Building a Limited and Limiting Game

pver1No matter who I’m working with: a striker, a grappler or a Mixed Martial Artist, I ask them to build a game.

Games are great. They save you time from Martial Arts ADD, bouncing from technique to technique. But games can be bad, too…as they limit you…but all things do. There is no way to get around limits.

Some limits you are born with. You are limited by your body especially by limb lengths and somewhat less by its inherent mobility.

And so when you are building a game, choose your limits well.
Pick a game that fits your body.
It just won’t work otherwise.
But when you’re picking a game, remember that game has to work against other bodies, too.

Pick one that is sound. Pick one that you can implement on all the body types you will be facing. For those that are bigger than you, faster than you and for those who are better than you.

If you are grappler, be a choker, an arm locker or a leg locker but understand you can’t be all 3…at least well.

And as you develop, build your game. Make your transitions better. Make your submissions better…but never forget to be a specialist. Choose your limitations or your limitations will choose you.

FightMaster vs. TUF

FightMasterWith only one episode in the books,
comparing FM (FightMaster) to TUF (The Ultimate Fighter)
is hardly fair…
but let’s do it anyway.

FM is the new vehicle for Bellator.
Bellator is a second tier
(with UFC solely occupying the first tier)
MMA company.

What makes them unique is their format:
While not all of their fights are tournament fights,
how their champions are determined is through their tournaments
earning them their slogan,
“Where Title Shots are Earned.”

Just as Bellator differentiates itself from UFC,
FM contrasts easily with TUF, too.

Since we’ve only had one episode to compare to nearly over 20 seasons of TUF (including the internation versions),
let’s focus on the most salient of differences:
The Selection Process

the-ultimate-fighter-tufIn TUF, 2 coaches pick from 32 fighters.
IN FM, 16 fighters pick from 4 coaches.

I like the difference.
I think it reflects a little more how things work in reality…
so in that way, its better reality TV.

I love that they have Randy Couture and Greg Jackson on the show.
That’s a big win for Bellator and Spike.
But Joe Warren and Frank Shamrock???
Not so sure if they do anything to get people to watch.
They’re likely to keep people watching though…
especially since Couture and Jackson seem more subdued.

I’m excited.
It’ll be interesting to see which Coaches and fighters do best…
and I’m sure I’ll be saying more about it.

Is Half Guard any good for MMA?

randy-couture-gabriel-gonzaga-ufc741_crop_650x440There are problem grappling positions in Mixed Martial Arts.
It sucks to be mounted or back mounted in MMA.
But there is another position that is feared almost as much, if not as much.
That position is half guard.

Certain top players, especially ground and pound fighters
with a background in wrestling love to be on top of someone
in the half guard.
They can generally shut down both the upper and lower body of the bottom grappler
with a limb left over to strike with.

Many good grapplers (Frank Mir comes to mind)
have been defeated in the bottom position of the half guard.
If good grapplers are getting beat there,
is it really that great a position?

There are some Martial Arts that exclude certain positions in Jiu-Jitsu…
Most notably, the guard.
I have heard more than one Martial Artist think that is the case for Half Guard in MMA.

Let’s examine this.
Does everyone get beaten from Half Guard?
Are there any good grapplers that do well from there?

A few years ago, that included guys like Big Nog and Maia.
Now there are far more guys, especially in the lighter classes
that have very offensive half guards.

What makes their half guards offensive?
Their movement.
They move more.
Harder to hit a moving target.

But I don’t think that’s really what makes them effective.
It’s not just that they move.
It’s that they move in the direction their opponent is moving / leaning.

When they do so, their opponent moves off base.
The opponent can no longer strike effectively
and may not even be able to maintain position.

It doesn’t matter if you are a grappler or striker,
your job is always to unbalance your opponent.
Do that and half guard becomes as offensive in MMA as it is in BJJ.


renzo_gracie_legacyHave you seen the Renzo Gracie Documentary:
Renzo Gracie: Legacy?

I liked a lot about it.
One of the things I like the most
was how gracious Renzo was in defeat by Kazushi Sakuraba.

Renzo was facing Saku, the Gracie Hunter (Killer, according to some)
after the brothers Royler and Royce
had fallen prey to the Japanese Catch Wrestler.

And he, too, fell prey to the venerable man in orange.
Saku was Turtled up and Renzo had his arm underhooked
from the back in what is sometimes referred to as
a wrestler’s arm bar. Saku reached around with his arm and caught Renzo above the elbow and got Renzo in a Kimura setup.

He stood up, turned around
and in the transition back to the ground
Renzo’s arm broke…
As Saku raised his arm in victory,
Renzo held his arm in defeat.

Renzo talked of how his defeat to Saku
gave him his greatest victory.
He was able to take his body to a place
few people have taken their body…
past the broken point
and still not give up.

I can understand that in some points in life…
perhaps even in some competitions,
that is necessary skill…
but Renzo spoke as if his body
was always something he had to force into submission.

This, of course, is a familiar belief…
of conquering the body with the mind
and conquering the mind…well, with the mind…
but I would ask you consider another point of view.

I would ask you to consider that more is to be gained
from working within the body’s limits
to submitting to the body’s limits.
instead of asking it to submit to you.
Your body will eventually break,
no need to hasten it.
So work within those limits
and build a body
build a martial art
little by little
that will bend
but not break under the strain of life.

No Gi Ranking

screen_shot_2012-12-31_at_7.15.22_am.0_standard_352.0I really don’t like the term “No Gi.”
It is the essence of defining one’s self as what one is not.

But that is what it is called,
so that is how I’ll refer to it.

If there is one thing MMA has demonstrated
it is that having a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
(a legitimate one, at that)
does not guarantee victory inside the cage
even if it hits the ground
and even if the grappler gets on top.
But there are more subtle demonstrations of the lack of circumspect jiu-jitsu.

How many times have you seen a wrestler come into jiu-jitsu
put on a gi and dominate nearly everyone even up to the level of purple belts (especially when they learn to defend against certain submissions) and then when the wrestlers go against players no gi, the difference is even more stark as brown belts and even a few black belts fall prey to dominant takedowns, base and top game (which is why wrestlers are and have been the dominant force in MMA)?

This is just one of the reasons why I have prioritized No Gi in my training and why my main focus in No Gi is being effective against wrestlers in all positions…but that’s not what I wanted to write about at the moment.

One of my favorite people I don’t know, Rodney Mullen,
likes to tout, “context determines content.”

When it comes to BJJ applied, I couldn’t agree more:
Specificity is king.

A Black Belt in a Gi doesn’t necessarily mean
that person is a black belt in No Gi
or MMA grappling, for that matter.

As this has been demonstrated time and time again,
shouldn’t we have different ranks for different contexts?

Is a Black Belt in the Gi
really a gold standard anymore?
Isn’t it just a Gi standard?
What about a No Gi standard?

The Problem With Technique

When performed correctly, is no defense (until KK2).

When performed correctly, is no defense (until KK2).

Words matter.
A lot.
And I want to talk about a particular word:

Many Martial Artists strive to have good technique.
In fact, you’ll hear certain Martial Artists
being described as being highly technical.
I defy you to watch a UFC without Joe Rogan
describing a striker, grappler or wrestler
as “highly technical.”

I have a few problems with that descriptor.
First of all, it used as a reason why
someone wins
why someone loses:

“He’s unstoppable…he’s just such a good technician.”
in contrast to:
“He’s got great technique but it’s not match for that athleticism.”

OK, which is it? Is technique stoppable or unstoppable?

Another problem I have with an emphasis on technical is this:
Technical is a box.
It is an box that represents the past.
And if your highest goal is to be technical,
then your goal is actually to be good at old shit.
That’s not a problem if your style isn’t an evolving practice.
But it is…they all are.

So I don’t want you to be technical.
Techniques aren’t created, they are discovered.
A person finds himself in a position and reacts in a different way that works…thus, a new technique.

Techniques only work in one context
and how is it we discover that context?

We feel it. I have found the best vehicle for discovery is the development of feel.

Instead of prioritizing technique
and being limited by how
someone else’s body used to do Martial Art,
feel how you and your opponent’s body
are performing Martial Art and yes,
sometimes you’ll be doing the old stuff that worked
but sometimes you’ll be on the bleeding edge
discovering entirely new technique.

It’s about feel…not technique.

Joe Rogan Black Belt

methodgetsjoe-rogan-eddie-bravo-300x294One of my favorite Jiu-Jitsu Videos was Joe Rogan receiving his 10th Planet No Gi Black Belt (on my Birthday, too)

I am not a Joe Rogan hater, in fact, I’m a fan.
This video made me even more of a fan.
I want to key in on one of the things he said.
He says,
My Taekwondo teacher (unapologetically mentions his TKD lineage, more of us should do that) told me Martial Arts is a vehicle for developing human potential.

There are some that say that Martial Arts is a sport.
You can be a perfect gentleman in the dojo
and a douchebag in the street.

But everything affects everything
and compartmentalization only works for so long.
Your life comes into the dojo
and your dojo comes into your life…
which leads me to ask these questions:

What is your strategy in the dojo?
What is your game?
And is that game a useful strategy for your life?

If your dojo strategy isn’t a good life strategy,
consider altering it
because a new strategy may work better in the dojo, too.

I believe Movement Martial Arts principles
are not only useful in the dojo
but useful in life
and I look forward to the day when they permeate
every aspect of my game
and every aspect of my life.

Some Sports Psych

UFC 148 Preview: Chael Sonnen WorkoutI have a love/hate relationship with Sports Psych.
So does Chael Sonnon.
Chael is infamous for losing fights he shouldn’t have
(including his last one).
Chael was so concerned with this
he hired a sports psychologist.

As a coach on TUF,
Chael relays a similar story as this:
(which I’d bet he heard from his Sports Psychologist)

A Coach comes in with a 2×4 and sets it on the ground.
He gives all of his athletes a very simple instruction:
Walk across the 2×4 without falling off.
Each athlete does so. Easily.
The Coach then leaves the room and comes back in with
two, twenty-foot step ladders
and suspends the 2×4 between them.
The athletes protest and the Coach asks them,
what’s the difference?

Ignoring the flex on the 2×4,
the actions required to traverse the makeshift plank
are no different, but as Chael mentions,
the environment is completely different.

He goes on to describe how in training there are no lights, no referee, no “Uncle Dana” watching. So what makes training and fighting so different?
The environment.

One of the pillars of Sports Psychology is simulation training.
The idea is to simulate as much of the competition in training as is possible. The one thing that is hardest to simulate is the environment.

And so, what can one do about that?
When we become too focused on the environment
We could direct our attention to our actions…
the things that are most like our training.

Act so much, train so much, so that no matter how you feel
when it is time to compete,
you have no choice but to act
and act as you have trained.

As Chael says,
Fear, Anger, Sadness, Love…
won’t win you a fight.

(Holding up his hands)
But these will.
Your actions will.

Author’s Note:
(I think Chael lost his last fight based on strategy, the training of the spinning elbow, not on a mental weakness. I really hope he gets a world title someday.)

Such Great Effort

51cqDns-dEL._SX500_I watch as many “combative” sports documentaries, as possible. Boxing, wrestling, or any martial arts doc will suffice.

Last year I watched, SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, which profiled Jon Fitch and the entire AKA team during the time leading up to and directly after his world title fight with Georges St Pierre.

The cast was full of MMA celebrity, if not royalty, including current Heavyweight champion of the world, Cain Velasquez, and two of the self proclaimed masterminds, Dave Camarillo (no longer with AKA) and “Crazy” Bob Cook.

Jon is portrayed as not much of an athlete
having always played above his ability…
(I can appreciate the sentiment,but that is a physiological impossibility)
and winning by outworking his opponents.

That is what they attribute his wins to…
but that is what I attribute his losses to:
Hard Work

Hard Work means he is continuing to fight, to push it,
to move when he is fatigued.

Let me ask you a question:
Does your body ever stop adapting, ever stop learning?
Nope. Living systems constantly adapt. Constantly learn.

And when you’re working hard, what are you learning?
You’re learning that moving is hard..
You’re learning that technique is hard.
You’re learning to move slow
You’re learning to be tired.

Why don’t you learn that moving is easy?
That moving fast is easy?
That being in shape is easy?
What would that look like?
What would practicing for that be like?

Is it possible to stop working so hard…
to stop using such great effort?
What heights could be reached then?

Note: Since that time, Fitch has drawn once, and lost twice in his last four fights.

New Ultimate Fighter Format

309827_10152029776973484_1386016543_nIf behavioral economics has demonstrated anything,
it has demonstrated that packaging matters as much as content.

That’s like saying how your Christmas packages are wrapped
is as important as what’s inside the package.
Paper = Present

I don’t like that.
I especially don’t like it when it is true of me.

Most of the time I’m a bit annoyed with change.
Just when I remember where everything is at in the grocery store,
they move it around again.

Or when a company rebrands,
I ask myself,
“What was wrong with the old brand?”

But I got to tell you,
I like the newly packaged Ultimate Fighter.
As somewhat of a technological illiterate,
(yet still able to use the blogging interface)
I can’t describe what makes it so different.

As usual,
there are different coaches
different fighters
different decor in the house
But there are also some other differences.
The way it is shot looks different –
especially the fighter and coach interviews.
Intro and Outro is different, too.

And overall, in this case,
I think different is better.

But it wouldn’t be fair to say that only the packaging has changed.
What’s in the package has changed, as well.

It seems the director isn’t focusing as much on hijinks
but rather the emotional lives of the players involved.
I think it is a welcome change of pace.

I’m very interested to see how the BELLATOR reality show is different from THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER.

From what I’ve read, I like the direction they are going better than how TUF used to be.

But I think this season of TUF will be fine
and we’ll see another season of TUF.
And if BELLATOR does anything different that makes it better,
I’m sure Dana will integrate it into TUF.
So, a few shows in and I’m enjoying TUF.
How ’bout you?