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Like any sport, mixed martial arts has developed its own lexicon. And like the sport itself, it's a polyglot.

"It's absolutely a hodgepodge," says Jonathan Snowden, co-author of The MMA Encyclopedia. "Just as MMA has taken techniques from all these various martial arts and combined them all together, we've done the same thing with the terminology. When you're watching an MMA fight, you're going to hear wrestling terms, you're going to hear descriptions of jiu-jitsu moves and Thai kickboxing and boxing. The terminology all mixes together."

Ground and Pound

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A fundamental tactic in which a grappler secures a stable top position and delivers punches and elbows to his grounded opponent. Ground and Pound was popularized in the UFC by an influx of collegiate wrestling champions in the mid 1990s, most notably former UFC Heavyweight Champion Mark Coleman.


Techniques designed to gain a positional or tactical edge over your opponent, either standing or on the ground. It's a broad term can refer to clinching and takedowns, as well as submissions and reversals on the mat.


Any technique that leads to one combatant ceding the fight, i.e. submitting to his opponent. Holds either exert pressure on the joints or are designed to choke a competitor unconscious.


Any manoeuvre that puts an opponent on the mat. Most takedowns in MMA are leg attacks popularized in amateur wrestling, though many upper-body throws and trips common in judo have also come into vogue.

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Arm Bar

An arm lock, usually but not exclusively applied on the ground, in which the attacker manipulates his opponent's arm such that the elbow joint is hyper-extended.

Guillotine Choke

A hold in which the attacker encircles his opponent's neck and restricts the flow of either blood or oxygen to the brain, depending on which variation of the hold is employed.

Muay Thai

The art of eight limbs (hands, shins, elbows, knees) has a long and storied history in Thailand. The variety of techniques has made this the most popular striking art among MMA competitors.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

An offshoot of judo popularized by the Gracie family in the 1920s in their native Brazil, BJJ focuses on ground techniques and positioning. Brothers Helio and Carlos Gracie were able to take the basics of judo and turn it into arguably the finest ground fighting system in the world.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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