I wrote an article a few years back entitled “Mastering the Art of the Chess Match“; when you get done with this article I’d like you to take a look at it.
We are revisiting this subject because of a visitor we had to our last Fight Night who called himself “AJ”. AJ is an MMA fighter who attempted to introduce himself and “warn” me that he was an MMA fighter before we began sparring. I stopped him from doing so, because his background was irrelevant, and I needed for the guys to see him as just another fighter because in reality–he is “just another fighter”. Any man who would be a real threat to our fighters would most likely be the kind of guy who doesn’t attend random martial arts schools to spar. I have long said that we tend to hang with others at our level, and you don’t see Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather gym-hopping, looking for sparring partners among the gym rats, do you? Food for thought.
So, my point. After seeing AJ move, and sparring him myself–I thought I had some good advice for him to learn to improve his fighting ability. We were practicing a drill (boy, do I hate that word!) where the fighters had two techniques they were using–the straight punch to the body and the round kick to the body–and two counters I allowed each of them to choose on their own. In this drill, we sparred using only the two attacks and the two counters. I had only two rules: 1. We were not trying to hurt each other, and 2. We needed to make sure that we did not get hit. In other words–we must strive to beat our opponents only with the techniques we chose rather than power, and we needed to execute EFFECTIVE counters. So, the weak, ignorant strategy of “take a shot to give a shot” is the inferior man’s way of dealing with his inability to stop his opponent. I understand that in the MMA field, “take a shot to give a shot” is an accepted and widespread strategy. Yet this strategy is nothing new. In the full-contact world, “take a shot” is the slow man’s excuse for not having the skills to either evade or stop the opponent. When the young man, AJ, came in, I expected and saw him resort back to “take a shot” when the techniques he chose to stop the attacks failed him.
I have a rule about reminders for my students. If I tell you more than three or four times to keep your hands up, to watch the opponent’s counter, or whatever reminder you need to keep from getting your ass knocked out–and you keep making the mistake… In other words, ignoring my instructions–I will stop giving you the reminder and I will allow your opponent to beat your ass. Some of us, you see, can only learn from a butt-whipping. And then some of us are so stubborn that even after an eye-opening butt-whipping, we will still insist that our opponents can’t hurt us and our “toughness” will help us prevail in a “real fight”.
Yeah, like my neighbor’s kid still insists to my 11 year old MUSLIM son that Santa Claus exists and is very real.
Fighting, my friends is not about who is tougher, who can deliver a better shot, or take the most abuse. Well, wait–it is. But if that’s the only way you can win a fight, you’re in for a few major-league ass-whippings. We need to be superior in timing, strategy, technique selection AND tough. Tough? That’s easy. Show me a guy whose strategy to winning fights is to hit harder and prove that his balls are bigger, and I’ll show you a guy who is prone to getting knocked out when he’s in the ring with a bigger, stronger, faster fighter. You can never guarantee that you will be bigger, stronger or faster. However, you can always guarantee that you have the best timing, the best strategy, and the superior selection of techniques to defeat your opponent. This is why I believe MMA gyms across the country are training inferior fighters to serve as cannon fodder for the really prepared potential champions. This is also why you can tell the gyms with the weakest skill and worst instruction and training: They are full of punching bags and weight lifting equipment.
I probably threw you off with that one.
See, when a school has inferior fighting instruction, they look to build their fighters’ power. After all, any fool with half a brain can lift weights and get stronger. Learning to hit a bag harder gives the impression that you are becoming a more dangerous fighter. Those are easy to develop in a student. But to teach a man to enter a fight and never get hit flush on the chin, to teach him to beat the crap out of a man without ever being hit hard in that fight–that isn’t easy. Most guys running gyms out here can’t teach that. And since they can’t teach a fighter to stop a jab, they tell him to just “take it” and then knock the shit out of him. Trust me, folks, there are guys out here you don’t want to just “take” punches from… They will beat the snot out of you. Ditto that about Tae Kwon Do fighters. If your teachers told you that TKD guys are easy to beat because their legs and kicking are “impractical”, stop by my gym one day, I’ll introduce you to a McDojo owner that will slaughter you. “Take a shot” will be the perfect strategy for you. You’ll be “taking” his shot because you’ll have no choice.
Listen to this advice, friends, and don’t you forget it:
There are three objectives to stand-up fighting that are universal in all forms of sparring, from point fighting, to full contact, to a streetfight….
Stop or avoid your opponent’s attacks
Land your attacks when you want them to land, and
Land more attacks than your opponent lands!
If you aren’t fighting with this in mind, you will never progress in fighting with your hands. Power is good, but it should not be the main factor you rely on. Power, my brothers is NOT A SKILL. There are opponents who have more power than you. And there are opponents against whom your power is ineffective. When you fight, you want your opponent to fail when he attacks you–evade him, block him, and counter him–and when you attack him, you want him to be unable to evade you, to block you, and counter you. Only when you have mastered this very difficult skill, will you be able to use your stand up to stop a grappler, to catch a faster opponent, to knock out a bigger man, and stop a stronger opponent. This is the chess match I am speaking of–where no man has “bigger pieces” on the board. You are winning with superior skill.
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