Tuesday, 29 January 2019

BJJ Seminar at 360 Martial Arts in Ulverstone, Tasmania

Last week I taught a BJJ Seminar at 360 Martial Arts and Fitness in Ulverstone Tasmania while visiting the area for a family holiday. I have attended many seminars over the last 25 years and have had mixed experiences. Some have been great and have changed the direction of my martial arts training and caching and others have been terrible. In some cases its clear that the instructor has not given any thought to what or how he is going to teach and is only there to collect a paycheck. I've always wanted to make sure that when I'm asked to teach that I have a great session planned and that every single person who attends will get something out of it and will improve their martial arts ability in some way. I always plan my seminar step by step and then hand out notes on what has been covered at the end of the session. 

Here is what I taught last week:

Takedown & Open Guard Seminar - Denis Kelly MMA Coaching

Grip Breaks: Kumi Kata (From Right Hand Grip)

  • Right hand Fingertips to ear and pull back right Elbow
  • Both hands grip Right sleeve - Pull Down or Pull away and Lean Back
  • Shake - Pull down Collar grip with Left Hand



Grip Surfing Drill:
  • Get Grip and Prevent Grip
  • Flow from One Grip to the Next
  • Collar - Sleeve - Belt - Leg - Two on One


Fireman's Throw / Kata Guruma:

  • 2 on 1 Grip - Pressure Down on Shoulder - Action/Reaction
  • Pull with Left Hand - Drop Penetration Step Right Knee  
  • Right hand to Sky - Ribs on your Neck
  • Sink/Sit on your Heels - So he doesnt have too far to fall
  • Lower your left shoulder to the mat - let opponent do a forward roll over you




Open Guard Grip Surfing Drill:
  • Non competitive - Just flowing between grips - Partners gives correct energy
  • Hips (Feet on Hips) - Hooks (Feet hooked behind knees) - Elbows (Spider Guard)




Lasso Guard:
  • Wrap leg from Outside to Inside of Arm
  • Block Tricep with your Instep - Lock your Elbow to your Hip
  • Test the Connection - Partner walks backwards and pulls you.

SASA Sweep - Yukinori Sasa (Paraestra Gym Tokyo):

  • Bring Right Foot from Left Hip to Right Hip - Shin across belt
  • Right Hand goes inside his left Knee
  • Bring his Right Shoulder to the mat with your Left Knee & Lift with right hand
  • Finish in Knee on Belly Position

To Oma Plata:

  • If they don't move forward after removing foot from hip
  • Right hand to outside of Right Knee - Rotate under stomach
  • Stretch both legs - Knees tight to force shoulder to Mat

To Triangle:

  • Right Leg over Left Shoulder  
  • Grip right elbow with both hands
  • Pull Right elbow in - Stretch left leg through
  • Inside of left knee on right shoulder to angle off to your right.

Guard Passing Drills:

  • Slap-Head : Passer
  • Slap-Head : Both
  • One Arm Bandit
  • No Arm Bandit
  • Blind Bandit

I received a lot of great feedback about the session and could see that many of the participants were picking up the techniques and concepts really well. Really looking forward to getting back there to run another session in the near future.






Monday, 21 January 2019

My MMA Journey - Part 3


After my win in Italy at the end of 2003 I was keen to get back in and have another go as soon as possible. Unfortunately there weren't as many opportunities to fight or MMA events taking place at that stage. I kept myself busy by competing in BJJ, KSBO amatuer MMA events and also some Jiu Jitsu Kumite events which were mixture of semi contact karate and grappling. I was also pretty busy at this time with work and exams, but as soon as my exams were over I made a big push to get matched up for as many MMA matches as I could get.
I had four pro MMA fights in four months from June to September 2004. I won three of those and the fourth was given as a draw however it was one of my most dominant ever fights. I took my opponent down and punched and elbowed him from guard for three straight rounds. In between these fights I also competed in regularly in BJJ and grappling events.
I found all my own matches by contacting promoters and offering to fight anyone they had at a similar weights. Then a group of us would head off on a road trip on Saturday to the other side of the country. Weigh in, have a fight then drive home later that night. Looking back now that probably wasn't the best way to manage a Fight career but I wanted to keep improving and to me that meant testing myself and staying active. I had to fight whoever was offered and keep working to get better between every fight.
Throughout all these fights and during the training camps I was suffering from instability in my knee. I could still and compete but it would pop out every now and again (including during one of my fights) and I needed to keep it heavily taped up when I fought. At the end of 2004 I was booked in to get ACL reconstruction surgery and this put my fight career temporarily on hold.
In Feb 2005 I had a full ACL reconstruction. This can usually take a long time to recover from but I wanted to make sure I was fight ready as soon as possible after the surgery. The first two weeks I was off work stuck at home wearing a huge knee brace and using crutches, as soon as I could walk again I got back to light weight training and also did rehab physio sessions once a week. About a month after the surgery I got back to boxing, however focusing more on punching and not so much footwork. During this time I did most of my boxing training at the Fitzroy Lodge gym in south London.
I also had more exams around May of this year so once my exams were done I wanted to return to full training. Approximately five months after my knee surgery I was ready to get back to grappling training and was able to compete in a grappling tournament again a few weeks later.
Around this time I also got offered a shot to fight on a new MMA promotion which would take place in London in October. I was very keen to get back in and fight to make up for my lost time. In the months leading up to this fight I also went on two training trips, firstly to Amsterdam where I got to train with many legends of Dutch Kickboxing including Ernesto Hoost, and then a few months later I traveled to Brazil where I trained at Brazilian Top Team, which was the leading MMA team in the world at that time.

My first fight back after surgery was against Ciro Gallo in York Hall, Bethnal green. I dropped him with a punch right at the start of the round then got a Judo style Turtle rolling armbar. I was happy with the result of this fight as I had been out of full training and fighting for so long. However as always when I felt a fight was too easy I also had a slight feeling of disappointment that it wasn't enough of a challenge and that I had wasted several months of training and preparation but hadn't really tested myself. However I was never really the type of fighter to pick and choose my opponents or even to bother finding out much about them before i stepped into the ring. I just fought whoever was in front of me. I didn't look as MMA fighting as a career or even a sport. I just looked on it as a realistic way of testing my martial arts skills. If you get attacked on the street you don't get to pick and choose who you get attacked by, you don't ask for someone who is closer to your weight or has a similar record and you certainly don't ask your attacker to come back on another day because you've got a cold or sore elbow.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Seminars coming up at Australian Combat Sports Academy in February

We have two great seminars coming up soon:


On Thursday 7th February we  have Alex Volkanovski and Frank Hickman for an MMA Wrestling Seminar.


Top 10 UFC Featherweight Alex "The Great" Volkanovski is riding a 17 fight win streak with an undefeated 6-0 record in the UFC. Alex recently defeated top 5 UFC featherweight, Chad Mendes in Las Vegas at UFC 232.
Frank Hickman is the head wrestling coach at Tiger Muay Thai and has worked with some of the worlds best MMA Fighters.
A Division 1 wrestler from Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania and a 3x Division 1 National Qualifier Frank is a grappling machine with 20 years of wrestling knowledge of the famed Hickman Bros.
This seminar is being organised by CMBT Nutrition.
CMBT is the first sports nutrition brand dedicated to the Combat sports community. To find out more check out cmbt.com.au/seminar
To book for this seminar follow the link below:


The following night on Friday 8th February we have a seminar with Mendes Brothers Jiujitsu Black Belts Justin 'Juggs' Dee and Jason Powell.

Justin JUGGS Dee
18yrs training jiu jitsu
1st Degree Black Belt under Mendes Bros/ATOS Jiu Jitsu 
Founder and Head Instructor at Full Metal Jiu Jitsu

Jason Powell
8yrs training jiu jitsu
Black Belt under Justin JUGGS Dee & Mendes Bros/ATOS Jiu Jitsu 
Assistant Instructor at Full Metal Jiu Jitsu
Multiple time QLD Jiu Jitsu Champion
Multiple time QLD No-Gi Jiu Jitsu Champion 
NSW Jiu Jitsu Champion
ADCC Pro Jiu Jitsu Silver Medalist (NSW)


This seminar will run from 6pm until 8pm and the cost is $60 per person.


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My MMA Journey - Part 2



After losing my pro MMA debut I was in two minds about about continuing in MMA or just focusing on the safer option of competing in BJJ and Grappling.


I continued training hard and also around the same time became very interested in the mental and psychological side of fighting, how to control my nerves and adrenaline before a fight or a match, visualising what I'm going to do and how I'm going to feel and also avoiding the dangerous feeling of 'I just want to get this over with'. I spent a lot of time researching and reading about sports psychology and mental preparation and tried out everything I learned in local grappling tournaments.


Towards the end of 2003 I got another opportunity to fight in MMA. This time the fight would take place in Italy. About a month before this fight I had started a new job at an advertising company right in the centre of London and was also in the early stages of studying for my chartered accountancy qualification, this meant I was very limited on time so I had to fly to Italy on the morning of the event, fight in the evening and then fly home the next morning. Also, as previously mentioned MMA was an unknown sport back then, I couldn't really tell my employers I was going to overseas for a no rules fight at the weekend so I just said it was a martial arts event.


The fight in Italy was pretty tough. I had no idea who I would be fighting until I got into the ring. There was no weigh in and my opponent seemed to have a considerable weight advantage over me. I could tell i was in better condition though and I could see that he was getting tired halfway through the first round so it was just a matter of hanging in there, not getting hurt and waiting for my opportunity. By the start of the second round I could tell that he was done so I got my takedown and won by armlock.


This fight was a great experience because I overcame adversity. I always preferred the fights where I was losing at the beginning and manage to come back and overcome the opponent rather than fights where I had everything my own way.


One of the biggest lessons that I learned from my fighting career is the importance of having a coach, and particularly a coach who is experienced, who cares and is invested in you. Throughout all of my MMA career I had good friends and training partners who would help corner me but I never had a coach who had actually fought and could tell me exactly what to do. Advice such as how to train, how to prepare for a fight, which fights to accept and which to turn down. I pretty much did all of this on my own but in the long term I feel it was beneficial because I've been able to pass on the lessons I've learned to my students and fighters since then.



Tuesday, 4 December 2018

My MMA Journey - Part 1




I began my martial arts training with Traditional karate in Ireland way back in 1993, my first introduction to grappling came in 1998 when I began training at the Pancrase London club under my first MMA coach Fred Rado, I had already been training in Traditional Japanese Jiujitsu for about a year at my University club but Pancrase was my first experience of real MMA style grappling. London Pancrase based out of Paragon Kickboxing Gym in eat London was probably one of the first MMA clubs in the UK and many of the top MMA fighters of that era trained with him.

I had my first amateur MMA match in late 2000. I had already been training in martial arts for over 7 years at that point. MMA was a virtually unknown sport back then especially in the UK, there was no UFC on TV, no Ultimate Fighter tryouts and there was probably only five MMA events per year being held all across Europe.


I never planned to make a career out of fighting but just like everyone else competing during this time I wanted an opportunity to put my training to the test. I had been training in Karate, Kickboxing and some grappling so it seemed the obvious choice to test myself and see if my skills and training would hold up under pressure. It's like learning swimming for years but then never getting in the water to see if you'll sink or swim.


Unfortunately for me I received a huge cut over my eye from an accidental head-butt about one minute into my first match and it was declared a no-contest.


I competed in many more amateur MMA matches over the next two years. These events had different rulesets but usually involved a mixture of striking and grappling and usually no striking to the head. I fought on events including Amateur Pancrase, KSBO and Combat Sports Trials. These events were all feeder events for bigger professional shows. I eventually won either gold or silver in my divisions at all three of these tournaments over the years.


In Mid 2002 the UFC held there first ever event in London (the first UFC to take place outside of the USA, Brazil or Japan). I was lucky enough to train alongside several of the fighters who were making their debuts on this card which saw an explosion in the popularity of MMA in the UK. Not long after that I travelled to train at Next Generation MMA in California for three months.


While training in the USA I pretty much gave up any ambitions to fight professionally. Firstly because I realised that the level in the top countries (USA, Brazil, Japan & Russia) was so far ahead of everywhere else in those days that fighters from other countries didn't really stand a chance. The situation has changed completely since then and now there is much more of an even playing field with fighters from all countries (Australia, Ireland, Poland) having won UFC titles. This is due in a big part I believe to fight coaches such as myself training in these MMA powerhouse countries and bringing back what we've learned to our students and training partners.


Another reason that I didn't want to be a professional fighter is that I didn't want to commit to that lifestyle for the next ten years in the hope that I might eventually get good enough to make it to the UFC or another big event. A career as an aspiring professional fighter was just too uncertain. Sleeping on bunk beds in the gym for three months alongside eight other sweaty training partners from different parts of the world was enough to convince me that I wanted to get back to a normal life as soon as my training trip was over.


In the UK I got back into my normal routine of working during the day to pay the bills and then training in the evening. Around this time I saw a new TV show which was following the careers of some of the early UK fighters on the Cage Rage events. Having had a decent amount of success on amateur MMA, BJJ and Grappling events, I decided that I should step up and test my skills in a pro MMA event.


I was very confident going into my first MMA fight and I remember that this was the only fight that I've ever been confident about. My opponent was quite a bit heavier than me and was an experienced kick-boxer, I was sure though that my grappling would be much better and that once we got to the ground I would be able to arm-lock or choke him. Unfortunately for me the rules of this event meant there was a thirty second time limit on the ground and and my opponent was able to hold on and get back to his feet every time I took him down. He caught me with some big punches right from the beginning and I pretty much didn't remember any of the fight after the first ten seconds. Finally I got knocked out cold in the second round.


This fight was an important learning experience for me as a fighter and a coach. Often before fights fighters will ask me about feeling nervous and the truth is that you should feel nervous because you're about to go out and do something very risky and dangerous. You might get knocked out, slammed on your head or get your arm broken.



When I hear a coach in the changing room telling his fighter not to be nervous (just go in and have fun in there bro). This shows me that the coach doesn't know what he's talking about because he's never been there himself. Nervousness is good, it helps you prepare for the danger you are about to face. If you aren't nervous then it means you don't understand the risks of what you are about to do when you step into the cage and you would be better off going home and coming back when you are ready.


Part 2 coming soon.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

John Danaher Seminar Team Nemesis

Very excited to announce that one of the most highly regarded coaches in  the world of BJJ and MMA is coming to our gym to teach a seminar on Monday 12th November.


Get your tickets here:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/john-danaher-seminar-tickets-51780323341

Sunday, 2 September 2018

How long does it take to get Good at BJJ?


Recently I was asked an interesting question by a new student. This student had considerable experience in other martial arts and had just completed the trial week on our BJJ program. He had obviously enjoyed his training over the course of the week and was excited to continue. He approached me at the end of the class and asked ‘ How long does it take to get good?’ 

Since becoming a full time coach I’ve spent 100’s of hours attending Martial Arts and Fitness business courses focusing on Marketing, how to convert trials into students, upselling and many other related topics. I knew there was a perfect way to ‘re-frame’ the question, get him signing up and resulting in a high five and three year commitment to getting his black belt, however the question came at the end of a long week of tough sessions, teaching classes, training fighters and also working hard on my own training so I gave him the honest answer.

It might take your whole lifetime to get good and even then that might not be enough. What I meant is that Jiu Jitsu isn't a sequence of secret moves that you can memorise and then you’ll be invincible and receive your black belt in three years. It's tough, you learn the moves but your training partners learn the moves too so they can shut you down then you keep battling back and forth night after night, week after week for years and years until eventually one of you quit.

This is the reality of Jiu Jitsu training that separates it from many other martial arts. It is relatively ‘safe’ so you can go pretty hard almost every time you train without needing to pull your punches. You cannot comfort yourself with telling yourself that I would’ve won that match if I’d hit him with my power kick. You will get tapped out a lot on your way to getting black belt and you need to develop an ego that will allow you to deal with this short term inconvenience for your long term benefit.

I also explained to the new student that even though it sounds hard that the training is fun and enjoyable, and that's why people stick to it. Before long you forget about far off goal of getting a black belt and just enjoy the process of getting on the mat and testing yourself and your skills.

Afterwards though I realised that there is another way to look at the question “how long does it take to get good at Jiu Jitsu?’ This is an interesting question because it's very subjective, one person's idea of ‘Good at Jiu Jitsu’ may be very different to others. Some may think being good at Jiu Jitsu means winning a world title at the Black Belt division whereas another may define it as the ability to defend yourself.

In my opinion very few people get involved in Jiu Jitsu because they want to win world titles. Most people begin training because they want to get fit, lose weight or learn self defence. 

My own definition of being ‘good’ at Jiu Jitsu is simple. Can you defend yourself and defeat a larger and stronger opponent using Jiu Jitsu techniques? If you can then your training has worked. One of the strengths of Jiu Jitsu compared to other martial arts is that it is possible to achieve this goal in a relatively short time (6 months to 1 Year). With other fighting styles it is much harder to achieve this goal. Styles such as boxing or karate take much longer to get the same result. It's possible that some students can hit very hard and defend themselves after six months of boxing or karate training but it's always difficult to say if that is due to the training they received or just down to their natural power. With Jiu Jitsu the results are very consistent. Everyone can learn the same basic strategy and the techniques aren’t complicated.

Another way of looking at this question is relevant to fighters and martial arts from all styles and backgrounds. The important goal is not to just get ‘Good’, the goal is to keep continually improving. To get better than you were last class, or last week or last year or in your last tournament. Even if you’re winning every match, is there anything you could be doing better. Making that armlock tighter, finishing that sweep or improving defence.

So in short it should take around six months to one year until you can defeat an average untrained opponent using Jiu Jitsu (Provided you are being taught correctly and are training consistently) however you can spend your entire lifetime improving and perfecting your Jiu Jitsu.





Thursday, 30 August 2018

Being a Martial Arts Dad




Recently I’ve been asked about balancing my own training, being a martial arts coach, and also being a Dad. I believe martial arts training can have positive benefits on all aspects of your life but obviously it is tough to balance everything.
It's a little bit different for me because I’m a full time martial arts coach and had already been training for twenty five years before becoming a dad. However I feel it's still possible for Dads to benefit from Martial Arts training even if you are limited in how much time you have to training and at what stage in your life you get started.
I believe one of the best things parents can do for their kids is to lead by example. Kids will pick up on the habits of their parents and Martial arts training is a good way to pass on these good habits.
Discipline - Martial arts training is great for developing discipline, in particular self discipline, forcing yourself to stick to rules or achieve goals that you have set for yourself because you know that you will benefit from them in the long term. This type of discipline is another good example to pass onto children. They don’t feel like doing their homework but they need to be disciplined enough to do it so they will pass their exams.
Another good habit which Martial arts training develops is integrity and accountability, - Setting goals for yourself, doing what you said you would do and committing to achieving your goals rather making excuses.
There are also many other benefits to martial arts training such as increasing your fitness which will allow you to lead a healthier lifestyle. Developing more confidence both in terms of self defence ability but also the confidence that comes from learning and improving in a new skill. There is also the added benefit of stress relief, martial arts training is a good way to counter balance all the stresses of a busy life.

If you're a Dad and don't already train in Martial Arts or do any other physical activities I strongly encourage to book in for a trial session at a local school and give it a go.



Thursday, 9 August 2018

All about me..



Denis Kelly is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter and now head MMA Coach at Nemesis Martial Arts based in Melbourne, Australia.

He holds Black Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Kickboxing & Krav Maga, Boxing Australia Level 1 Coaching Accreditation, Cert 3 & 4 in Fitness, Cert 3 in Sports Coaching and Australian Strength & Conditioning Association Level 1 Coach.

Denis has competed at a high level in various Combat Sports including Professional Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai.  He has fought in the UK, Europe, Australia & New Zealand. He has also competed extensively in Brazilian JiuJitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Sambo Wrestling, Judo & Karate.

Denis did the majority of his training at Carlson Gracie Academy in London. He has trained all over the world including BJJ & MMA in Brazil, Japan & the USA as well as Kickboxing and Muay Thai in Thailand, Holland and Myanmar.

In addition to his Martial Arts qualifications Denis also received a Business degree from Middlesex University London in 2000 and has worked in Finance for several large companies in both London and Melbourne is the years prior to becoming a full time martial arts coach.

In 2009 Denis opened Team Nemesis Martial Arts together with Muay Thai Trainer Phillip Lai. In just a few years the team has produced several of Australia's top MMA & Muay Thai fighters.

As a trainer Denis believes the key to his team’s success is to constantly search for more efficient & effective training methods to continually improve his fighters every day.


https://www.facebook.com/deniskellymma/

https://www.instagram.com/denis302/
http://www.teamnemesis.com.au/


Monday, 9 July 2018

What I've learned as an MMA coach


These are some of the things I've picked up on my first ten years as an MMA Coach


You don’t need to be a Fighter.


Before becoming a coach I believed that I needed to gain as much fight experience as possible. In my mind it would affect my credibility if I hadn't been there and done it. Since opening my school I've never had a single student who cares if I had real fight experience or not. The only thing that students care about is whether you will be able to help them achieve their goals. Fight Experience can be useful and is helpful for separating the legitimate coaches from the frauds but many experienced fighters are clueless when it comes to coaching and don’t take the time to learn how to coach properly.

No Substitute for Experience.


However, my own fight career has been a useful asset for me. My experiences in the ring and cage have given me confidence in preparing fighters and an ability to understand what they are going through during their preparation. I can help my fighters avoid making the mistakes that I made during my fight career. This speeds up their learning and progression rather than relying on trial and error. I am also confident that I am not asking my fighters to do anything that I haven’t done myself. Trustworthiness is one of the most valuable attributes a coach can have. The fighter must be able to trust the coach 100% rather than doubting if he is actually speaking from experience.

Wide Knowledge Base.


What you learnt during your own training and fighting won’t be enough. Every Fighter has their favourite techniques that have worked well throughout their competitive career. When you start coaching you encounter a wide variety of students of different skill levels, personalities and body types for whom these techniques just aren’t a good fit. Students will get bored of learning your ‘A game’ every night for the next five years. You need to go back and re-learn many techniques and skills that you didn’t pay too much attention to when you were a fighter. You need to understand them so you can pass them onto your students. You also need to invest time in learning how to coach properly and be aware of the distinction between demonstrating how much you know versus passing on the information in a useful manner.

Always Keep Learning.


Don’t keep looking back to the glory days. MMA is continually getting better and more advanced and a good coach needs to keep learning and improving. Some martial arts styles haven’t changed much in the past 50 years however MMA and BJJ are continually evolving and changing, A good coach must keep up to date with new techniques so that students are not caught off guard by them, Too many coaches rely on just teaching the way they were taught. All sports evolve and improve over time and combat sports are no different. It makes sense to continually stay on top of the latest developments in the sport just as an athletics or football coach would.

Martial Arts Trends come and go.


There will always be new fads or new trends in the industry. Since gaining popularity in the western world Martial Arts has a history of going through trends where one style would be popular for a few years and then replaced by another. This was the case with Judo, Kung Fu, Karate and then Ninjitsu. MMA & BJJ are currently the biggest trend in the martial arts world. BJJ is actually a microcosm of this Martial Arts trend phenomenon where we see a new group of techniques become popular for a few years before being replaced by something else. Based on this I believe you need to be aware of the current trends in the industry but focus on the term long term rather than basing your entire coaching philosophy around whatever happens to be popular at the moment.

The Right Culture and Training Environment.


As mentioned previously, a good coach must stay on top of the latest developments in in the sport, however, Trends come and go. What is relevant and popular this year may soon be seen as an old fashioned technique that nobody uses anymore. What can persist for a much longer time is the gym culture that you create. The atmosphere and culture in your gym is the most important asset. How the students and fighters act, treat each other and behave in the gym. The training environment you create in terms of safe and effective training, and the reputation and the values of the team are more important than short term success.

Coaching Beginners is more Impressive than Coaching Champions.


Anyone can coach a fighter who is already a champion. By the time they reach Championship level the fighter should already have spent ten thousand hours training. It becomes more a matter of supervising their training and making sure they don't do anything stupid. What impresses me most is when a coach can take a complete beginner with no skill or training background and get them to championship level.

The Team is more Important than the Individual Fighters.


Obviously it is always more rewarding to work with a fighter from beginner level all the way up to championship level but this is not always possible. Fighters will switch gyms, lose interest in fighting or quit training altogether but its not a big deal. Every top level professional sports team has players leave every season, every college or high school has to start off each year with a fresh batch of players. If the right systems, culture and coaching are in place then the team will consistently produce results.

Focus on Quality over quantity.


Some people aren’t a good fit and will do more harm than good. Many coaches think that the more people they can ram into their classes or fight team the better. One bad training partner with the wrong attitude can put off (or Injure) five or six people. The same is true with building the long-term culture of the Gym. Some fighters will bring with them bad habits such as turning up late, missing classes or lazy training. If you don’t stamp it out this will eventually rub off on other junior members of the team, who will follow the lead of the senior fighters, develop the same bad habits and ultimately lose any chance of achieving their full potential. No matter how much talent a fighter may potentially have, if they don't fit with your team culture and philosophy you are better off without them.

There are no secrets. 


Fighters often feel like they are missing out if they aren't training with ten world champions every day. I've trained at some of the best gyms around the world and with many of the top coaches. What I've learnt is that there really are no secrets. The most successful gyms and fighters just do the same things that everyone else does, they just do more of it and do it more consistently.

It's about more than just Winning Fights.


Training fighters to win trophies and belts is great but the novelty quickly wears off. This is especially true if you feel that the competition success isn’t having a positive effect on the fighter or the team. There are too many examples of fighters and athletes who were successful in competition but the success had disastrous consequences for their life outside of sport. Martial Arts should be a way of improving the lives of everyone involved rather than focusing on winning at all costs.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The most important fights in MMA history



In this series of articles I will look at the fights which I regard as the most significant in the evolution of Martial Arts. Rather than focusing on fights which had the highest pay per view numbers or media impact, I will discuss the matches which I feel had the most historical significance in terms of shaping and changing the sport. Mixed Martial Arts to me is all about the fights themselves and more precisely the fighters, techniques and training methods used to produce these fights.

As a coach it is important to understand the history of your sport and understand how and why it has developed in a certain way over the years. This helps to open your eyes to the techniques and training methods which have been adopted, developed or in some cases discarded. It is essential to learn from those who have come before you in order benefit from the lessons and experience they learned the hard way and avoid repeating their mistakes.

Lets begin with a fight which in my opinion really started it all; Royce Gracie versus Art Jimmerson. November 12, 1993.

The history of Mixed Rules Fights


UFC 1 was not the first Mixed Rules Fight event. There were several earlier MMA promotions including Shooto in Japan which had been active since 1986. Perhaps the most notable prior example of a Mixed Rules fight was Muhammad Ali vs Antio Inoki held in Tokyo in 1976. This fight was generally regarded as a huge failure which did not capture the imagination of fans. It was difficult to agree on rules which would accommodate both the Boxer and the Wrestler. This led to the creation of a compromised rule-set where neither fighter could really use their weapons effectively, it actually appeared that the fighters weren't trying to fight each other at all and instead just trying not to lose, something which go on to be a recurring problem in modern day MMA. There was also a lot of confusion over whether the fight would be real or 'worked' and its generally understood that even Ali himself wasn't sure if it would be a real fight until right before the match.

The first Ultimate Fighting Championship promised something that the public had never seen before. A No Rules style versus style event where the most deadly martial arts systems would be pitted against each other to discover which was most effective. 

The Background of this Fight


The most important fight in my opinion was Royce Gracie vs Art Jimmerson. The outcome of this match now seems very obvious and predictable. The idea of a highly trained Jiu-jitsu expert taking on a Boxer with no grappling experience and wearing one glove seems ridiculous now however in 1993 it was an eye opener about the potential of the unknown Martial Art from Brazil.

Art Jimmerson was a legitimate threat as a highly experienced professional Boxing Champion. At the time of fighting in the first UFC he had accumulated 34 fights with 29 wins and was on a 15 fight win streak  His last loss was in an NABF light heavyweight title fight against Olympic gold medalist Andrew Maynard.

Little was known about Royce Gracie prior to the event. He was actually the least experienced fighter on the card and had trained exclusively with his own family for his entire life. The rest of the tournament was filled with veteran competitors from Kickboxing, Full Contact Karate, Boxing, Shoot-fighting and Sumo. 

What was it about Gracies style that made it so effective in the Jimmerson fight and then in his next ten fights all of which he won via submission within the next year?

Breakdown of the fight:


The actual fight is very uneventful by today's standards. Jimmersons speed and footwork looks  impressive however he is unable to land a single punch before being taken down by Gracie with a double leg take-down one minute into the match. Gracie then easily steps over to full mount position and grapevines his legs taking away all of Jimmersons mobility or any chance of escape. We can see that Gracie is patiently waiting for his opponent to exhaust himself with his escape attempts before attacking with any submissions or strikes. Jimmerson realising he is unable to escape taps out two minutes into the match. 


The importance of Ground-fighting:


The first crucial lesson we can learn from this match was how it highlighted the importance of ground fighting. No modern era fighter would consider competing in Mixed Martial Arts without extensive training in BJJ or another ground fighting system. Back in 1993 very few people realized the importance of ground fighting or had any idea of what they would do if a fight went to the ground. 

Ground fighting also known as NeWaza or ParTerre did exist in various other systems such as Judo, Sambo or Wrestling but was quite often underestimated or ignored completely. It was just something you did if you couldn't throw your opponent. Most stand-up stylists were oblivious to the possibility of ending up down on the mat. They assumed that a skilled fighter would be able knock out or disable an opponent before they could get a grip on them or would easily be able to escape from any grip or hold.

Brazilian JiuJitsu was one of the only Martial Arts styles that focused on the strategy of getting an opponent to the mat by any means necessary rather than a classically impressive match winning throw or take-down. Once on the ground you have taken away all of the opponents kicks, punches and strikes. The opponent being unfamiliar with ground grappling is unable to put up any offence while you are free to work towards getting a joint lock or choke. Many realizing they are out of their depth simply gave up before any submission had even been attempted. This is exactly what happened in the Jimmerson fight. It should be noted however that a big part of this strategy was the lack of time limit on the ground (unlike in Judo and Sambo) which allows the fighter to work slowly and methodically without taking any big risks which may result in losing the position and allowing the opponent back to his feet. 


The Secret to the Success of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


No secret techniques were employed by Gracie in this fight or in any of his next ten submission wins. All of the techniques used by Gracie to win those matches were already familiar to Judokas and other martial artists. In my opinion the reason for his success was in the Ground focused strategy discussed above and also in the training methods. 

Pressure testing your techniques in some way is a vital component of all martial arts. It can be called Sparring, Rolling, Randori or Kumite but the ultimate goal is the same, to learn to apply your skills under some degree of resistance. Sparring can be divided three categories based on the level of resistance from your training partner. 


Levels of Sparring


The first level is compliant Sparring. This is great for initially learning technique but the least effective for developing fighting ability and is most commonly found in Traditional Martial arts. Compliant Sparring cannot really be considered a genuine test as you are working with a willing partner who offers no resistance and allows you to execute your technique.

Second is the the most common and generally most useful type of Sparring. This involves trying to execute your techniques against a partner who is attempting to use the same techniques against you. For examples, Two judo players try to throw each other under,  Two boxers try to land scoring punches on one another, or a sport karate fighter tries to kick and punch to score points against a partner who is trying to score points on them,

The Third type of training is what made Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so effective in the early days. Imagine if the judo player was sparring against a partner who was not playing by their rules. What if the opponent was trying to punch or kick the Judo Player rather than grip fight? This would severely limit the type of throws which it was safe to use. What if there was no referee to declare an Ippon from a hold-down or a throw? The Judoka would then be forced to shift his attention to techniques which leave your opponent unable to continue such as joint locks or strangles leaving them to either admit defeat by tapping out or risk injury or unconsciousness.

In my opinion the combination of the correct strategy to fit the rule-set plus the correct training method - Practicing Jiu-jitsu to fight against other martial artists and fighters rather than to fight against other Jiu-jitsu players was the key to Royce Gracie's success and the dominance of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the early days of mixed martial arts. This led to the situation where everyone needed to learn ground fighting if they wanted to survive in this type of fight and eventually to the point where fighters were able to figure and shut down the BJJ fighters which I will cover in the next article. 

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