Mixed Martial Arts vs American Freestyle Karate – What’s the Difference?

Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport, while American Freestyle Karate is an approach to life skills through a mix of martial arts skills, techniques and values.

Martial arts offer a huge range of benefits for children who pick up a practice, from growing self-discipline and confidence to improving physical fitness, health, and learning important self-defense skills. 

The most common choice between martial arts schools that parents have today is between American Freestyle Karate (AFK) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

MMA and AFK are remarkably similar and often used interchangeably, but it is important to understand the differences when choosing a martial arts program.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a Combat Sport

You may know of MMA from the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) where two people engage in an extreme, full-combat fighting competition, referred to as cage fighting – including striking, grappling, ground fighting, and a variety of other fighting styles – including martial arts. 

In essence, MMA brings together the most effective aspects of a number of different martial arts for grappling, submitting, and striking at opponents for use in a competitive sport.

American Freestyle Karate (AFK) embodies traditional Japanese karate with American ingenuity and values

American Freestyle Karate (AFK) as a sport is like MMA fighting in that it encompasses a variety of self-defense techniques. The biggest difference is that AFK doesn’t just focus on competition like UFC, but rather uses the techniques to prioritize personal development, self-defense, core values physical fitness. 

Checkout this basic Defense against a push in American Freestyle Karate:

You can see in this example of how a variety of marital arts techniques work together to create AFK self-defense skills.

While traditional karate comes to us from Japan, American Freestyle Karate martial arts schools have taken the traditional Japanese approach to martial arts and mixed it with American culture, approaches, and ingenuity. Traditional karate can be viewed as being based on the practices that worked in Japan for hundreds of years, however in AFK, we are not bound by tradition and so we focus on and develop techniques that work in today’s modern world, often combining our practice with aspects from other disciplines such as Muay Thai and Brazilian wrestling. 

AFK focuses on teaching a wide range of techniques from kicks, punches, grappling, and joint-locking to give all practitioners a wide vocabulary of techniques. This is what often sets AFK apart from traditional karate schools because the focus is on putting aside approaches that hold a practitioner back while equipping them with practical skills that work in today’s environment. 

AFK styles may also differ from each other based on the instructor’s own preferences for, say, more punches than kicks, or based on where in the world that form of karate originated from (some may utilize more techniques from Korean or Chinese martial arts).

Karate is more than just punches and kicks however, with practitioners also developing self-discipline, perseverance, a set of core morals, and a strong character built on honesty, loyalty, honor, and fairness. This is an aspect of karate that still holds true today in AFK, and all students who practice AFK will find that personal growth is focused on just as much as physical training.

Choosing the Right Martial Arts School

Here at Super Kicks we realize that the martial arts school down the street may not be right for you – and you should have a right to choose a school based on your values.

Checkout our guide to choosing a karate school and what to look for in martial arts!

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