Young male, not looking for anything specific, but I am a huge fan of MMA in general. (not just the UFC/SF)

What would be a good beginner martial art for both fitness and relevancy to watching MMA/fighting? I'm thinking jiu-jitsu simply because you would understand all the holds they're doing, and if you ever went into MMA, you could use it right away.

Karate seems very useful for positioning, and several recent champions use it or are trained in it at a high level.

Any recommendations welcome, and why you would think it would be good.

I should also state that I'm not looking for a "base" so much as what would be good for when considering ALL of the following:

  1. Base - Something that's not just a "one trick pony" art (difficult to find, I know)
  2. Ease to get into - I don't want something that takes forever to get into, a ton of equipment, specialized training/gym, or requires hours and hours just to START it. (not maintain)
  3. Safety - Not super important, but the safest to do on regular basis. For example, boxing isn't really safe for either your head or hands if you did it (hard) twice a day COMPARED(!) to Capoeira or similar. Again, not super important.
  4. Fitness - Something that will get me moving and I can do it whenever. Again, not overly important, but boxing would be GOOD here because I could get a workout whenever I did it, and wouldn't need partners or a gym to get a good sweat going anytime.
  5. Fun - I don't want to HAVE to do grueling practices just to get into this art, and I don't want to have to sit silently for hours meditating. Something in between if possible.

So, what's the best when considering 1-5 as a whole?


13 Answers 13


Go and have a look at all the clubs around where you live. Train once or watch a session. Then pick the one that has the best instructor, the more friendly students, and the one you had the most fun with. Style is second to whoever is teaching you, to whomever you train with, and to however much fun it is. All in equal measures.

  • 2
    This advice (and entire thread/question) got me going to a local place that is great fun. After checking out one of their training sessions (they all were totally ok with me just watching), I could tell that they were in it for the same reasons I would be, and since it was an MMA gym, it had what I was looking for. (muay thai and jiu jitsu) Thanks!
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 18:08
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    @Matt: You are most welcome. Good luck with your training. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 6:15
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    +1 for "Style is second..."; and frankly, that's being nice to "Style". When you start seeing Martial Arts through the paradigm of formlessness, ...it's a true beauty.
    – Igbanam
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 15:04

A wrestler will say wrestling, a bjj player will say bjj, a muay thai fighter will say muay thai.

But to be fair, they are all right.

There isn't really one specific art that is better then the other for a base. I know, some people will argue with me for this, but if you look at the current state of mma, there are champions with a wide assortment of backgrounds.

It depends what schools are available to you and the level of instruction at them.

Now, since you want a recommendation, i will give you one. JUDO. It's what I started with, it gives you good balance, good takedowns, great control on the ground, and submissions. Throw in some muay thai, and you'll be a fairly well rounded fighter.

Disclaimer: It takes a LOT longer to get proficient enough at judo throws for you to not blow them completely and end up in a bad spot then it does wrestling takedowns. But when you do get there, it's well worth the effort.

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    Whats available is key. Its not a question of what style to take, its a question of which of the available schools are best. Unless one lives smack in the middle of a major urban area, the practical choices are typically limited. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:03
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    true, to a point. there are some arts, no matter how good the instructor is, that wouldn't really work well in mma. Hapkido is one, to many of it's techniques are illegal, tai chi is another. they could have amazing instructors and class quality. but still wouldn't be a good start.
    – Patricia
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:17
  • So you pick the best from whats available. How isnt that what I said? Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:40

Young male, not looking for anything specific, but I am a huge fan of MMA in general.

You just answered your own question: try something that has already caught your interest. It's not at all hard to find a school in your area. Look some up and check them out.

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    Great answer! Expressive, not cluttered with thousand words, going straigt to the problem!
    – Tomas
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:20
  • @Tomas, thanks. I was trying to be brief without being rude. I succeeded in at least one of those two. ;-)
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 21:24

Personally, I've had classes in both traditional and more modern forms, and I have to recommend Muay Thai. At least in my experience it fits your requirements:

Base - Muay Thai is more or less where most modern MMA fighters start. And in that sense it's a bit more practical than (for instance) kung fu.

Ease to get into - Again this fits the bill. Get yourself some gloves, and start working out. I've seen countless students start with no knowledge of martial arts, and within a week they at least know enough to know when they are "doing it wrong"

Safety - Muay Thai can be practiced with zero contact between students. About the most contact you'll ever have is hitting a bag someone else is holding. But if you want to step it up, you can always get into sparring.

Fitness - I've lost about 1lb/week since starting Muay Thai. That's more than I can say for other forms I've practiced. Muay Thai is more about conditioning that memorizing patterns or forms, so you'll normally get a much better workout.

Fun - I've had more fun in this sport than any other I've worked with. Tons of energy in the room, a few egotistical jerks, but overall just a group of people having fun learning how to beat the snot out of someone in a sports fight, and just having fun over all.

So anyway, I've studied several martial arts int the past. Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, etc. Of all these I've found Muay Thai to be the best balance, of conditioning, frivolity, and learning.


You say you are young.

If you are still in middle or high school you should join the wrestling team. This will be free daily training, and you will have bi weekly competitions if not more often. So Once you can fight MMA legally (18 usually) you will have already had 100 or so competitions, which is a huge advantage when it comes to the adrenaline dump of competition. Wrestling will teach you effective takedowns, which are useful in submission grappling/bjj/MMA as well, and often under taught. Being good at the takedown will let you decide to either strike with your opponent or take him down. You will also be used to incredible conditioning.

You can always start training boxing or bjj on the side, but I suggest while in school, at least wrestle. Its free, its proven.

Source; MMA fighter. Wished I had wrestling in high school.

  • Never heard of a wrestling team at high/middle school...could it be country-specific ? Commented May 9, 2018 at 17:34

You are probably correct about jiu-jitsu if you ever want to compete. Forrest Griffin makes a distinction between being a fighter and a martial artist in Got Fight. He seems to emphasize jiu-jitsu and grappling for success in being a professional MMA fighter. I've learned some karate, judo, boxing, hwa-rang-do, and most recently Aikido. I am most interested in having fun while exercising and being able to do it as an old man, which I kinda already am. Aikido has come in handy for me a few times during a slip and fall, but never had to use it in self defense. I was fairly good at karate about 30 years ago, had been learning it for 3-4 years, but one day I got jumped and woke up in the hospital. Oh well, I suppose some of the best fighters learn by simply doing it for a living.

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    +1 for mentioning that Aikido helped you with a slip and fall. Having trained Judo years ago did the same for me ;-) Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 12:34

There are many clubs that are MMA clubs. They often have instructors who are trained in various martial arts and fitness. If you are interested in MMA, this is a good way to go. These clubs are often connected with other clubs and they hold MMA matches.


Take some advice from Bruce Lee?

In Zen in the Martial Arts, author Joe Hyams repeats some of Bruce Lee's advice to him: to know your limitations and use them in your training. Lee says that he originally chose wing-chun because of his near-sightedness, and lead with his left foot because his right leg was significantly shorter.

So look for a martial art that's actually taught nearby, that you can afford, and that fits your personality. But also think about any physical limitations, quirks, and the like.


I agree that if there are nice people at a gym, this will motivate you.

But you must choose the art based on your personality, I'm sure MMA or BJJ will fit you, based on "I am a huge fan of MMA in general". If you are a fan of an MMA fighter and you are inspired to become like him I'm sure you will decide very quick.

Hope this helps you.


I would suggest developing expertise in a number of systems. Start with systems that develop striking and kicking skills, such as karate, muy thai, kung fu, kajukenbo and tae kwon do. Then move to styles that build your groundfighting techniques, such as submissions wrestling, jujitsu, and MMA. Add weapons systems, such as Black Eagle Eskrima, Sayoc Kali, kenjutsu, and Kali Silat. If you want to develop internal power, Bagua Zhang and/or Taijiquan will serve you well. Then you will become a well-rounded fighter.

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    Welcome to Matial arts! The OP is asking for a good martial art for fitness with relevancy to MMA. He is not asking how to become an allround fighter.
    – THelper
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 20:34

Depends on your age.

If you are very young I would say start of with kids programs that teach balance and co-ordination like Monkeynastics & some sort of intro ball sport. These are not martial arts but for children from 3 - 10 at least I would say there are more gain from this.

The first martial arts I would recommend is Judo from age 10 - 12, this is a relatively safe martial arts teaching you valuable skills like movement, placement, falling, balance, etc.

Once you 16 and got a few years of Judo behind you look at doing JuJutsu and maybe Karate/Wing Chun/Shaolin, etc. This will give you a good base for grappling and striking.


I would recommend you to try out Tai Chi Chuan.

I have been practicing this art but never meditating because I am not trying to get enlightened by practicing it! Another thing is that I believe Tai Chi is meditation in motion so we do not need to sit down and meditate!


I think it's important to know the difference between martial arts and MMA. Even though MMA means 'mixed martial arts', it really just involves the 'martial' part. 'Art' is an exaggerated term, though, in my opinion.

As Bob Cross said, if you're mostly interested in MMA that might be your best option.

What you should surely take into consideration, is/are the reason(s) for your practice. Do you mostly want to train for fun, or do you actually want to learn how to fight effectively? Are you interested in martial arts because of their forms and history, or do you want action?

Secondly, every school and teacher is different. Make sure you don't entirely get your idea of a specific martial art because of one school of that martial art.

Third, as for safety: If you feel boxing is not very safe, then I think MMA is unsafe even moreso. Mainly because in (kick)boxing you have big, soft gloves. I'm not sure though, never done MMA myself, so if I'm wrong anyone; correct me. Also depends on the school and teacher.

IMHO, most martial arts are more effectively than MMA, although they generally do take some more time to get good fighting skills. MMA is kinda 'brutal' and has very appliance-based training and strength, while martial arts usually concentrate more on techniques and perfecting moves. Again, depends on the school. MMA requires more strength and hard determination, might be better for you if you feel you are the 'warrior' type.

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