Balderdash! There are two ways to break this down; the elements of the art itself, including methods of training, and the alignment of the art to the practitioner. I want to be very clear right up front that this is not meant as an assault on any martial art - they all have their value, and a highly skilled practitioner in any of the major arts is likely a effective weapon.
The MMA proponents often point to the popular live and televised matches, the somewhat brutal nature of the fights, and the "anything goes" motif. I'm never sure that brutality is necessarily an indicator of effectiveness, only a measure of, well, brutality. The directness and multiple elements of MMA (strikes, kicks, throws, grapples) certainly provides an attacker with more options for subduing an opponent than say America's classic martial arts, i.e. Boxing.
Then again, if you ever witnessed Mike Tyson in his prime you knew that even highly trained fighters could not get within an arms reach of Tyson before they'd get hit. Frequently, one hit would end the fight. Tyson spent all of his training focused on perfecting the punch. Jab, hook, upper cut, face, kidney, stomach, you name it; he perfected it. And the guy could take a hit. Forget grappling, you'd never get close enough. So, is boxing better / more effective than MMA? It probably was for Tyson.
The thing to remember is that all of the martial arts demonstrations you see on television (and make no mistake, they are demonstrations), is that they come with rules; rules which do not apply in the real world of self defense. For instance the defacto prohibitions for MMA / Ultimate Fighting are:
- No headbutting.
- No eye gouging.
- No hair pulling.
- No biting.
- No fish-hooking.
- No attacking the groin.
- No strikes to the back of the head and spinal area.
- No strikes to, or grabs of the trachea.
- No small joint manipulation.
- No intentionally throwing your opponent out of the ring/cage.
- No running out of the ring/cage.
- No purposely holding the ring ropes or cage fence.
- No grabbing or putting a hand inside the trunks or gloves of the opponent.
- All of the martial arts have their value, especially when the training regiment is examined
- Effective fighters have matched the elements of the art to the persona of the artist
Tang Soo Do is a defensive art. We don't teach how to sneak into a hardened bunker and kill people. We teach how to defend - true, our philosophy is that even a defensive move can disable an attacker (referred to as Defense / Strike ). We also emphasize Il Kyuk Pil Sal, or one technique to finish, i.e. each block or strike should be so effective as to end the conflict. For me, a defensive art fits my psychology as I don't envision ever wanting to be an attacker. The best martial art is one that you'll actually use, if the time ever comes.
If you choose a style that uses a lot of eye pokes, and you're just not prepared to blind someone, then make another pick. The vast, vast, vast majority of the benefit of practicing an art is to maintain good body health, mental discipline, and achieve the self confidence that comes from not being in fear of those that would do you harm.