Today this is the most prominent question asked by beginner-martial artists. Thanks to the rise of Brazilian Jiujutsu (BJJ) and the success of wrestlers in the UFC it is pretty obvious that grappling has great benefits.
So why don’t we just go for grappling then? Why do many aspiring martial artists question whether to start with a striking martial art like karate, boxing or muay thai or a grappling martial art like wrestling, judo or BJJ?
The answer is quite simple actually. For generations, we have watched movies that romanticized striking martial arts. If I were to speak of myself, I would say that I have watched dozens of Kung Fu movies with my favorite one being “Snake in The Monkey Shadow”. How about the original “Karate Kid”, “Blood Sport”, “Rocky 1” all the way to “Rocky 245,568”?
In the 90’s the Gracies started turning the tables and today the UFC is living proof that grappling has a dominant place in real fights. However we should be very careful about that statement. You do not want to go to ground and grapple on the street because if any of your opponent’s friends are around they can come and kick you in the head and only God knows what they will do to you once you are unconscious. Fight your fight standing and use your grappling abilities to stay on your feet or for getting back up if you happen to find yourself on the ground.
At this point you still don’t know whether to start with grappling, striking or combine both. So let me break it down for you:
Start with Grappling
If you are young and you are getting into martial arts for the long haul start with grappling. I always say: “Striking Arts are like carpentry, in 6 months you are good to go! Grappling Arts are like Genetic Engineering, the possibilities are endless”.
If you consider the UFC again you will see that the likes of Ronda Rousey (judo), TJ Dillashaw (wrestling), Jon Jones (wrestling), and Cain Velasquez (wrestling) -all of whom were champions in their respective weight classes- have not been strikers for a long time but it did not take them long to learn boxing and muay thai techniques which they incorporate into their arsenal so well; even knocking out opponents using these striking techniques.
It takes a lot more time to figure out the grappling techniques enough to be able to submit or choke your opponent if you are a striker who is now learning the art of grappling. The best you can do is use your knowledge of grappling to defend against takedowns, submissions, and chokes. Most of the best UFC fighters with a striking background utilize their grappling in this way and it works quite well for them. My favourite would be former light weight champion Chuck Liddell (Predominantly Kickboxing) who had some great wrestling defence which he used to stand up as soon as he was taken down. How about Junior dos Santos (Boxer) who had been taken down only once before his fight against Cain Velasquez? I can’t think of any better examples of strikers using grappling to be better fighters and yet they have never submitted anyone of significance or chocked them out.
So if you are young and you have your whole life ahead of you, you should start with the part that takes the longest to learn but will make you extremely dominant. Once you are great at grappling you can take up striking.
Start with Striking
If you are one of those guys who has been in confrontations in your neighbourhood not because you are a trouble-maker but because trouble is always breathing down your neck start with striking. Not all of us come from the same background and in some places you just have to stand up for yourself. Remember that fighting is not cool and no amount of martial arts will make you invincible. That being said you have to be able to strike fast and run for it when you have to.
Sometimes you might have to defend a loved one and you are not going to do that by pulling guard on someone. You hit them and you hit them hard and fast and that is exactly what striking martial arts will teach you.
For very young kids who want to start martial arts, I say to the parents that grappling would be the answer as they are not in immediate need to beat up people and it is a safer way of introducing them to martial arts. However if your kid loves punching and kicking then send them to a Shotokan Karate dojo. It is a point fighting system which will help them with coordination, speed, timing, and striking accuracy under a very controlled environment. There are similar forms of karate if you do not have Shotokan near you. Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu are other examples of karate point fighting systems.
If you are old enough (10 years onwards) I highly recommend boxing. It will make you a devastating fighter in the ring if you decide to take your martial arts further and a dangerous opponent in the streets. In fact boxers make great muay thai practitioners when they make the switch. Starting with muay thai or kickboxing is also not a bad idea, especially if you want to learn how to quickly strike and injure your opponent in self-defence.
Start with MMA Straight Away
If your teenage years have come and gone and have never practiced martial arts of any sort I would suggest you jump straight into mixed martial arts (MMA). Believe me when I say you will save time and money if you choose to join an MMA club instead of going to different dojos every week to learn two or three different martial arts. Another advantage you will have is that you will learn how to efficiently transition from grappling to striking and vice versa during a fight. You need to be in an MMA training environment to be able to do that.
You should however make sure that the MMA club is a good one. A lot of people these days start up MMA clubs. Someone who has a boxing or wrestling background may open up an MMA club and as soon as you start training there you might notice an emphasis on the style he is comfortable with. There should be a separate trainer and training day for the different disciplines that make up MMA. If that is not the case please do not waste your time and money and find another alternative.
How about self-defence classes?
Self-defence classes (Krav Maga, Kajukenbo, Traditional Jiujutsu etc.) are great in teaching you awareness when there is trouble. They are also great for knowing how to control the situation by positioning yourself and your loved ones properly. You may also find yourself in a situation where you cannot use your striking and cannot use take down techniques and so on. In such close combat moments self-defence classes may save your life. If you are a woman or a small person you will have people trying to put you in such a predicament.
The reason why I mention self-defence is because everyone starts training martial arts for a different reason and when it comes to mixed martial arts (MMA), self-defence is the original MMA even though today when we speak of MMA we only think of cage fighting.
So there you have it; the answer to the eternal question of “Grappling vs. Striking”. Listen to your needs, cater to your personality and do not follow what others do just for the sake of it. You know yourself better. One more thing; please I beg you not to be part of the great debate that is “Grappling vs. Striking – which one is better”.
I leave you with another one of my fantastic sayings to make life simpler for you:
“Those who can, do! Those who can’t, argue!”
Are you planning to start martial arts soon, planning to switch styles or just think this post is AWESOME? Please comment below. Thank You!