Category Archives: Defense

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.

MMA vs Football

I was at the gym today lifting weights and training footwork and defense when I noticed there were football highlights on TV. I love football, so I watched an analysis of some of the Quarterbacks in the NFL.

I found myself comparing MMA and football, specifically the position of QB. I noticed how the different players were using footwork to escape blitzes. Each QB seems to have his own way of eluding those sudden, unexpected corner, safety or overload blitzes that would have most people panicking. The best players appear to almost have a sixth sense as they move away from the pressure (in the correct direction) to avoid the sack and deliver the 30 yard TD pass.

Aside from the obvious differences of MMA and football (single fighter vs team sport; rules; object in football is NOT to draw blood; etc) I thought about how once you are tackled in football, the whistle blows and the play is over. You get up and reset for the next play. In MMA when you hit the ground, you are only getting started.

Until you have spent some time training MMA, you don’t fully appreciate how much fitness, knowledge and work is involved. It will definitely get you into the best shape you have ever been in your life, while also preparing you for what happens if someone takes you to the ground. The kind of stamina you build with MMA can’t be achieved through running, circuit training, or aerobic/kickboxing/zumba classes, etc.

This is because until you learn to control your mind and breathing (anxiety) when someone is trying to slam you to the ground and choke you out, your stamina is basically worthless. Even a marathon runner can have his/her energy sapped in seconds when the anxiety of being in an MMA fight hits. I tip my hat to anyone who has ever stepped into a cage and fought using MMA rules. You have to be ready for everything and it is definitely a challenging thing to undertake.

See you in the gym.

 

More about my fighting experience

Although I have competed in Taekwondo tournaments over the years (record 8 wins, 3 losses with 5 gold medals), my real fighting experience starts in 1987, the first time someone pulled a knife on me. When he opened it up (remember, this is the 80’s, so people carried buck knives) I remember the effect seeing that blade had on me. I went into survival mode, grabbed him by the wrist and throat and slammed him onto a car so hard that the knife went flying. He then slid off the car onto the pavement. Thankfully, that was the end of that conflict.

In 1988 I joined the US Army at age 17. I think most people know by now when you throw a bunch of young guys together from different backgrounds, and force them to live in a confined area (no, this wasn’t TUF and we weren’t in a nice mansion in Vegas) there are going to be problems. Added to this, the stress level was intentionally kept high by the Drill Sergeants most of the time mixed with sleep deprivation and general hazing.

In this environment there were a lot of fights, I remember one day a guy from 4th platoon was trying to bully me so I smacked him. At the time he did nothing about it. Later that day when I was in a line unloading a truck, someone suddenly hit me in the head from behind. I spun around and there was my friend from 4th platoon on the ground. Without even thinking about it, I had punched him in the face.

In 1990, when I was in Fort Hood, we had the night off and headed downtown to a bar. Two of my friends left the bar and ran into trouble. When the rest of us (about 7 guys) went looking for them, we found them facing 3 or 4 members of a gang. When the gang members saw us, they made some sort of sign and about 20 other gang members were suddenly on us. Despite the odds, we were winning this fight badly when suddenly someone yelled, “I’ve been stabbed.”

We were up against several people with knives and pipes. Two of my buddies got stabbed and one got his nose broken. I managed to make it out safely by staying calm and watching my back while watching the backs of 3 of my friends. After the stabbings, the gang vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

In 1995 I was hanging out with friends at a bar and making general conversation with a group of people. Suddenly a guy from the group said he had been looking for me for over a year (over a girl–stupid–and for the record, if you want to “look” for someone, it doesn’t take a year). He was drunk and I wasn’t, so I tried to talk him out of fighting. Eventually, his shenanigans (love Super Troopers) got him thrown out of the bar.

Then his friend comes over to me and starts telling me it’s a fair fight, and I am just scared, etc. Again, I tried to tell him that I would just hurt his friend and it was not worth it to me to go to jail (I was actually on probation at the time for assaulting a police officer–but that misunderstanding is an entire other story).

Eventually, I reached my limit so I headed to the door where the bouncer did not want to let me go outside because he knew there would be a fight. I used a Jedi mind trick on him, and he opened the door for me. Once outside, my opponent, an Army Ranger who had about 40 pounds on me and was about 4 inches taller, charged me and went for the take down. Unfortunately for him he walked into a right jab (I have twemendous power in my wight hand). Since his guard was down, he only had his nose to stop the punch. I won’t bore you with the rest of the fight (there wasn’t much), but basically his friend from the bar (Mr. Fair Fight) jumped me from behind and I elbowed him in the head. He wanted no part of me after the elbow, so I headed back inside the bar.

From my years of training and experience I have learned the difference between a pro fighter, a semi-pro, an amateur, someone with training and the average person. As with most sports, the difference between average and pro is like going up against a super hero; you will lose badly. I have trained or fought with the whole gamut and I have seen many differences within each of the five types that I list above. As with what I do every day at the pharmacy, my goal is to help people and I hope that I can provide something useful to everyone with this blog, even the pros. Thanks.

 

Follow the Leader

Anyone who has fought in the ring, cage or on the street knows how fast things can happen. In a fight, your anxiety level increases and your ability to think is affected. Often, you will see a fighter revert to the style that was his first (his base) or to the techniques he has trained the most over the years. An example of this is a wrestler who has started training MMA (kick-boxing, Jiu-jitsu, etc), but during his fight takes his opponent down and holds him there instead of using his new skills.

I mention this to make several points. It is important to control your anxiety so you stay in control and make good decisions. It is important to train with good form so that when you revert to techniques you do them well. But, I want to focus on the mindset you are in when you are “under fire.”

You often see a fighter’s corner yelling at him to use certain combos or techniques that will work in the situation. An example is someone yelling, “Elbow!” If both fighters hear and listen they will both be reminded to use elbows. If only one fighter hears, the first time he hits his opponent with an elbow (and doesn’t knock him out) he is reminding him about using elbow strikes and in fact encourages him to use them (I call this the “hit you back” effect).

This also applies to someone in a self-defense scenario. Know that if you try a technique you learned in a self-defense class and it doesn’t work or you miss, you have just made the attacker mad and given him ideas about what to do back to you. Be prepared for this. If you don’t know the defense against a technique, don’t use it.

Train hard and keep learning.

Aim High

It’s great to see a knock out in MMA, but even better when it comes by way of a head kick. There are many reasons why we don’t see these highlight reel kicks more often. Skill, timing, ability, flexibility, situation, experience and knowledge are all factors that come into play. So, what can you do as a fighter to increase your success with head kicks?

The first step is to start improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the faster you will be and obviously the higher you can kick. I prefer using Active Isolated Stretching as a great way to get the best results. At the same time you also have to work on your wrestling ability so you will have better take down defense and better ability to get up after you are taken down. This also means you must train a lot of Jiu Jitsu so you can defend or get the submission if you run into an equal or better wrestler. Together, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu make you feel more comfortable doing head kicks because you aren’t worried about the take down.

The next step is timing drills. This involves working with several opponents with varying sizes and experience so you can learn when an opponent is open. Square off and have each opponent do any combos they choose. Watch and use your footwork to circle to the side and always be ready to throw the head kick counter. Repeat this until it becomes natural for you to kick when they are open, which is usually during or right after a technique.

For offense, you have to create openings. Work on your speed and ability to cover ground, and learn how to extend your hips so you can kick your opponent from deceptive distances. Use feints or throw a few low kicks before sneaking in the head kick. For more on this, look for the second edition of my book, FOCUSING MARTIAL ARTS POWER. Thanks.

Don’t take another step

Now that I have discussed my number one pet peeve with fighters (see Hands Up) I am ready to move on to my next. A common flaw I see with fighters is they warn their opponents. Specifically, back when I used to watch boxing, pro boxers would move or draw back before punching which would alert the opponent to cover. The MMA equivalent of this is stepping before you kick (or with Muay Thai, stepping back with your leg before kicking).

Fortunately, there has been some major improvements in this in the past 10 years. There are now a great many pro fighters who have figured out that if you warn your opponent about the first technique, your whole combo is less likely to work because the first technique lets them know that the second, third and so on are coming. The interesting thing is once you step, move, etc and warn your opponent on the first technique, the movement from that technique satisfies whatever natural need it is we have to move before we punch or kick. So, you don’t have any preparatory movement for the subsequent techniques in the combo but now the opponent is ready.

If you can avoid warning your opponent on that first technique, think of the increase in your percentage of contact. It takes specific training to break these bad habits and a lot of it, but if you can break this natural habit of warning you will be much more successful as a fighter. The only time it is okay to warn your opponent, is if you are using it as a check or feint to set them up. More on that in future blogs. Thanks.

Hands up!

David Nelson - Hands Up!

Keep your hands up

Before you old school folks think this is a robbery or a scene from the Lone Ranger, let me clarify that I am talking about professional fighters. I am a HUGE fight fan–I love football too, but in the past few years (does 16 years count as a few years?) since the Cowboys have been sucking it up (the Romo years especially) and my life has gotten very busy with many other things, fighting is the only sport I have been able to follow. I used to be a big fan of boxing, circa the Mike Tyson to Roy Jones, JR era, but with the reinvention of MMA by Dana White and with TUF I found myself unable to watch boxing.

Nonetheless, I was at a party in December 2012 where the host ordered the boxing pay-per-view Pacquiao VS Marquez IV. I decided to watch with true interest since it was the first boxing match I had watched in years. Boxing is an incredibly effective and good style of fighting, I might add, but only if it is part of an overall style that includes kicking, ground fighting, clinching, throws, take-downs, knees, elbows and defense against all of the above. So, anyway, if memory serves it was the 6th round of the main event when the two fighters exchanged punches that put Pac on the mat, and hard.

It was a nasty and great KO for sure, but I have to admit that up to that point I was mezmorized by how many openings these great boxers have in their defense. In addition to the obvious complete lack of defense against MMA techniques, as fast as both of these pro fighters are with hands and footwork, they both share a common problem; they drop their hands when they punch. These pros are not alone. Another prime example is UFC 155 (also in December) and the main event fight between Dos Santos and Velasquez.

I watched Dos Santos demonstrate a great deal of toughness and heart as he took a major beating for 5 rounds and lost his belt. At several points in the fight, even in the beginning when his mind was fresh, his hands were down around his waist as if he were at a business meeting and not in a cage against a heavy striker. As a fight fan and a martial artist this perplexes me. So, we have the question, why do these professional fighters (there are many, many other examples) not keep their guard up when they punch, kick or in general?

The short answer lies in their training. I will be the first to say that 99% of the world can’t handle the amount of training and endurance required to be a great fighter in the UFC. But this is not a good excuse. In the Army we used to say, “Do in training what you intend to do in war.” We said this because when it hits the fan (as it does in combat but also in a cage fight) you will revert to what you know, what you train and what you are most comfortable doing. This is also why it is likely no one will ever beat Anderson Silva because he is so comfortable and no one can put enough pressure on him to shake his nerves (or, when they do briefly, he just beats them anyway).

Back to training. Double check your training habits. If you are dropping your guard when you punch or kick you should make some changes–now. I suggest you start thinking about keeping your guard up on every possible drill and exercise and stretch you do. A few examples are standing hamstring stretches, sit-ups and every fighting technique drill, but I am sure you can get creative and come up with many other ways to add this to your game. I don’t think you will find this is bad advice, but please get back to me if you disagree. Thanks.