Mixed martial arts as an industry has exploded in popularity in recent years. Most movies now have realistic MMA fight scenes in them, instead of oddly-choreographed kung-fu (although the kung-fu genre does remain popular!), and you may have noticed that even pro wrestling shows such as those run by WWE are now adopting MMA into their scripted bouts.

It’s easy to understand why. The audience for UFC, Bellator and other major fight promotions is huge, and other media companies want to harness that ‘smart’ demographic. In the world of pro wrestling, educated viewers are called ‘smarks’ or ‘smart marks’. They know what they are viewing, and enjoy suspending disbelief. They particularly enjoy it when the creative department or choreographers ‘tip the hat’ to them and drop little inside jokes into the content they create.

Fighting Without Fighting

Learning MMA for real takes years, and is not something that most Hollywood stars would have time to do because of the risk of injury. The good news is that stunt people, wrestlers and actors do not need to be skilled at fighting and sparring, there are a few key moves that they could learn which would allow them to fight on-screen, without really fighting.

Essential Skills

Learning breakfalls or Ukemi from a good Judo school is a good starting point for scripted fighting. Learning how to take a bump or fall safely is useful for day to day life, and will also make it safer to be thrown, taken down or swept in a real fight. These skills can be trained on a crash mat with minimal risk.

Inversions are also useful to learn. Basic cartwheels, Granby rolls and even more advanced skills such as Iminari rolls to enter into leg attacks look incredible when they are performed on camera. They are very hard to pull off against a resisting opponent in a fight but it is possible to learn how to do them in a choreographed scenario.

Posture and base are two things that separate trained fighters from beginners. It is possible to teach someone how to do an armbar, choke, sweep or takedown fairly quickly, however performing such moves on someone who does not know how to respond properly can be risky. If you sweep someone who does not know how to fall, they may injure themselves. If you attempt to armbar someone with bad posture or balance it will look sloppy and they will fall over too easily. A lot of teaching people how to ‘fight for movies’ relates to teaching the actor how to move like a fighter so that they can receive the sequence properly.

If you are interested in learning how to do MMA stunts, getting some basic training at a local MMA school is a good starting point. A great place to start could be a good MMA resource like this one. Even a few months of training will give you the foundations you need to pick up most choreographed fight scenes relatively quickly. As an added benefit, it will help you get into really good shape as well!