Skip to Main Content

Is It Better to Focus on Stand-Up or Grappling for Self-Defense?

By Jessica Militello 

Two martial artists grapple, trying to gain an advantage over each other.For every UFC fight, the conversations in the days and weeks leading up to the event and thereafter always returns back to the debate of who has the best skill set to defeat their opponent and what tools really win fights-the striker with the quick and powerful hands, or an agile grappler that will take you down so quickly and make it almost impossible for you to get back on your feet.

In the martial arts realm, the conversation is no different- of course most martial artists would believe the art they train in is the best, and why shouldn’t they feel that way, especially if you’re dedicating hours to perfecting your craft, whether it's for your own progress or for an upcoming competition. It’s true that every art has something to offer and tools for self-defense, but which tools should you rely on to protect yourself in real life so you can get home in one piece?

Jeet Kune Do is Unique

Jeet Kune Do is unique for this reason-the principles are based on the idea of having to defend yourself in a street scenario; a completely unregulated situation with an opponent you definitely were not expecting. Each student of the art can take in all of the many facets of what the art offers, and individualize their skill set for their own personality and strengths. One person might prefer knees and kicks, while another takes preference to striking and kicking. With as many different tools as the art offers, the combinations of skills are endless. Some call Bruce Lee “the godfather of MMA,” because of this. But what skill set might make one fighter better than another?

Grappling vs. Stand-Up Fighting in Recent UFC Fights

Looking at recent events, if you watched the UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis on February 20, in the second round of the fight, as Curtis Blaydes went for a takedown, Derrick Lewis landed a brutal uppercut that instantly left Blaydes knocked out cold on the canvas. Both MMA heavyweights have backgrounds in grappling; Blaydes, in wrestling, and Lewis, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s fair to suggest the fight could have easily ended up on the ground, but Lewis has a history of knocking out opponents, so does his black belt need not apply when it comes to winning fights? Some fighters who prefer to stay on their feet would even suggest this particular fight was a prime example of why its better to focus on their striking- if your footwork is fluid and your fists are brutal, what more could you need in an altercation? Why not spend all your efforts on perfecting your punches if that will end the fight quickly? 

Grappling Completes a Stand-Up Style in MMA Fights

But even UFC fighters who train hundreds of hours and study their opponent’s past fights and training style can’t predict how they will need to defend themselves in a fight. This ambiguity was certainly present on March 6 at UFC 259 for the light heavyweight main event of Israel Adesanya vs. Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya, a world-class kickboxer with solid ground game certainly lives up to his name, “the stylebender.” By going up against someone like Blachowicz, a powerful striker with amazing wrestling skills, many fans and MMA commentators felt like the fight could go in either fighter’s favor. 

In the end, the fight went to a decision after five rounds. Adesanya held his own with powerful strikes and kicks, but Blachowicz overwhelmed him with his wrestling and physical strength. It was exhausting just to watch Adesanya put all of his strength and effort into getting out from under Blachowicz. The Polish light heavyweight proved the better of the two in the way this particular fight played out. In this situation, Adesanya’s powerful punches and kicks were useless, because he couldn’t get back on his feet to use them. Those who specialize in groundwork like wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu probably felt pretty confident in their takedown skills after watching this fight and seeing another example of why grappling can be so efficient in a fight.

In reality, these recent fights are only a sample of hundreds of fights in the UFC where situations like this happen, but people still love to talk about different fighters and compare whose skillset might be better than another’s in an altercation. 

Well-Rounded Fighting Styles are Usually the Most Effective

The truth is every instance is different and what might work against one opponent may be futile against another. A punch that might knock out one fighter, may just get taken on the chin and barely make a difference on another. In fighting there’s no guarantees-that’s why it’s most efficient to be well-rounded, to expect anything, and be prepared to defend yourself on your feet and on the ground.

Cobra Kai Characters We Love and Hate

By Jessica Militello Warning: This article may contain spoilers if you have not completed the first three seasons of the show Cobra Kai. While fans of Cobra Kai anxiously wait for season 4 after a pretty intense season 3 finale, it’s...

Some of the Most Vicious Knee Knockouts in the UFC

By Jessica Militello Some of the most brutal and historic moments in the UFC have been from fights finished with knockouts using knees. Fans have a tendency to look at a fighter’s grappling, striking, and kicks, and can tend to overlook...

Using Jeet Kune Do Footwork to Avoid Getting Punched

The art of Jeet Kune Do created by Bruce Lee integrates all facets of combat. Various styles are borrowed from boxing, fencing, and other types of fighting. But one of the things that makes it truly unique is Jeet Kune Do footwork. If you...

The 5 Most Effective Types of Takedown Defense

If you want to achieve success as a martial artist, you need to improve your takedown defense as a way to avoid being brought to the ground during a fight. When mixed martial arts (MMA) first started, skilled grapplers won many of the first...

Helpful Head Movement Drills for Self Defense

There’s a saying in the martial world that says, “Either you move your head or he’s gonna move it for you.” Effective head movement is used to avoid oncoming attacks and also to set up strong counter moves. It can...

Bruce Lee: The Greatest Martial Artist of All Time

It is widely accepted by fighters and other people around the world that Bruce Lee was the most influential martial artist of all time. From his famous action movies to his unique martial art of Jeet Kune Do, the legend of Bruce Lee has held...

Why Martial Arts Is More Than Just Kicking

  Martial arts was initially seen as combative and puzzling. It was mostly learned and practiced by adults and was chiefly about self-defense. Martial arts has ever since grown from that stage of tiny dirty schools to schools teaching...

Fencing without a foil?

Bruce Lee often called his art of Jeet Kune Do, fencing without a foil.  In this entry we will be discussing what he meant by that statement.   If you take a look at fencing and Jeet Kune Do, you will not a few similarities.  One of...

Finding a Little Bruce Lee in All of Us

A slew of Bruce Lee types, embracing both men and women, could soon be making their way through the streets of New York--but with an added physical dimension; expertise in rough, tough and often savage street fighting.  In brief, those bad...

Doing Your Own JKD Thing

By Cass Magda   JKD has its own identity and follows a design with a purpose. It is a system. A JKD man's movement is definitely different and distinguishable from other martial arts such as Thai kickboxing, wing chun, or karate. The physical...

Getting To The Roots of JKD

By Cass Magda   In the Tao of JKD Bruce Lee said, "I hope that martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts and not the different decorative branches, flowers or leaves. It is futile to argue as to which single...

Jeet Kune Do: The Way of The "Stopping Fist"

Jeet Kune Do is training and discipline toward the ultimate reality in combat. The ultimate reality is returning to one's primary freedom, which is simple, direct, and nonclassical.  A good Jeet Kune Do man does not oppose force or give way...

Jeet Kune Do's Five Ways Of Attack

1. SDA (Single Direct Attack) A direct attack is composed of a single movement. The objective is to go to the target by the most direct route. Although it is the simplest of the attacks, it is the hardest to complete successfully because the...