MMA Defined

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about martial arts and it occurred to me that the term MMA is confusing to many people. Parents continue to put their kids into Tae Kwon Do and Karate schools in large numbers while many MMA schools have fewer students and have to diversify to stay in business. And, there is still the occasional debate pitting MMA versus Traditional Martial Arts.

I personally started with Tae Kwon Do over 30 years ago. I love martial arts and therefore I love Tae Kwon Do, but I learned (the hard way, which is sometimes the best way) that if you study just one discipline you are cheating yourself and not learning everything you will need going forward.

So, what is MMA? MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. To some this means the UFC, because the UFC has spent millions of dollars spreading their business to every corner of the world. This also means MMA is tightly associated with (sometimes brutal) cage fights. But MMA is much more than this.

MMA has been around for a long time–long before the epic 1993 contest that put the Gracie name on the map . Anytime a martial arts practitioner used techniques from more than one style, they were doing MMA. MMA includes striking (Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Wing Chun, etc.), grappling (Wrestling, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, etc.) and ground fighting (Wrestling, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, ground and pound, etc.), but the most important part of MMA is transitioning smoothly between and amongst these three areas and many styles.

So, that means that time you got in a fight and boxed with your opponent who then took you down and you choked him until he quit, you were doing MMA. The first person to have international fame using MMA was Bruce Lee. Although his striking was amazing, Lee was aware that he had to know more than just striking to win on the street. This is why Lee trained with people like Gene LaBell, and Lee was able to show some of what he knew about ground fighting in his movies.

One of my goals with this blog and my book is to help people to be more open minded about martial arts and fitness. For people to argue about MMA vs Traditional, or MMA vs Boxing, etc. is really a waste of time; MMA is traditional martial arts and MMA is boxing. MMA is learning Tae Kwon Do and Karate, but also learning grappling and ground fighting.

I cover this and much more in my book, Martial Arts For Everyone. Thanks and best of luck with your training.

 

 

Quads and Biceps

When I started weight training in the 1980’s we spent a lot of time working Quads and Biceps—lots of squats and curls (split 7’s, etc.). I notice in the gym today the same thing—lots of people do many sets of leg press, etc. and burn out sets of curls. It’s definitely important to work these areas, but I have learned after years of training and rehabilitating injuries that you can’t neglect the opposing and supporting muscles. Doing so creates imbalances in strength and flexibility and this leads to poor performance and injuries.

Today, my leg workout includes Stability Ball Dumbbell Squats (to protect back, knees and to decrease the trunk widening effect of regular squats), Leg Press and Leg Extension but also includes Seated Calf Raise, Calf Press using the Leg Press Machine, Bent Knee Flexion (for Hamstrings), Leg Curls (using prone and standing machines), Adductors and Abductors (using machines and cables) as well as mixing in TRX leg work. For the 4 to 6 sets I do for Quads I do 15 or more sets for the opposing and supporting leg muscles.

My arm workout has evolved over the years so that now I do minimal direct Biceps exercises compared to before. Biceps get so much work during Back exercises that I will usually limit Biceps Curls to 2 or 3 sets. I separate my workout into Push and Pull days so that I don’t work Biceps and Triceps on the same day to allow plenty of rest.

On Push days I do several sets for Triceps. Including the chest and shoulder exercises I do, my ratio is 3 to 2 for Triceps to Biceps exercises overall. Triceps make up a larger portion of the upper arm than Biceps, so it makes sense to spend more time on Triceps.

Whenever possible I do symmetrical work using dumbbells or using one leg at a time. I spend time after each workout stretching. I cover this and more in great detail with illustrations in my new book Martial Arts For Everyone.

Thanks and I will see you in the gym.

Timing and Accuracy

My gym has a pro boxing coach, and I was watching the other day as he held focus mitts and trained a fighter. I was also recently at a martial arts school and watched a Tae Kwon Do instructor hold focus paddles for a student as she did various kicks. I was compelled to ask myself, do focus pads help you or hinder you?

Clearly you train with pads, mitts and bags to improve accuracy and timing. When your opponent presents a target to you by moving and/or striking, accuracy and timing help you to react with the correct technique at the right time to the right place. If a boxing trainer presents the focus mitt by only staying stationary and holding it up, that is not likely to help you. If the trainer moves and simulates a punch that will actually hit you if you don’t move (for example a Hook that you have to duck and counter), this is better.

But, either way, the timing is different from a real opponent because the trainer must retract and/or place the mitt for you to hit it. This is slower than what happens in the course of a real fight and may adversely affect your reaction time. One fix I have seen is to start with the first pad in place and quickly move the second pad into place, but this is still too slow.

This brings me to accuracy; Is it helpful to have a person stand in front of you and hold striking pads away from his body for you to hit? Muscle memory is important and is learned from hours of drills and practice. It stands to reason that if you practice hitting a pad held away from a person instead of hitting the person, this may adversely affect your muscle memory and therefore your accuracy in the ring in the long run. It is better to get high quality protective gear and heavier, padded gloves and spend more time with sparring partners so the timing you develop is based on a more realistic opponent.

With Tae Kwon Do the same issues are there, but the kicking drills accentuate another bad aspect of using focus pads; the recovery phase. It may look good to have someone hold pads for you as you expertly do two or more kicks (which helps you to be more comfortable with combinations) but what you do after the combo is important. If you land awkwardly or you have to move or step to get into your fighting stance to face your opponent, you are setting up bad habits. If you pause or drop your guard after your combo, you are setting up bad habits. A similar thing happens when a boxing trainer steps away to reset and the fighter drops his guard.

I also noticed that some of the drills lure your focus to certain techniques and neglect the Muay Thai and Wrestling techniques (specifically leg kicks and takedowns) that can be done to you during your attack. This may be okay if you are only going to compete in boxing but is not helpful in Mixed Martial Arts. It is better to spend as much time as you can in the most realistic scenario as possible.

Do in training what you intend to do in War.

A Great Defense

It has been said that the best offense is a great defense. Last year in December, there were two UFC fights (one of which a MAJOR title defense) that illustrate this point very well.

In my first example, lets look at UFC Fight Night 33, Dylan Andrews and Clint Hester (former TUF 17 teammates) going to battle, with Andrews favored to win due to his superior striking. Hester was more than able to hold his own and the fight was generally a back and forth draw up until Andrews attempted a wide, looping right hand which Hester deflected using a stop-hit block. The stop-hit was so well timed that Andrews shoulder was dislocated and he was not able to return after the 2nd round.

The second, and much more well known fight was between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva at UFC 168. This was Weidman’s first title defense after he defeated Silva earlier in the year. Silva was much more humble and professional in the rematch, but right from the start did not seem to have the same confidence and speed that he has shown for years. Weidman was dominating the fight when Silva attempted a leg kick to try to break the rhythm. Weidman used an excellent stop-hit block to check the kick and Silva’s tibia broke into two pieces, ending the fight in favor of the new Champ.

These examples show how devastating an aggressive defense can be. It is way better to go after your opponent than it is to just cover up and hope for the best. While the Weidman/Silva example may come across to many fighters and fight fans as a fluke, it was a well placed move with forward momentum that went after and defeated Silva’s attack.

After an effective stop-hit, you are more likely to be able to take the initiative and go on the offense. In self-defense situations, using stop-hits allows you to disable your attacker(s) while reserving deadly force until it is truly the last resort. Imagine if every time your attacker tries to hit you he finds that limb less useful (or completely useless). Imagine if you add to that strikes to vulnerable areas so you disable two areas/functions at the same time. It doesn’t take long for your opponent to figure out that he doesn’t want to fight you anymore.

For me, that is the goal in a fight. If you can accomplish this before it gets physical that is preferred, but if you have to fight make every move count and make your opponent regretful.

This topic and more are discussed in my new book, Martial Arts For Everyone. Thanks.

Stretching for MMA, Part V–Quadriceps Stretch

The order of stretching is important. After you have stretched your calves, glutes and hamstrings and have relaxed those muscles, you are ready to stretch your quadriceps. The side-lying stretch is good because you are in a resting position (not weight bearing).

Start by using one hand to secure your non-stretching leg (right hand to right leg or left hand to left leg). Use your other hand to grab your ankle/foot on your stretching leg. Move to the start position with your knees touching and activate your hamstrings to stretch. As your hamstrings can no longer move your leg, assist the stretch further (using your hand or a rope/towel/etc. if you cannot reach your ankle) and hold for 1 to 2 seconds.

Keep the rest of your body still during the stretch so that you isolate your quadriceps. Your non-stretching leg will have a tendency to try to move to make it easier, so hold that in place. Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and repeat sets as needed. Stretch both sides equally so you don’t contribute to asymmetry.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my upcoming book, Martial Arts for Everyone, which will be published very soon. Thanks.

 

Stretching for MMA, Part IV—Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part IV—Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch

Do the Bent-knee Hamstring Stretch first because it is easier to do than the Straight-leg. The Bent-knee variation relaxes tissue to prepare you for a deeper and more involved stretch. Remain in the supine position and straighten both of your legs. Rotate your non-stretching foot inward to stabilize your hips. Place the heel of your stretching leg on top of your other foot. This is the start position.

Keep both legs straight and your stretching foot dorsi-flexed (the opposite of pointing your toes), hold this position, exhale and activate your quadriceps to raise your stretching leg. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and return to the start position. Use a rope or towel to assist if needed.

Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed. This stretch gives a true measure of your hamstring flexibility. You may find at first that you cannot move your leg very high during this stretch. This is okay; you will increase your range the more you work on stretching.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in the second edition of my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power which will be published in the next few months. Thanks and look for part V, Quadriceps Stretch.

#DoritoZ Commercial

We filmed on Sunday, November 10, 2013 on location at Umstead Park in Raleigh, NC with a great cast and crew, and put together a Zombie commercial to enter into this years Doritos Crash the Superbowl Contest (www.Doritos.com).

Our entry can be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/doritos?x=us-en_submissionsphase_9946_

Here are the credits:

Produced by David V. Nelson and Nikki Nelson

Directed by David V. Nelson

Co-Directed by Ashley Jones and Tsuyoshi Saito

Director of Photography:     Josh Ortiz

Assistant Director:     Sue Thies

Edited by Josh Ortiz and Tom Babb

Director of Information Technology:     John Cloud

Make up by:     Nikki Nelson, Aleya Richards, Megan Patton and Tsuyoshi Saito

Photographer:     Sorng Buntoum assisted by Nathan Buntoum

Starring:     David V. Nelson and Master Kenji Saykosy

Lead Zombie:     Mike Nelson

Featured Zombies:     Debra Nelson and Murry Haithcock

The Zombie Horde:     Tom Babb, Phal Buntoum, Alphonso Dunston, Nina Ehara, Kirsten Ehlert, Crystal Newman, Robbie Newman, Ella Srikhirisawan, Liz Stabenow and Te’ Walker

Thanks to everyone for your help with this project! It was a lot of fun!

 

Stretching for MMA, Part III—Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part III—Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch

 

Once you have stretched your calves and glutes well, you are ready to do the first stretch for hamstrings. This is done supine (lying on your back) with your non-stretching leg bent and your foot flat on the floor for support. Your stretching leg is positioned with your upper leg at roughly a 90 degree angle in relation to your upper body (and the floor). Your lower leg is at a 90 degree angle in relation to your upper leg.

Snapshot 3 (12-6-2013 8-51 PM)

This is the start position. Keep your foot dorsi-flexed (the opposite of pointing your toes) in the same position, your upper leg still, and activate your quadriceps to raise your lower leg.

Snapshot 2 (12-6-2013 8-51 PM)

Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and return to the start position. If you find the stretch is too difficult, adjust your start position. Instead of starting at 90 degrees, start with your leg at 105 degrees or greater in relation to your upper body. Use a rope or towel to assist if needed.

If the stretch is too easy, decrease the angle of your upper leg in the starting position to 75 degrees.

Do 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd Edition, which I am working on now. Thanks and look for part IV, Straight-leg Hamstring Stretch.

 

Stretching for MMA, Part II-Glute Stretch

Hamstrings are a major area of injury for athletes. Healing this area quickly and/or preventing injury will keep you on the field. Previously I mentioned that utilizing a calf stretch first will help you to relax tissue so you can stretch your hamstrings. The next area to stretch is your glutes.

In my experience as a Stretch Therapist at Triangle Triggerpoint Therapy (www.triangletrigger.com) in Raleigh, NC, the area in the lower body that I see the most problems for people is the glutes. I think this is simply because it is not an area most people think about stretching. This can contribute to lower back pain and people “pulling” their hamstrings.

The glute stretch that will give you the best results is done from a supine position (lying on your back). Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor for support. Move your stretching leg so that it stays at a 90 degree angle but rotate at your knee to bring your foot and knee close enough to grab with your hands. This is the start position.

Breathe out and use your inner thigh muscles and hip flexors to activate into the stretch while supporting and assisting with your hands. Keep your lower leg level and in the same position during the stretch and only move your upper leg. This will isolate your glutes. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 seconds and release.

Follow the technique illustrated on the Youtube video to perform 3 to 10 repetitions per set and stretch both sides equally. Repeat sets as needed.

This stretch and a lot more will be covered in my book, Focusing Martial Arts Power, 2nd Edition, which I am working on now. Thanks and look for part III, Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch.

 

Tae Kwon Do VS Muay Thai

I started martial arts training in 1984 at a Tae Kwon Do school in Virginia. Between 1987 and 2001, I trained at 9 other TKD schools from NC to LA to TX.

The other day while practicing fight scenes for the Lao Warrior movie, I was reminded of my first day training Muay Thai in 2002. I kept getting kicked in my knees and quads because I wasn’t used to checking leg kicks.

Then, just as I started to get into the habit of raising my leg to check, we started working on clinching and throwing knees. If you are not used to someone grabbing your neck, pulling you down and slinging you around while they land knees, it can be frustrating.

While I am glad that I studied TKD in the 80’s, the martial arts of today are on a different level. When you train with someone who does Jiu Jitsu every morning and Muay Thai every evening, plus has judo and wrestling skills (i.e. an MMA fighter), you are humbly reminded that you spend most of your time every week filling prescriptions.

My base will always be TKD, so I can still throw kicks with the best of them, but I certainly have found the motivation to get back to work on my Muay Thai and staying well-rounded. I look forward to showing what I learned in the upcoming movie Lao Warrior (2014) as well as in the second edition of Focusing Martial Arts Power. Thanks and see you in the gym.

Martial Arts for Everyone