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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!

Basic Muay Thai Pad Drills: Inside Left Kick Counters

Since one of our very first Striking Instructionals “Jab Counters” we’ve had a lot of positive feedback and requests for more striking oriented videos in that format. Well here we are with another attempt at a video we hope you will enjoy.

The Left Kick Counter is a nice addition to the repertoire of any trainer or pad holder that wants to make his or her rounds more realistic. Incorporating these drills takes your partner from simply thumping pads, to reacting, and thinking. Sometimes they will engage the pads, other times simply defend attacks and other times they will defend and counter. This is the case with the Inside Left Kick Counter Drills.

Don’t forget to pay respects before and after your rounds. And don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know if you liked this series of Pad Drills.

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.

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 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!

MMA Cornermen: Unsung Heros Part 1

What fighter worth his salt would ever go into a fight without padding his proverbial hand as much as possible in his favor?

Having a rock solid wing man is one of the most overlooked and under rated pieces of prep work that a fighter can have in place for his/her up coming fight.

If you’ve ever taken the time to listen to the corners during a fight, you’d be surprised at the variance in ability and quality. It’s amazing how often the advice you hear being shouted from the corner is something along the lines of “F*** him up bro!” Really?

An important part of any successful competition is communication between Coach/Instructor and Student/Competitor.

This article will focus on a couple of methods we use to communicate to our students when they are in the middle of their matches. They can however, be applied to effectivly communicating during any traumatic or stressful event.

A good coach is like a second pair of eyes for their student. But what the coach sees is useless if he/she is unable to communicate that information to his/her student.

Below are a list of tips that we have found helpful in communicating to our students when they are in the middle of a match.

Less is more… Keep It simple

If there is a constant barrage of chatter comming from the sidelines, it tends to blend in with the myriad of other noises already being muted by the tunnel vision/hearing experienced by the student. Be patient, hold your tongue and only bark out an occasional observation. AND when you do give some instruction, keep it simple. Suggestions such as this, “slip the jab, then uppercut, overhand, left hook right kick and shoot.” Simply are too much for a student under duress to handle. Something like the following would be more helpful “SLip and counter”.

Use the student’s name.

During one of his fights, Trevor “Little Bang” Osborn related that when everyone was shouting, he didn’t know who was saying what to whom. He didn’t know if it was the opposing team or our team speaking to the other competitor or to him and pretty soon he simply tuned it all out… that is until he heard us shout his name. Then he was able to take focus and listen.

Proper use of use of this method would sound something like this:

“Trevor, be first.”
“Trevor, circle! Keep your back off the cage.”
“Trevor, Go Now!”

Make eye contact.

When your student is fatigued and or rocked they tend to do a little slot machine number with their eyes. Their head will roll lazily around and their eyes will roll up under their lids etc.

If this happens between rounds, control their head with your hands and force them to look into your eyes.

If they are in a contol position mid-round, tell them to look at you. This will again, help to re-focus them, not just on your instruction, but also onto the task at hand.

Trigger Words

Trigger Words are words or phrases whose meaning you and your students have agreed upon. They are words that have been used during training sessions leading up to the event so that the student is used to hearing them and reacting to them.

For instance, we use the Trigger Words “Go Now”. We all know that this means, it means that there is 30 seconds left in the round. We have trained the student to go all out upon hearing that phrase (Pavlov eat your heart out). “Establish Base” means, chill out. Don’t blow your wad just yet. Re-establish your position and calmly look for openings and opportunities.

These phrases should be reinforced and used repeatedly in the gym during training sessions.

Don’t use more than one or two Trigger Words in your gym. The more Trigger Words you have, the less impact and significance they carry.

Communicate Visually with Hand Signals and Expressions

There are many times that a student’s battle stress will completely debilitate their ability to hear your voice. There are also times that the venue is so loud that your voice simply cannot be heard above the rest of the noise. In these instances it is helpful to commuicate visually as well as verbally. For instance, we will point to our eyes, then look up and point to the ceiling if we want our students to arch their backs more, lift their head and put more body into straightening out the armlock, guillotine, etc.

We’ll point to the ceiling and loop our finger around in a circle if we want the student to relax and burn some time off the clock.

And remember… every communication should be prefixed with your student’s name.

I hope these tips are helpful to you and your crew and we wish you all the best of luck. Train hard… we’ll see you out on the mat!