Tuesday 1 December 2020

What I hate about MMA

MMA Melbourne

Weight Cutting

Too many fighters try to win by being heavier than their opponents rather than putting in the time to master the fundamental skills of fighting. They focus on how much weight they can cut but dont spend learning how to throw a straight punch without dropping their hands. 

Weight divisions are necessary so fighters can be matched with opponents of  similar size however weight cutting is one of the prime examples of how far MMA has gotten away from its roots. 

The first UFC was won by the lightest fighter in the tournament, Royce Gracie. Shortly after that at UFC 5, he also went on to beat Dan Severn who outweighed him by 32 kg. The sport has evolved a lot since then but the clear lesson is that if you spend your time focusing on proper training then the extra few kgs of weight probably won’t make a big difference to the outcome of a fight especially in the early stages of the fighters career. 
It is also fundamentally opposed to what martial arts training is all about. The idea of trying to gain an advantage by being bigger and heavier is very impractical in the real world. You can't choose to be attacked in the street by someone only of your weight. 

There’s an attitude that if you’re not cheating you’re not trying. All the top professionals take steroids and figure out clever ways to avoid getting caught so if you aren’t willing to do the same you’re naive and should find another sport. 
I don't really have a problem with taking them for bodybuilding or even for grappling only where you are unlikely to do long term damage to an opponent but in MMA, fighters risk brain damage or even death, therefore, I think I it’s unacceptable to turn a blind eye to this type of cheating. 
There is often the argument that you still have to train just as hard even if you are on steroids or that everyone else is taking them so there’s no point being at a disadvantage. Cheating is cheating no matter how you try to justify it and it goes against the spirit of what martial arts should be about. 

Trash Talking. 
Trash talking to promote fights usually just looks embarrassing and juvenile. Very few fighters such as Muhammad Ali & Conor McGregor genuinely have the skill to do this type of promotion well. Everyone else tries to imitate them and does a really bad job. 
Trained athletes getting into the cage to fight under very limited rules should be enough to generate interest from fans without the need to turn it onto the Jerry Springer show with storylines about why this fighter hates that fighter. 
I think it shows a lack of faith in their product that fight promoters feel the need to sell the sport with these manufactured storyline’s. The general public is perfectly willing to watch football, cricket, cycling, athletics and every other sport but for some reason, we won’t watch mixed martial arts unless we believe the fighters hate each other. 
Of course, there is evidence that the fights with the most hype and trash-talking lead to the biggest pay per view numbers but this is usually a short-sighted strategy whereby these new ‘fans’ get all excited about one fight but are then left disappointed when a high level mixed martial arts championship fight turns out to be not what they expected and so they go back to watching professional wrestling. 
Once again it also goes against what martial arts should be about. Honour, humility and respect. 

Dangerous Training Methods
MMA is generally a safe sport in terms of what goes on in the cage. This is due to regulation, monitoring, strict rules and guidelines for professional promotions. However, what goes on in the gyms in the lead up to fights is the real risk area. 
Anyone can claim to be an MMA coach without any actual experience or credentials. These coaches have no idea about how to train fighters safely and effectively and so instead just encourage young aspiring fighters to bash each other in the gym every day. While this can sometimes bring good results in the short term it will invariably lead to most of the fighters accumulating injuries which will derail their career or even worse to develop less visible but much more serious concussion-related problems which they will not begin to see the effects of until later in life. 
Sparring never needs to be full contact. My team practice many different forms of specific sparring drills which simulate what will actually happen in the fight. There is no reason to practice getting hit with full-power strikes to the head. As someone who has fought extensively, I can tell you that being hit in a real fight is not the same as being hit by your training partners in sparring. The fighters and teams that spar too hard and boast online about how tough their training sessions are invariably all end up dropping off the scene within a few years rather than having any long-term success. 

Bandwagon Jumpers
Mixed martial arts has become hugely popular in recent years. As the sport increased in popularity I've seen more and more people try to get involved and jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes this can be a great thing because it brings new blood and new ideas to the sport but more often than not it leads to flashy con men trying to exploit the impressionable next generation of up-and-coming fighters with big promises that seldom live up to the hype.
This is especially a problem for young fighters who don't yet fully understand how the sport works. They get to experience some success early in their career and then suddenly the new coaches or managers appear out of the woodwork and promise the world.
Obviously its not practical to force every coach, manager, promoter or gym owner to fight in MMA a few times in order to get some genuine experience. But, It makes a huge difference to have people with legitimate experience and background in the sport making the decisions that will affect those fighting in the cage.

Monday 26 October 2020

How to make the most of your BJJ Training

What is the best way to learn and improve in martial arts training?


The usual advice is to just keep turning up, train hard and eventually you'll get better. There's a big difference between ‘training’ and ‘good training’. What qualifies as good training?
What an up and coming fighter may consider ‘good training’ may actually be doing them more harm than good in the long term.
Are you actually learning anything & improving? Are you fixing the holes in your game and correcting mistakes or just going through the motions hoping everything will fall into place? Do you actually have a clear plan of what you are trying to achieve with each training session or are you just spending all your training time mindlessly rolling, sparring and hitting pads without any specific objectives?
A famous study of chess players found the keys to what separated the best players from the rest and the same principles can be applied to martial arts training. Most people assume that the sparring and competing are the keys to success in combat sports and that the fighters who spar and compete the most are the ones who will improve faster.
The chess study compared between players who played lots of tournaments and those who spent more time doing ‘Deliberate Practice’ rather than just playing. They spent their time studying the game, building key skills and fixing their weaknesses. Obviously, this training was less fun and can also be frustrating as you will often feel like you aren't making progress but over time it adds up to a huge & insurmountable difference over your competitors.
Why can you not get the same results from just sparring all the time and then competing or fighting?
For the same reason that the chess players did not improve as much. Many of your rounds of sparring would be against more experienced training partners. During these rounds, you would spend most of your time defending and probably unable to successfully execute your own techniques.
Other training partners would be of a lower skill level. During those rounds, you probably aren't being tested and would therefore get away with incorrect technique or tactics.
It is possible that you may gain some benefit from sparring against higher or lower skill level training partners but the real question is do the benefits outweigh the costs in terms of time. Could those same rounds of sparring be spent on a different activity which would lead to greatly improved results over the course of your training career?
These small differences don't seem like much at the time especially since due to selective memory a student is likely to only remember the good parts of each training session. However, everyone only has a limited number of hours in their day so it's vital that you squeeze as much benefit out of every training hour as possible if you want to reach the highest levels in your sport.
Here is a summary of Deliberate Practice also known as Progressive Mastery. Which I adapted from the book High-Performance Habits.
  • Determine the skills you need to master - For example, Choose a combination technique, one specific type of guard pass or a takedown. Your coach should be able to assist you with choosing which skills you need to master to achieve your goals.
  • Set specific goals related to mastering that skill - For example, your goal is to consistently use this technique in sparring against experienced training partners. The type of goal you choose is very important. It must not be too easy but also not impossible. It should be what is known as a “Stretch” Goal - something that is achievable but will stretch your ability in order to achieve it.
  • Understand the meaning of achieving this goal and mastering this skill in your journey - Understand what it will mean to your overall development if you are able to successfully master this key skill. Being world class at this technique will allow you to reach your competition goals.
  • Understand the key success factors that will make or break this technique and develop your strengths in those areas. For example, grip strength, balance, mobility. Work to develop these specific attributes in order to achieve your goal. Do this while simultaneously correcting the weaknesses in your technique.
  • Get a clear visualized idea of what the technique or skill should look like if applied successfully by carefully observing your coach, training partners or videos of experts then compare to video of yourself practicing the skill or using it in sparring or competition.
  • Schedule challenging practices developed by your coaches - for example, your goal could be to use the chosen technique in each round of sparring against a line up of fresh opponents.
  • Measure your progress and get feedback - Keep track of your training, write it down, what worked and what didn't work, video your sparring sessions to get accurate feedback of exactly what you did right and wrong. Ask your coach for specific feedback about exactly which part of which technique you need to improve or work on.
  • Socialise your learning by practicing or competing with others - This is usually the easy part in terms of martial arts training because you will mostly be in classes alongside others.
  • Continue setting higher-level goals so you keep improving - Once you have mastered the skill or are able to consistently apply it against resistance then set higher-level goals so you can keep improving and avoid stagnating.
Teach your training partners what you are learning - When you attempt to teach the skill to other training partners it will force you to think about and understand it more deeply which will ultimately help in your own skill development.

Thursday 1 October 2020

The Fight is All Podcast Interview

Check out this new interview I did with my friend and fellow MMA coach Sevastiyan Kostov.  Coach Sev is a highly experienced and very knowledgeable fighter and coach with a background in Combat Sambo. We had a great chat on his podcast and discussed a variety of topics including our martial arts training backgrounds, fake martial arts, trash-talking and bad behaviour in the UFC and the best training and coaching methods for MMA.

The Fight is All Podcast Interview 

Learn MMA in Melbourne

Sunday 20 September 2020

Plan your MMA Fight Career

How to make the most of your MMA Training

One of the most important things for an aspiring fighter is to have a goal and a plan for what you want to accomplish. This is something which is often neglected by Fighters.

Many have no idea of what they are trying to do or what their goals are and therefore have no way of telling if they are being successful or just going through the motions.
This is the opposite of most other high-performance sports. Olympic athletes have a clear goal of winning gold in the Olympic games in a certain year and their entire life and career is based around that goal.
They compete in smaller events in the preceding years in order to peak on a specific time date. They also know that they will almost never get a second chance once that window of opportunity has passed by.
In contrast, most MMA fighters have no clear goals. They have vague dreams of getting to the UFC or other big events but no clear plan or timeline of how it's going to happen.
Having a timeline is very important because it focuses your energy and attention. An Olympian knows that if they are not ready and at the peak of their competitive career at a certain date and time (the Olympic year) they don't make the Olympic team and then they won't get a second chance.
MMA is different because fight shows are happening all the time rather than every four years. However, this may give the fighter a false sense of security that they have more time than they actually do.
The structure of MMA is obviously different from Olympic sports but there are still similarities in the competitive career of both types of athlete.
In the same way that you will only get one chance to be an Olympian, you will also usually only get one chance to be a fighter.
The competitive career of nearly every successful fighter usually follows this trajectory:
  • compete and win in amateur MMA
  • compete and win as a professional in MMA
  • amass a winning record against legitimate opponents
  • win regional and national titles in smaller promotions
  • get signed by the UFC or one of the other major international promotions
  • amass a winning record until you get into the top ten rankings and then eventually fight for a title.
It is important to realise that you don't get to go back and redo any of the steps if you have skipped them or things didn't work out.
If your skill level isn't good enough by the time you make it to the UFC you will lose your fights and you won't get back.
It is very unusual for fighters to get dropped or cut by the major organizations and then brought back for a second chance and usually if they do it is understood that they are there to build up the names of up and coming fighters.
MMA fighters are on just as much of a strict unforgiving timeline as their Olympic counterparts. You have a date with destiny approximately ten years after you first step into the ring or cage for your first amateur fight and if you aren't fully prepared by then you won't get a second chance.
How do we make sure that you are prepared?
By tracking your progress and keeping track of the key performance indicators - How many fights have you won since your first amateur fight? Have you beaten many highly ranked opponents or won regional or national titles?
If you are already six or seven years into your fight career and haven't done any of this then it is unlikely you will be on track to achieve the goal of fighting for a title in a major promotion.
The problem is that especially in the social media age many fighters are too focused on the wrong metrics. For example, how many ‘likes’ their social media posts are getting or how many free t-shirts they are being sent by sponsors.
These things make the aspiring fighter feel good and may serve some small purpose in terms of motivation but are ultimately not going to bring them closer to achieving their goals and in my experience can often be detrimental to their progress.
Focusing on the wrong numbers such as Instagram Likes distracts you from what's really important - winning Fights & winning titles.
It also distracts the fighter from the smaller micro-goals that they need to be focused on in order to achieve the bigger goals.
The smaller targets of how many hours of training did I do this week, how many times did I use the technique or combination that I’ve been working on during this round of sparring, how many times did I successfully execute the escape technique that I’ve been working on.
Know your goals, understand what you need to do to reach your goals, focus on doing what you know you need to do and everything else will fall into place.

Fedor Emelianenko Technique Breakdown

The keys to success for Fedor are his high-level Judo background combined with excellent Boxing & striking skills. His style could be described as ‘Judo-Boxing’ when on his feet combined with devastating Ground and Pound once the fight goes to the floor.

Judo combines very well with boxing in terms of mixing fighting styles for MMA. 

  • Judo & Boxing stance is very similar - Upright stance with hands up to grip fight in Judo to protect from punches in boxing.

  • Judo has a heavy emphasis on Grip fighting / Hand fighting which can be adapted for striking as a means of removing the opponent's guard.

  • The Kuzushi/off-balancing of Judo can be used to set up strikes in the clinch position

The strengths of one style cover the potential weakness of the other:

One of the problems with Judo can be in closing the distance in order to use the techniques - Boxing your way into clinch range which Fedor does very successfully is an example of how the two styles can work together.

Another problem is that the techniques which result in a win via Ippon in Judo such as a high amplitude may not be worth the risk in an MMA fight. For example, the Hip Throw or Shoulder Throw may result in throwing the opponent but not actually injuring them or landing in an advantageous position. However, the Kuzushi or off-balancing that goes into setting up these techniques could also be used to push and pull the opponent onto strikes. This is something that Fedor has used extensively in many of his fights.  

I have broken this session down into combinations based on techniques which Fedor has used in his fights. Although some of these combinations are not taught exactly the way that he used them, I feel that practising them in this format is an efficient way to learn while also getting an understanding of the concepts and principles which make the techniques work. 

Technique A - Used versus Kazuyuki Fujita

Combination: Right Hook - Left Body Kick - Right Cross - Left Hook

Key Ideas:  Fedor employs fast accurate striking. Focuses on using punches most notably the ‘Russian Hook’ but also mixes it up with kicks which he has refined through extensive Dutch Kickboxing training with Ernesto Hoost.

The Russian Hook involves finishing the punch with the thumb down and shoulder high and is perfect for entering into clinch via collar tie or under-hook grip. 

Technique B - Used versus Cro-Cop

Combination: Right Cross to Body - Left Uppercut - Left Hook

Key Ideas:  Cro Cop is obviously aware and cautious of Fedors heavy right hook and is ready to defend punches to the head. Fedor is very good at mixing up the targets of his strikes rather than just ‘head-hunting’. Fedor lands the straight right to the open target of the body then follows up with the left uppercut to raise up his opponent's chin then follows up with the left hook.

Technique C - Used versus Zuluzinho

Combination: Right Hand Trap to Opponents Lead Hand then Lunging Left Hook 

Key Ideas:  Clear obstructions i.e. your opponents' guard so that you can land your punches. Grip fighting (Kumi Kata) techniques are a huge part of successful judo. If you can't grip your opponent then you cannot set up a throw. Elements of the same grip fighting strategies can also be used in clearing your opponent's guard. 

Technique D - Used versus Tim Sylvia

Combination: Right Hand Trap to Opponents Lead Hand then Lunging Left Hook - Then Right hook which leads into Right Collar Tie - Left Uppercut (from Clinch) - Left Hook - Then Right hook - Left hook - Right hook.

Key Ideas:  Kuzushi / Off balancing from the collar tie grip as if to set up the headlock throw (Koshi Guruma) but instead use it to off-balance the opponent so he is open for punches.

Technique E - Used versus Gary Goodridge

Combination: Following on from the previous Combination - Opponent covers up - Post on his head with your right hand - Left Uppercut to the body - Left Uppercut to head - then Right under-hook - Left Knee to Body then Knee Tap Takedown.

Key Ideas: Keeping the opponent guessing by mixing up striking with takedown setups.

Technique F - Used versus Cro Cop

Combination: Right Hook into Right under-hook - To Inside Trip (Ouchi Gari) Takedown.

Key Ideas: Using strikes to close the distance to clinch. Focus on leg takedowns such as Trips as opposed to Double Leg or Single Leg takedowns which may tire out and weaken the arms taking away your punching power and ability to defend strikes.

Technique G - Used versus Nogueira

Combination: Bicep Control then Posture up to Punch - Wrist Trap with Knee - Using the Guard Pass to Land Punches

Key Ideas:
Rather than trying to immobilise, hold down and slowly wear down the opponent Fedor gives his opponents opportunities to move. By allowing them space to move he also creates space to land his power shots.

Sunday 13 September 2020

MMA Training doesn't get Easier - You get Tougher

If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

MMA Melbourne

Fighting is supposed to be difficult. Fighting is necessary for the survival of all species. The animals that aren’t prepared to hunt or fight don’t survive.
One of the big mistakes I see with martial arts training is when beginners believe that it should be easy, that they should be able to learn all the techniques within a short amount of time or that there are certain tricks or hacks that will allow them to get there faster.
In my experience, this is not the case. Even the people who do seem to have found some secret way of getting better faster are usually gone or overtaken within a few years.
Their talent allows them to improve quickly but they haven’t developed the habit of consistently training hard to keep making improvements.
The important lesson is that fighting and martial arts are supposed to be hard and that’s ok. We live in a world where everything is easy - Uber eats, Netflix, everyone gets a participation medal.
Martial Arts is supposed to be difficult - by getting used to facing and overcoming these difficult situations - such as, how do I escape from Mount when someone is bigger and heavier? Then it should in theory transfer to other situations we face in the real world.
The problem is that if you’re always looking for an easy solution, some secret that will allow you to fight without putting in the work, you will always find someone offering to sell it to you. This has always been the case in martial arts, from Magical pressure point knockouts to getting your black belt in 2 years if you memorise the katas.
There is no ‘easy’ way to become a good fighter. It takes time, effort and consistent hard work. But by developing the attributes of patience and hard work you will see the benefits in other areas of your life which you wouldn’t get if it was just a matter of learning a few tricks.

Learn MMA in Melbourne

Sunday 6 September 2020


MMA Training Melbourne


One common theme that you will notice when you look at the top-level fighters in MMA, Boxing, Muay Thai or any other Combat Sport is that the best fighters always have perfect technique. Fitness, strength, and determination will get you far in the fight game but usually, it will get you to a point where you come up against someone with equal levels of Fitness, Strength and Determination but who has also put years of diligent practice into developing flawless technique.
If all the physical skills are roughly equal the person with the better technique will always win.
This is relevant for fighters and competitors but is equally applicable to non-competitors who are just looking to get the most out of their martial arts training
There are many different aspects of martial arts training. These include Physical training, Mental training and Technique Training.
The area from which you will get the most return on investment is in focusing on your technique.
Strength and fitness are very important. There is no excuse for a Martial Artist or Fighter to be unfit or out of shape.
However, You will reach a threshold for your physical attributes, a certain level of strength or fitness that it will be difficult to move beyond without requiring you to focus exclusively on strength or fitness training.
The good news is that that type of effort is usually not required. The most successful competitive fighters across all sports do not usually look like power-lifters, marathon runners or the world's strongest man.
The reality is that it won't really make much difference how strong or fit you are if your technique is breaking down under pressure or if you are making basic mistakes such as not keeping your guard up.
Another reason why I would put technical training above strength or fitness training is that with fitness training you will lose the benefits of it very quickly if you stop doing it. If you are running every day and then take a month off you will lose all the gains that you have made.
Compare that with technique training. When you learn a technique properly, understand every tiny detail of all the movements which make the technique work and then practice it thousands of times, it is very unlikely that you will forget how to do it.
How much time should you spend on technique training compared to Sparring? What is the point of having perfect technique if you can't apply the technique under pressure?
This was a common problem with traditional martial arts training. There were many experts with perfect technique who never sparred or pressure tested their technique to find out if they were actually able to use it against resistance.
The opposite is commonly seen these days in the MMA era. Fighters who don't even understand the basics but spend all their time sparring instead of technical training which would actually improve their overall performance and results.
A lot of the sparring and training footage that I see from other gyms it is actually detrimental to their fighters development. The fighters are actually ingraining and hard wiring bad habits that will become even more difficult to correct.
Every fighter only has a finite number of sparring rounds in them. We need to weigh up a cost-benefit analysis of what are we actually gaining from these ten rounds of sparring.
Is the fighter preparing for a specific upcoming fight a few weeks away? are the rounds being used to develop a specific technique or game plan? are they sparring just to improve fitness or mental toughness or is there no clear purpose behind the Sparring at all?
This has to be weighed up against the ‘Costs’ of the sparring rounds. These include risk of injury, risk of fatigue, risk of developing bad habits or risk of wasting time on sparing that could be better spent on specific technical training which would lead to better results over the long term.
I think when we weigh up factors like this you will almost always come to the conclusion that you should be spending a lot more time on technical training than on sparring.
If you want to get the most long term benefit out of your training make sure you focus on your technique.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Kaizen - Constant daily improvement

One of the most important martial arts concepts which can also have a positive impact on your life away from the gym is the Japanese idea of Kaizen or continual daily improvement.

Constant gradual improvement even if only by 1% per day or week is much better than no improvement at all.

Two mistakes that newcomers to martial arts make are firstly believing that they do or don’t have any talent for martial arts or fighting. Secondly, the belief that if they go all out for a short period of time they will get a black belt or become a world champion within three years.

Firstly, there is no such thing as having a ‘talent’ for martial arts. Beginners often mistake having the ability to beat other untrained people as having a natural fighting ability. Being able to beat a trained opponent who is well prepared in a competition is much different from sparring with other beginners.

The skills and mentality to be able to compete and win against good opponents is not something that comes naturally to anyone. It must be developed gradually over months and years of training.

The second problem is with the idea of trying to do too much too soon.

I’ve been a full-time martial arts coach now for over ten years. I've had many students ask me what they need to do to get to the top level.

I explain to them that there are no short cuts. Come in and train every day, don’t take time off after fights, don’t go hard for a few weeks then slack off for two months only to repeat the cycle again and again.

If you stick to the plan you’ll be a top-level fighter competing and winning in the UFC in ten years.

Everyone who tries to take short cuts in their training, Looking for the martial arts equivalent of a get rich quick scheme always ends up quitting and never gets anywhere near their potential.

Forget about talent and shortcuts.

Focus on what you can do every day to make yourself 1% better. One year from now you will be 365% better than you are today. In ten years you will be a world champion.


Long Term BJJ Training

Eleven years ago since I got my black belt and I thought this would be useful advice for anyone who is in the earlier stages of their JiuJi...

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