T Nation

On 'Retirement' - A Few Reflections


#1

While I am not done with training, I have been out of competition fighting since August. It's a strange transition. I started my fight career at age 16 in TKD point-fighting competitions, moved into full-contact kickboxing in my 20's, found a great boxing coach who got me a few amateur matches, and even did a few amateur MMA events before taking my one and only professional kickboxing fight earlier this year. Despite that fight, I still consider myself an amateur fighter.

I was never willing to commit to making fighting my career, and that unwillingness to commit would have forever kept me out of true professional fighting. Now I find myself committing to a different career, one that demands that I not be punched in the face on a regular basis, and I figured I would write down some of the realizations I had over the years. Take it for what it's worth (very little). This is a self-indulgent moment for me, but I hope that some of the young fighters and hopefuls out there can pick up something from it that I had to learn the hard way.

1) Point fighting does not prepare you for full-contact. If anything, it teaches bad habits. I was forced to unlearn many things from my TKD days when I got into full contact fighting. Fortunately, I transitioned back before the MMA explosion, and I acquired a good boxing coach, or I might be writing this from a hospital room.

2) Even if you're not a boxer, if you fight any kind of standup you need a good boxing coach. Not a kickboxing coach (although there are some who are also good boxing coaches), but someone who can teach you how to punch and protect yourself against punches. Most of my wins were due to my hands, no matter what rule set I was fighting under. If you can throw solid basic punches, in combination, even some high-level amateurs are going to fall under your gloves. I am constantly amazed at how few alleged professional fighters can throw a hook with real power, or are unable to throw a real uppercut at all. Slapping jabs and sloppy overhand rights will only take you so far, no matter how strong you are.

3) Strength and endurance assistance work is just that - assistance. Most of your workouts should be fighting. I can think of very few things as good for your fight-specific aerobic conditioning as fighting. Get several partners so that you have a string of fresh guys lined up to make you work. Hit the bag. Shadow box.

Please do not misinterpret what I'm saying as telling you that strength and endurance is not important, endurance especially is extremely important, but you can work on it using fight-specific motions and have both better fighting technique and better endurance in those specific motions than if you just go to 2 fight classes a week and run 50 miles a week. Some weightlifting is great, if not essential, but you need to decide whether you're a fighter or a weightlifter. If you're a fighter, lift some, but lift to fight, and don't let it hurt your fighting.

4) Cutting weight properly is essential if you're going to compete. I was late to this party, I spent several years as the guy who would go in at his "natural" weight, or maybe cut just 4-5 lbs, never more than 10. Then I started fighting at 185 (had been 205). The difference was night and day, and because I had a coach making sure I rehydrated and kept my nutrition up I didn't feel weak like I was afraid I would.

If anything, weighing less and going against lighter opponents made me more explosive. All the wrestlers out there are laughing and nodding their heads, they've been doing this since they were 12, but it was a revelation to me at the time, and kids at MMA gyms that don't focus on competition might not have anyone guiding them in cutting for a fight or picking the proper weight class.

5) Coaches are everything. Notice how many of the revelations above start with "I had a coach whoâ?" That's because coaches are the guys who teach you how to get better. Quality coaches will make you want to die and then roll over and thank them for killing you. My boxing was great, because I had a coach who taught me ruthlessly and wouldn't accept mistakes in my technique no matter how tired I was.

My fights usually went my way, because I had coaches who were good at picking matchups, and the ones that didn't usually went against me because something my coach had identified as a weakness in the matchup ended up biting me in the ass. I was never surprised by a loss, only upset that the fight turned against me the way my coach and I had thought it might. Great coaches will keep you out of competition until you are ready, and once you are they will push you into it to improve your game.

6) Fight. The best way to improve your fighting is to fight. There is simply no better motivation for training than "In two months, a man is going to try to use physical force to prove his superiority over me, and I must destroy him and eat his soul." I exaggerate, but only a little. If you're just going to a fight gym for the workout, and never intend to fight someone for real, you might as well hit up the cardio kickboxing class with the soccer moms at the "Y." This is not to disparage self-defense fighting styles such as krav maga, they train to fight at an unknown time and place, but still train to fight for real.

7) Know when to get out. I still struggle with my decision to stop fighting, even though I know it was the right one. I'm in a job where I can't show up to work with a black eye, or cauliflower ear, or a broken nose without risking distracting people to the point of being ineffective.

I quit because my job is more important than fighting. Know when something is more important, whether it's a relationship, your health, or your career, and if it is, get out. You don't have to stop training altogether, I still spar and help prepare other students to compete, but I have scaled it back to fit within the realities of my life.


#2

Great post!
I agree with all of your points.


#3

Totally agree about the boxing.

My standup game has really started to come together since I started training "boxing only" regularly with a boxing coach.


#4

My first boxing coach basically taught me that everything I was doing was wrong. My chin was too high, my hands too low, my feet too wide (I blame TKD for that one), and my elbows too flared. He beat the living hell out of me, but after about 6 months of that I rarely ever took another good shot to the face, and my punching power went from "good" to "fistfull of dynamite." I also didn't even know what angles were, or how to take advantage of them, until he showed me how to really work a guy. And I had been fighting amateur, and training in the USMC's MCMAP program, for several years at that point.


#5

Thank you for that.

There is a whole lot of experience in that post, and a whole lot o' grown up in the decision to retire from competition.

Regards,

Robert A


#6

I am more interested in the mental aspect of the "retirement process"

Most athletes who retire feel like they lost a "piece of themselves", because it's doing their sport that defines what they are in front of others and towards society, losing a big part of you, where you dedicated most of all your efforts through your life must tough.


#7

Great point on boxing.

There a lot of guys I know starting or otherwise doing MMA and they think Muay Thai will cover all their bases, and I try to explain to them, if you can do both, then DO. Your hands will be on another level training western boxing as well,. This isn't a slight against MT, but FTR boxing technique isn't as helpful or effective due to the environment.

However for whatever reason, it seems solid boxing is of great benefit to MMA fighters. My money is on something to do with the smaller gloves and risk of takedowns.


#8

I grew up in the 80s doing point fighting. I remember the first time I boxed my friend, I threw a backfist and he countered with a 2-3-2, that put me on my ass. Then I tried a right ridge-hand and left straight uppercut (if you know point fighting, its a straight punch to the body with your palm up) combo, and he countered with a left hook- right uppercut-left hook.

After that, I learned how to box.


#9

I think this is a video of that encounter.

FNF, fifteen years ago:


#10

WTF is going on in that video? It took me 30 seconds to realize the "karate" guys were not purposely pulling all their shots. They actually hit like that. Damn.

Regards,

Robert A


#11

Dude got beat down by a guy with a Steven Seagal haircut. Burn.


#12

Hahahahaha! You know, that's basically what it looked like.

By the way, upward and outward blocks don't work in the ring.


#13

Devil, great post. I'm fast coming to this crossroad myself. You put it in great perspective, and for that, I thank you.

As for this vid...good laugh!


#14

Yeah I take Muay Thai right now, but I've been thinking about taking boxing because I think there is a lot to learn there. The only problem is there are so many schools out there, how do you know which ones have the best coaches?


#15

A lot of places now a days offer a day or week pass to try the classes. Or you can stop by and watch the class if they don't offer that.

Read what the coaches experiences are, but remember, being or having been a great fighter doesn't make them a good coach.


#16

If you've been doing MT seriously for awhile, you should have a pretty good sense I'd think of what a good coach is, and a good fit for you.


#17

Perhaps. Still boxing is a lot different from Muay Thai from what I've heard, and I've only had one instructor for Muay Thai, so it's not like I'm an expert. I'll probably try to do some research and find schools that train fighters, but that's a month or 2 down the road, because I have to move in a month.

And like I said I'm no expert but I'm kind of losing faith in the instruction at the gym. We maybe do clinch stuff once a month and it's only for 5-10 minutes. Same with footwork/calves. We don't do any jump roping or anything. Just bounce on the back leg while teeping the bag with the front leg. While brutal on the calves, when you're doing stuff once a month, it's kind of hard to see any progress.

It just comes off as unstructured. I want to fight and I've said it many times, recently (a month ago) I said within the next 3-6 months I'd like to fight, but nothing has changed. I'm not getting any advice on what I should work on, what my weaknesses are, basically what I should be doing. 1 hour a night doesn't seem like enough.

I don't feel like I'm getting better, actually feels like my technique is slipping a bit. I've been doing this a year. I'm just not sure whether I'm right to be concerned or I'm being entitled asshole cause I'm just a guy trying to get his first amateur fight, probably not important. I mean I'm sure they have their pro team to worry about and other stuff. But I've been getting frustrated lately.


#18

devildog

that was a great post

you need to hit return a few times
hit me off with some line breaks.

just kidding- its hard to move on bu its good to
know when it is a good time.

I kept going for too long
and maybe it wasnt
the smartest plan.


#19

Yeah, my original was in Word and it had line breaks, didn't transfer well I guess.

Grimlorn - a good way to asses a coach is the fighters he produces. Dempsey would kill me for saying this, but a guy who produces winning amateur, pro-am or even low-level professional boxers in competition is probably a good coach. Also, ask around and see how long people have been training with him, and where they are.

If he's got no students who have been with him more than 2-3 years, or if he has guys that have been with him for 10 years and want to compete at a high level but are 3 and 6 with no KO's, warning bells should go off. Those guys are fine for the fitness crowd at the Rec center who just want a bag workout, but if you want to fight you need to find someone who trains people who get punched in the face.


#20

Dont think I didnt appreciate this post- I did.
It was a good read.

I just had to bust balls about the line breaks.

that being said - you hit home some great elements

like coaching.
that quality coaching whether it be for boxing grappling or nutrition can really make a difference.

good breakdown of some hard facts
and that you give credit to your coaches.

I like that you quantify S&C work as accessory work
cause that is all it is kind of hard to do on a bodybuilding strength building site

focusing on other career choices is a good thing
I want to touch on success a little

typically people who find sucess in sport
more so in combat sports do tend to find success in life.

whether its work or family life
or just personal success
hopefully you can take the confidence and work ethic
you get from training and put that into
what ever your new life choices are

good stuff.