. I think the dog brothers video shows how at cqc range the gun is way less effective than h2h and knife defense drills. That 1 second you may not get as you have to try to create distance, time, malfunction possibility, wardrobe malfunction. It endless when you have a singular option that isn’t of your own doing.
    In that video the gun is used but it is never done without some sort of h2h defense to create the environment needed to draw the gun.
    I dont teach “self defense” or bring up tar tactics in my classes much, it too messy of a topic for me but you have to have h2h, knife, and gun training. I think knife defense may be the one that will be best to save your LIFE at close range.
    But this is a continual argument and staunch proponents see it in their light and reject others. That what is nice about the open mindedness of damagecontrol mma.

  4. robin jeff davis
    robin jeff davis says:

    I can give you my opinion as a 20 year veteran in law enforcement. I never used any police based defensive tactics during my career. I did use arm drags from wrestling and some muay thai knee’s and even a Kali based foot stomp. I have been shot at and used my firearm in the line of duty. I am a certified defensive tactics instructor and can tell you most police departments and civilian based programs don’t practice for these type of situations. If someone has any type of sharpened instrument, I’m creating distance or using a barrier or closing in to secure the weapon etc. I faced off with a mentally deranged male wielding a katana and grappled with a female with one of those big steak knifes. In the end, it’s all based on your mental capacity, physical traits and survival drive.

  5. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Great insights Mr. Davis. Thanks for your comment. Are you perchance from WA? I heard about a mentally derranged guy there a few years back weilding a Katana. They took him out with a fire hose and a ladder. Awesome use of improvised, non lethal weapons. The Mind is the greatest weapon of all!

  6. robin jeff davis
    robin jeff davis says:

    No Sir, but I have seen the footage of that guy. A fire hose is an awesome weapon. My case would be unbelievable if it wasn’t documented my crazy samurai guy was wearing the samurai bamboo plate, when I tazed him the darts didn’t penetrate it. Talk about a “holy s***” moment.

    I totally agree about the focus on footwork. In the defensive tactics program, there is no footwork. I use to have my guys “shadowbox” the movements to warm up and get them to not “plant” but to move.

  7. naturalbornfighter1
    naturalbornfighter1 says:

    Great article Dr.Sick! Gun’s aren’t as prevalent over here in the UK but they are still used. Knife crime where I live was recently reported as the worst in the world. I get sick of idiots when I show them some hand to hand techniques and they say, “I’d just pull out a gun and shoot you.” I know very few people over here who would gain access to any firearm let alone have one on them.
    Truly great insights from Dan Inosanto, the Dog Brothers, Gabe Suarez and all the other contributers in the discussion.

  8. Sterling Okura
    Sterling Okura says:

    Excellent point on Martial Training providing a level of fitness and other benefits that extend beyond self defense.

  9. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    @joe from tampa. Your abilites though, impressive don’t necessarily negate the usefulness of Martial Skill. I mean no disrespect. I’d feel very accomplished to be able to do what you can. But consider the video below. The attacker is shot, and yet still closes the distance and creates a hand to hand situation. Martial Technique would definitely come in handy in that situation:

  10. Poneyboy Miller
    Poneyboy Miller says:

    Great article. I like the story Ajarn Chai tells when he was in Mexico teaching a seminar and a by stander shows Ajarn a revolver he had tucked in his belt. Ajarn then proceeds to kick the gun off his belt and closes the distance and asks the gentleman what are you going to do now?

  11. Damage Control MMA
    Damage Control MMA says:

    lol. I’ve never heard that one Khru Poneyboy. 🙂 I tell you what I would do… Leave a brown streak in my shorts.


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