Sunday, 20 September 2020

Plan your fight career


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

Training doesn't get Easier - You get Tougher

If it was easy everyone would be doing it.



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.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE


FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE

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.
TECHNICAL TRAINING VERSUS SPARRING
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.

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