What is your Stance? MMA and the significance of foundation

Recently, we watched UFC Champion Ronda Rousey defend her title against Challenger Sara McMann. Finishing her with a Left Knee to the Liver. (For more information on how the Liver Shot works, please visit our article “The Anatomy of the Liver Shot“).

I was struck by Ronda’s post fight comment “When we were going over Sara’s footage and how she fights, we saw that no one had really gone to the body with her,” Rousey said. “Being that she’s a wrestling style, she’s more likely to be bent over more and I just thought it would be really unexpected.” This quote from the article at the Las Vegas Sun.

Step foot into any reputable gym, and the first thing you should learn is the foundation, the Stance. Be it a Boxing Stance, Thai Boxing Stance, Wrestling Stance, etc. the basic stance has been optimized for the specific art it was developed from. But what does an MMA stance look like?

Many of the top level athletes in MMA today are converts from other disciplines. Sara McMann was and Olympic Wrestler, Ronda a Judo practitioner. As converts, these fighters bring with them baggage in the form of a ready stance. Something practiced so many times, it’s hard to unlearn, something that was studied and capitalized on by Rousey and her camp.

My interest in this topic was peaked before when I first began studying Thai Boxing with Ajarn Surachai Sirisute and he explained the difference between the American Pugilism, Basic Western Boxing Stance (in contrast to the John L. Sullivan Stance, the cross guard or the Archie More style) and then again when I spoke with Catch Legend Billy Robinson and he discussed the differences between the Amateur Wrestling Stance and the Catch As Catch Can Stance.

So what are these differences, why have these stances evolved as such, and what does any of this have to do with MMA? Lets start by examining the stances from a few of the arts found more prevalently in MMA. Mind you, each art, has multiple forms and variations of their basic ready stance. We will attempt to demonstrate the most generalized form that is representative of it’s respective art.

Boxing Stance

The American Pugilism Boxing Stance.  Click here to see it from various angles

The American Pugilism Boxing Stance. Click here to see it from various angles

Notice both feet are turned at a 45 degree angle. This blades the body and brings the liver further back protecting it with distance and the elbows from the opponent. Since there are no attacks to the legs allowed in boxing there is no penalty for turning in the front foot and exposing the sciatic nerve. There is a slight crouch which also protects the body and shrinks the target zones.

Thai Boxing Stance

Basic Thai Boxing Stance.  Click to see it from various angles.

Basic Thai Boxing Stance. Click to see it from various angles.

Here you see more of an upright stance. This guards against knees and kicks which may be directed at the head. Only the rear foot is turned at a 45 degree angle, this makes the hips square up to the opponent, exposing the liver, but also bringing 4 of the more powerful, rear side weapons (shin, knee, elbow, fist) closer to the opponent and therefore easier to bring to bear. Having the front foot pointing straight forward also aids in protecting against leg attacks to the sciatic nerve. The hands are held further outward which helps to prevent the opponent from grabbing and pulling the head downward. The hand positioning also assists in defending against the heavy force of a shin in the event of a head kick, but the stance does so at the cost of exposing the body.

Amateur Wrestling Stance

The Amateur Wrestling Stance.  Click to see from various angles.

The Amateur Wrestling Stance. Click to see from various angles.

This stance is optimized for defense against takedowns. The hips are square much like in Thai Boxing, but the crouch is similar to that found in a Boxing stance. The hands are held close, to guard against attacks such as arm drags etc. and also to be able to defend the legs in the event of a shot. As there are no chokes or neck cranks allowed in Amateur Wrestling, there is no penalty for exposing the head or neck.

Catch Wrestling Stance

The Catch As Catch Can Wrestling Stance

The Catch As Catch Can Wrestling Stance. Click on the image to see from various angles.

In contrast to the Amateur Wrestling Stance, the Catch Wrestling Stance is upright, this exposes the legs for shot style attacks but maximizes the defense of the head and neck as Neck Cranks and Chokes are 100% legal in Catch. Often times an opponent who shoots in on the legs and is unable to immediately effect a takedown, looses the match to a technique such as the Grovit.

The arms and elbows are held close to the body to defend against Underhooks, Body Locks and Arm Drags, and as with Amateur Wrestling, there is no striking allowed thus there is no penalty for exposing the face and head to these types of attacks.

So the next question is, what is the best way to approach fighting in MMA? Would it be best to develop a new, hybridized stance, specifically designed for the complexities of the cage? Or would it be best to transition from one purpose built stance to another based on your intentions?

Like anything, there are pros and cons to each approach. I don’t believe that a generalized stance would be as effective at any one specific task as a specialized stance. However, specialized stances can be exploited and can sometimes be a “tell” to your opponent.

Be sure to leave a comment and share with us your stance on MMA and the best approach to the foundation, the stance.

Escape Bottom Across the Side by Using Your Head

Gustavo Rodrigues is back, and this time he is showing a very ingenious way to escape from bottom Side Cross when your arm is trapped between your opponent’s arms and endangered. There is a lot to learn here if know what to look at.

Notice the precision and attention to details when Gustavo explains the finer points of how to position your legs to prevent the mount while also accounting for your opponent’s potential to turn your hips away and take your back.

He says it’s a basic move for beginners but I think it’s the experts who will really appreciate the beauty of this technique he’s shared.

Foot Sweeps For MMA, Muay Thai, and Submission Wrestling

Study the Martial Arts long enough and eventually, you’ll begin to realize just how long it can take some times to learn a certain set of skills. I have been a huge fan of foot sweeps for years and as a result am perpetually on the hunt for different entries, set ups, details and insights regarding this valuable tool.

What I enjoy so much about the foot sweep is that it is so versatile while at the same time being a low risk, high reward technique. Foot sweeps can be used as takedowns, as set ups for submissions or my favorite, as set ups for the Knee.

Here I get a rare opportunity to learn foot sweeps from one of my all time favorite instructors, Ajarn Greg Nelson from “The Academy” in Minneapolis Minnesota. Ajarn Greg was the first instructor to introduce me to the idea of using sweeps as off balancing techniques to set up knees. I’ve been exploring that idea ever since and enjoying every minute of it.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about using foot sweeps as takedowns, and as set ups for submissions or knees. Which do you prefer? What are your favorite follow ups for foot sweeps?

Arm Pin Attack From 50 States of BJJ

Recently, Charles Haymon from www.50StatesOfBJJ.com visited our home gym, Mushin Self Defense in North Salt Lake, Utah. Traveling from his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana, Charles has set out to train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in every state of the US. An ambitious, nobel and courageous goal indeed.

It takes a lot of courage to step into a new gym. Even more so sometimes when you have previous experience in the arts. It’s intimidating to walk into a place, being a beginner and not knowing what to expect. It can be even worse when you know exactly what to expect. You see, in the combative arts, there’s almost always a feeling out process.

Think of it like a pack of wolves. When a pup joins the pack, the elders and warriors of the clan see it as little threat. But when a grown wolf seeks acceptance, there’s always have one eye and ear turned up to see what the new guy’s intentions are. They’re always sniffing for anything that smells fishy. Is this guy a friend? Is he a foe? Is he here to test his mettle and the strength of this new pack? Where will he fit into the hierarchy?

I have experienced both sides of the coin. I’ve had to roll over and show my belly, and I’ve had to defend home turf. So I really appreciate Charles sense of adventure in trusting that everything will turn out and that in the end, he will be the beneficiary of a great wealth of knowledge and experience after all is said and done.

We got to train together, and it was like a scene from an old Kung-Fu Classic. He started working on a few techniques that I immediately recognized from another friend of the Damage Control MMA project, Reilly Bodycomb. In fact, the techniques were practically identical to those shown, Reilly three years ago in our article Sambo and MMA Tie the Knot: A Marriage of Skill. I wanted to say “Huh, the White Lotus Kick?… You must be a student of Master Bodycomb, from the Southern Province.”

Turns out that Charlie actually does work out with Reilly at his home gym, NolaBJJ. Rolling with him was a very interesting experience. Charlie is a big, and deceptively strong man. That coupled with his technical expertise and the validity of the Sambo Leg Knot resulted in me getting caught in the very move I recognized and then spending the next few nights lying awake in bed, contemplating the meaning of what happened.

I was frustrated that I saw the move coming and was unable to stop it from progressing. I was standing up and attempting to pass Charles’ guard. As he threw his leg under mine to initiate the knee reap, I took ahold of his foot to remove it from my hip and even with both hands was physically unable to lift the heft of his leg and thus preemptively stop the knot from being tied in the first place. I simply could not lift it. He was too strong.

Getting caught was not what troubled me. It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last (I hope). Being caught is a learning opportunity. A chance to grow and discover. No, I was troubled with the fact that I saw it coming and could not prevent it with a method that had worked many times before with partners smaller than Charlie. I don’t like relying on stuff that I can’t pull off on opponents of all shapes and sizes. Especially since I am almost always the smaller man.

My conclusion was, and it remains in the initial testing phase, that rather than removing the pieces of a progressively tightening knot, preventing the knot from starting in the first place, was my best bet, in terms of defending against larger, stronger opponents. No duh! right? But here’s where my personal revelation came in. Most of my partners don’t attack the legs aggressively as did Charlie. And thus, using a standing Guard pass is a pretty solid choice as it keeps my neck and upper limbs safer from harms way. But what I hadn’t realized is that these same standing passes, expose your legs (Hell, they’re already extended and isolated from the body, just from the nature of standing) to those with a strong leg locking game.

So how do you prevent the leg lock from starting? Again, my theory is in its infancy and it remains to be further tested, but my approach is 2 fold. I can either go for a leg lock myself instead of attempting a pass. I can use a kneeling, or sitting pass as opposed to a standing one, or I can combine the two, attempting a kneeling pass that may set up a leg lock or vise versa.

Either way, the experience was awesome and as you can see has given me plenty of food for thought. I’d like to hear what you think about the situation. And I’d love to hear about your learning experiences. Tell me about how getting caught has upped your experience points and changed your game for the better in the comments below.

Judo Throws with Adam Blackburn

What’s not to like about Judo. Originally the synthesis of many forms of Jujitsu, Judo has had a lasting impact on the world of Martial Arts. All modern belt ranking systems owe their existence to Judo’s founding father Jigaro Kano.

“The Kimura” as it is widely known now, was named as such, as a result of Judo Master Masahiko Kimura traveling to Brazil to face off with Helio Gracie who named the technique in honor of Master Kimura who dislocated Master Helio’s shoulder with the technique during their challenge match.

In modern times Judo has made a reputation for itself as a leading proponent in the art, and science of throwing. In the video above Sensei Adam Blackburn shares a few variations with us.

Throws a very versatile in that they can be used in Jiu-jitsu Matches, Submission Grappling Matches, MMA competitions and Self Defense. Many think of throws as simple means of getting their opponent to the mat, but to the un-prepared or un-educated in the throw can be the end in and of itself.

Take a look at a few of the case examples below. Then imagine if these techniques had taken place on hard concrete and then ask yourself how effective a Judo throw could be in terms of ending a fight.

So what do you think? Do Judo throws have a place in your MMA, Submission Grappling or Jiu-jitsu game? Leave a comment and let us know whether or not they are a useful tool in your arsenal.

CACC Single Leg Suplex!

Catch As Catch Can Living Legend Billy Robinson is back again, and this time he’s helping Assistant Coach Sam and Ricky Lazaro refine a Kick Catch/Single Leg Suplex variation.

When I first met Coach Robinson, I had a few brief moments to just sit and talk with him. Well, when I say, “talk” what I really mean is, sit and listen. And during my listening, I recall him reiterating the idea of “Learning how to learn.” A concept given to him by his mentor Billy Riley.

I don’t know how many times I expect to use this particular series of moves in my own game, but there is plenty here to learn. Various concepts of leverage and body mechanics; general principles that I have extracted from this lesson and have begun to apply to techniques more suited to my personal style of Submission Wrestling and MMA.

I’d like to believe that I’ve begun to “learn how to learn.” And in so doing have learned how to look beyond what is directly in front of me. To see the driving principles that make the techniques work and then apply them to improve techniques that lie elsewhere in my repertoire. This has happened before with ideas taught to me by Mike Diaz in regards to butterfly guard, arm control and sweeps. To this day I am not a big butterfly guard player, but the lessons taught to me that day have improved my standing clinch game, my guard passing game and closed guard game.

And thus, I encourage you to look at your lessons, to watch your videos and to try to get just a little more out of them that what is immediately in the foreground. Look deeper and do your best to learn how to learn. Maybe I’ve got a little foothold (pun intended) into “Learning how to learn” or maybe I still haven’t got a clue. Either way, it can’t hurt to keep trying.

On a separate note, and I apologize for the abrupt and complete change of topics here, but as I’ve watched this season of The Ultimate Fighter (Team Rousey vs Team Tate), I couldn’t help but notice a few familiar faces. Jessamyn Duke, who is from Ajarn Chai’s Thai Boxing Association and is actually an Associate Instructor, and Shayna Baszler who I recognized, and this is why I bring this up, from a video with Coach Billy at one of the Catch Certifications.

I’ve never trained along side of Shayna, but as I’ve watched her interact with her fellow house mates. Last week, taking Japanese language lessons from Roxanne Modafferi, and then comforting her after her loss, I couldn’t help but become endeared by her plight.

Her journey was cut short with an upset loss to Julianna Pena, but I wish her the best and I hope to share the mat someday, perhaps, if I am lucky, under the watchful eye of Coach Robinson at a Catch Certifiaction.

Basic Muay Thai Pad Drill: Shield and Kick Return

Harkening back to a series we’ve been visiting and revisiting over the last year or so, we share another Basic Muay Thai Kick Drill. This simple drill is designed to develop defensive reactions and coordination that will allow you to see various kicking attacks and apply the appropriate defense while also conditioning you to immediately retaliate with either the left or right Thai Kick.

As a coach, we encourage you to start out simple. Feed the right kick and have your student return a right kick. Then progress to feeding the right, and having your student return a left kick. Then progress to feeding the left kick and receiving the right. The last basic feed will be to send the left kick and have your student return a left kick.

After your student is comfortable using all the possible returns, vary your feed and be ready to receive whatever return your student executes.

Finally, the idea is to seamlessly weave this particular drill into a varied and active Thai Pad Round. Feed Jabs, Hooks and Crosses to develop your student’s punch defenses. Hold for punches, kicks, knees, elbows and combinations thereof while keeping your student alert with your kicks. This will create, realistic, dynamic and very effective training rounds and your student body will love them.

Taekwondo In MMA

Some time ago, we shared a few set ups for the Turn Back Kick when we did a shoot with Sensei Erik Paulson. But long before that Coach Kiser was using them in the Taekwondo Junior Olympics and as a result developed his own favorite set ups which eventually made their way into a few of his MMA fights.

The Back Kick has a few different uses as it can be used to counter an opponent to circles to your left flank and attempts to create an angle (this variation can be seen in the clip with Sensei Paulson). And as you can see it can also be used as a follow up to a missed or evaded Thai Round Kick.

But in both of these situations, the Turn Back Kick has a secondary effect. It acts as a deterrent, keeping your opponent from rushing in to take advantage of a flanking situation. Even when your opponent backs away or evades your Turn Back Kick, they give up the ability to bridge the gap and thus trade safety for an opportunity to counter. This gives you time to repost and reset.

Share your favorite set ups and uses for the Turn Back kick. Leave a comment and let us know what other TKD techniques you like to incorporate into your MMA game.

Kyokushin Kicking Drills with Shihan Cameron Quinn

As a sport, Kyokushin is a dynamic and very entertaining style. Below is a small example of a myriad of videos out there with various Kyokushin K.O.s and other highlights.

But you don’t have to be a Kyokushin student to benefit from the tried and tested training methods of these hard and formidable men. Here Shihan Cameron Quinn shares some basic and intermediate drills with us. They are designed to teach you the basic angles, a way to condition and build up a resistance to leg kicks as well as how to time and use counters to these basic kicks.

Whether you are a Kick boxer, an MMA Fighter, a Kyokushin Fighter or a Thai Boxer, these easy to learn drills will help you improve your leg kicking offense and defense. Coincidentally, DamageControlMMA.com subscriber and Sanshou Fighter Greg recently submitted his latest match in the forum for discussion and instructor feedback. In it his opponent basically makes the mistake that Shihan Quinn mentions in his video and drops his hands. We’ll let you see for yourself what happens next. Good thing Greg’s opponent didn’t tune in to Damage Control MMA.

Brad Pickett’s Peruvian Necktie

Sometimes MMA is a formal affair. Better put on a suit and a Peruvian Necktie.

To be honest, the Peruvian Necktie has never been a strong move for me. I think it has to do with my extremely short arms. I’m like Rex in the Toy Story Movies, just look at my little arms. I can’t press the fire button and jump at the same time.

But each time I see it, I pick up a new nuance and find more ways to cinch up an inch or two of space, making it that much easier to catch the hold. A special thanks go out to Damage Control MMA member Robert Carlin of Antonine MMA in Glasgow Scotland and Brad Pickett for sharing this little beauty with us.

Because of you two, I am that much closer to being able to tie my own Peruvian.