Friday, 7 April 2017

Staying Fight Ready - Part 2


This article was written with the help of Wayne Goldsmith who I have been working with for the past few months. Wayne is a sports coaching expert who has worked extensively with sports teams and organisations all over the world including Swimming Australia, the US Olympic Committee and numerous Football and Rugby clubs.



Why you need to Train Year Round and Keep Getting Better


I believe staying fight ready year round while constantly improving and upgrading skills is the key to success for any aspiring fighter. The fighter must focus on improving and adding new skills between bouts simply because as he progresses through his career he will come up against better and better opponents.

A successful fighter with a winning record will inevitably face opponents who have a much higher level of striking. grappling and experience than his previous opponents. The level of technique and fitness which was enough to beat the local level fighters he previously faced will usually not be enough to beat an international level opponent.

Stages of Fight Readiness


The first step in staying ‘Fight Ready’ is understanding the various stages of Preparation and Fight readiness. Wayne Goldsmith breaks the various stages down as follows:

·        BASELINE - (LEARNING AND EARNING PHASE)  In the "BASELINE" phase of training, athletes are focused on general fitness, flexibility, power, balance, co-ordination and the fundamental movements and skills of the sport. This phase of training includes exposure to a broad range of tactics, skills and techniques. Training sessions during the "baseline" phase may be relatively long in duration as athletes focus on learning new skills, building strength and endurance and laying down the foundations - the platform for long term success.

·         COMPETITIVE - (MASTERY AND SPECIFICITY PHASE) In the competitive phase athletes become focused on narrowing their skills and honing their "weapons" with an aim to developing a specific set of skills that are conducive of them fighting to the best of their ability. For example, in this phase of training, athletes may spend more time on kicking and grappling if these are considered to be the "weapons" that will help them win their upcoming fight. In this phase, the mental aspects of fighting become more important and athletes should be working with their coaches and training partners to identify areas of mental skill, mental toughness, concentration and focus that they can work on during physical training sessions.

·         WINNING - (PEAK PERFORMANCE PHASE) in the winning phase the emphasis becomes speed, power and explosiveness and on being able to execute excellence in technique and skill at fight intensity. Training may be a little shorter than in the Baseline and Competitive Phases but the speed and intensity of activity will be much higher as the athletes prepares specifically to win. There is a clear focus on mental skills in this phase of training. MMA athletes and their coaches should create training situations which "expose" mental weaknesses and provide opportunities to build and strengthen mental skills under simulated fight conditions.

Post Fight Period


An important consideration here is the post-fight recovery period. Experience suggests that the longer the time the athlete takes away from "baseline" training following a fight the more challenging and difficult it is to get back to Competitive and Winning shape.
Where possible, MMA athletes are encouraged to do something the day immediately following their fight, e.g. walking, easy bike riding, swimming, slow-easy yoga type stretching so that the recovery process can be accelerated and the transition back into "baseline" fitness can be smooth and relatively short.  

Recovery Block


Wayne Goldsmith recommends what he calls a ‘Recovery block’ of slightly easier training working on a new skill or weak area immediately following a fight.  I think this is a great idea because it gets the athlete back in the habit of consistent training rather than getting lazy or falling into bad habits.
This post fight period is perfect for working on a new skill (perhaps improving your boxing offense if you are mainly a grappler). This is the time to do it because there is no pressure from an upcoming fight. Also, you may have learned valuable lessons from your last fight regardless of whether you won or lost. This is the time to learn from the mistakes while it is still fresh in your memory.

Stay in Competitive Shape so you can easily get back to Winning Shape


The aim of this system of fight readiness is to keep yourself in the ‘Competitive’ stage so that when a fight comes along you're only a few weeks off ‘Winning’ shape. As previously stated, up and coming fighters need to be ready to take fights and make the most of opportunities when they come along.  There is only a small window of opportunity in the sport of MMA and there are a lot of talented athletes all fighting for the top spots.

Continual Improvement Instead of 'Fight Camps'


Obviously this continual training protocol is the opposite to doing ‘Fight Camps’. I always discourage fighters from doing fight training camps. Training hard for six weeks before a fight may help you to perform better on fight night but will not lead to consistent improvement. To be a great fighter you need to train consistently week after week for many years.
Six weeks can be enough to develop general fitness and some strength and power but real fighting techniques are complicated motor skills requiring hours and hours of practice and repetition over many years, you need to be practicing them all the time to develop flawless technique and acquire the perfect timing so that you can use them under pressure against a resisting opponent.

Stages in Skill Development


As skills develop, your capacity to perform the skill progressively changes. At first, you learn how to do the skill slowly as your brain and body try to master the fundamental movements of the new skill. Then, you repeat the skill with precision and through the repetition your brain and body learn how to perform the skill to a high level of accuracy.
These first two stages of skills learning can take as little as a few sessions or a few weeks. However, it is important that you learn to execute the skill at high speed, under fatigue and under physical and emotional pressure, i.e. the conditions you will experience in a fight.
Simply practicing a skill and learning how to perform the movements of the skill is not enough for a MMA athlete! The critical issue is "can you perform the skill accurately at high speed, when you're fatigued and when you're under pressure?"
Obviously this is something which cannot be achieved in just a few weeks leading up to a fight and requires long term commitment.

It is worth remembering that usually you won’t see immediate results from your training. You will only feel the benefit from it in months to come. When a fighter performs impressively in a match it usually has less to do with their training in the last two months and more likely a result of their training over the previous five to ten years


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Fight Training Mistakes


Here are some of the things that I see aspiring fighters do which I think are very detrimental to their long term fight career success.

What is your Goal and What will it take to get there?

Not having a clear goal of what you want to achieve leads to unrealistic expectations of what it will take to get you there. If your goal is to win a local level amateur fight you will probably get away with training a few evenings a week however if you want to be an international level fighter you need to be in the gym for several hours every day, week after week, year after year even when you don’t feel like it or are running low on motivation.

What Stage are you at in your Fight Career?

Not having an accurate idea about what stage in your career or fighter development you are are at. This leads to not doing what you need to get to the next level. If you are already a UFC champion, you can probably get away with just honing you existing skills and doing training camps to make sure you ‘peak’ for your title defenses. Top level champions have already spent twenty plus years learning and perfecting the skills of Jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking. If you are not yet at that level, you need to be working every day to build those skills.

How much Training are you really doing?

Not being honest with yourself about how much training you are actually doing. For example, some fighters are in the gym for three hours but they are actually training for 45 minutes’ total. They waste a lot of time chatting and training halfheartedly while chatting to their mates. Its OK to have fun and be sociable but its worth remembering that while you’re chatting and having fun your opponent might be already into his third hour of serious training and that will make a huge difference to the outcome of the fight.

Are you doing the Right kind of training or Just doing what you Enjoy?

Doing a lot of the wrong kind of training. Wasting too much time on the type of training you enjoy rather than on what you actually need to do to win fights. A big example I see of this is fighters doing fancy tricks in pad work routines which look good but which ultimately won’t help them to win fights. You need to identify the weaknesses in you game and spend your time working on fixing those holes. This is obviously not as much fun as doing the stuff you enjoy but its what you need to do to avoid losing fights.

Are your Training Partners helping you to become a better fighter?

Training with the wrong people. Training with seriously motivated people who want to train hard and work consistently to keep getting better is tough but its what you need to do to improve. If you waste time training with lazy, unfocused and unmotivated training partners it will rub off on you and you will eventually end up like them.

Are you Actually getting any better?

Staying in ‘maintenance level’ rather than focusing on continual daily improvement. Some fighters get to a certain level and the are not prepared to keeping putting in the same amount of work that will get them to the next level. You should try to improve your skills by 1% every day rather than being happy to stay where you are.

Are you actually sticking with the program or chopping and changing every few weeks?

Fighters can sometimes be easily influenced and will often adopt any new fad or training method to get short term results rather than thinking long term. Probably the biggest mistake I see with fighters is that they change their training routine and preparation in spite of overwhelming evidence that what they had been doing is working and getting them good results. Once you have a small amount of success in any field there will always be ‘experts’ who will appear to suddenly tell you what you should be doing better. If its not broke don’t fix it. Stick to what has been getting you the results.