Tag Archives: mma training

Stretching for MMA, Part I–Calf Stretch

Stretching for MMA, Part I-Calf Stretch

This is the first of several installments on stretching for MMA, specifically to improve your kicking ability. If you stretch well enough that head kicks are easy and fast you will also help with many other techniques (i.e. Rubber guard, etc.). The major areas where you have to improve flexibility are calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, adductors, abductors, hips and low back. I will start with calves because relaxing the tissue in your calf will make it easier to stretch your hamstring.

For this stretch, sit on the floor with your legs straight. It is better to sit during a stretch instead of stand because when you sit you are not weight bearing and you will be able to stretch and relax your muscles more easily.

Move your non-stretching leg so that your ankle rests above your knee on the stretching leg. This holds your stretching leg in place and keeps it from moving during the stretch.

Next, lean your upper body forward. Your tendency will be to back out of the leaned position during the stretch, so pay attention and remain leaned forward. This happens because the human body naturally tries to make things easier. Leaning forward helps you to isolate your calf and get more out of this stretch.

Tibialis Anterior is the muscle located in your shin area on the front of your lower leg. Breathe out and use this muscle to activate into the stretch, moving your toes toward your knee (decrease the angle of your foot in relation to your leg). Hold the stretch for about 1 to 2 seconds and release. Move your foot far enough out of the stretch (by pointing your toes) so that you can rest in between stretches.

This is also an effective way to use your calf to stretch your Tibialis Anterior.

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 currently finishing. Thanks and look for Part II, Glute Stretch.

 

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.