T Nation

Sport MMA: Natural Talent for Striking vs. Grappling


This isn’t a which is better for MMA thread.

The question I’m asking is why are some people more gifted for striking than grappling and vice versa? Another question that I believe somewhat overlaps the first one is what natural athletic and psychological predispositions and talents will lead a person to one or the other?

I’m not totally grasping at straws here as I believe I might have a small piece of that puzzle figured out.

I am very much naturally better at striking by a lot. I think a part of it is the way my nervous system and musculature is geared. I’m geared more like a corvette than a tow truck. What I mean is that I can move with a lot of speed and power but I’m poorer at ‘grinding strength’. Don’t get me wrong, grappling can have some very explosive movements but I just don’t see it as fast and explosive as a kick or punch.

If someone thinks I’m full of S**T, please feel free to point out why and of course I’d love to hear what other kinds of qualities lead a person to one or the other.


I come from a Muay Thai background and one thing I heard somebody ask a beginner who was trying to decide: If somebody was attacking you, what would you first instinct be? Hit them or grab them?

Most gyms I’ve seen that teach Muay Thai or BJJ, often teach both. I also think it’s a good idea for beginners to try both and see which they like better. I think in terms of physical demand, I think grappling has more longevity than striking.

Obviously I consider myself geared for striking, but I later on developed a good clinch. I liked striking better because I liked be able to move on my feet and having some space/distance.


I definitely agree about having a natural talent or inclination for one vs another. I would absolutely rather grapple than try and trade blows.


Why do guys who can’t bench half of what I do throw a baseball twice as fast? Some people are just put together in a way that favors certain movements, and they are the ones who will rise above the people who aren’t even if all other factors (training methods, work ethic, mindset, etc.) are equal.

Are you asking about regular Joes who don’t train getting in street fights? i.e. What will they revert to when the violence begins?

Or are we talking about people who train one, the other or both seriously? i.e. What do they favor from a competitive, recreational or professional perspective and why?



It’s all in the hips. If you can turn and generate that rotational power naturally you can punch and kick, naturally.

If your hips can only get front to back, you gotta go straight in and get your hands on dudes.


It seems that, in general, striking needs to be learned starting at a young age whereas people have taken up grappling in their 20s and 30s and gotten to a high level. I think there is some scientific explanation for this. It’s like someone who never threw a ball when he was a kid will always throw like a girl if he starts as an adult. It’s the same with punching.


i think that is part of my problem. I was just the other day doing shadow boxing, remedial stuff without moving around all over the place, just the bare bones jab for a round, jab straight for a round, etc. My sense of balance hasn’t improved, although I will mention I am overdue for joining a club and having a professional eye looking at me.


Lets also acknowledge that athletes are doing well based on what’s available to them.

Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, etc were good wrestlers because that’s what was available to them as youth athletes and thats what they spent their time on.

Yosihda and Akiyama are good at Judo because growing up in Japan, it was easily accessible.

The Gracies are all good at jiu jitsu because everybody in their family does it and that’s what they’re immersed in. They still have the capacity to excel at striking.

Kids in Thailand are better at Muay Thai than BJJ because that’s whats available to them. Same with the inner city kids in Philly who train boxing, some of which are free programs. I’ve trained Muay Thai at a place that also did boxing, and because good boxing coaching was available, all the Muay Thai guys had good hands. And I know a kid who did boxing who later crossed over to Muay Thai and excelled.

Only after MMA got big and there were dedicated schools for it, did people have a choice to do both at the same place, or have the option to do either/or. A lot of it comes to personal preference at this point based on what you enjoy. And how do you know if you’d like it if you don’t try it?


Interesting discussion.Im a late starter in martial arts. I started BJJ and boxing after finishing with soccer, for a new challenge and something new to learn. Ive been doing BJJ for 2 years, and boxing almost for 1.

Im actually very ordinary at both arts. Im not sure if Im better at striking or grappling, although I suppose that may became more clear in the next year. Im also not the type to get into fights either, so Im not sure if that has got anything to do with it.



Yeah…I think about stuff like this all the time. Most recently when my teenage daughters and I were stopping off at Walmart (ironically after their BJJ class). We were confronted by 5 teenage boys talking some serious shit. I carry, but had left my gun in the car. We made it safely back in the car and left, but I was rattled. I’m 47 this year and am pretty damn fit for a woman my age. However, I’m considering joining up with my girls now for some formal BJJ training. But the thing I keep replaying is the very real possibility that if shit had gone down, there’s no way I could have gotten away with a one on one fight. I have no doubt those boys would have piled on…acting like a gaggle of feral cats. How does a formally trained fighter manage fighting one or more untrained assailants?


The only real way to win a 5 on 1 fight is to be part of the 5.


I’m just a bar bouncer with some jiu jitsu training, but like our hulking friend above hinted at, multiple attackers is BAD NEWS. I’ve dealt with one such situation professionally and it was very, very ugly, with the guy I was doing my best to protect going to the hospital with serious injuries inflicted by a group of 5 coked-up bikers. A guy my age (38) was recently beaten to death in my town in a multiple attacker scenario. No amount of jiu jitsu or karate is going to stop a brick to the head coming from your seventh or eighth simultaneous attacker. The poor guy held on for a day before he died. Sadly, stuff like this can happen.

I would be very, VERY skeptical of any hand-to-hand martial art that claims to give you any real chance fighting off multiple attackers. I don’t know of any that actually work in real life. The instructors selling the notion that they can prepare you to fight off several attackers at once are pure snake oil salesmen if you ask me.

The best martial art for fighting off a surprise 5 on 1 scenario is, in my opinion, combat handgunnery. Know all of your applicable laws in your jurisdiction, but in my area a multiple attacker scenario constitutes disparity of force, justifying the use of lethal force in defense of your self or those under the mantle of your protection (i.e. daughters).

The best overall defense is to not be a target. I assist my BJJ instructor in delivering self-defense training to our area’s home care hospice workers. We’re not teaching people to choke out grandma here, we’re teaching grip-stripping techniques for when grandpa gets grabby and, most importantly, we teach tactics for awareness and safety in unfamiliar locations. Always backing into your parking space. Walking confidently, posture up and head on a swivel, scanning your surroundings and avoiding areas where you feel there might be trouble. Open your car door and do a complete 360 scan of your area before you get in. Think about your safety at all times sort of stuff.

Jiu jitsu is great for self-defense. Learning how to escape when someone’s holding you down is very valuable and very effective. Learning how to fall is probably the best self-defense skill you’ll pick up from BJJ. Most of us are in much greater danger from falling than we are from aggressive hoodlums.

Good luck and stay safe!


Thanks, guys…I’ll stop threadjacking after just one more tidbit. Realizing what could happen I had told the girls to get back in the car. Then I had to face these idiots to get back to the driver’s door. When I confronted them back, they truly seemed off balance…like they hadn’t expected me to make that move. I only count that as my luck in their youth and naivete. I’m not sure I’d stand a chance against even one of them, but two things are true now. I will not leave my car without my gun again (when and wherever I can get away with it) and I’m learning all I can about BJJ and simple hand to hand (and handgun) techniques.