Tuesday 20 December 2011

MMA Self Defence

Unlike many others in the MMA world it wasn’t the Tap out t-shirts and scary tattoos that first attracted me to the sport. It was the realistic way of testing martial arts and fighting skills against a resisting opponent. I wasn’t convinced that the techniques used in my Karate point sparring would work in real life when confronted with a big angry, aggressive opponent. Especially if he isn’t familiar with the rules and formalities of traditional martial arts and just wants to smash your head in.
If only there was some way of testing your techniques realistically without going to jail or hospital. Luckily after I’d been doing Karate for about 3 months I saw a report on late night TV about the new sport of UFC which was just starting in the USA (this was the build-up to UFC 3). It looked excessively violent and gruesome at the start but it seemed like a good way of finding out what would work in a real fight.
Up until this point it was commonly believed that some styles were just combat sports and others were real martial arts and therefore better for self-defence. From observing MMA events it became apparent that almost all the successful fighters came from a combat sports background (wrestling, kickboxing, Judo etc.).
The styles of martial arts that focused exclusively on self-defence and deadly killing skills had many explanations for their lack of success in the MMA arena and these reasons may also explain the effectiveness of combat sports.
  • ‘In the street you may be attacked by more than one person’ - If you have done any boxing or wrestling you will know how difficult it can be against someone of similar size & experience. Some martial arts train specifically to fight multiple opponent‘s but having sparred with some of these guys I think that might be a bit ambitious.  The important thing is to make sure you can effectively fight one person first before you try to take on ten or twenty opponents.
  • ‘Ground fighting is suicidal in a real fight’ – It is important to have some grappling and ground fighting experience as it is pretty much unavoidable in a real fight. Some styles avoid grappling because the idea is to avoid going to the ground. That is a good strategy for a street fight but in many cases you won’t be able to avoid it. For example, maybe someone hits you in a surprise attack and the next thing you know they are on top in mount position. It’s better to know what to do and be familiar with that position. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
  • ‘Our system uses a lot of Hair pulling, biting & groin shots’ – Everyone already knows how to do all this without any martial arts training. These are some of the first things everyone learns as a child & they can easily be recalled in a violent confrontation. The other problem with these techniques is that you can’t practice them realistically. Whereas it’s safe & easy to do some rounds of boxing or grappling a few times a week, it’s difficult to find training partners for some biting practice. Also, it’s easier to add eye pokes & groin shots to your arsenal if you are already a good boxer or grappler than it is to add high level striking & grappling if all you know is eye pokes and groin shots.
  • ‘Our techniques are too deadly for competition or Sparring’ the techniques and styles could be very effective and deadly in theory.  The problem is that the students have never really practiced them against a resisting opponent so it’s unlikely that they will be able to use them under pressure in a life threatening scenario. Although the basic techniques of boxing and wrestling may not be as lethal, at least it is possible to practice them against resistance in sparring.

So what are the benefits that might make training in MMA or combat sports more suitable for self-defence?
  • Conditioning - Good physical fitness is vitally important to survive a self-defence scenario. Even without great fighting skills if you have good strength and fitness you can greatly increase your chances in a real fight. MMA & competitive combat sports demand a higher level of fitness and conditioning than many other styles which place more emphasis on learning overly complicated techniques.
  • Focus on high percentage techniques – MMA athletes, Boxers & wrestlers spend hours working on basic techniques – jabs, crosses, takedowns, chokes and arm bars – all of which are simple but effective & easy to use in sparring or competition. When the time it comes to actually use the technique in a life threatening scenario the athlete has done hundreds or thousands repetitions against resisting opponents.
  • Fun - Training in MMA or other sports such as boxing, muay Thai, BJJ or Judo is fun because it’s not solely focused on self-defence and there are opportunities to compete if you wish. Training specifically for self-defence can lead to a life of paranoia, always expecting someone to jump out of the shadows and attack.
The key to making your MMA or combat sports training suitable for self-defence and avoiding unrealistic techniques is to ask – would I want to use this move or this strategy if my life depended on it?  

Sunday 4 December 2011

Choosing an MMA gym

MMA is more popular than ever. There are lots of new gyms popping up everywhere. How do you choose the right one for you?
Firstly it depends on your goals. If you are doing it for fun or to lose weight, the most important thing is to find a gym in a convenient location where you enjoy the training and where you get along well with the coaches and training partners.
If however you planning to fight then choose your gym very carefully and take the following factors into account.
·         Quality Fight Team –Fighting is actually a team sport. The team consists of coaches and training partners. Without them it would be impossible for the fighter to compete at the highest level.  Make sure the gym has a proper fight team, a group of fighters who are actively competing in MMA. You need  to be sparring regularly with other active competitors this is not the same as sparring with a few out of shape BJJ guys even if one of them had a few boxing matches back in the 1970’s

·         Fight Team Training – Make sure there are sessions where the fighters can train together. Avoid sparring with the non-fighters where possible (although grappling is usually ok). Weekend warriors will often treat sparring matches as if it was an actual fight, they want to prove to themselves that they could actually compete at a high level as well and they don’t care that you are 2 weeks out from a real fight.

·         Coach won the state karate title when he was fifteen and has seen every UFC – Look for coaches who have actually fought or are currently fighting. This can be easily verified via Google, YouTube or Sherdog.com. There are some great coaches who haven’t actually fought in MMA themselves but for every Greg Jackson there are hundreds of unscrupulous Sensei’s who are trying to cash in on the MMA boom with their limited knowledge and experience. Check their credentials first.

·         Three Cages, six boxing rings and no fighters! - Flashy Gym doesn’t mean quality gym – Some of the best gyms I’ve trained around the world – (Vos & Meijiro Gym in Amsterdam, Paraestra & Keshukai Gyms in Tokyo) have been very basic but they have some of the best fighters in the world. Don’t be fooled by flashy facilities and expensive equipment, it is no substitute for quality coaching and good training partners. As long as the gym has a good standard of hygiene and safety that is all you need.

·         One more Rep! - Beware of over emphasis on conditioning training at the expense of skills training. This can sometimes be done by inexperienced coaches to cover up the gaps in their knowledge and might make you a little bit fitter but won’t really make you a better fighter. Don’t mistake hard training for good quality training; remember you are training to get better at fighting you’re not trying to be the best at exercising.

·         Where did these guys pop up from? - Check the history of the gym & trainers. If the gym is any good they will have been around for a while. Make sure that they haven’t just recently turned their Kung Fu dojo into an MMA gym to cash in on the UFC boom. Once again this can easily be checked with Google.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Running a great MMA show

I’ve been at more fight shows than anyone I know. From MMA shows to Boxing fight nights and everything in between. I’ve attended fight shows in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong & Thailand.

I’ve also been lucky enough to attend these events in a variety of roles. First off as a spectator, then as a corner-man, then a fighter, then back to being a corner-man and now as a coach. I've been lucky enough to have seen all types of events. Some very good & others very bad.

If you are planning on promoting a fight show here is a list of things I think could help…

  • Pay Fighters – Fight fans come along to watch the fighters; they don't come to watch ring announcers, card girls, interviewers or anything else. I’ve seen lots of shows where the promoters didn’t have a budget to pay fighters yet they could afford to pay for a ring announcer. After the show people will remember the really good evenly matched and action packed fights. They won’t remember if the ring announcer did a good job.

BUT, only pay the fighters if they deserve to be paid which leads on to point number 2…..

  • Research Potential fighters - I’ve heard of promoters putting fighters on their show based solely on a fictional fight record & Facebook fan page. On the other hand I know of one promoter who personally travels to Mongolia and other far flung destinations to watch potential fighters train & prepare for fights before he puts them on his show. If you want your fight show to stand out from the rest you might have to go the extra mile. This doesn’t mean you have to start jet-setting around but maybe ask fighters to at least send you either a DVD or links to watch their fights online.

  • Good Matchmaking – This follows on from proper research of fighters. If you go to a fight show and every fight ends in the first round by KO or submission, it means that one of two things has happened. Either you’ve been lucky enough to watch all the future world champions OR the promoter/gym owner has matched up all his own boys against the residents of the old people’s home down the road.

  • Don’t rely on fighters selling tickets – if a fighter is any good he will be in the gym every night training for 2 – 3 hours, when he’s not doing this he’ll be at home. If  the fighter you are putting on your show has 200 friends that he can sell tickets to it probably means he’s out talking about being a fighter more often than he’s actually in the gym training.

  • Look after the fighters – treat them like professionals so they will be keen to come back and fight on your show, they will also tell their team mates and training partners so you will have a source of future good quality fighters.

  • Proper Refereeing and Judging – Make sure judges & referees have a full understanding of the rules and scoring system of the sport. This will help to avoid confusing & embarrassing incidents later on. One promoter I know actually makes all the referees and officials study previous fights and tests them on rules & scoring. On the other hand I’ve been judging on an MMA show where one of the other judges actually told me that he doesn’t really know anything about MMA (he was a former kick boxer)

Tuesday 29 November 2011


Ever since I first started training in martial arts I’ve been interested to find out why some people succeed in their training and become very skilful and others start off with the best of intentions but just never achieve the same results and then eventually give up.
When I sit down and think back on the all the people I’ve trained with over the years I notice an obvious recurring theme coming up again and again. It is a combination of consistency and perseverance. The successful may not have made huge improvements straight away or had much early success but they trained consistently, they made a habit of turning up regularly for classes a certain number of times a week and worked hard to reach their goals,
On the other hand I’ve seen many people who have been very sporadic in their training, they would train every day one week and then not turn up to the gym for the next month, when they return after a long layoff they notice that their training partners have gotten much better than them due to training consistently which can be very demoralising.
So why is it so hard to be consistent with your training? Well, everyone has their own reasons ranging from tiredness, minor injury, loss of motivation etc. however the key is to expect these obstacles and then plan how you are going to overcome them. Trick yourself into turning up to class because you know that once you are there you will enjoy it, you will be glad that you did it because you’re on your way to getting fitter, learning new skills and taking another step closer to achieving your goals.
How to stay consistent in your training
Plan for your coming week on Sunday night make a firm decision about which classes you are definitely going to attend for the next week.

Commit to training a certain number of times per week e.g. two or three sessions and stick to it.

If you know you won’t be able to make it to a certain class, then plan to make up for it by coming to another class or book a PT session to make up for it

Keep track of your training and monitor it to make sure you aren’t slipping back into bad habits

Don’t make excuses or give yourself any reasons to fail and not achieve your goals

Don’t overdo it at the start, build up slowly. Start off by training two evenings a week and then build up gradually. If you go straight in to training every day you will burn out or pick up injuries.

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