So I have a plan…it might not be a great plan….but it’s still a plan

So as I am sure you’ve all already guessed…I’ve been busy hatching a plan. I have a few things on the go with a grand plan in mind…let me run something by you all…consider this as an example…I have started filming some material to go along with an article I’ve written on flexibility, mobility and stability….the more I’ve done the more I’ve decided to do and haven’t decided exactly where I am going to draw the line on it yet. What my plan for the future is as follows…write an article in this case on flexibility, mobility and stability. Upload a video to go along with it. Then to make a time to have a Q&A on Google+ to deal with peoples questions, queries and to get into specifics along with giving some solutions to what has been raised. Then be able to put it all together as a ‘package of posts’ if that makes sense?

Now the above example is pretty wide ranging so I thought I might try it out with something very specific…in this I thought I’d begin with ‘weight cutting’ for martial arts i.e the best way to ‘make weight’ and then replenish yourself before you fight. To look at nutrition in the week of the weight cut, hydration and superhydration, supplementation, training and then thermogenic water loss (bath and sauna).
If you are interested in this then let me know and I will put you on an ‘invite’ list and we’ll work out a time this week.
So weight cutting is going to be my ‘practice’ example and give me a chance to work the bugs out privately and then after that is done we’ll move on to flexibility, mobility and stability….then perhaps resistance training programming or MMA training or maybe I will make up a list of topics and run a poll see what most people are interested in and do it that way,

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts?

Advertisements

A quick question about the future direction of this blog

Quick question…particularly for those of you that are consumers of strength and conditioning/health and fitness info on the interwebz.

I’ve been writing this weekend on flexibility, mobility and stability and while doing so I’ve been thinking about the videos that I need to make and or find to accompany the article which got me thinking about whether I should just make ‘video articles’ or whatever you might want to call them?

I was thinking…I am not like everyone else and I don’t have to pepper my articles with product placement and the like so I was thinking it might be more interesting and more informative if I did the articles as mini presentations/tutorials?

That I could do a series on flexibility, mobility and stability. A series on rehab and prehab principles and practice. Then on strength testing and conditioning testing. Then when I post a IP program I could do a ‘run through’ of the program and point out the important coaching points.

That way when people have questions or queries I can just attach a video response where appropriate. Tag them all and build up a video library.

So do people have a preference as to how they get their info? Or could you all care less?

Fighting Series – Getting Ready to Get Fit to Fight

So I want to talk generally about training for martial arts but before getting into specifics I want to outline and qualify a few things. Firstly, I am not going to get into the physiology and science of training…I am happy to do that after if people would like me to but I don’t think it’s the best use of my time. The best way to do that if you are interested though is for me to point you in the right direction to get after it yourself because most of it is a matter of just reading up. Personally I have never stopped reading and never stopped studying either. I did yet another unit of advanced exercise physiology and neuroscience last semester and I was bored beyond believe talking about it and writing about it ‘academically’…it is boring as hell and I would much rather write and talk with you about the practical and real life implications of the material in question. I figure that we can define some terms and talk about the components of strength and conditioning along with some of the ‘traditional’ ways in which people approach there physical preparedness for martial arts.

One of the problems that some people have when they are considering the topic of strength and conditioning is that they don’t really know what they are looking at when they are looking at displays of what they think of as ‘fitness’. When some people say a particular athlete is ‘fit’ some people are talking about the appearance of their physique…and even then some people are saying they are ‘fit’ because they are super lean and yet others because the athlete in question is jakt. Some people think of fitness as speed and power and yet others as endurance. So we need to ensure that we are properly defining the terms. I always get people asking me ‘How can I improve my fitness?’ and what they are after is always some attribute on the athletic spectrum with power on one end and endurance on the other and with things like speed, anaerobic power and repeatability along with strength in between. Sometimes what they are after is improvements in EVERYTHING which is fine as well.

To save some time and so people can bail on this post now if I’ve already bored the hell out of them…I will get to the ‘take home’ points right up front:

1. You can’t improve everything at once.

2. You need to ensure you are focussing and prioritising the attributes that are going to give you the greatest returns with regards performance in your chosen martial art.

More on these take home points later.

So where to start….that’s simple.

Fitness Assessment

“If you are not assessing you are guessing.” – Someone awesome (Years Ago)

Put simply if you aren’t testing and measuring then you have no way of monitoring the effects of any intervention (training or training alterations) you put in place. Winning fights is not a way to measure the ‘effectiveness’ of your training…winning fights is how you measure the effectiveness of your fighting. You can be a bad athlete and a great fighter and vice versa.

So what comes first with regards fitness assessment.

Mobility and Stability

This is always where I start because it has by far the biggest impact on your overall performance.

I am planning to delve into all this area as with the others I outline here in detail but to start this series I just really want to give you an overview of where I am coming from.

If your mobility and stability is appropriate (again…I will define this in detail in later posts) then your chances of acquiring a chronic injury are almost non existent. Your chances of acquiring an acute injury are also greatly reduced…for sure freak accidents are unavoidable in contact sports but having appropriate mobility and stability will pretty much reduce your chance of injury to just that…freak accidents.

Here’s a really simple and easily repeatable test of functional mobility.

You can do it regularly and video it and monitor your progress.

Speed, Agility and Fitness Testing

This is what I think comes next because when it comes to martial arts…strength and power is great but if you are unprepared to ‘go the distance’ then your chances of being able to use your strength and power are severely limited. The spider test has always been my ‘go to’ test in this regard. I think for martial arts it’s hard to find a more economical test…in that you can test lots of attributes individually but this is a test that stresses all your attributes simultaneously. The spider test is 6 x 30 seconds efforts with 30 seconds recovery between efforts…the fastest and most agile get the furthest on the first effort and the fittest athletes get the biggest total. This test gives you both fantastic objective and subjective data.

This is a video of me discussing fitness testing

Here is a video of a GAA player doing a modified spider test…probably the most appropriate fitness test for martial arts.

Here is a video of some Camogie players doing a traditional spider test

Here is a full description of the test….this is a pretty exciting video…you might want to get some popcorn

Strength, Power and Muscular Endurance

Here is a video description of basic testing.

Then below you will find a video outlining my thoughts and rationales for testing and testing methodologies.

Lower Body

Standing Broad Jump – I think this test is easier to administer and more reliable than a vertical jump.

Bodyweight Squat – Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done to a depth below parallel for repetitions.

1RM or 3RM – Squat, Deadlift or TrapBar Deadlift – I’ve traditionally done 2 different tests. A 1RM trapbar deadlift at the beginning and end of each training cycle and a 3RM squat test mid cycle.

Upper Body

Push Ups – Repetitions in 60 seconds.

Inverted Rows – Repetitions in 60 seconds.

Bench Press –  Your body weight rounded up to the nearest 5kg and done for repetitions.

Pull Ups – Done for repetitions.

1RM Bench Press – Everyone wants to know….how much do you bench.

3RM Pull Ups – Weighted pull ups.

Conclusion

So that’s Fitness Assessment outlined. Firstly, you need to assess your mobility and stability and look for any areas of weakness or imbalance. Secondly, I think you need to assess your speed, agility and endurance and a modified 30/30 test is a great way to do that. Thirdly, you need to assess your power, strength and muscular endurance and again look for areas of weakness and imbalance.

 

 

Fighting Series

As I said in a previous post I want to start exploring, expanding upon and explaining my thoughts and practices with regard training for martial arts and the differences in approaches I use depending on the martial art in question.

I am not going to discuss actually training martial arts as I certainly wouldn’t hold myself out as an expert or anywhere near close on any of the types of martial arts that I train in BUT I think I do think I have a very good idea about what some of the most efficient ways to improve your performance in the many different martial arts are…for example my approach is very different between training for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling versus Muay Thai and Boxing versus MMA.

Before I continue I want to briefly mention something…you all know why the strength and conditioning for these sports is very different? If you said because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling is pretty much entirely a ‘closed kinetic chain’ sports and that Muay Thai and Boxing are pretty much entirely ‘open kinetic chain’ and that MMA is very much a mix of both open and closed chain dynamics you’d be right. If you also realised that these fundamental factors make the training needs for these sports very different you’d also be right. It is also very important that you have this clear in your head before we start talking training. Just in case you are unsure I will include the following definitions so you can have an epiphany 🙂

Open kinetic chain exercises (OKC) or open chain exercises are exercises that are performed where the hands and or the feet are free to move…think punching and kicking.

Closed kinetic chain exercises (CKC) or closed chain exercises  are exercises performed where the hands or feet are in a fixed position…think positioning of the hands with regard ‘grips’ and foot, knee, hip position regard sweeps or submissions.

Now this is a gross simplification but I wanted to keep it that way before we get into more detail in the future. If you have questions or want clarification feel free to ‘google’ the hell out of it or ask me here.

I thought just as a preamble to my next posts on actually training for different martial arts I would just collect and post links to all the other ‘fight’ related posts on the blog just so people can either catch up or review what’s been discussed in the past and get people in the right head space for what’s to follow. I will put them in what I think is a somewhat logical order.

Previous Posts in the Fighting Series

1. So you say you want to be a fighter? – The post that started off this series and outlined exactly what I wanted to do before I completely ignored it and did whatever took my fancy. It’s what I am going to try to get back to and expand on what’s detailed here.

2. 10 tips to know before starting a fight sport – A post about the things you need to know before you begin training.

3.10 tips for choosing the right martial art for you – A post about the different martial arts and what they have to offer.

4. So you decided you want to fight but don’t know where to go about it…here’s 4 things to think about – A post about choosing a gym and an instructor to suit your needs and mindset.

5. Fit to fight…fighting fit…fight training – A look at some different approached or methods of fight specific conditioning.

So you decided you want to fight but don’t know where to go about it…here’s 4 things to think about

Good decision. I applaud you for it. I want to talk about some of the general things you are going to want to look at and think about now that you are jumping in the deep end.

First things first. You have to find a place to train. If you are an experienced martial artist you are going to know all of the following but I thought I’d write this as a guide to someone just starting out.

Choosing a Gym

Finding the right gym for you is probably the hardest step. Find the right place and you will probably be set for life. What I mean by this is not necessarily that you will train there forever but that you’ll gain all the tools and experience there to keep you on the right track wherever you go. Choose the wrong gym and you could be lost to the sport forever. I need to emphasise the first sentence again….you need to find the right gym for YOU. The gym that suits you might not suit others and vice versa. The other thing you need to do is to keep an open mind. I know people that have started out just wanting to do some ‘fitness’ work who have gone on to have professional fights a couple of years later and I also know people who have started out wanting to fight MMA who have in the end dedicated themselves to a traditional martial art and never fought MMA and don’t even train it anymore. So the right gym for you to begin in might not be the right gym for you to finish in….confused yet? Hopefully you are still with me?

1. Don’t rely on the interweb. This should be a general rule for life but it certainly applies to martial arts. To give you an example from the fitness/strength and conditioning field…have you ever heard of Julian Jones or Harry Wardle? No? Don’t worry…very few people have. They don’t have blogs or websites or products to sell…what they do is produce Olympians and World Championship competitors day in day out and have done so for decades. I could keep naming strength and conditioning coaches that have produced medalist after medalist and you will have heard of none of them because unlike myself and others they are too busy building champions. What I am getting at is that having a huge profile on the internet is no measure of success. It is no guarantee of excellence in any other area except marketing and promotion. The same rule applies to martial arts. There are great teachers out there that don’t excel in marketing and promotion. Teachers that aren’t internet savvy who instead of blogging and looking after getting their name out there on the web they are in the ring or on the mats coaching future champions. So by all means…do research gyms and teachers/coaches on the internet but be aware that the perfect coach for you might not be found there.

2. Get your foot in the door. Before you decide on a gym go and have a look. I have never been to a single gym that wouldn’t be happy to let you sit in the corner with your mouth shut and your eyes open and watch a class. Personally, what I would do is to go into a gym and get a timetable and find out who teaches what classes. Hopefully you have some idea of what you’d like to do. Take some time to go and watch that class. Get there before class starts. Watch the class from start to finish and then after the class ask the instructor anything you want to know. I will also give you a few tips here for free to help ease your way.

a) Wear some flip flops/thongs when you go. Depending on where you go and what type of gym you go to you might have to walk over the training area to get to the place that you are going to watch the class from. Walking on the mats in anything but your bare or stockinged feet is a big no no. Do not walk on the mats with your shoes on. This is particularly important if there is any grappling involved. There is a good chance that the mat you are walking on is going to have my face on it 5 minutes after class starts and I don’t want to have my face rubbed into anything that you happen to have walked inside. I wouldn’t lick the bottom of your shoe by choice so don’t make me do it incidentally.

b) Introduce yourself to the instructor. Asides from just being polite whoever is teaching the class whatever it is and wherever it is if they are instructing you can pretty much guarantee that they’ve done some hard yards getting there and for that and no other reason they deserve your respect even if you don’t think it or know them. Tell them who you are and why you are there. You can also guarantee that if they are coaching that 1. They definitely are not just doing it for the money and 2. That they love the sport and that if they get the time during class they will want to explain it to you and tell you all about it.

c) Stay to the end. If you’ve made the time to go there make the time to stay till the end of the class to make sure you understand exactly what is going on and how the flow of the class goes and what the do’s and don’t’s are. Some martial arts are very formal and involve recognition of rank and seniority some are very informal. You should know which is which when you are starting out so you don’t feel like an idiot when you go to class and also so you don’t just look like an idiot.

d) Ask questions after. This is the time to have them answered and to ensure you know what you are getting into. You might want to know is there a curriculum? Can you just start anytime or do the classes run as part of a program? If you don’t ask you won’t know.

3. Ask if they have a trial. You should try before you buy. You want to make sure you know exactly what you are getting into before you decide to join a gym. Do a week of classes. Again, just personally (I don’t know why I keep writing that…I think at this stage anyone reading this is fairly certain that these posts are my opinion.) I would try a few gyms. If you have decided to try BJJ for example and there are more than one school in your area…do a trial at one and then a trial at the other. As I said before, you need to find the right instructor for you not just the right sport.

4. Respect. I think liking and respecting your coach as a person is as important if not more important than their pedigree or credentials. Whether you are going to put a lot of time in or a little respecting the person that you are training under is important.

So in summary…

1. Look around.

2. Do your ‘research’ in person as well as on the internet.

3. Take your time and don’t rush into anything…try before you buy.

4. Make sure you are comfortable with the coaches and the gym.

So for the first time…I set out to write 1000 words and only went slightly over 🙂

10 tips for choosing the right martial art for you

I thought since we were on the subject I would talk a little bit about the martial arts that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in.

I am not going to describe them in detail…google will do a better job of that…I thought instead I would tell you what I’ve gotten from them and what I enjoy about them. I don’t want any hate mail about it…though it’s always nice to get email…I am just talking about my own personal experience.

By way of background…when I got involved in martial arts my focus was fighting. Fighting in mixed martial arts (MMA) so my training was based around that…the brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) I did with mixed martial arts in mind. The Muay Thai I did…you guessed it…I did that with MMA in mind and on and on it goes. As I said in a previous post…since I’ve been back in Australia I’ve been lucky enough to train in a lot of different gyms and have been exposed to classes, sparring and competition in lots of different martial arts but in every single one of them my focus has always been…how can I use this in MMA…how could I use this in a competitive fight.

So what I am going to do is just list the martial art…give you a wiki link so if you’ve not seen the martial art or had exposure to it then you can take a quick look. If you are interested in finding out more about it…then you can go looking yourself. Then I am going to tell you what I like about it and or what I don’t like and what I got out of it.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_jiu-jitsu

This along with Muay Thai and MMA was really the first martial art I was exposed to. I loved it right from the get go. I still remember starting out and I was explaining to someone yesterday at a meeting that when you begin ‘rolling’…which is the term used for sparring in BJJ and you are rolling with anyone decent and or more experienced than yourself and you are actually trying hard to fight for position or to not be submitted that it is like not being able to swim and being thrown in the deep end of a pool with one wrist tied to your ankle. You might not drown immediately but it sure does feel like it. The hardest thing to overcome when you start BJJ is your ego…if you want to develop…you have to let that go straight away. You have to learn to relax. I wasn’t intending on doing so but because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I like as no one is the boss of me…I’ll tell you my tips for beginning BJJ.

1. Train in the gi (that’s the kimono/pyjamas that traditional bjj players wear). I always hear people saying ‘I don’t want to train in the gi because I am doing bjj for mma or self defence and no one fights in a gi’. This is true…no one fights mma in a gi and outside of a mental hospital you probably aren’t going to have someone pick a fight with you in their pj’s but you will develop so much faster and get so much better if you do learn bjj and train bjj in a gi and here’s why:

The gi slows things down…firstly because there is so much more resistance in a gi…the speed difference between rolling in a gi and rolling no gi is enormous…particularly at the novice level. Secondly, because in the gi you have something to hold onto…sleeves, collars, belt, pant legs. Good bjj players can find or create ‘handles’ and gripping points all over you and they are either just there to grab or they can create them by just moving you in such a way as to create them. This ‘slowing down’ helps you both offensively and defensively. Offensively it means you can work on your techniques step by step…this helps you learn. It helps your offensive/attacking transitions…by having these gripping points and resistance between you and your opponent means they can’t just muscle out or slip away or just shake and buck out of position as easily. Defensively, you quickly develop a sense of when you are in trouble…for many of the same reasons I listed above. When you gain some experience you will recognise this all the better…you ‘know’ when submissions are coming….you know when you are 5 or 10 seconds away from being submitted. You know this because many submissions come step by step, stage by stage and at each stage you are either escaping and or getting one stage closer to being submitted. Now this happens in no gi as well…but a lot of no gi submissions are either ‘thrown on’ on faster….purely because escaping is so much easier with the lack of gripping points and the lack of resistance between you and you competitor. So by training in the gi you improve your technique…from an offensive point of view and also improve your defensive awareness. If you look at all the top no gi bjj competitors you will be hard pushed to find any who aren’t primarily gi competitors or who don’t train in the gi.

2. Relax. You have to learn to relax in bjj and I know that is hard when some big oaf is all over like a wet blanket trying to choke you but you have to be able to relax any way. I think this is the first thing you have to learn and it’s probably one of the hardest and takes the longest. It is so hard in fact I know and have trained with people that have been training for years and they still can’t do it. People for whom every training session is a fight. People who fight to never be submitted. People who throw everything they have into every submission attempt. These people are painfully annoying to train with and pretty much every gym I’ve been to has them. I could talk about strategies for dealing with these people at another time…the point I want to make is that you don’t want to be one of them. Relax and try to learn every time you are on the mats. You need to relax and enjoy your BJJ to really learn. If you are in a bad position and you are going to be submitted…tap…and restart. From personal experience what I do now is to tap…and restart either in the position a couple of stages before I knew I was going to be submitted or I actually ‘work myself back to that position’ so I can rectify my mistake…sometimes it happens again and I end up about to be submitted again…I tap and try it again. What I’ve learned to do is to relax…the only place submissions count is in competition and the best way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to learn from you mistakes in training…where you correct them….not in competition where you get no chance to go back and fix them.

3. Tap early and tap often. I know I am going to get a lot of abuse for this and I know most of the people that it is going to come from already but…as a continuation of the above…you have to relax and give yourself over to BJJ to learn from it. A lot of the submissions I get caught in when training I could escape from….not all of them…but a lot of them…I say this because a some of the people I train with are 40-50kg’s lighter than me and if I wanted out of a submission I could ‘Hulk’ my way out of it. I don’t because I appreciate everything I get from these training partners and if I can’t get out of the submission ‘technically’ then I owe it to them to take it like a man and tap and try again. I do this because I also train with people that out weigh me by 20kgs and I am certainly not ‘Hulking’ my way out of the same submission with them. When I do any training now I try to dial down the power and focus on my technique…if I get caught then I tap and as I said above…I try to either re start in that position and or work my way back to it and try to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again. Sure, I can get caught in a triangle and post up and put someone on their neck and make frame so I don’t get choked out and stay there to the end of the round or until I injure the person attempting to submit me through weight and force but what do I learn from that….other than the fact that I can stack someone 30kg’s lighter than me? Nothing.

4. Learn to be safe. Again I know I’ll get abuse for this…but I am giving you MY opinion…I am not a black belt…I am not a master of any martial art but I am telling you that personally I began to learn a lot faster and a lot more once I learned a very good safety game. When you begin BJJ…rather than trying to learn a flying arm bar….learn how to shrimp…rather than learning how to triangle someone…learn how to frame. As a novice your job is to stay safe and not be submitted. That’s your job. Stay safe, don’t be submitted and learn. It’s for the more experienced person rolling to make something happen. It’s not your job to throw yourself around and throw yourself into submissions for THEM. It’s their job to work you into submissions while or as a result of you defending yourself. So you should focus on maintaining good posture whether you are on top, in side control or on your back. While maintaining your posture and being safe you want to learn to improve your position and your transitions. If you can maintain your posture, transition and improve you position you will have an amazing basis for really learning and improving your BJJ.

So anyway…that’s my quick guide to beginning BJJ. Now one of the reasons that I personally really like BJJ is essentially all of the above and more.

BJJ taught me to have a game plan when I am fighting. Yes, I will acknowledge that in any fight the actions are dynamic and a fight can go anywhere but by having a game plan and a strategy can tilt the fight in your favour and if you know what you are doing you can ‘work’ people into positions which put the fight in your preferred position or where you feel most comfortable. This is the case whether you know your opponents strength and weaknesses or whether you’ve seen their previous fights or matches and know what they like to do or whether it is something you learn in the fight. BJJ definitely has helped me to remain calm because I don’t feel afraid for the fight to go anywhere…as an example if I am sparring MMA for example and I end up on my back with an excellent BJJ player I can go into safety mode and just look to remain safe…not get submitted, not get struck and try to just nullify my opponents attack…if I end up on my back with a less experienced BJJ player and I am feeling confident I can not only nullify their attacks but I can look to sweep them, stand up, submit them…I can employ my game.

BJJ has taught me to be methodical and to fight by numbers…what I mean by that for example is to work position to position no matter where it is…look to gain a position and improve it. I don’t try to race from one to another…a fight, a roll, a sparring session…from stage to stage methodically. Whether the position is good or bad I am looking to improve it.

Muay Thai

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muay_thai

I am going to have to stop myself from saying for each martial art…that I love it. From here on in lets just take it as a given that I really enjoy all fight sports and have enjoyed and learned a heap from all of them.

Now let me get this out of the way right from the get go…for all the training I’ve done and all the sparring and fights I’ve had…I still can’t throw a left hook.

The reason I bring this up is because I want to make a general point that I think is applicable to all fight sports…which is this:

There are going to be techniques in all martial arts that are going to be more suited to you than others. You need to focus on the ones suited to you BUT you have to be exposed to all the techniques.

What I will say again here for emphasis…I am not a top level BJJ player, I am not a great Muay Thai fighter, I don’t consider myself a boxer, I am by no means a judoka, I won’t be going to the Olympics for wrestling (side note wrestling has been removed from the Olympic Games) and not because there is no wrestling anymore. All that aside…I think I’ve fought enough to be justified in offering my opinion.

So back to my views on Muay Thai…my game essentially consists of my jab which I use A LOT…my straight right…which I don’t throw enough…a cut kick off my lead leg to the inner thigh/inner knee (depends on my accuracy or lack thereof) and a leg kick to the thigh/outer knee of my rear leg…with all these kicks thrown to the lead leg of an orthodox fighter or to the lead leg but reversed to a southpaw. I throw knees only from the clinch and right elbows if I have the clinch with my left hand on the back of your head. That’s pretty much it for me. I’ve done a lot of classes from as far north as Brisbane to as far south as Hobart and plenty of places in between and been coached in lots of different techniques…these are just the things that have stuck with me.

What I’ve got from Muay Thai is some toughness. That’s not the most important thing for everyone but it’s the main thing for me. It’s not what you’ve gotten from it or what you will get from it but it’s the most important thing for me. It’s taught me to stick in there and that sometimes you just need to suck it up and keep moving forward.

My tips for Muay Thai would be as follows:

1. Learn the basics first. I know this seems like a given but a lot of people I’ve trained with have appeared to want to know ALL the techniques before they could even do one of them proficiently. Like all fight sports good technique and as a start…rock solid foundation of the ‘basic’ techniques will get you a long long way.

2. Don’t race into sparring. Nothing puts off beginners like a shin clash or a decent leg kick even when thrown without malice. Focus on step 1 and then hit the bags. If you can’t do a 3 minute round on the bag while keeping your hands up…then you don’t want to be sparring.

3. You are better off and safer sparring with the best person in the class than the worst. This should be a general rule for every fight sport. The best person in the class can give you back what you give to them. They won’t be scared or worried about you. They won’t damage you under pressure. I would rather be leg kicked in training by a champion than a novice…control, accuracy and knowledge versus little to none of the aforementioned. You will learn more from getting your ass kicked in a controlled manner by someone good than from ending up in a fight with someone as hopeless as yourself.

I will also just say this as a side note…if you are interested in ‘self defence’….which by that way is a term I hate and have never been comfortable with then I think learning good Muay Thai basics is the way to go…I won’t go into detail but I think that 1. Learning how to kick and in particular how to cut kick or leg kick then sprint is an awesome method of ‘self defence’. 2. Learning how to knee and elbow strike in the event that (1.) isn’t successful is the next best thing to learn. 3. The reason that I say this is because once if gets to the stage that you are using and or NEED to know BJJ, Judo, Wrestling or whatever else you want to mention you are certainly in a world of trouble. I hope that everyone gets the drift of where I am coming at here?

Judo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judo

All the following martial arts except for MMA at the end are ones that I’ve had exposure to and taken classes in but are not ones that I speak with any authority about…or should I say…with even less authority about than the two previously mentioned.

I will be brief with these…what I have gotten from my limited exposure to judo is this:

1. Grip fighting. This has changed so many parts of my game in BJJ and MMA game…from grappling on the ground to my engagement in stand up. What I got from judo is to not give an inch…not a hand hold, not a position, not a thing…I engage on my own terms or not at all and if that isn’t the case I fight to get it back on my own terms right from the first second. Just as an observation in relation to BJJ…this is something that is ‘bad’ element in BJJ in that there is almost a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ when people train BJJ in a lot of schools. I’ve not been to many gyms where rolling actually starts ‘on the feet’ and that in most places it starts with one individual in a ‘submissive/inferior’ position and the the roll commences from there. They bump fists, give up grips and then start to roll from there. The extension of this is that what you also see is people giving up a superior position….let’s say standing and looking to pass they lessen the superiority of their position for some unknown reason by passively agreeing to pass the person on the ground who is in the inferior position on that persons GOOD defensive/guard side rather than compounding the inferiority of the poor position by passing them on their side that their guard is not as good. Anyway…I’ve digressed enough. So yes, judo has improved my knowledge of grip fighting…fighting for hand position and in methods of ‘stripping grips’ should you lose that hand fight.

2. Footwork in the clinch. I’ve learned a lot about my footwork and entries to takedowns from judo that have made my takedowns easier and less ‘muscular’ by learning to gain more mechanical advantage through better foot placement in regard to my opponent.

Boxing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing

I never realised how bad my boxing was till I got to train and spar with ordinary boxers who proceeded to pepper my entire torso from my waist band on up.

The things I learned from boxing:

1. Footwork…mainly the fact that I had none and that I needed some. Now striking in boxing isn’t the same as striking in MMA. I am not going to go into a heap of detail other that to just say that in boxing you don’t get kicked and you don’t get taken down and if you clinch it gets broken up almost immediately. These facts mean that although there doesn’t look like there’s a lot of difference when you’re a novice that from very early on if you have exposure to say MMA and boxing you will see big differences in striking, footwork, posture and defence. Anyway good footwork in boxing helps you hit and not get hit and personally what helped me the most in my exposure in boxing has been to improve my footwork and balance in my striking…with modification.

2. Defence. Now I feel like I need to stress this again…these are my personal views not a summary of the sport in general. As with the footwork what I also learned from boxing was better defence. How to not only cover up but to change my angles of exposure and to be able to move my head and roll my body more effectively.

3. Body shots. I learned this the hard way. I learned about the effectiveness of body shots by being dropped to my knees repeatedly. I had an experience recently in Sydney where I was dropped to my knees more times in one round than I’ve been dropped in all my other training sessions put together. I am working on doing this to others more and more and I think it is under utilised in MMA…as I said…just my opinion.

Wrestling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrestling

The best thing I’ve gotten from my limited exposure to wrestling is physical. It’s the conditioning that comes with it. Whether it be the speed and power that comes from explosive takedowns or the strength and strength endurance than comes from tie ups and positional battles in the clinch. I won’t mention anything else not because I didn’t get anything else from it but because the ‘physical’ element of wrestling was by far and away the biggest and most important thing I took from it.

Mixed Martial Arts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

Now MMA is actually my favourite martial art and I’ve learned so much over the years from it and I consider myself so lucky to be involved in it.

Personally if I was going to take up any martial art it would be this one. I know it is not a traditional martial art but if you have good coaches and good training partners you will be able to get exposure to many of the other traditional martial arts and I think in practice you end up getting exposed to the best techniques in all of them almost by necessity.

Everything I’ve mentioned previously as benefits are things that I’ve also gotten and consolidated in MMA from stand up offence and defence as in getting my attacks off on my feet and taking as little damage as possible while doing so. To being able to clinch and engage standing up and either being able to do damage or improve my position and be able to use my footwork and technique along with my strength to get a takedown. To look to improve my position on the ground methodically and to either get a finish with strikes or a submission without giving up position or putting myself in danger of being put in a bad position while doing so. On the flip side it’s given me strategies and abilities to minimise the damage inflicted upon me when standing by utilising my footwork and movement along with covering up better. To fight back to a superior position in the clinch if I get caught out. That if and when I get taken down to be able to protect myself and either submit the opponent on top of me or to sweep/move them into an inferior position.

For me MMA is about putting together all the best and most suitable techniques for you and your body type from all the different fight sports available.

As per usual I sat down to write 1000 words and ended up holding myself back and not saying everything I wanted to or could of said and still ending up with 4000 words.

10 tips to know before starting a fight sport

So you’ve decided you want to start ‘fight’ training. You are not sure what you want to do but maybe you’ve just been thinking that you want to give it a go. You are not alone. I’ve always said that the hardest thing about taking up a martial art or getting into a fight sport is walking in the door of a gym. I know that it can be incredibly intimidating and off-putting taking that first step through the door on your way to getting onto the mats.

It’s not like trying out a gym…where you can just walk around and watch people on equipment and ‘monkey see monkey do’ your way through the place. Jumping on a treadmill or a stepper and following the instructions or pressing the ‘quick start’ button and just cruising along and watching what is going on around you is pretty easy and risk free.

It’s not like taking up road cycling or mountain biking either…where you can just buy yourself a bike and just have a crack at it and see how it feels. You certainly don’t need a coach to go for a ride that’s for sure.

The thing with martial arts is the unknown and I think it’s this unknown that both excites people and puts them off in equal measure. The reason you can just give the gym a ‘go’ or just grab a bike and take a ‘ride’ is because we’ve all seen people do it…we all have some idea of what these sports or exercise is like. The thing is….this is also the case with martial arts….whether its judo, boxing, brazilian jiu jitsu or mixed martial arts…we’ve all seen what they are about as well…and what they are about is ‘fighting’.

When we watch people in the gym on TV you don’t see every person tearing pecs or pulling hamstrings, when you are watching athletics you don’t get shown all the runners tripping over and sliding along the track, when you watch the Tour de France you don’t see every rider crashing (well…we all know if there is an accident on the day then it gets airplay…but you seldom see EVERY rider crash) but when you watch say boxing or mixed martial arts we all know what it is all about…it’s all about the knockout. It’s about the win…about knocking your opponent out, about beating them into submission or having the referee step in to end the fight and protect the fighter no longer intelligently defending himself or for the judges to render a decision based via whatever scoring system employed.

What I am getting at is that no matter what the martial art, no matter what the fight sport being shown…if you are watching it in the mainstream media or in the news…then what you are most likely watching is one competitor inflicting damage on another competitor in some way shape or form. That’s off putting…and for good reason.

Now some people might be thinking to themselves now…well if I was wary before then I am definitely not going to want to do it now. Well hopefully you will keep reading and I can try and give you some sort of objective view off the different sports by the end of this post.

1. The thing is…the majority of people who take part in martial arts never compete. I don’t have a problem with that. Some people just enjoy the social side or just want to get fit…whatever you enjoy and you want to do with regard training…that is the best thing for you to do because you are most likely to do it the most often. If that happens to be a martial arts of some kind…then welcome on board because martial arts can definitely be a great vehicle for getting fit and enjoy yourself in the process.

2. Some of the hardest fights I’ve had are in the gym and they’ve been against guys that have never fought before. I know a lot of people who I’ve trained with in martial arts in different parts of the country who are incredibly skilled. The thing is…they just don’t want to compete…this can be fighters ‘stage fright’. The fear of getting in a cage or a ring or onto the mats in front of family and friends…in front of a venue full of strangers is a battle in itself. Some people enjoy it…it gets them going…it adds to the buzz. For others though it can be absolutely crippling…the fear of it that is. I know people that have fought and completely fallen to pieces before my eyes in competition….not so that you’d know it…they looked ok, they talked ok….even warmed up ok…then they get into the ring and fight and lose. To people sitting and watching it just looks like the other fighter is better…sometimes that is the case BUT sometimes the pressure just gets to fighters and they can’t perform, they can’t do what you’ve seen them do every day in the gym. So in short some people take up a martial art and they train and spar and they become excellent at it but never look for a competitive outlet.

3. Then there is a group who just want to do it once….I would say the overwhelming majority of fighters in mixed martial arts for example have a record of 1-0 or 0-1 that is either one fight and one win or one fight and one loss. I’ve known people who’ve trained a year or more…or 3 years for that matter and had a fight and won or lost and who never come back to the gym. They do all the training…have that one fight and then move on with their lives.

4. Then you have the people that train and fight and for whom training and fighting is just what they do. It is a part of their personality. They love training and they enjoy the competition…they fight purely because they love to compete. I know a lot of professional fighters and I can not think of a single one that just fights professionally for the money…they love the competition…they just love it even more if they can get paid for it.

The thing is no matter what type of person you are, no matter what you are looking to get out of whatever martial arts you choose to pursue and no matter what type of martial artist you intend to become…you have to take the first step. Since I have returned to Australia I’ve been lucky enough to train in lots of gyms and trained lots of different styles of martial arts…I have done karate, judo, wrestling both greco and freestyle, boxed, done muay thai, brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts and I will let you in on a secret…at everyone of those gyms…all the people in them wanted me there and they want you too. I know people feel intimidated. We’ve discussed some of the reasons that people don’t even make it to the door already but it can often only get worse when people actually reach the gym because you look inside and see people punching, kicking, grappling, choking and throwing each other all over the place.

(I just realised I am a 1000 words into this post and it sounds like I am writing an article on why all fight sports should be banned….please stick with me and keep reading though…I have a point…and it is a positive one.)

The thing is…in every single fight sport you are only as good as the team around you. Although all martial arts seem like the most individual of sports in that it is just you out there or in there or on there…facing another competitor who is also on their own. It is very much about the team behind you that makes you the fighter you are. Every fighter is the sum of all the coaches they’ve had, all the training partners and sparring partners they’ve worked with but what was also important were all the people just like them that they trained with and learned with when they first started out. The camaraderie and the jokes that were shared both at training and outside off training. The social side that kept them involved and interested and gave them the support they needed on their journey from beginner to where they are today. That reinforced all the highs in the good times and that helped keep their chin up and get back on the right track in the bad times.

You really need all the people I’ve described no matter what end of the spectrum you are at…if you are at the top and fighting professionally for instance…you need coaches…most people have one or more people guiding them…a primary coach but others that have input and help improve your game. When you get to the top, the very top you are likely to have a team of coaches…in mixed martial arts for instance you could have a striking coach, a wrestling coach, a brazilian jiu jitsu coach and strength and conditioning coach and probably a nutritionist as well. You also need training partners…you need a mix of these…ideally you want someone better…their job is to give you a beating, making you rise to their level. You need someone worse…that you can give a beating to and try out all your ‘new’ stuff and try different strategies and techniques on without getting killed. Most of all you need people around your level…people to ‘compete’ with in training…people to push you and for you to push back. You also need ALL the other people in the gym as well for a lot of reasons…in no particular order:

a) Because they pay their membership fees and hopefully there’s enough of them to make the gym successful and that gives you a facility to train in, keeps a roof over your head while working on your skills, ensures that you have pad and bags and gear that you need to train with and importantly gives your coach an income.

b) You also need a volume of training partners…mastering techniques are about drilling and practicing…it’s a lot more interesting, informative and enjoyable arm barring 100 people 10 times each then arm barring the same person 1000 times. The other reason is that every training session can’t be a ‘fight’. Every competitor needs to slow it down, take it easy and just cruise through some sessions and get their reps in…if you are a novice and you are training with an experienced fighter and you think you are ‘winning’ or ‘owning’ them…then you can pretty much be assured they are letting you…that aside…everyone needs to have some easy training. Everyone benefits…the novice gets to improve and work on his game and skills and the professional gets some easy volume work.

I’ve been involved in lots of different sports in lots of different countries. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about martial arts in general is how generous people are with their time and their knowledge. I mean this from top to bottom. It just seems that martial arts is one of those endeavors where people really want to share their love for their sport and their knowledge of it.

10 things you need to know before you start

  1. Just go in. No matter what martial art you pick…whatever place you walk into you are going to be welcomed with open arms…
    1. Every gym and gym owner wants more members. Never known of a place putting out the no vacancy sign.
    2. Every member there wants you there too. Whether you are a raw beginner or an experienced athlete…they want whatever you have to bring.
    3. Once you start training…people there are going to give you as much help as they can and as much help as you want. They want you to get better and they have a vested interest in it because they want you there to train either with them or with people they train with. A rising tide floats all boats.
    4. Give it some time. You need time to get to know people and for them to get to know you.
      1. Martial arts has a huge turnover of people and the people that are regulars in whatever gym you go to have seen plenty of people come and go. You can’t ‘invest’ everything you’ve got in every person that comes in to train but if you show people that you are committed and that you are likely to hang around then people will start to open up more with you.
      2. You need to give the style you’ve chosen and the gym you’ve joined some time. It’s not like joining a normal gym where you can do an inventory of all the equipment and facilities and make a decision based on what the gym has and what you need. The worth of any martial arts training facility is intangible. It can’t be measured by sight…it has to be measured by experiencing it and you are not going to see everything it has to offer in a week or a month.
      3. Don’t get frustrated. It takes time…sometimes a long time to master even the most basic of skills. What you will find when you study martial arts is that you tend to have technique breakthrough’s…in that you learn a technique and you practice it over and over again…and it doesn’t work for you…you get more coaching…more practice and it still doesn’t work then something happens…it can be a small technique modification or just a matter of it ‘coming together’ or maybe just a matter of timing and it finally just works for you. So you have to be patient.
      4. This is just a personal request…rather than a guideline but please…I am begging you…don’t walk into the gym and say you want to fight in the UFC…please don’t even say you want to fight. Even if you do want to fight and be the UFC champion just keep it to yourself. Because I would say every gym owner and coach hears this once a week if not every day from someone that joins and train for a week or a month and then disappears for whatever reason. The best way to reach your goals…if these truly are your goals is to join up, turn up, train, listen, learn, enjoy and be patient. What’s for you won’t pass you by.

When I set out to write this post I was envisaging knocking out a 1000 words or so and reading over it now I realize that I could bang out 10000 words on the subject.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that I love martial arts…I love the nature of it…the combination of the physical and mental. I love the process…the fact that you begin with nothing and that every session you build on what you’ve learned before. I love that you never stop learning…you never get to a stage where you have mastered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Judo or Boxing or Wrestling…you never get to a stage where you learn everything. You have to start somewhere though. Walking in the gym and plonking down your money is just the first step and I don’t know anyone that regrets taking that step.