Someone once asked my sensei what he would do if Royce Gracie attacked him and tried to take him down. My sensei’s answer, “I dunno, probably pull out my knife and stick him.” The questioner was awestruck at the answer. My sensei went on, “I don’t train for sport, this is a school of combat. Since I don’t compete, if Royce Gracie was attacking me, it would mean he intended on doing my family harm and I would defend myself. Since Royce Gracie seems like a nice person who doesn’t assault people, this seems like an unlike scenario.”
I am sure that this person was not totally satisfied with the answer. What the person was looking for was akin to the age-old mental rat-hole that we see time and time again, “which martial art is the best.” Let me be up front, there is no such thing. If there was, everybody would learn that one, and it would cease to be effective. On to the question at hand:
There is nothing wrong with sport-oriented martial arts schools. I don’t denigrate other systems or teachers. Sport schools simply have a different focus. As a practitioner of combat-oriented jujutsu, I would undoubtedly get wasted stepping into a ring with a seasoned MMA competitor. I have no idea even what the rules our. My training, which involves killing and crippling techniques, would not carry over legally into the ring. I would be unprepared.
Does this mean that my art sucks? For MMA competition, yes. However, I personally have used my jujutsu to stave off a couple of assaults. My teacher, and fellow students have used this exact training to survive knife and gun assaults, muggings, attempted rapes, and other violent encounters. Our training works, and I have confidence in it.
Does this mean that an MMA competitor would do crappy in a self defense situation. Who knows? It really depends on the person, the situation, and the encounter. Surely MMA practitioners have combative skills and a high fitness level that may be helpful in a combat situation. Some tendencies of MMA fighters (such as the focus on a single adversary, going to the ground, and a lack of weapons training) might be shortcomings in certain situations unless there has been some cross training.
One thing I have learned over the years is that combat effectiveness is less about the art and more about the artist. I’d like to think that our training has been tweaked by real world survival situations enough that it provides a significant advantage in self-defense. I can tell you that there is no training like ours in Maine. But, if you come here expecting to learn how to grapple for points, you’ll be disappointed.