Mixed martial arts has become a byword for the variety of martial arts systems of today. Not that long ago, at least in my lifetime, the term martial arts included only a handful of styles (karate, judo, aikido, kung fu, tae kwon do, tai chi, and others).
Today, as in years past, martial arts styles are characterized by terms such as submission, takedown, grappling, striking, throwing, weapons-based, and meditative. Mixed martial arts events provide an opportunity for fighters from all styles to participate against each other. Teachers of MMA combine several martial arts styles that is more a sports style.
Reality based martial arts generally leaves out many of the trappings of traditional style martial arts. Most reality based schools do not use uniforms (such as doboks or gis), rank insignia or the traditional signals of “I’m ready.” Rather these schools teach the fighting skills needed in real life, to protect yourself or someone else. Because of this, the term ‘martial arts’ is, according to some, a misnomer. Mixed martial arts, in reality, is a fighting discipline rather than an ‘art’.
That leads one necessarily to a decision-making process: are you looking for a traditional or holistic approach to martial arts or are you strictly looking for self defense? MMA is a good choice if you only want self defense techniques. However, if you are looking for an approach that combines physical prowess along with a spiritual practice, then one of the more traditional martial arts would be a better choice.