Posts Tagged ‘Mixed martial arts’

The only thing harder than becoming a good fighter, in my opinion, is making a good fighter. Training other people takes a higher amount of artistry and understanding of the art than being taught. I think this is the defining characteristic of the martial arts. Martial arts is not so much about fighting as it is about teaching someone how to fight. This is where we get creative little labels for stances, techniques, and positions, such as horse stance, leopard’s  paw, tiger claw, and so on. It’s about seeing significant patterns in how a fight is conducted and won and explaining that pattern to others. It’s also about finding new solutions to complex problems. Fighting is, after all, a form of problem solving.

So that brings us to today’s challenge. I want you to watch a video. It’s not inspirational, professional, funny (or not meant to be, anyway), or even all that interesting. It’s footage of an amateur MMA match in Canada, and the fighters are, shall we say, inexperienced? For those of you who’ve taught martial arts before, it might just make you cringe. Here it is:

Now that you’ve seen it, here’s my question: what would you have taught either one of these fighters to win this fight? Assume you had only a little time to train them, say a month or two. What do you think would have benefited them most in this particular match? Be specific, and try not to use blanket terms like “how to fight”.

I will say without apology that the skill levels represented in this video are horrendous, but I still have respect for the two young men who stepped into that cage. It’s more than I’ve done, and it takes courage to face someone on such an equal playing field like they did.

My personal answer: this was a match between two very inadequate strikers. I would have taught either one of them the most basic ground fighting strategies. Close the distance, body fold takedown, pass the guard, mount, ground and pound. Submissions would be hard with those gloves on, so I would simply drill some heavy-handed punches from the top of the mount, side mount, and rear mount. I would keep the list of techniques short and drill them over and over and over again against live, resisting opponents. I think that kind of training would have given either fighter an immediate advantage in this fight.

How would you have prepared either fighter for this fight?



And so ends one of the longest, most entertaining winning streaks in UFC history...

And so ends one of the longest, most entertaining winning streaks in UFC history…

UFC president Dana White once said that Anderson Silva was, pound-for-pound, the best fighter in the world. After successfully defending his title ten times in a row (ten!!!!), Silva had pretty much verified the claim. He’d taken down pretty much every top contender of UFC’s middleweight division, including a very dramatic rematch against Sonnen, and the only one left who stood a chance at taking the coveted belt from Silva was Chris Weidman. The result of that fight, Silva’s 11th title defense, was a startling upset.

Though Weidman started the show with a promising takedown, he lost his momentum after a rather sad ankle lock attempt. Silva escaped and proceeded to toy with him, clearly having little respect for Weidman. It was that lack of respect, however, that toppled Silva. While Silva displayed his trademark style of taunting and slipping punches Muhammad Ali-style, Weidman caught him with a series of solid hooks that knocked Silva out cold.

Pride comes before the fall, so it would seem…

I think it’s a shame Silva lost, though at the same time I like it. On one hand, I rather enjoy Silva’s flashy style, and he’s undisputedly one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time. On the other hand, who would want the same guy as champion forever? And isn’t it kind of appropriate that Silva be knocked out when he purposefully lowers his hands in mockery?

To some it all up, I simply can’t wait for the rematch, which Dana White says might be in the near future. That’s assuming, of course, that Weidman is still the king of the mountain when it happens. Now everyone will be gunning for him, and judging by his apparently lucky-punch victory over Silva, he might have a harder time reaching title defense #11 than Silva did.

Who’s your favorite UFC fighter?

There are some parts of martial arts culture that I will sometimes criticize, but naming your style after an animal will never be among them. I sometimes get jealous of the Kung fu guys that get to say they use crane or tiger or monkey technique (I would hate to fight monkey style, because chimpanzees scare me). Being a Gracie Jiu-jitsu practitioner, I kinda miss out on the whole animal mascot thing, but maybe it’s not too late to change. So that gets me thinking, which creature of the animal kingdom best represents Jiu-jitsu as I know it?

Snakes are okay, or maybe even great. They strike. They constrict. They’re definitely grapplers with potent striking power. But snakes have been done to death (thanks a lot, Kobra Kai Dojo). So what is another animal with a reputation for constricting and grappling with its prey?

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount...

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount…

Behold the mighty octopus! Seriously, I don’t think this real-life Krakken gets enough face time on martial arts tee shirts or academy logos. And if you think about it, this is an animal totally dedicated to grappling, and has a famous reputation for its stealth and intelligence. Though the Muay Thai guys might be miffed that I’m claiming a truly eight-limbed animal, I lay my claim to the wise, mighty octopus as the mascot of my Jiu-jitsu style!

What animal best represents your martial art?

Martial arts culture is full of rivalries and dichotomies: traditional training vs. sport training, eastern arts vs. western arts, hard vs. soft. The list goes on. One rivalry, however, is one I’d eventually like to see put to rest. I’m talking about strikers vs. grapplers. In my mind, striking techniques and grappling techniques are but tools for achieving an objective. I began my martial arts training in the striking arts: Kenpo, Karate, and Taekwondo. Now I train Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Very seldom did these two different strategies meet for me in class, but now I see a little of one in the other can make a good fighter great.
Since I usually talk about the many virtues of Jiu-jitsu, I want to point out the incredible usefulness and versatility of strikes. I do agree that grappling is more appropriate for all levels of violence, since grappling techniques can be as gentle as they are effective. Strikes, however, are useful tools for opening opportunities, disrupting your opponent’s movements, and causing some quick, obvious damage. This is assuming, of course, that your opponent has become assaultive, and you are legally justified in hitting him.
Striking has so many great uses besides simply knocking someone out. One is to simply cause your opponent to move. Throwing jabs and crosses at your opponent’s face, for example, can cause him to cover his face with his hands and even change his posture, thus making him easier to approach and grapple. Mounting your opponent and striking him from above can, besides causing him to surrender, force him to raise his arms in defense, opening the way for an armbar or a shoulder lock.
Strikes can also cause your opponent to hesitate, stumble, or otherwise abandon their intended movement. Is he rushing towards you with his fist raised, ready to strike? A simple push kick to his leg or hip can stop his movement dead in its tracks, or even cause him to stumble and fall. Is he trying to grab your groin when you’ve mounted him (don’t laugh, we’re all adults here!)? A simple elbow to his face, even if it doesn’t connect, can convince him that such an exchange would not be in his favor.
I like how many things you can achieve through a little blunt force trauma. I’ve never been confident in knockout strategies. Knockouts are harder to get than most people think. As a grappler, however, I highly value any tactic that can help me close the distance with my opponent or illicit a predictable reaction from them. Though Gracie Jiu-jitsu takes up the bulk of my training, I sometimes pull out the target mitts and drill a few combos and my footwork.
Grapplers: how do you incorporate striking into your training?
Strikers: how do you incorporate grappling into your training?

You will likely have no idea what your opponent is capable of...

You will likely have no idea what your opponent is capable of…

I think a pattern is emerging on this blog, one in which I find something to disagree with and aggressively attack it with words. Hopefully it’s entertaining to read, but I also hope I can move on to other subjects soon. As a matter of fact, I was planning on writing something about the physical, mental, social, and spiritual benefits of martial arts training, but then I read this in Black Belt Magazine. It’s an article titled “Strengths and Weaknesses of 5 Popular Grappling Arts” by Tony Salzano. It’s an article about how to defeat various types of grappling practitioners in a fight. Here’s an excerpt:

The basic strategy of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist is to mount or submit his opponent — by outlasting him, if necessary. He’s almost always superbly conditioned aerobically (to endure a long fight) and muscularly (to prevent the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles when clinching for eternity). He generally is very patient, slim and smart, and often described as “unbelievable on the ground.”

His weaknesses include the fact that he usually trains and fights while wearing a uniform. Without it, he has no extra “handles” on his opponent and loses the ability to execute many chokes. His standing techniques, including takedowns and striking, are often weak.

Secret: Overpower him in the first moments of a fight. Don’t stay in his guard. Use techniques that are illegal in his type of competition: low strikes, groin attacks, etc. Whatever you do, don’t try to beat him at his own game, for then you will be the underdog.

On one hand, this is full of compliments. I can never scoff at a nod to my superbly conditioned, muscularly body. On the other hand, I have quite a few problems with this, and so I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Salzano. I don’t even want to argue much with this articles assertions of what a Jiu-jitsu practitioner can and cannot do well. I want to talk about the reasons why this article is unhelpful to a martial artist preparing for real-world violent encounters.

Reason #1: This article assumes you know your opponent is a Jiu-jitsu practitioner before the fight begins. How do you know? Did you ask him before you started fighting him? Mr. Salzano presents an unlikely scenario in which you are beginning a fight out of grappling range and with previous knowledge of your opponent’s training history. Such conditions are usually only present in combat sporting events, like MMA matches. If it’s a classic self defense scenario, let’s call it a bar fight, you’re likely not going to know he is a BJJ stylist until he’s successfully closed the distance, taken you to the ground, and asserted some sort of dominant position on you. By then it’s a little late to prevent takedowns. However, it could be a fight resulting from an argument over martial arts, in which case he might have told you exactly what his discipline was. I guess it is plausible, right?

Reason #2:  This article assumes all practitioners of a single martial art will fight in the same way. Being a Jiu-jitsu practitioner doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to use Jiu-jitsu in the fight. Many Jiu-jitsu practitioners have backgrounds in different martial arts, and may default to strategies other than grappling in a fight. Even if they do use Jiu-jitsu strategies in the fight, which Jiu-jitsu strategies? Standing submissions? Escape and evasion? Clinching? It will depend on each individual fighter. Though the image of a fighter immediately pulling guard and going for the armbar is a popular sign of Jiu-jitsu training, it’s not what every practitioner of the art is trained to do. So even if you did know the guy was a grappler, you’d still be taking a big risk assuming you could predict his every intention. He’s trying to win the fight, too. Regardless of training, he’ll do what he has to in order to win. Even things not strictly considered Jiu-jitsu.

Reason #3: This article leads you to believe that dirty fighting is a reliable solution to the problem. Can a groin shot or an eye gouge or a finger break end a fight? Maybe. Just remember, he might use those tactics, too. But anyone who’s used dirty fighting in more than a few fights can tell you right away that kicking someone in the groin doesn’t always work. And even if it did, is it justified? Believe it or not, law enforcement will eventually become involved if you get into a brawl in a bar or on the street, and if they do you will be accountable for everything you did. Was this Jiu-jitsu guy’s assault so threatening to your well being that you could lawfully gouge an eye or break a finger? If not, how do you deal with him, since dirty fighting tactics tend to be so brutal they’re usually only justifiable when you’re at risk of serious injury? I tell you this, punching someone in the throat over a simple shoving match is ethically wrong and can land you in hot water with the law. So without dirty tactics, how do you defeat him?

There are more reasons why this is probably an unreliable strategy against Jiu-jitsu fighters, and any Jiu-jitsu instructor could probably tell you what they are. These three reasons, however, are the ones I believe are most important to people learning to defend themselves. So how do you fight against a Jiu-jitsu practitioner? It all starts with your training. Train yourself to adapt to various violent situations, and spar against live opponents. Be well rounded. Learn to adapt to the situation at hand, and it will matter little what style your opponent is using. That means, of course, that there are no magical answers for defeating an opponent of a specific type. The better prepared, better trained, more adaptable fighter will have the advantage in any exchange, regardless of the martial arts history of his opponent. Only luck will change that, and that is something you have no control over. So keep training, keep adapting, and try to get into as few unregulated fights as possible.

If you wish to read the rest of Mr. Salzano’s article, you can find it here.

How do you prepare to fight against martial artists of different backgrounds?

Martial arts proficiency often requires a little more than simply showing up for class once or twice a week. Many great practitioners find that doing small exercises and drills at home accelerate their training progress. I agree with this. I find that doing little movements and even just exercising a little between classes keeps me fresh from previous classes and prevents me from forgetting things I recently learned. I believe it’s worth it to make a routine for daily or almost-daily drilling at home.

This video shows a few drills Jiu-jitsu practitioners can do by themselves at home. For those unfamiliar with Jiu-jitsu drills, these movements aren’t techniques, just the sort of warm up exercises BJJ practitioners do in the beginning of classes to help develop the movements we use in many of our techniques. You wouldn’t believe how many techniques could be improved by improving your Upa  (hip bridging) alone!

What kinds of daily drills help you with your training?


Allow me a moment to rant about one of my pet peeves: when people refer to “the street” when talking about martial arts training. I know this is a term used by many legitimate, tough, intelligent martial artists to describe the conditions of combat outside the training center or competition, but I still hate it. It’s a generalization, an ill-fitting blanket term, for the infinitely complex problem of interpersonal violence, but paints it like a scene from a bad movie.

I mean, who doesn’t imagine a mugger wearing a ski mask or some sort of brawl between one martial artist and a bunch of bad guys wearing leather jackets when they hear that term? I’ve been in a handful of violent confrontations in my life, but usually my assailants were just stupid kids, not the inhuman skinheads featured in much of self-defense literature. In my humble opinion, “the street” is a term that paints a very limiting picture of who we might have to defend ourselves against.

This is what people think of when they talk about "the street"...

This is what people think of when they talk about “the street”…

I also feel like this term can limit our training. Many martial artists categorize techniques into “street techniques” and about everything else. What is the definition of a street technique? Usually, one that’s so effective, you can’t actually use it in training against a fully resistant training partner for fear of maiming or killing him. Pardon my raised eyebrow. A technique you can’t actually practice? So how do you know you can actually do it? I heavily disagree with martial arts trainers and instructors who shy away from controlled sparring in class because of this philosophy. Often, these martial artists criticize MMA competitors and other combat sport practitioners for training with too many rules to be effective. Because of the “street” philosophy, many martial artists are missing out on opportunities to develop their most basic and critical fighting instincts.

And as for those rule-based martial artists, I’m not actually all that worried about their “street” worthiness. I’ve actually read several news articles in recent months with headlines like “MMA Fighter Stops Bank Robbery”, and “Man Attempts to Carjack Cage Fighter, Ends Up in Hospital”. Google them if you like, they’re very interesting. In these stories, you’ll find the good guys used very basic, well practiced techniques like the Rear Naked Choke or Rear Mount Control to subdue their attackers. No groin kicks, no eye gouges, no throat ripping. It goes to show, most basic techniques that you can pull off against a fully resistant opponent in a competition might actually work quite well against real-life combatants, especially since they tend to be less trained than competitive martial artists and lack rules to protect them, just like you.

Lastly, I would like to point out that martial arts training is not so neatly separated into “street” training and everything else. Be more open minded with your training. If you want to categorize your training, use things like “law enforcement”, “non assaultive”, or “battlefield”. Fighting is, after all, a form of problem solving that can be applied to a wide variety of problems, and not just for muggings, home invasions, or random street brawling. All fight scenarios have rules of some kind. I do not believe in true combat situations where an accountable fighter is free of any rules of engagement. I would recommend training the strategies and tactics that allow you to accomplish a wide variety of goals in a fight, such as escape, incapacitate, control, and survive. You will be more likely to adapt to most violent encounters in which you may find yourself.

What kind of training do you think best prepares people for real fights?