While karate flourished in the 1970s up through the 1990s, this boom came in part to the public image of karate given through movies and TV shows. Celebrities like Chuck Norris showed us how amazing and tough you would be with karate, and how you could defend yourself against nearly any foe.
However, MMA has come on the seen and demonstrated a new and more flexible mode of fighting. Rather than focusing on kicks and chops, MMA combines multiple styles for a fighting style that is meant to be, above all else, effective in winning fights.
Here, see some of the differences between the two, and why MMA is ultimately more suited for self defense.
What is Karate?
Karate is a Japanese martial art. Born from traditional Okinawan fighting styles, modern karate is actually the mixture of these styles with traditional Chinese kung fu that came to the islands from the mainland.
Unlike its depiction in movies, karate is not a mysterious art with the power to kill people or make their limbs go numb. Karate was a hard-hitting defensive style rooted in concepts of discipline and self-defense. Karate uses bricks, blocks, and wood striking to emphasize hardening the body to withstand punishment, and as such the discipline itself is seen as a “hard” style (as opposed to “soft” styles like Tai Chi). The emphasis of fighting in karate is stand-up fighting using hard blocks and chops, with some kicks.
What is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a modern invention built from a combination of several martial arts used for sports competition.
The primary martial arts used in MMA are:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This offshoot of traditional Jiu-Jitsu was modified by japanese immigrants to Brazil, who taught it to local residents. Made famous by the Grace family, BJJ emphasizes using grappling and joint locks to take down an opponent regardless of their size.
- Muay Thai Kickboxing. This is actually the more modern incarnation of tradition Muay Thai that serves as the national sport of Thailand. This fighting style uses boxing footwork, strong kicks, and striking with the hands and elbows to inflict punishment on an opponent.
- Amatuer Wrestling. Many MMA fighters started out as olympic-style wrestlers. Wrestling training provides fighters with the skills needed to stay on their feet, take opponents down from a standing position, and get back up if they are taken down.
Self-Defense vs. Professional Fighting
The primary difference between these two styles is that karate is primarily an art for defense and self-discipline, whereas MMA is a style of fighting for sport.
Now, there are several karate tournaments around the world, but these tournaments typically emphasize strict karate fighting. As is, they do not accommodate fighting styles that include any grappling or wrestling. MMA, on the other hand, combines stand-up fighting, close-quarters fighting, and ground fighting as part of their competitions.
Why Mixed Martial Arts Provides Better Self Defense
Knowing how to fight is an asset, period. However, training in MMA styles will give you a more rounded offense and defense that will serve you in multiple situations. That’s because MMA fighting is specifically about winning a fight. There aren’t traditions or styles to worry about with MMA–if you are boxing, then you know how to strike; if you are on the ground, you can grapple; if you are close up, you can use your knees and elbows to great effect.
At the end of the day, MMA is going to protect you more so than karate in a wider variety of situations.