Sunday, 23 August 2015

MMA Teamwork

How important is your Team for success in MMA?



Boxing Vs MMA : Teams


One of the major differences between professional Boxing and MMA is the emphasis on teams rather than on the individual fighters. In boxing everyone knows all about Mayweather and Pacquiao but not too much about their training partners. It's usually the opposite in MMA. If there is one successful fighter from a team there are usually plenty more where they came from.




This has been the case right from the start. The first major team that had a lot of success was the Lions Den which featured Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger and many others. Following on from their example many other successful teams came along over the years such as Miletich Fighting Systems (Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver), Chute Box (Pele, Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua), Team Punishment (Tito Ortitz, Chuck Liddell, Ricco Rodriguez) and Brazilian Top Team (Nogueria Brothers, Mario Sperry, Ricardo Arona).


The Team System


The team system has worked so well that pretty much all the successful fighters in the history of MMA can trace their success back to being part of a successful team. This has continued up to the present day with the results of teams such as Jacksons MMA, Roufus Sport, AKA and Tristar Gym.

The career trajectory of a professional boxer is usually a lot different. Boxers typically start off at an amateur club where they are taught by volunteers a few evenings a week. If they ever become good enough to turn professional they will need to hire full time trainers and managers. They will also  need to pay sparring partners to come in and help them prepare for fights. The big difference here is that in MMA the sparring partners are usually working together to help each other improve. Boxing sparring partners are just there for the benefit of the star fighter. The sparring partners are not told to ‘look after’ each other. In some cases sparring partners would get paid a bonus if they could knock out the star fighter in training.

Iron Sharpens Iron

MMA camps usually consist of teams of people who train together all year round not just before fights. All members of the team try to improve each other and develop the others skills especially in sparring. In the long term this will lead to each fighter having better and more skilled training partners to train with. In professional boxing all of the sparring partners are just there to improve the big name boxer. The star boxer isn’t really concerned with developing the skills of the sparring partners.

Right from the beginning MMA has been a team focused sport. Pretty much all the champions in UFC and Pride have come through the tried and tested team system. Over the years there have been a few examples of MMA ‘superstars’ who tried to follow the professional boxing model instead such as Brock Lesnar and Alastair Overreem. These fighters usually have very limited success when they try to break away from the team system and are eventually faced with either retiring from the sport or returning to a successful team.

Advantages of a Team

What are the advantages of a team? Firstly, you get out what you put in. If you turn up consistently and train hard with a good, helpful attitude you will have good training partners who will in turn help you to develop into an even better fighter. If you come to the gym sporadically, train with the wrong attitude and injure your training partners nobody will be willing to train with you. This will make it very difficult to be successful as a fighter. You will be faced with the option of having to pay sparring partners. However MMA fighters don’t get paid enough to justify paying sparring partners and there aren’t really any MMA sparring partners for hire like there are in professional boxing.

Another advantage is that it is possible to produce multiple good fighters using the team system rather than just being focused on one person. This is because the trainers, sparring partners, training systems and structure remain consistent and if they have produced good results for one person then they can continue to reproduce the same results and success for others.

When a fighter steps into the ring or cage they are in there on their own but what happens and how they perform once the bell rings is determined by the team that they have been surrounded by up until that point.



Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Why Fighters Lose MMA Fights



Here are some of the most common ways in which fighters sabotage their potential success in the sport of MMA.

1. Training with coaches who don't understand the sport of MMA. The coach may be skilled in individual areas such as striking or BJJ but lack the ability and experience to prepare fighters properly for MMA.


2. Failing to fix the holes in your game and being too reliant on one skill set. An MMA fighter needs to be skilled in the areas of striking, takedowns and groundwork and be able to combine them. Focusing on only one area at the expense of other skills will leave holes in your game which will be easily exploited by opponents.


3. Jumping into professional level fights too soon without adequate amateur experience. Amateur fights are necessary to develop and build up your skills and experience. Its very important not to fight above your level too soon as a bad loss may be very demoralizing and affect your future training and performance in fights.


4. Failing to get experience in individual combat sports such as kickboxing and BJJ before fighting in MMA. Competing in other combat sports is a good safe way to gain valuable experience and develop your skills so that you are more well rounded and more of a threat when you fight in MMA.


5. Too much Sparring - Focusing exclusively on sparring rather than taking the time to develop your skills in each range. Making an effort to develop your BJJ, Wrestling or Muay Thai skills individually will give you more weapons to use in when you fight.


6. Avoiding MMA sparring - MMA sparring is necessary to simulate what will happen in the fight. Grappling and Kickboxing sparring will only get you so far. MMA sparring is necessary to bridge the gap between ranges and teach you how combine your skills.


7. Too much conditioning training at the expense of skill development training. It won't matter how good your strength or cardio is if you are making basic mistakes which could lead to losing a fight and which could be corrected with proper technical training.


8. Neglecting your conditioning and hoping that you'll be able to get by on skills alone. The fighter needs to prepare for the worst case scenario. This means being prepared to push the pace throughout the duration of the fight without being afraid of getting tired.


9. Not getting enough information about their opponent. Fighters need to find out as much information as possible about their upcoming opponent such as their strengths and weaknesses or how they have won or lost their previous fights. This information can give the fighter a huge advantage over the opponent.


10. Inadequate mental preparation - ignoring the nerves and pressure of the upcoming fight until its too late rather than mentally preparing for the fight so that you are ready to deal with the stress before the fight and calm and focused when the fight starts.



'One thing I have learned as a competitor is that there are clear distinctions between what it takes to be decent, what it takes to be good, what it takes to be great, and what it takes to be among the best. If your goal is to be mediocre, then you have a considerable margin for error... If you hurt your toe , you can take six weeks watching TV and eating potato chips, most people think of injuries as setbacks, something they have to recover from or deal with... every time I tweak my body well intentioned people suggest that I take a few weeks off training. What they don't realize is that If I were to stop training whenever something hurt, I would spend my whole year on the couch. Almost without exception I am back on the mats the next day figuring out how to use my new situation to heighten elements of my game. If I want to be the best I have to take risks that others would avoid, always optimizing the learning potential of the moment and turning adversity to my advantage.'

Josh Waitzkin - The Art of Learning.



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Mental Toughness for Fighters


Here is a short interview which I recently did with one of my clients who is completing a sports science degree regarding mental toughness and mental preparation in combat sports. 


How do you define "mental toughness"? 

I would define mental toughness in sports as ability to reproduce an athletes best performance under adverse & unfavorable conditions such as stress, pain or fear of injury. 

What do you believe contributes to mental toughness (e.g. nature vs. nurture, experiences, environments, upbringing)? 

The main contributing factor in developing mental toughness is gaining experience in overcoming obstacles. When an athlete repeatedly comes up against tough experiences and is able to overcome them he will develop mental toughness & confidence which will help him overcome further challenges & tough experiences in the future. It is important that an athlete is gradually tested against tougher opposition. In terms of combat sports this would mean starting off sparring against opponents who are on a similar or lower level and then gradually increasing the level of sparring partners as the athletes confidence & ability increases. It is important that the athlete is not just continually sparring people who he can beat & don’t present a challenge. This may boost his confidence but will give him a false sense of security & his lack of mental toughness will be exposed when he comes up against tougher opposition. The other side of this is that if the athlete is sparring against opponents who are too experienced for him it may be detrimental and lead to him losing confidence in his abilities and ruin his potential for developing mental toughness. 

How do you try to instil mental toughness in your athletes? 

To help build mental toughness in my athletes I like to use several types of sparring drills & exercises, these may include. 
  • Line ups - these involve sparring against a group of fresh opponents one after another. This is tough for the athlete as he is already fatigued from the previous rounds & needs to still perform well against fresh opponents. 
  • Fight Simulation Drills / Circuits - This involves placing the athlete in a series of disadvantageous positions for a set period of time which he must escape from or complete a set task before progressing to the next station. 
  • Winner Stays On Sparring - This involves a group of sparring partners & an objective such as scoring a take-down or submission, this will result in the winner then having to spar against a new opponent & trying to stay in against new opponents for as long as possible. 
  • Conditioning exercises such as sprints or 'burpees' done at the end of the training session when the athlete is already fatigued and trying to get the athlete to keep going & outworking his training partners. 

Do you think there are any downfalls to being mentally tough? 

Athletes who are very mentally tough may be likely to push themselves to extreme lengths and may take excessive risks such as continuing to train or compete in-spite of injury. There is also a risk in combat sports that an athlete may allow himself to take excessive punishment rather than quitting. This is obviously very dangerous and can be fatal in some cases.



Thursday, 30 July 2015

Improve your BJJ

Every JiuJitsu Student wants to improve their skill level and reach their full potential. Everyone has different goals and ambitions, they might aspire to be world champions, achieve a black belt or maybe just to land a submission on one particularly tough training partner.

BJJ is a very efficient form of martial art so it follows that if you keep training then you will improve and develop your skills but what if you want to maximise your potential?



The best case scenario:


The optimal conditions for BJJ training where an athlete has unlimited time, money and resources would be as follows :
· 6 hours of BJJ training per day 5 days per week (plus additional strength and conditioning training.)
· Structured one on one session with an experienced coach every day who analyses videos of your sparring matches and videos of upcoming opponents then shows you exactly what you did right and wrong and what you need to work on and improve.
· 2 hours each day practicing the techniques suggested by the coach with a drilling partner under the supervision of the coach to ensure you are performing every repetition perfectly.
· 2 hours of sparring against training partners of a similar or higher level than yourself. Using timed rounds to simulate competition conditions.
· Ideally you would be competing regularly (almost every weekend ) and periodising your competition schedule so that you peak for the most important competitions and use the smaller events as tests and practice matches. The reality:
However, the reality is that BJJ is an amateur sport with very few full time athletes. The vast majority of BJJ students and most competitors train recreationally so the conditions described above are usually impossible. The more realistic scenario is that...
· Most BJJ students are able to train a maximum of 3 times per week due to commitments like work and family.
· BJJ classes are not usually structured in a way that maximises competitive improvement for each student. Most recreational students want to learn new and interesting techniques each time they come to class. If each session was just focused on drilling the few high percentage techniques that win matches it would make the classes boring and after a few weeks students would stop showing up for class.
· There are so many positions and techniques to cover that there is insufficient time to practice all of them effectively. Your instructor may show an important guard pass at four sessions during the month, but if you miss one of those classes then you may only get to practice that important technique for a total of 15 – 20 minutes in one month which obviously isn’t enough.
· Most BJJ students don’t get the opportunity to compete very often. This makes it difficult to determine if they are improving and progressing. Sparring with your training partners is usually not a good indicator of progress.
· Most BJJ students don’t have enough time to attend classes as often as they would like let alone have enough time to do additional strength and conditioning training. How can the average student get the best results from their training?
In spite of these limitations some recreational BJJ players can still get impressive results. It helps if you are naturally athletic or if advanced students give you extra assistance and advice to help you improve. However, what about for the average beginner who wants to increase their rate of improvement? Here are some tips which you may find useful. Take Notes
Make notes on every new technique you learn, this will make it much easier to remember important details. Don’t assume being shown a technique and then practicing it a few times will be enough. Build Muscle Memory
When you learn new techniques you need to build the new complicated movement patterns into your muscle memory. This will allow you to access the techniques when needed in sparring. Here is a useful routine to help build a new technique into your muscle memory.


Coach shows a new technique:



Drill it with your partner in the usual way



At the start of the sparring rounds ask your sparring partner if you can practice the new technique on him for 2 repetitions to refresh your memory,



At the end of class try to get someone who isn’t in a hurry to leave and practice the technique 10 more times,



Go home and write notes on the technique



In the next class grab a partner and practice the move 10 times (this may be useful for the training partner too because maybe he missed the previous class and hasn’t seen the technique)

This method will help you remember new techniques much better than if you just drill it a few times then forget about it and don’t see it again for 6 months. Game-plan
Organise your techniques into a game plan. This will comprise of your ‘go-to’ techniques which you will always try to use in competitions or sparring. Get used to working off your game plan when you are sparring. This really helps because it cuts down on the time it takes to make decisions and speeds up your reaction time. You no longer have to sort through twenty different options of what move to go for as each position will dictate what technique you are going to use. Purpose
Set a purpose for each round of sparring. For example, one submission or guard pass which you want to use or a position that you want to practice escaping. This is more useful and productive than trying to win or to survive the round. Try to choose around three different things to work on in case your opponent makes it too difficult to practice certain techniques. It’s a good idea to not explain what you are trying to do to your partner as he may react in an unrealistic way or be overly compliant to allow you to successfully pull off the move. Just let them think it’s a normal sparring round. Video
Whenever possible video yourself rolling. This is very helpful as what you imagined you were doing during sparring and what you were actually doing can sometimes be very different. Analysing video of yourself sparring will help you pinpoint what you did right and wrong and how you can improve. Extra Training
For most beginners the activity that will give the greatest crossover benefit is to focus fitness and endurance. The simplest way to do this is by getting up 45 minutes earlier in the morning and go for a run. This increase in endurance will help you last longer and think more clearly during rounds of sparring which will help your BJJ improve. This is preferable to just lifting weights to get stronger which may make sparring feel easier but can lead to becoming overly reliant on strength rather than using technique. Goals
Set Goals for your training. Have specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based goals for your training. For example, this month the goal is to learn two new open guard passes, practice them 200 times and pull each one off in sparring at least once per class by the end of the month. Don’t be too competitive
When practising new techniques in sparring you may risk ending up in bad positions or you may get submitted. Don’t let this deter you from attempting new techniques and don’t allow your ego to hinder long term improvement. Use the information to determine where you went wrong to improve for next time. Choose your training partners
Practice your new techniques against less experienced partners until you are proficient at them and then try them against more challenging sparring partners. If you try to use techniques that you have not yet mastered against experienced opponents you could easily get shut down and miss the chance to practice anything. Keep track of your progress
Finally, keep track of your progress and monitor what is working, what is not working, how many submissions, guard passes and escapes you are successfully pulling off. This will provide an idea of whether your training is moving in the right direction and what you need to change or do differently.



Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Getting Better Faster

Speed up your Learning Curve with Isolation Sparring





Finding Better Ways to Train



Throughout my martial arts training and especially since I’ve been coaching I’ve been interested in investigating more efficient ways of training. I’ve never been convinced by people who say ‘this is the way they’ve trained in Japan/Thailand/Brazil etc. for 100’s of years’. Interestingly this doesn’t happen in other sports. Golf coaches don’t stick to the same coaching methods that were used in 15th Century Scotland, Soccer and Rugby coaches don’t use the same training methods that they used 100 years ago so why should training for Martial Arts and Combat Sports be different.




In my opinion a lot of traditional training methods such as (in the case of striking sports) doing 30 minutes of skipping, endless rounds of bag-work and then live sparring are inefficient. The majority of people who train in this way will not enjoy the training, they will not make any progress and will eventually drop off and quit. If only a tiny percentage of the people are getting any measurable results it indicates that there is a fault in the process.



Using techniques against Resistance


Another problem is that students spend a long time learning techniques and are often able to perform these moves perfectly on the punch bag or against an un-resisting partner but then as soon as they try to spar it all goes out the window.

One alternative which can be fun for the new student is to not spend too much time practicing technical skills and just do lots of sparring to get used to the speed and pressure right from the start. This often leads to the student not spending enough time actually practicing and perfecting techniques and instead relying on instinct and athleticism. They may also fall into the trap of becoming over reliant on their favourite techniques and avoiding their weak areas. This can leave huge holes in their game which may be easily exploited in the future by more experienced and well rounded opponents.

Speeding up Reaction Time


Another major problem that students experience in sparring is remembering which technique to do at which time. At the end the round the student realises that they could have used a specific technique which they had been practicing for all of last week. Too many techniques and positions at the early stage means there is too much to think about which slows down the students reaction speed and decision making.

The best way I've found to overcome these issues and to bridge the gap between practicing techniques and then using those techniques in sparring is to use a concept which I borrowed from the Straight Blast Gym. It is called Isolation training and involves zeroing in on just one aspect or skill and focusing on improving it under sparring conditions.

Isolation Boxing Sparring


An example of how this works can be seen in boxing sparring. A group of students have just spent the class working on their jabs and then moved onto slipping jabs, head movement and counters. Now if they go straight into boxing sparring it is likely that everything they have been working on will go out the window, they will be throwing lazy jabs and forgetting how to slip. The alternative is that we go into 'Jab Only Isolation Sparring'. I have found that this leads to much better results as there is less to think about and allows the student to just focus on and perfect one aspect of their game.

Isolation BJJ Sparring


There are many variations of these types of drills, some of the most successful that I have used in the past are BJJ positional sparring drills. A good example of this is the side control sparring progression drill. One person starts off on top in side control and just has to maintain the position while the other tries to escape, as you progress you can add other variables to the drills such as the person on top cannot use hands, person on top has to switch position every 5 seconds, person on top has a specific objective such as getting to mount or knee ride position.

Other good ideas for BJJ drills are sparring from just one specific type of guard e.g. De la Riva guard then going back to the start as soon as either partner achieves their objective which could be getting a sweep or passing the guard.

This idea can also be useful for getting students working on finishing submissions and escaping from submissions at the same time. One student starts with the submission such as a Triangle Choke semi locked in. He then tries to finish the submission while partner works on escaping. If either of them are successful they just reset and try again or reverse roles.

Benefits for Both Training Partners


The great thing about training like this is that it's beneficial for both partners rather than just one person doing the techniques while the other is the dummy. Also, training like this can be better than sparring if there is a big difference in the skill level between students. In a sparring situation the less skilled person would never get a chance to do any attacks of his own and would just spend the entire time unsuccessfully defending attacks.

There are infinite options for these types of drills and are only limited by the imagination of the coaches and students. It is important though that that you don’t just do drills for the sake of it. Ask yourself is this drill developing a skill which is transferable and effective in live sparring and competition . The objective is always to improve real fighting ability rather than to just get better at drills which look impressive but ultimately have no crossover benefits for real fighting ( which is where many traditional martial arts styles have gone wrong in the past)

Don't Try to Win The Drill


Also, within every group of students the majority will see the benefit of the drill and have 'lightbulb' moments (‘oh yeah I do struggle to regain half guard/check kicks/move my head… this drill will really help’) but there will always be one who tries to ‘WIN the DRILL’ by finding loopholes in the rules rather than using the drill the way it was intended. So make sure everyone is clear that the objective is to learn & develop skills rather than just trying to win. Like the person in this clip.






Sunday, 30 November 2014

Title Fight



On Saturday 22nd November Jordan Lucas made history for Team Nemesis by becoming its first (hopefully of many) Australian champions. Jordan fought a perfect fight against an experienced opponent winning by submission in the first round. This win was the result of four years of hard work and established Jordan as Australia’s top bantam weight fighter.

Jordan began training at Team Nemesis four years ago at the age of 16 with no prior martial arts experience. Right from the beginning we recognized that he had a great work ethic, never made excuses, never tried to take short cuts and had a real desire to be the best at what he does. Jordan trained consistently from day one and always followed the advice and instructions of his coaches. Phillip Lai and myself have always been confident in our system of training fighters and Jordan followed our system perfectly from the start. He has been learning and developing his skills in the individual martial arts that we teach at the gym (BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing and Wrestling) and combining them in our fight specific MMA sessions. Jordan also followed our tried and tested fight specific conditioning routine to ensure that he was always in great shape and injury free for every fight.

Another key aspect of our training system is to ensure that fighters progress at a steady rate and don’t rush into risky fights before they are ready. Jordan patiently worked his way up from Interclub sparring competitions to local level fights and before long he was fighting against the best fighters in Australia. Throughout all his fights he was improving his skills & evolving & improving as a fighter & martial artist.

All the hard work and effort paid off when Jordan won the Brace Bantamweight title. The win and his performance in the fight showed what can be accomplished with hard work, dedication and a proper tried and tested system of training and preparation. This is just the beginning for Jordan who has a big future in the world of international MMA.







Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What is an MMA Fighter?

The Growth of MMA

I have been involved in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts for around 20 years. First as a spectator, then as a competitor & now as a trainer of fighters.

Since the early days there was a push within the MMA community to make the sport more mainstream & more appealing to the general public. I never really cared about this because I was interested in the sport & loved it whether the general public knew about it or not.

Thanks to the expansion of the UFC the sport has become much more popular. Everyone knows about the UFC & MMA, its easier to watch events on TV & on the internet, fighters get paid more money so can now train full time & there are more MMA gyms so its easier to find places to train. 


Huge Increase in Popularity

I never imagined MMA would reach this level of popularity for various reasons but mostly because for the majority of its history it was seen as a controversial & violent blood sport which should be banned rather than popularized. In the early days it was necessary to promote the sport as a border-line illegal death match spectacle to attract more fans. 

True fans of the sport knew that MMA was’t just about two angry steroid users locked in a steel cage trying to injure each other for money & an ego boost. To us it was about skilled martial artists who had spent their life diligently training to perfect their skills & were now given the chance to test themselves against an equally well trained opponent in an environment that would allow them to use the full range of their skills i.e. All types of fighting skills grappling, striking are allowed under the rules. 

Changes in the Sport

These days however things have changed. Rather than athletes who have spent their whole lives training in martial arts or combat sports now we see people who watch MMA on the TV and think ‘yeah i can do that’ then training for a while so they can be a cage fighter & impress their friends/fans.This is the opposite of what the sport of MMA should be about. It should not just be people off the street beating each other up in the cage for entertainment. 

I think this is a dangerous development in the evolution of the sport. In a time where authorities are trying to find ways to crack down on street violence it is much harder to justify the existence of this sport.




Private Student Training Video

Here are some videos of one of my students - He's been training in martial arts for his whole life & still trains super hard & is a big inspiration to everyone at the gym.




Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bluebeltitis

‘Training doesn’t get easier - You get Tougher’.
One reason why some people become derailed along the way in their Martial Arts training is due to a condition known as ‘Blue-belt-itis’. This condition was first explained to me by my former training partner Simon Hayes who is probably the only person to be a multiple black belt in BJJ, Judo & Tae-kwon-do and also an Oscar winner.
This occurs when the student reaches a fairly significant milestone in their martial arts training, for example they achieve their Blue Belt in BJJ or compete in their first amateur fight or they win their first gold medal. What happens next? Suddenly they find lots of excuses not to turn up to training. Lots of injuries that they had previously been training around suddenly show up & make it impossible for them to turn up to class.
Why does this happen? Why do some people go to all this effort & then waste it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to continue with your hard work and keep improving & building on the progress that you’ve already made rather than cutting down on your training or dropping off & pretty much throwing it all away?
Previously my training partners & i believed that the cause of Blue-Belt-Itis was that the newly awarded Blue Belt was now under pressure & had a target on his back. All of his training partners who were still white belts would now be gunning for him trying their hardest to tap him out in every session. The pressure would be too much and rather than coming in to face this pressure on a nightly basis the newly promoted blue belt would suddenly get bogged down with work even though they had somehow managed to make it in to training every day for the last six months leading up to the promotion.
I’m not sure if this idea of pressure from your training partners really explains it all though. I think the big reason is that the student pushed really hard to get to the point where they did their best performance but they just aren’t prepared to keep making anything close to that same effort day in & day out to keep improving or maintain their level.
The truth is that no matter how difficult something is it is always possible to get through it if you just need to do it for a short time. This is the reason why some people can get good results with short term drastic diets but as soon as they stop the diet they go back to a worse position than they were before. Martial Arts isn’t a short term solution like a fad diet, its a long term solution where you are continually trying to make small improvements.
For this reason I always like this quote but not sure where i heard it from. ‘It’s not about who’s best, it’s about who’s left’ Anyone can come in and train hard & rough up their training partners for a few weeks, a few months or even a year. Try to keep doing it consistently for five or ten or twenty years. Its this kind of discipline that makes Martial Arts different from other sports.

Its also possible that the student has reached his goal but has then forgotten about the reasons that motivated him to get there in the first place. Maybe they were doing it all for the wrong reasons anyway. But whatever the motivation was that got them started its more important to focus on all the benefits that they gained from training on the way to achieving their goal (for example, fitness, confidence, weight loss), are they really prepared to throw away all these benefits & the progress they’ve made & go back to how they were before?
To get over all these problems I think its important to look as Martial Arts training as a long term part of your life rather than something that you just do for a short time and then forget about. Receiving a belt in BJJ or any other martial art is just an indication of what level you were at on that day but you need to look at it as a level that you need to maintain & improve upon rather than seeing it as a final destination.



Monday, 17 March 2014

Martial Arts Success

Why do some people succeed with their Martial Arts training while others never get anywhere?

Over the years of running our gym I’ve seen lots of different students coming through the doors. Many have gone on to be really skilled & some have been successful as competitors & fighters. Others have turned up trained regularly at first then dropped off after a while and are really no better at martial arts afterwards than they were before they started training.
What are the qualities that make the successful competitors improve so much while the other guys don’t get anywhere? Are they turning up for secret invite only training sessions? Are they taking some kind of new supplements that make them better than everyone else? Are they just genetic freaks who are physically gifted with superhuman strength, speed & ability to learn & use martial arts techniques?
The successful people had just the same access to the training sessions, classes & instruction as everybody else. They had the same amount of hours in the day as everyone else. The difference comes down to what the unsuccessful people didn’t do. I have seen many talented people come into the gym who would have gone on to be international competitors by now if they hadn’t done the following things to sabotage their own progress.

A – Lack of motivation & consistency.

As an adult its your job to motivate yourself to turn up to training so you can improve. At first everyone is excited about a new activity when they start doing it. The problem is that when the novelty wears off you need to be able to keep turning up & putting in the hard work. This isn’t a problem if you are just training for fun or recreation. However, if you have ambitions of one day becoming a black belt or a competitor you need to be able to force yourself to turn up to train even on the days when you don’t feel like it & it won’t be as much fun. This is the number one key to achieving success. When kids don’t feel like going to school they are forced to go by their parents & teachers. When you become an adult you are given a choice over what to do with your time however there are always consequences to the choices you make. I’ve never seen anyone improve who doesn’t turn up to train consistently.

B – Waste time working hard on the wrong things.

Spending too much time at Fitness First pumping weights in front of a mirror is really good if your only ambition in life is to take lots of pictures of yourself to put on Facebook. If you are serious about becoming a fighter or a skilled martial artist then its a waste of time. I’ve been doing this a long time & I would advise anyone who is serious about improving their skills to only do weight training or other types of conditioning if you are 100% certain that it won’t interfere with your skill development/ Martial arts/ fight training. People who devote a whole two or three days of their week to only lifting weights end up looking good but they don’t win fights.

C – Taking time off

Sometimes its just impossible to train due to life & work commitments, injury, needing to rest after a long period of training & competing. But even in those situations you have to weigh up the cost of taking time off against the benefits. Ask yourself, does this slight injury really justify taking three weeks off training & losing all the progress that I’ve made over the last nine months? wouldn’t it be better to just come along to class and do whatever I can so at least I can try to keep on improving? If a high school student decided to miss out on three weeks here and there very few months would you expect him to pass his exams at the end of the year?

D – Focusing on the wrong results & being too competitive.

Martial Arts training & fighting often looks like its just two idiots rolling around trying choke or punch each other. The truth is that its usually the smarter people who make more progress. If I turn up for my first ever Jiu-Jitsu class & manage to headlock one of the other guys I might be happy with the result & feel pretty pleased with myself. However, if after six months I am still trying to squeeze out that same headlock then, even if I can tap a few people out, I’ve pretty much wasted six months. Try to avoid relying on your natural attributes. If you are already naturally strong when you start training try not to rely on using strength when you are sparring. Try to use the techniques that you have spent all this time learning. Focus on working on your weaknesses. Winning & Losing in training means nothing, the only people who think it means anything are the same ones who will only ever be able to win in their own gym against their training partners.

F – Not listening to the coaches.

There is only one reason why we as coaches teach certain techniques & give advice to correct peoples movements & skills. It’s because we think what we are showing them will give them the best chance of winning in a fight. When we give advice such as ‘ keep your hands up’, ‘Don’t change stance’, ‘stop trying to bench press your opponent off mount’ its not because we are trying to withhold some secret advanced techniques that you’re not ready for. The real reason is that we want to avoid that awkward moment after you lose a match due to making a stupid mistake where we have to put our arm around you and give you the ‘don’t worry buddy, we’ll get them next time speech’. We want our fighters & competitors to dominate their opponents & win every single time they step on the mat or in the ring. Obviously this is going to be difficult to achieve but you have much more chance of success & improving your skills if you listen, try to understand & act on the advice given to you by the coaches

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Your first MMA fight



Why do you want to fight?


You need to get the reasons straight in your head first. Make sure your reasons will be strong enough motivators to make you train hard and prepare well. You are not just representing yourself but also your team and your coach.
The best reasons to compete are to test your skills and training or maybe this is your first step on a fight career. If you just want to have a go at it so you can tell your friends that you’re a fighter, I would advise against it. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to train for a fight, even if it’s just a low level amateur fight.


When are you ready to fight?


You are ready to fight when your coach tells you are ready. Your coach should have enough experience to know when his students are ready to compete (if he doesn’t then think about training elsewhere).  Don’t ask your coach to get you a fight; it puts him in the awkward position of having to tell you that you aren’t good enough. Ask the other fighters at your gym how they started and what sort of volume of training they did before their first fight and then try to follow in their footsteps.


What experience to have first?


I’d recommend that most people train for about 6 months to 1 year before they have their first fight. This is the minimum time required to get comfortable with the fundamental skills (basic kicks, punches, takedowns & grappling) needed for MMA.  Don’t try to fight without being good at the fundamentals of striking & Grappling.  You wouldn’t take part in a triathlon if you could ride a bike and run but don’t know how to swim. It’s pointless, you need to be comfortable with all the skills first before you try to utilise them in a competitive environment.
It’s a good idea to have competed in some grappling or BJJ competitions too. However, don’t spend too much time competing in other sports such as BJJ because the rules, point system and skill set is too different and you might struggle to adapt your style to MMA when you fight.


Where to start?


I recommend starting off in either amateur MMA tournaments or in interclub sparring events. Amateur MMA is a good way to learn and test your skills without too much pressure or danger. The amateur rules that I fought under allowed grappling, striking and takedowns but with no strikes allowed too the head. Some have criticised these rules for being unrealistic however during my amateur competition days I saw many future UFC stars such as Dan Hardy & Michael Bisping also competing and they all went on to have successful fight careers.
These events won’t have as many spectators so there is less added pressure. Your first few fights should be just an experimental and learning process where you are trying to figure out your own style and your strengths and weaknesses without the added pressure of 2000 people watching.
It’s also not fair on the audience to have to pay $60 to watch someone fight for the first time. Of course we can admire the bravery of first time fighters for getting in the ring but I wouldn’t expect anyone to pay to watch me play tennis for the first time so why am I paying to watch a kung Fu guy have his first MMA fight and get bashed for three rounds. It makes the sport look very amateurish.


How to prepare and what to expect from your first fight


The most important consideration is to make sure your fitness is up to scratch. There is absolutely no excuse for having poor cardio as it’s 100% within your control. This means lots of running, hill sprints, endless rounds of pad-work and grappling in the lead up to your first fight
Another important reason for working on your fitness is because the pre-fight nerves will really zap your energy and affect your fitness. You have to be ready for that. Don’t worry if you feel nervous or jittery before the fight. Everyone experiences this. It doesn’t mean you are afraid to fight. If you were afraid you wouldn’t be in the changing room getting your hands wrapped, you’d be back at home watching UFC on TV shouting advice from your sofa like an armchair warrior. The reason you feel nervousness is that your body is preparing for action. You just have to focus on the task at hand and be confident that all the work you’ve done so far will be enough to get you through.
Alternatively, you may be nervous because you genuinely know that you are unprepared for the beating that you are about to receive. In which case please read my’ finding a good MMA gym’ article.
Have a clear game-plan of what you are going to do during the fight. What is your first move going to be?  What if you get stuck under side-control? Don’t just go in and try to see what happens because it will leave too much to chance and gives you too much to think about. Choose five or six things that you will definitely try to do during the match and options from each position.
Don’t expect it to be easy. Your opponent is likely to be just as well prepared as you and so you should expect not everything to go your way during the match.


After your first fight, what next?


The point of competing, especially in your first few fights is to treat it as a learning experience. After the fight you need to think about what you did right and wrong and what your strengths and weaknesses were. Whether you win or lose you need to analyse your performance and figure out what lessons you can learn to help your future training and performance. Also be realistic about the fight, maybe you won but the opponent was just very unprepared or made a silly mistake, that isn’t going to help to make you a better fighter. Maybe you fought really well and did everything right but your opponent was also really good and he just managed to get the win by decision. In this case you should be happy with your performance and just keep working hard and trying to improve so you can fight even better next time.


What other questions do have about how to prepare for your MMA debut? Please ask in the comments section below.

Here is another article on how to make the most of your Martial Arts Training:


http://deniskellymmacoaching.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/success-in-your-martial-arts-training.html



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