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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.

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?

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.

MMA Footwork For Beginners

This week’s blog post is a Damage Control MMA exclusive. That’s right faithful Damage Controllers, no youtube updates this week. Just a sneak peek into what we’ve been working on in the Members Area of our little project as of late. Basic Punch Defenses.

Who knew such a simple, and easy to learn technique could be such an effective and powerful tool. Stepping and Sliding Back, Stepping and Sliding Forward. That’s it! That’s all there is to it. The hard part is actually using it. People will move back but won’t spring into their former position. Or they’ll panic and simply cover up, neglecting to utilize their footwork all together.

One of the most valuable aspects of using footwork as the foundation for all of your defensive skills is that it is very general purpose. The same Step and Slide Back can be used to evade the Jab, the Cross, the Hook, Overhand, Uppercut, Straight Right, Jab Cross Combination, Spinning Backfist, the list goes on. One size pretty much fits all when it comes to using footwork as your first line of defense as can be seen in the last portion of the video.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post and we hope you’ll join us for more DamageControlMMA.com in the future.

Muay Thai Lower Leg Kick – A Knock Down Waiting to Happen

Feast your eyes on this super fans! A blast from that past. An awesome clip from the primordial soup known as Taking It To The MMAT. The precursor to what you see before you now, in it’s current and more refined iteration, Damage Control MMA.

This was a clip I shot at Ajarn Surachai Sirisute’s Annual Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp circa 2008 (I think). It was during a time I focused an entire year on learning and developing the sweep kick and all its variations. Khuen Khru Scott Anderson, now the Northeast Regional Director of the Thai Boxing Association of the USA, was kind enough to share this awesome technique with me and to this day it is one of my favorites, and one that serves me well any time I square off with a hard hitting bubba who loads up heavy on that lead foot and tries to drop bombs.

What made me think of it was the sweep used by Benson Henderson as he fought Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7. And I wanted to share it with you because this clip made it’s debut during our Cable Television days and thus didn’t get as many views on Youtube as I felt it deserved.

But Benson Henderson isn’t the only UFC champion who makes use of this most excellent technique, so does Lyoto Machida. Granted he usually uses a foot sweep variation as opposed to a shin induced post remover, but the concept and physics are the same. Now you too can put your opponents down like a peg legged pirates on an ice skating rink.

Lyoto Machida uses a similar technique. However, he favors using the bottom of the foot rather than the shin to remove his opponent’s lead leg post.

I take pride in knowing that we’ve shared this video with our loyal fans and supporters years before it became more widely known as a result of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. I apologize for the background music as this was edited early on in my video making experience. As you can see, over time we phased out that part of the production and I wish I could remove it from this clip as I feel it detracts from Khuen Khru Scott’s instruction.

But nevertheless, it is a proud piece of Damage Control MMA history.

Now go out there and kick somebody!

Belfort vs Bisping: KO Breakdown

What is it that goes into a surgical Knock Out like we saw on Saturday night when Vitor Belfort placed a perfect shin across Bisping’s temple?

It wasn’t by accident. It was a well orchestrated plan.

It’s easy to believe that you just throw some punches, mix in some kicks and voilà! Knock Out! And certainly, this can sometimes be the case, but this is a spray and pray strategy that is a roll of the dice at best.

Professionals find ways to stack the deck, to count cards if you will, strategically placing bets and thus increasing their odds of winning the jackpot of combat sport, the lights out, sleeping pill.

The members area of our website has always been structured to teach simple, easy to learn techniques and concepts that can be combined to produce potent, highly effective tools for our members. The Bisbing, Belfort fight is a great example of just such a situation.

On March 15, 2011 we released the High Kick Counter vs the Southpaw as part of our Southpaw Counter Series where we discussed the general concept of keeping the lead foot on the outside of your opponent’s lead foot.

Many people have asked us to follow up with a series for Southpaws, giving them options for dealing with Orthodox fighters, however the techniques and theories are more or less identical just reversed. In essence, regardless of your lead, you want to favor your rear sided weapons as Belfort did vs. Bisbping.

Later in 2011 we posted the Basic High Kick Set up video on our youtube channel. The theory for the set up being, that you threaten your rear hand, eliciting a parry defense, clearing a line for your head kick to follow and land, unimpeded.

What we saw on January 19th, was Vitor Belfort threatening with his Straight Left, which Bisping was wise to acknowledge and respect. After taking time to condition a response and set Bisping up, the Left High Kick was ripe for the taking.

Belfort faked the Straight Left, Bisping crossed centerline with his right handed parry, opening the outside line and Belfort delivered the goods with his left shin and it was game over.

 

Another key to the set up was taking the initiative and forcing Bisping to react rather than allowing him to initiate. This gave Vitor the ability to read Bisping’s responses and contributed to the card counting intelligence which would lend a much higher hit probability to Vitor’s well calculated shot selection.

Thanks for tuning in. We hope this was helpful to you.

Leave us a note in the comments below and let us know what you think of our fist foray into the realms of fight breakdowns.

MMA Techniques In Real Fights: Southpaw Fighting

When you watch a technique video online and read the comments it can be difficult to tell which if any are legit and whether or not the technique will really work.

This can be the case especially if you haven’t had a chance to build up a solid foundation and understanding through experience.

Naysayers will argue, “That will never work, because all you’d have to do is blah blah.” There are times when these arguments have merit and others when such claims are baseless.

So how do you know which claims to believe?

Well one way is to simply watch the techniques being used in actual fights.

And that is exactly what we present to you this week on Damage Control MMA. Earlier this year we presented our members with a 16 video instructional on How to Counter a Southpaw and shared a few of the clips with the public in our blog post on the subject.

As you can see in the video above, it doesn’t need to be fancy, hard to learn, or overly complex to be effective. And that’s what we specialize in here at DamageControlMMA.com Bringing our members, simple, easy to learn, effective techniques that give results.

Let the naysayers type on. 90% of them talk loud and say nothing. They never present original, informative material of their own. They’ve never posted any videos let alone competed, or shown proof of their expertise in fights of their own or through their student body.

You have our guarantee that whenever possible we will show you our techniques being applied, personally or by our fighters/students whenever possible. We’ve done it since the beginning and will continue to do so throughout the life of this project.

If you’ve experienced good results with our techniques, or even seen examples of techniques we’ve taught used effectively in fights, please let us know in the comments below.

 

Happy Hunting!

Muay Thai Knee Set Up Combination

[leadplayer_vid id=”50594E6F86AAB”]

A friend of mine once expressed that, in his humble opinion, the keys to being a good Martial Artist were quite similar to those involved with being a good Magician. He must have sensed my lack of comprehension as he continued to explain himself. The essence of pulling off any trick is misdirection.

Whether this is accomplished with the beautiful and scantily clad assistant, hand gestures or smoke and mirrors is all just a matter of how you want to accomplish this. Mercifully neither Kiser nor I are scantily clad and neither of us has employed smoke or mirrors… yet, but we certainly do our share of misdirecting our opponents. Whether it’s attacking the neck in order to secure a submission on someone’s arm or as in the case of this video, drawing our opponent’s attention to their head so that we can access his ribs, spleen or liver with our knee, the concept applies.

Look left, go right. Touch high, go low. Squeeze the wrist to twist the foot. The concept is basic and when applied, you will make your own kind of magic on the mats. No go out there and get David Blain on your friends.

MMA Techniques: The Mat Wars Saga Episode 1

The Back Story

There is an arms race taking place, an on going struggle that began in the not so distant but aging past, in a garage, in a galaxy… well, it was in our galaxy but those times and places now feel, far, far away.

Two forces, Kiser and Yamasaki met on the mats of one of Professor Pedro Sauer’s old academies as Kiser’s private lesson with Khuen Khru Bernales ened and mine began. From that point on, we would be competing for the attention of our instructor, and trying to best each other whenever and wherever our paths crossed.

Since that time, the struggles continue, with one having the upper hand for months and even years at a time before the tide of battle would change and the playing field would again be leveled. Something we’ve alluded to before in posts such as our “Arm Triangle and Kimura Counter” which is a small glimpse into the arms race and ever evolving counter measures that Kiser and I will forever be interlocked.

Every week, new lines are drawn, scores are settled and new feuds born. Over time, even new Factions have arisen. Some have fallen and been lost to time, but others have taken root and begun to grow strong. I could go on forever about the counters and re-counters employed, sought out and developed between Kiser’s evil empire and Yamasaki’s solo Resistance, but that will have to wait until another time. For this hour, belongs to the new clan, the rising power, the Wiggins Faction.

He and his followers have begun a full scale assault on the happy and peace loving members of the Mushin Self Defense gym. Their calling card… The Arm Bar. I invite you to come along as I fumble my way through the mine field of Wiggarian Arm Bars, and attempt to mount a counter offensive through preventative measures, escape systems and counterfuge.

The purpose of this on going series of articles (The Mat Wars Saga) is two fold. One, to share a little more of our own personal world with our DCMMA friends and family, and two to share and further develop my own MMA problem solving methodology (and not necessarily in that order).

The problem solving methodology is a work in progress. I by no means claim any expertise in that department and am myself still trying to improve and simplify the process. I hope by sharing it, I will both clarify my own thought process as well as learn from your comments and experiences.

I often say, “THAT your technique failed is of little to no importance. HOW it failed, the specifics of where arms were placed, hands were positioned, hips were angled, feet were moving, etc. is of ultimate importance. Therein lies the body of evidence that will lead us to finding what killed our technique.” It’s a game of MMA CSI.

This is one piece of the problem solving methodology. Taking many snap shots at the scene of the crime. And make no bones about it, for a move to not work the way you would have liked, is indeed a crime.

We will use the Mat Wars Saga as a case study in these methods. Starting with the on going Crime Scene Investigation, the Wiggarian Arm Bar. This Serial criminal comes in many shapes and sizes, and attacks from many different angles. But as a starting point we will be investigating perhaps the most sinister variation of them all. The Kimura Set Up From Guard.

I have collected the necessary evidence in a series of snap shots. And it’s funny to mention and include these as I recall years ago, hearing one of my instructors defending a move that was being questioned with the following statement. “No move is 100% all the time. Anytime you take a snap shot of a technique, you can point out a number of ways to pick it apart.” We’ll that just what I intend to do.

Below is a re-enactment of Joe’s Crime. Prosecuting him for count two “Trying to tap out his own instructor” will be something we address at another time.

Joe Wiggins starts his evil and malicious crime (the Arm Bar) from Closed Guard

He then opens his guard and violently turns to his left side, which allows him to place his opponent's right hand on the mat and obtain wrist control

Here Joe locks up the Kimura but in the process, allows his left leg to slide downward until it hits the mat and invites you to step over and begin to pass his guard in a counter clockwise direction.

Kensei obliges Joe's invitation and begins to pass Joe's left shin across his midsection. Keep in mind that the threat of being finished by the Kimura itself is ever present.

As Kensei moves to finalize the pass (his motion and direction of force is shown here in green), Mr. Wiggins simultaneously moves his hips in the opposite direction (shown here in red, a clockwise direction of force), which gives him space and the potential for a parallel body alignment with Kensei. This is an important detail as at this juncture, Mr. Wiggins has 4 simultaneous options. 1. Finish The Kimura 2. Utilize Parallel Body alignment to execute the Kimura Sweep and finish with the Kimura 3. Execute the redundant Kimura Sweep and finish with the stereotypical Arm Bar or 4. Move directly to a Quarter Back Mounted Arm Bar

I generally fight to maintain my base and top position which usually persuades Joe to take option 4. To do this he immediately inserts his left shin in front of Kensei's left arm.

He then places his right leg over Kensei's head and inserts his right foot into Kensei's right hip. The whole while Joe maintains a T Wrap/Figure 4 Grip on Kensei's right forearm.

Joe finalizes the Arm Bar by using his hips to break Kensei's grip and extend Kensei's arm. In this case the direction of force on Kensei's arm is along the mat and towards Joe's head.

If Kensei is able to power his arm back in to defend the Arm Bar, Joe simply transitions to a Kimura. Kensei can look to his left and defend the Kimura by summersaulting over his right shoulder but then he runs straight into the stereotypical Arm Bar and is finished from there.

You’ve seen the evidence, you’ve had a chance to study the crime scene. Now let’s take a moment and discuss the problem solving methodology.

The Problem Solving Methodology

The problem solving methodology is two fold. I try to address said problems from both a technical and a tactical vantage point. The CSI approach is more on the technical level. It involves looking at the mechanics of the technique in question and then, countering the technique with other techniques or simply dismantling the technique by means of negating one or more of the necessary mechanics.

On a Tactical level we look at paradigm shifts. Sometimes, you get so stumped trying to untangle the limbs and levers, the weights and pulleys of a technique that you basically hit a dead end. A mental block if you will. When I experience these I usually try and attack the problem at the tactical level. That is, to look at the problem itself from a completely different vantage point.

Take for example this Wiggarian Arm Bar from a Kimura Set Up. I have attempted to break it down and disassemble it from a technical level, with limited success for months now. Frustrated at this progress or lack thereof, I’ve now begun to approach the problem at a tactical level. I try not to put myself in positions where Joe can set up his heinous technique in the first place, but as with many things, it’s a lot easier said than done. As a result, I’ve recently begun to postulate a new idea.

By understanding how Joe sets up his damned Arm Bar at a technical level, and by looking at the problem from a tactical vantage point, I’ve been able to decipher that his set up is based on a brilliant strategy. He sets his technique up and finishes it based on movements from his opponents that follow fundamental, but predictable predispositions. You see, if you’ve had any instruction in guard work at all, you are going to be predisposed to eventually attempting to pass guard whenever you’re caught in it. This is how Joe finishes. He will set up the arm bar from within the guard, but it’s the act of you passing that enables him to finalize it. As a result, he will actively create opportunities for you to pass and in doing so tighten the noose around your own neck. Tricky bastard!

Thus, I am led to believe, that if I do the opposite of what is expected, that is, once the arm bar is set via the Kimura Set Up, I move into his guard, I can stall and perhaps even completely demise his ability to finalize the arm bar or at least this iteration of his arm bar. I will call this the “Chinese Finger Trap Defense”.

Tune in to the next episode of the Mat Wars Saga to find out how it goes.

I also invite you to turn in your own solutions to this problem, and eventually your own Technique Failures for us to CSI and problem solve. Together, we can catch the bad guys and rescue your technique.

Now the challenge, for both you and me is to apply these same problem solving methodologies to the challenges that face us in our daily lives, at work, at play, in the home as well as on the mats. It’s the Jiu-jitsu of Life as my cousin would so aptly put it. The most important Jiu-jitsu of all.

MMA Solo Training

As of late, I’ve been a bit of a loafer when it comes to updating this blog, I admit. Coach Kiser and I have been inundated with a number of gym projects. We prepped and took a number of the kids to a Jiu-jitsu Tournament, we trained and took Kensei Sato into his 5th MMA fight last week and have been slaving away with 5 more fighters who go into the Cage in exactly 9 days.

On top of all that, our members have finally figured out, that we respond and welcome their requests and personal interaction. They’ve been PMing and requesting technique series in our forums left and right and we’ve been working over time to accommodate them.

Recently, we were asked to do a series on drills that could be done either solo or with a partner. CSW Coach Shane Taylor, the first student to graduate the CSW Coaching curriculum and earn his coaching certificate through us under Sensei Erik Paulson used to travel out of town frequently and during the first few years with us had made a similar request.

As a result, we had already put together a series of techniques that he could do in his hotel rooms on the road. It would seem that they weren’t too shabby as he used them to help build his foundation and eventually become one of our very best students.

The Solo and Wall Drill series is largely based on the program we put together for Coach Shane. We filmed it and put it up for DCMMA member Robin Jeff Davis and Edric Escalante. But I thought there are many of you who might also enjoy a few ideas for the next time you’re fresh out of training partners.

I hope you find these videos helpful. They are a small sampling of the full series available to our members.

Train hard, enjoy yourselves and Lock On!