Can you teach yourself MMA? There are not many fighters around who claim to be self-taught. Particularly notable is Evan Tanner, a competitor from Texas, whose path to the ring started quite late in his school life. Tanner became involved with high school wrestling in his sophomore year, but he didn’t enter the world of MMA until the age of 26.
It’s not easy to learn a sport without an instructor to push you to improve, and more importantly, to observe where you’re falling short. Tanner taught himself submission and grappling techniques by reading books on fighting and watching old instructional tapes created by the Gracie family.
The more usual story for MMA fighters is generally the fighter having started at a young age, then finding a school or mentor that then takes them to the next level of learning, instilling in them a wide variety of skills from other disciplines until the fighter has a well-rounded toolbox for fighting. Moreover, the company of others lets you have something to measure yourself against, as competition helps spur progression and dedication to learning. It’s not as easy on your own, with no one to help you keep motivated and on track.
Further, there’s the question of where to practice. To teach yourself MMA you’ll need equipment to properly condition your body and develop your skills correctly. This is going to be a very expensive undertaking, although there are some rather ingenious substitutes as used by third-world countries.
Evan Tanner may have been self-taught, but he had enough discipline to keep at it, and he started off from a good level of health and physical fitness. Not everyone willing to get into MMA will be the same. Training takes time, and on your own, there’s nobody to look after you and correct your mistakes and your bad habits. A training school may be a bit of a sacrifice, but it’s much more reliable, and with people to spar with and work out, there’s less chance of losing your way.
Sadly, Evan Tanner’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Following a solo-camping trip into the Californian desert in 2008, Evan failed to return on time and his body was later found by rescuers. He had succumbed to the excessive heat.
But just because it didn’t have a happy ending for him doesn’t mean it won’t for you. There are so many resources out there for learning MMA and as long as you have the right setup and a partner to train with, there is no reason why you can’t make it work. Youtube is a valuable resource for finding some lessons, but if you prefer a more structured route, you could always try something like MMA QuickStart or something similar.
Do you know anyone who’s self-taught with MMA? What do you think of their journey?