As with any sport, there are rules, and the UFC is no different. And different martial arts vary widely in their techniques. So, what martial arts are banned in the UFC?
As a general rule, no martial art is banned in the UFC. However, martial arts weapons, such as swords used in Kendo are not allowed. And there are certain techniques within some martial arts that are banned, such as eye gouging and groin kicking.
Keep reading to learn which martial arts have moves that are illegal in MMA and the 27 foul moves that are banned in the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) August 4, 2016
Is Kung Fu banned in the UFC?
Kung Fu moves are not banned in the UFC. However, styles and techniques of Kung Fu that involve the use of nunchucks, poles, throwing weapons, and blades are banned.
And of course, some styles of Kung Fu such as Tai Chi, wouldn’t be terribly useful in the octagon.
All the striking techniques in Kung Fu are fair game in the UFC, except for headbutts and 12-to-6 elbows (I’ll explain what this means later in the article).
Even though Kung Fu moves are allowed in the UFC, I wouldn’t recommend training Kung Fu if you want to be a good MMA practitioner. That’s because even though many moves in Kung Fu have the potential to be dangerous, you don’t practice them against people who are trained in Muay Thai and boxing.
This is problematic, as most MMA fighters know Muay Thai and boxing, so if you only learn Kung Fu and only train with Kung Fu practitioners, you won’t be a good MMA striker.
There is some benefit to training Kung Fu for MMA, however. Kung Fu is all about discipline, respect, dedication, and self-control. If you spend even just 2 Kung Fu classes a week with people that are better than you, you will develop good habits, a good attitude to learning, and laser focus.
Training Kung Fu won’t make you an elite fighter, but it will improve your mindset.
One of the first things we develop in students training at Krav Maga Wordwide is a fighting spirit.
— Krav Maga Worldwide – Fort Lauderdale, Florida (@kravmagaschool) July 2, 2019
Is Krav Maga banned in the UFC?
Krav Maga in itself is not banned in the UFC, however, there are a few moves in Krav Maga that are banned under the UFC ruleset. You are not allowed to use the following Krav Maga techniques:
- groin strikes
- head buts
Krav Maga is a martial art that has no rules and was pioneered by the Israeli military to be used in hand-to-hand combat situations in war.
For this reason, Krav Maga uses weapons in training and makes use of brutal techniques that are banned in the UFC and other martial arts organizations. If you want to learn MMA, don’t train Krav Maga.
You will spend most of your time in Krav Maga classes learning techniques that are illegal or impractical in MMA.
Also, many of the drills in Krav Maga are not realistic to how you will get attacked in MMA. There are, however, some benefits of training Krav Maga for MMA, you can check them out in this recent article of mine.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Taekwondo specialist Keith Hackney earns the nickname “The Giant Killer”,
when he finishes 616 lbs. Emmanuel Yarborough at UFC 3 pic.twitter.com/eKVNfz8W2U
— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) September 9, 2020
Is Taekwondo allowed in the UFC?
Taekwondo is allowed in the UFC. Taekwondo is a martial art from South Korea and emphasizes using brutal head and body kicks to knock out your opponent. All Taekwondo techniques are legal and effective in MMA.
You are only allowed punches and kicks in Taekwondo – no elbows, knees, clinching, wrestling, or grappling. You are not allowed to punch the head, and you are not allowed to kick below the waist.
All kicks must be landed with the foot, and you are not allowed to use your shinbone like you are allowed to in Muay Thai.
Since you’re not allowed to use punches to the head in Taekwondo, you may find it difficult to adjust to striking the head and being hit in the head initially. However, it doesn’t take long to adjust.
Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC welterweight champion, used to train Karate (which is very similar to Taekwondo) until he was an adult.
He then transitioned to boxing and MMA, and his coach Firas Zahabi said his transition was quick, as he had learned how to move, strike, and defend from his Karate training. Some examples of ferocious Taekwondo fighters in the UFC include Petr Yan and Yair Rodrigues.
If you want to be an MMA practitioner, I recommend supplementing your regular MMA/Muay Thai striking with a little bit of Taekwondo.
Taekwondo kicks can be difficult to pull off in MMA, but the reward for mastering them is incredible. To learn more about how effective Taekwondo is in MMA and how you can make it work for you, check out this recent article on my site.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Fun Fact # 3
Jeet kune do’s foundation lies in wing chun theory, Bruce Lee liberally borrowed from other kung fu styles: taekwondo, wrestling, fencing and Western boxing.#funfact #mma #willpower #iwillfight #brucelee #jeetkunedo #ufc #bellator pic.twitter.com/sxeIm2fSKL
— LDG (@LDGFitness) February 23, 2018
Is Jeet Kune Do allowed in the UFC?
While Jeet Kune Do is allowed in the UFC, I don’t recommend training Jeet Kune Do for MMA, as you won’t learn how to fight trained fighters. Of course, all Jeet Kune Do techniques using weapons are banned in MMA.
And the martial art overall is lacking in the diverse and devastating striking techniques you need to master for MMA.
Jeet Kune Do is a martial art pioneered by the legendary Bruce Lee. He took the most effective techniques in Kung Fu and boxing to make an incredibly effective and efficient martial art.
Jeet Kune Do is all about fluidity – not being tense, tight, and compact, and is about flowing around your opponent and devastating them without using much of your own energy.
The original form of Jeet Kune Do did not make use of weapons. However, there are some branches of modern Jeet Kune Do that do use weapons.
Jeet Kune Do is supposed to be a martial art for self-defense – not a martial art for combat sports. Therefore, it does have some techniques like groin strikes that are not allowed in the UFC.
If I could recommend one striking martial art for MMA practitioners, it would be Muay Thai. If you want to know why Muay Thai is so effective for MMA, check out this recent article on my site.
— Martial Arts Lessons (@MartialLessons) December 31, 2018
What moves are banned in the UFC?
All UFC fights are contested under the unified rules of mixed martial arts. This ruleset states that there are 27 possible fouls, and these include:
- Eye gouging
- Biting and spitting
- Fish hooking – where you put your hand in someone’s mouth and yank their face away to the side
- Hair pulling
- Slamming someone on their head or neck
- Striking your opponent’s spine, or the back of their head
- Striking the throat or grabbing the trachea with your hand (you choke people with your arms or legs, not your hand)
- Pointing your fingers to your opponent, so they get eye-poked as they move in.
- 12-to-6 elbow strikes – where you hit someone with an elbow strike at a perpendicular angle
- Groin attacks
- Kneeing and kicking the head of a grounded opponent
- Stomping on a grounded opponent
- Holding your opponent’s clothing (although you are allowed to hold your own shorts to defend submissions)
- Holding and grabbing the fence
- Manipulating fingers and toes
- Throwing your opponent out of the octagon
- Using your fingers to open up your opponent’s cuts
- Clawing, pinching and twisting flesh
- Avoiding fighting
- Using bad language in the fight
- Ignoring the referee
- Poor conduct that leads to your opponent being injured
- Fighting your opponent after the bell
- Fighting your opponent during the break between rounds
- Attacking an opponent whilst they receive medical care
- Your corner interfering with the fight
If a fighter performs a foul move, the referee will issue a warning to the offending fighter. If the fighter performs another foul, they will have points deducted. If they foul again, they will be disqualified.
The referee judges the severity of the foul and may choose to disqualify a fighter immediately if the foul is severe and intentional.
To sum up, the only martial arts that are completely banned in the UFC are those that involve the use of weapons – such as some forms of Kung Fu.
Generally speaking, techniques in Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do, and other martial arts are allowed in the UFC, provided they are not one of the fouls listed in the unified rules of mixed martial arts.
I wouldn’t recommend learning a traditional martial art like Karate or Taekwondo as your base striking style for MMA. That’s because most MMA guys are Muay Thai fighters, and you have to practice sparring against Muay Thai fighters to succeed.
Also, I would advise against learning self-defense focussed martial arts like Krav Maga.
You should learn martial arts like Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, and BJJ, which are all designed to work in a sport fighting situation against a trained fighter.