What You Must Know Before Taking Up A Combat Sport

Thinking of doing martial arts? Read this.

Consider the risks if you’re thinking of becoming a fighter. By Joyce Teo

Photo: Ratthaphon Bunmi /


With combat sports like muay thai or mixed martial arts (MMA), there is an inherent risk of injury.

For instance, in muay thai training, one can kick someone's arm instead of the pad, due to either fatigue or poor technique.

Or in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a new participant can end up with a broken arm or other injuries as he may not know when to tap out in order to get his opponent to stop.

"Inexperience means it is easier for an opponent to get you into a vulnerable position and further inexperience may stop you from tapping out, until an injury is sustained," said sports medicine physician Cormac O'Muircheartaigh.

Dr Fadzil Hamzah, a staff registrar at Changi Sports Medicine Centre, said older adults with cardiovascular risk factors or symptoms suggestive of cardiovascular diseases should get a pre-participation screening before engaging in a physically demanding sport like MMA.

Here are the physicians' tips for those who are new to martial arts training:

(Also read: This Is Why Sandra Riley Tang & More Women Are Doing Combat Sports)


Talk to people in the industry to find out more about the sport and go for free trials at different gyms, said Dr O'Muircheartaigh, who is also the medical consultant in Asia for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

MMA is considered one of the hardest sports to train for.

If you want to be an MMA fighter, join a professional MMA gym that has experts who will guide you along with a customised training programme, said Dr Fadzil, who was the chief medical director for ONE Championship. "The worst thing you can do is to do pointless workouts on your own that are based on a generic exercise programme that you found on the Internet."


Bodies adapt to what they are put through. Build up your skill level gradually as this has been shown to reduce injury rates, said Dr O'Muircheartaigh.

"There are no shortcuts in learning new skills in any sport and unless you get the fundamentals right and master the basics of a discipline or sport, you are at a higher risk of injury and poor performance."

Dr Fadzil said many athletes rely solely on high-intensity interval training, as many fitness experts and conditioning gurus claim that slower endurance training will cause one to lose muscle and strength. He counsels otherwise, as a well-rounded training is the way to go.


Many amateur athletes often try too hard and rush their progress. "You cannot be an MMA fighter in a week," said Dr Fadzil. "This is going to take years and years of developing your skills."

You must also gradually strengthen your body.

Said Dr O'Muircheartaigh: "If you are experienced in one discipline but not in other areas, these weaknesses will be exploited by an experienced opponent. This will increase the risk of injury (and losing in a competitive environment)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Fighting fit'.

Also read:

5 Ways Martial Arts Training is Good For You

Related Article

You May Also Like

More Singaporeans Doing Runcations Overseas
Here’s What Happened at the First Strong Fit Squad Event
"I Worked Out With Rihanna's Trainer, Jamie Granger!"
53-Year-Old Doris Teo Has Done 30 Marathons in 6 Years
More Gyms & Studios Are Offering Stretch Classes in Singapore - Here's Why