Rickson Gracie throwing a hook

Black Belt Archives

The fighting legend of the Gracie family explains why you need to know striking in addition to grappling if your goal is to be a well-rounded martial artist.

To be a well-rounded fighter, you must possess the ability to strike and grapple. Using punching to complement your grappling and ground-fighting skills is very important. In fact, it is necessary to have a background in striking if you wish to excel in MMA fighting events. For instance, if you're a grappler and you want to be able to close the distance between yourself and your opponent, you must understand how to strike.


A good sense of timing is especially important for you to develop. You must be able to judge the potential danger of the movements of your opponent. Knowing the right time to block a technique and avoid taking punishment from your opponent's blows is also a product of good timing.

Young Rickson GracieA young Rickson Gracie chocking his opponent in a Black Belt shootBlack Belt Archives

If you are competing in a wrestling match, you might not need to have this type of understanding of timing, especially while you and your opponent are on your feet. But to succeed in MMA competition, you absolutely must have mastered this element of fighting. That will enable you to shoot in for a take down and totally avoid the punishment your striking opponent will try to inflict as he struggles to avoid being taken to the ground.

When a fight goes to the ground, I find that being on the bottom and holding my opponent in my guard is very advantageous for many reasons, including the striking possibilities it presents. There are many things I can do on the ground, and I can formulate a strategy there.

Striking can mean much more than just punching with my fist. Punching constitutes only about 15 percent to 20 percent of the possibilities. The rest are knee strikes, head butts and elbow strikes. All these techniques are important to know because you must consider the damage that can be done to your knuckles when you execute too many strikes with your fists.

Young Rickson Gracie performing a take Young Rickson Gracie performing a take downBlack Belt Archive

When it comes to MMA fighting, I would much rather look for an opening for an effective grappling move than focus on just hurting my opponent with some type of strike. I always look for the possibility of employing a submission technique, and I always try to defeat my opponent in the most humane way possible, without any unnecessary violence.

I don't think martial artists must focus on violence when they compete, and one way to avoid that is to choose a submission technique over a striking technique. In any encounter, it is good to be as gentle as possible.

— story by Rickson Gracie

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