Leg Kicks, Breaking Legs

orlando-martial-arts-karate-kicksI hate getting my legs banged up.
Unless you catch someone on a meaty part, kicking someone’s leg hurts.
Getting kicked in the legs hurts.
Checking a kick hurts, too.

I’m sure there are regimens for desensitizing one’s legs…
but that ain’t gonna stop the damage.
Just ask MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai veteran Anderson Silva.
Yes, I’m gonna reference the leg break,
but this isn’t another article on that.
There have been more than enough of those.

While I’m sure there is going to be a whole lot more checking of leg kicks
and perhaps a few less kicking of legs,
leg kicks will persist…
especially if fighters use it appropriately.

But when should a fighter kick?
It depends on what he is concerned about happening.

If he is concerned about not getting taken down,
then kicks need to be aimed high…or low.
Anything towards the middle is fodder for catching.

If he is especially worried about the takedown,
he will only kick when his opponent is moving backwards.

But if he is worried about his own leg breaking,
then he wants to make sure his opponent can’t
have weight behind his check…
he needs his opponent to be off balance.
Balance is of the utmost important in a fight…
and especially for kicks.

In order to kick,
a fighter must lift one leg, leaving him with only one leg
(and often not even a full foot) to use as a base of support.

If a fight were a competition between bases of support,
(which it is), in order to kick,
the kicker purposefully puts himself into a position of disadvantage…
so he wants to make sure that he kickswhen
his opponent is in a position of disadvantage, too.

So what is that position of disadvantage?
That position of imbalance…of being off base.
Kick, but in Kuzushi style.  Kick when your opponent is off base
from your feints, punches, elbows, and knees.

I can’t guarantee you won’t break your leg
but it is much more likely you will hurt your opponent
than hurt yourself…
and that is what the striking arts are all about.

Coach, Chael

round-5-chael-sonnen-tuf-figureChael has had his chances to win fights and win championships.
While he wasn’t close with Rashad or Jon Jones.
he has been.

It doesn’t seem like a championship is gonna happen for Chael…
at least as a competitor.
But I think it can
if he will coach.

Beyond being an incredible writer and orator
(if that’s what you want to call trash talk / psychological warfare)
The Ultimate Fighter demonstrated that Chael had quite the acumen for coaching.

Being that Psychological challenges are no stranger to Chael,
as well as his accomplishments as a wrestler and a fighter,
he is tailor made to be an outstanding coach
(which he already is as a volunteer high school wrestling coach).

I’m going to digress for a moment.
I’ve never really understood ranking…
especially upper belt ranking.

It seems many ranks are about consistency of practice…
and time.

While that is important, I wonder if it the most meritorious of criteria.

What if upper rankings were based on the accomplishments of students such as:
achieving black belt
winning national and world tournaments
producing black belts of their own

I think the biggest accomplishment anyone can achieve is taking a student further than he/she went.

It is not vicarious living.
It is evolution.
It is the position of the Master.
And if their students can do the same,
one attains the rank of GrandMaster.

And if anyone can be an MMA GrandMaster,
it is Chael Sonnen.

I think we are going to see that again when he coaches against Wanderlei
in the forthcoming THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER.
Hopefully coaching will encourage him to really embrace the title of
“Coach” Chael.

So You Wanna Be a Professional Cage Fighter?

cagefighter-2I am not a cage fighter.
I have coached and consulted with some, though,
and I have some ideas for you.

I have noticed a lot of people cage fight with some very short term goals:
They want to win (and that’s a pretty good goal)
They want to prove they can do it (well, with enough training anyone healthy can)
They want to be known as a cage fighter (ugh)

I guess those are decent enough reasons to cage fight, especially in the amateur ranks. But if you’re going to become a Professional, I think there a few benchmarks to make in the amateur ranks…and they’re incredibly simple.

Fight at least three opponents:
One who is a better striker
One who is a better wrestler
One who is a better sub-ber

Oh, yeah.
Forgot to mention one thing.
Beat every one of them.

If you can do that,
then you are, at least, not an entirely one dimensional fighter.
You have proven that you can adapt whenever your opponent has a weapon better than your own.

Be a specialist.
Continue to be either a striker, wrestler or sub-ber,
but build more skills in each domain between fights.

Build skills that are counters to the counters of your existing skills…
because your opponent will be building counters to your existing skill set.

If you can do that, you’re well on your way to not only being a professional cage fighter
but a well-paid professional cage fighter.

10PJJ after Marcelo

eddie-bravo-highWhenever people find out that I am exclusively a No Gi guy,
they ask my opinion of Eddie Bravo.

The conversation will inadvertently
move to the advantages and limitations of the “lockdown,”
whether Gi is useful for MMA,
and if weed can really make one’s BJJ better.

I don’t do the lockdown any more,
I don’t believe the Gi is the best use of training time for MMA,
and I have no idea about the pot.

I love so much of what Eddie Bravo does and what 10th Planet JJ stands for.
Eddie’s integration of any BJJ into his system,
naming of techniques,
his comparison between Gi / No Gi and Judo / Greco,
his persona,
his sprawling BJJ empire,
his musical aspirations,
his fight commentary…
but I’m no Eddie Bravo.
Let me explain.

When I come across martial art that beats my own,
at the minimum,
I at least stop doing what got me beat.
At the maximum,
I may stop what I’m doing altogether
and start learning what beat me.

Have you seen this:

In my estimation, Marcelo was nice…very nice to Eddie,
but I think Marcelo did enough to demonstrate that Eddie didn’t possess the answer
for the problems his Jiu-Jitsu posed.

Maybe there has been a change in 10PJJ since this meeting,
I hope there has been.
I hope within it there now resides an answer for Marcelo’s JJ within 10PJJ…
because if there isn’t,
I fear Eddie and 10PJJ will be just a footnote in the history of BJJ…
and that would be a buzzkill.

Fight Night KnockOuts

Blog-main-093013
As a child Martial Artist,
I was very scared when I fought
(not as scared now…but still scared).
If I was sparring and the going got tough,
I turned my back,
closed my eyes,
and threw a spinning backfist.

While it was sometimes effective,
giving your back isn’t a sustainable approach in any martial arts.
While very few fighters give their backs in fights,
many make what I believe the be the most common,
albeit primal response.

Violence Expert, Tony Blauer,
and his former student, Eric Cobb,
a former teacher of mine,
impressed upon me the importance of the startle response
in the context of violence.

One of the first visible signs that someone is in startle
is the action of the eyes.
The eyes avert themselves from danger
which saves the eyes
but often at the cost of the body.

It is said,
“It is the punch (strike) you don’t see which hurts you (the worst).”

Watch the most recent UFC FIGHT NIGHT in Brazil (Henderson vs Belfort),
and see when fighters get knocked down, or worse, knocked out.

I think you’ll see that while sometimes the fighters unintentionally avert their eyes, they often make poor use of their eyes when striking. this isn’t necessarily an experience of the startle response. It most likely is the effect of poor training. After all, “if you can’t see, you can’t fight.”

These fighters have learned when ducking their heads to either close their eyes or lower their eyes. This approach kills their accuracy, power, and leaves them without functional use of their central or peripheral vision…which sometimes leads to being struck with a limb they didn’t see coming.

While no one can completely train out the startle response (including the action of the eyes), if fighters will train from the startle response, they can recover faster from it. If coaches will extend their observations into their fighter’s eyes, they can teach their fighters to restore visual focus on their opponent. If coaches will teach their fighters to make use of peripheral vision to instigate both offense and defense, we will see a much higher caliber of fighters. You’ll see…and so will they.

What was JDS’ GamePlan?

IMG_9621I don’t mind seeing fighters lose but I don’t like seeing fighters fight a bad fight. Cain Velasquez is a tough champion but I think with the right strategy Junior Dos Santos could’ve won the fight. In fact, JDS could’ve adopted some of Cain’s strategy.

Here’s what I saw that I liked (perhaps that a lot of people didn’t like): When Cain got into a poor wrestling position, he backed into the cage. Whenever a fighter is facing a superior wrestler, I strongly recommend that. Why? It cuts off angles one can be taken down from. So JDS is against the cage…and this is where it went wrong.

I’m sure Cain has great control and pressure against the cage, but even if he can’t be spun, he can be taken off balance and space can be made for strikes. Cain then did what I would’ve loved JDS to do. From the dominant position on the cage, he would back up to strike. If he got in trouble, he would then re-establish dominant position against the cage…and repeat the whole process.

Where did it all go wrong? Why couldn’t the #2 Heavyweight in the world at least get his back off the cage? I think he was trying to work a particular technique.

Here are the issues with techniques. They only work in one situation.
When JDS was trying to get off the cage, he was unsuccessfully trying to implement the wrong technique. What’s the alternative? Simply go with the pressure already being placed on you.

That often takes your opponent momentarily off base. From a standing position, it generally creates enough space to escape from cage, hell, even enough for a short elbow, or punch. Techniques are fine, but we have to feel correctly in order to know when to apply them. I think if JDS new this and trained this, he would’ve been the Champ again.

Coach Ronda

teamrousey2I haven’t talked about the new season of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) yet,
so here we go.

When watching the 2nd episode of TUF,
a few things stood out to me.
There were quite a few things I didn’t like:

  • some from Miesha
  • some from Ronda
  • some from Julianna
  • some from Shayna

but I would rather write now about something I really liked from Coach Ronda.

I’m a big fan of responsibility.
There is a special relationship between a Coach and an athlete
where the athlete cedes a measure of control to the Coach.
It is the Coach’s responsibility to protect his (or her) fighter…
especially if that means protecting the fighter from his or herself.

When Ronda’s fighter, Shayna, lost, Ronda took responsibility.
How much responsibility was Ronda’s is arguable
but the fact that Ronda took complete responsibility
really resonates with me.

I don’t view anything a fighter lacks in the ring
to be due to mental weakness or a flaw of character…
and very few coaches would agree with me on that.

If a fighter lacks anything in the ring (or Octagon)
I believe it to be a failure of conditioning…
and no, I don’t mean “cardio.”

I’m speaking more of the Pavlov’s Dog version of Conditioning.
I think more Coaches would benefit from a deeper understanding of both
Classical and Operant Conditioning as I find “conditioning”
to be the only thing that has ever made us
(speaking in the evolutionary sense).

If a fighter lacks something in the cage,
I think its because the coaches didn’t put it in him or her.
Ronda believed she failed.
I agree with her.
Whatever Shayna didn’t have…whether that be:

  • humility
  • killer instinct
  • focus
  • arousal

Ronda and her team didn’t put it in her
Perhaps in the limited time it was impossible to do so,
but that isn’t what Ronda believes.

I bet Ronda believes she can find way for each of her fighters to win.
And that belief that it is possible opens up Ronda’s mind to find one…
if there is one.

I can’t wait to see more of how Coach Ronda coaches
and how she helps her fighters find ways to win.

Condit’s Defensive Grappling

tumblr_mrhmw4K92m1rmv6ajo1_500I like watching UFCs for a lot of reasons:

  • It’s entertaining
  • It’s educational
  • It gives me something to write about

What I usually write about is grappling, especially submission grappling.
The grappling I liked most on the main card belonged to Carlos Condit.

While his takedown defense is (and likely always will be) lacking,
there were a few positions he shined in:

Bottom Guard (Guard Defense)
Carlos opened his guard…in MMA…how rare is that?
Not only did he open his guard, he went for subs,
even leg locks, in MMA…how rare is that?

And when those didn’t work, he didn’t lose position
or take that much damage. He was able to stand back up or close his guard.

I think Condit demonstrated what is the new
“minimal effective amount” of skill in an MMA guard…
and that’s not very minimal and that’s very rare.

Cage Reversal & Escape
After the first round, Condit’s wrestling (defense, mainly) got a lot better. Why?
He stopped fighting against Kampmann’s (superior) strength
and started using it against him…by going in the direction he was already going.

Submission Escape
Condit escaped the precursor to a RNC
Kampmann escaped the Ninja Choke
Kampmann escaped a RNC

Who says the ground game is dead in MMA? Condit’s certainly isn’t.

What I Wanted When I Grew Up

24352553_dd24826f3e_zFor most of my childhood I spent my summers in Waldron, Arkansas. It was a very small town compared to Beaumont, TX, but I enjoyed so much of what I got to do there:

  • Fish
  • Ride my Four-Wheeler
  • Run a Fireworks Stand
  • Reading the Encyclopedias in the Elementary Library where my Grandmother was a secretary
  • See my Grandfather conduct business
  • Work on the farm and take care of cattle
  • I was able to watch Wimbledon for the first time (my Grandfather had HBO)
  • Eat anything I wanted at my Grandparent’s Restaurant
  • Listen to old men drink coffee and bitch about Clinton (then Governor)
  • Swim (either at an aunt’s hotel and then later again at my Grandparent’s hotel)

But there were a couple of things I loved more than anything else.  Once I got old enough to be unsupervised, my Grandmother dropped me off a few afternoons of the week at my favorite place in Waldron.  It had three levels:  The top level was living space, the middle level was a Dojo, and the bottom Level was a Gym.  It wasn’t nice.  The dojo just had taped up indoor/outdoor carpet and paneling.  The Gym had rusty weights, a boxing ring, and unfinished concrete floors.  I’m not sure how nice the living quarters were but I seem to remember some awfully ugly shag carpeting (of which my Grandparents also had in their home).  I remember thinking, “When I grow up, this is what I want.”

I didn’t really get that much stronger in the gym or all that better in the Dojo, but it gave me something else…something to want…something to shoot for.  As I’m lying in bed composing this, I’m looking across at my adjustable bench, Powerblocks, KBs, and Tatami mats. I have my own home gym and home dojo now but I know that I want something a bit more public.  I’m not sure where I got sidetracked along the way and what has kept me from that goal for all these years.  I was probably listening more to what others thought I was supposed to be instead of what I knew myself to be.  No longer.  Movement Martial Arts (and The Movement) will eventually have a home beyond the digital.  I’ll let you know when it does.

Are BJJ and Muay Thai enough?

editedbannerI’ve written about this before
but I’d like to write about it from a slightly different perspective.

Years back when I was first dabbling in BJJ,
MMA training in the Dallas Fort Worth area was primitive
compared to today’s standards.

Today, we might see an MMA fighter (even amateur)train:

  • No Gi
  • Gi
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing
  • Muay Thai
  • Strength & Conditioning
  • Nutritional Alterations

But back then in Dallas,
there were two main types of fighters:
Lion’s Den Fighters 
…where everything was offered in house.

and the more common
Two Teamers
…where they trained their Muay Thai with Saekson
and trained their BJJ with Carlos (Machado).

For a while these fighters did well until wrestling
emerged and then maintained its steady ascent.

It was for that reason
that I have criticized that limited approach in the past.
But perhaps it wasn’t the approach that was limited.
Maybe it was something else.

BJJ, when trained expansively includes takedowns in its curriculum…
as does Muay Thai.

But how many BJJ players or Muay Thai fighters do you know with good wrestling?

It’s natural that arts become more and more specialized over time.
It can be an evolution.
But too often devolution occurs, as well.

So instead of adding in wrestling to a MMA fighter’s training…
what if we added wrestling back into submissions and strikes?