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Questions for Training Ideas


hey, i've got some questions for y'all about training ideas...

i'm getting ready for the ARNG Combatives tournemnet again (mid-March '11), and i've got another guy training with me who also plans on competing. there may be a few other guys coming in every once in a while, but not really with the intensity that we are and not all that experienced.

anyway, my buddy has a wrestling background, and is also pretty tall and lanky (6'4", 194#). he'll most likely compete at 185 (i'll be at 205), and i want to find ways to develop his jab and footwork. i have more of a muay thai/BJJ background, and am quite a bit more experienced in MMA than him. however, his grappling is developing really fast, due to his wrestling and combatives training...

he said that when he wrestled, he was more of a counter-wrestler, due to his height. i assume that will be the case here again, and i think between a good jab and sprawl, he should be really hard to beat.

right now we're training 5 days/wk, with this as our schedule:

Tue-striking, offense
Thu-striking, defense/counters
(the armory is closed on the weekens, or we have drill so we usually just got for a run or do some other light conditioning on the weekends. i'm depating on going back to my BJJ club, but i'm kinda irritated with the gym right now...)

as far as developing striking, i think the best thing is a lot of focus pad drills for now, as well as 2 strike combos with a sprawl follow-on (i'm a firm believer that 3 punch combos don't work very well in MMA for most people).

for footwork, i was thinking alternating between rope jumping, focus pads and ladder drills (alternate stance, double jumps, snake, etc). shadowboxing as well.

i think the best thing is for us to focus on drilling and technique 'til about January, when i intend on doing a lot more conditioning drills.

anyway, and advice or links to check out would be appreciated.



also, here's my post about the tournement: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_boxing_fighting_mma_combat/army_national_guard_combatives_tournement


How much wrestling experience does he have? If it's a substantial amount, then personally I think it'd probably be a better gameplan to develop his ability to effectively close the distance (to gain either a clinch or takedown) than it would be to try to stay on the outside and out jab everyone.

Why not play to this strengths rather than trying to make him fight where he is least experienced? Sure, in the long run developing a solid striking skill set and evasiveness will be time well spent. But it's unlikely that you've got enough time to develop his striking to a high level (or at least not to the point his wrestling is at).

Even if he was mostly a counter wrestler he'll still probably find that he is a step (if not a few steps) above anyone other than maybe a better wrestler (or maybe very good judo player) at takedowns and top control/positioning once it hits the ground.

If the rules allow for strikes when on the ground, then he should be able to be pretty effective from the top (which is most likely where he'll wind up). Just drill the crap out of submission defense (and being aware of what he is open for and when) and work on GnP skills. It would also probably be a good idea to drill escapes should he find himself on his back (unlikely, but possible) and guard passing (which it looks like you're probably doing already).

I don't think it's best to limit yourself to an arbitrary number of strikes in a combo.

Sure, there is obviously a point when things become ridiculous (like 10 strikes without repositioning or not expecting your opponent to move, clinch, shoot a takedown, or strike back while this is happening), but if he gets overly used to only throwing 1-2 strike combos he will become predictable. Nothing wrong with doubling up the jab before you throw the right hand (overhand, straight, hook, whatever), or following the right hand with a left hook, or following a jab-straight right combination with a leg kick, etc...

The important thing isn't how many strikes are in each combination, but rather that he is picking his shots (not just wasting his strikes but throwing them with a specific purpose in mind), keeping in mind that at some point his opponent is likely going to counterstrike, or attempt to tie him up/take him down or "run" to gain distance and be ready for all three possibilities. Make sure that he keeps his other hand up in an effective guarding position when he throws any and all strikes.

Again, personally I would have him working on using his striking to close the distance to be able to use his strength (wrestling). That's where he's going to have the best chance of winning IMO. But, that's just my opinion.

Focus pads can be great, but their effectiveness is somewhat dependent on the person holding them. At first when someone is just learning how to actually throw the punches they can be good for developing accuracy or speed (tough to throw full power strikes on a focus mitt though). Later the holder can throw strikes back (forcing the fighter to evade or defend them) to give a more realistic feel.

Just make sure that (at least once he has the strikes down fairly well) you start to incorporate footwork with your focus mitt drills asap though. Ideally that means that he must close the gap effectively every time to land (at least) the first strike, involve some angular footwork into the combination somewhere (to open up targets, take away opponent's weapons, or facilitate takedowns), and always "close the door" on the way out (could be jabbing out, a leg kick, a fake, etc...) to make it harder for the opponent to follow him once the combination is over.

Honestly though, nothing beats actual live drilling (the level of intensity/resistance can obviously be adjusted to appropriate levels) of techniques though. Try some isolated sparring/drilling where one of you tries to land your jab and the other works on defending it. Gradually work in other punches (and kicks if you want) as his/your skill increases.

You always want to keep the level of resistance just high enough so that you both have to work hard and aren't always successful (because that's unrealistic), but also come away gaining something and feeling some level of success from the experience though. Like Iron Mike said in this seasons TUF "success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success." Not only can the body only take so much of a pounding on a regular basis, but if say you are constantly dominating him and shutting him down, he may start to think self defeating thoughts, lose confidence in himself and possibly even lose motivation for training. If on the other hand he always comes away feeling like he improved/gained something from the training session, then his confidence will gradually improve and help him to succeed.

Good luck.


thanks for all the input...

the reason why i was wanting to help him develop his jab is mainly due to his speed and reach. not so much as a real offense, but i thought it would be the quickest thing to add to him that would work with his sprawl and countering for grappling. that's also why i was thinking of limiting the strikes per combo....i see a lot of guys in MMA throw a 3 punch combo and get taken down pretty much every time they try it. and it would go along with the coutering strategy, not to get too tied up in striking to miss the sprawl..

i was thinking about doing some really specific drilling like you mentioned (kinda like one punch only, defense only, etc). also, i like what you mentioned with "closing the door"... that's a good way to explain it.

do you have any specific footwork drills you'd reccomned?


sorry, forgot to answer a couple things you asked..

he wrestled all through middle/high school...we currently drill a lot of escapes and sweeps. slowly adding submissions and specific counters, but as i've mentioned before, i'm not a very technical grappler and am a little hesistant to show stuff the wrong way.

and i'll re-look at how he can use striking to set up the takedown. since he set he prefers to sprawl, i thought we could work that for him, but i think he could also develop a more aggressive strategy, too.


I'm not saying to not work on his jab; every fighter should work on their jab IMO.

All I'm saying is that it's unlikely that he is going to develop his striking to the point where it's going to be a strong point, or the range where he has the best chances of winning the majority of fights. So, develop it, but develop it to allow him to set-up the clinch or takedowns (grappling), which is where he has the most experience/skill and the best chances of winning.

A lot of guys in MMA have little to no angular or lateral footwork (they move straight in and straight out), especially within their combinations. If you teach him to just stand there and throw 3,4,5, and so on punches in a row, then yeah there is a chance that someone will just change levels and try to take him down. But, if you incorporate stepping off at angles (to both take away some of the opponent's weapons while also opening up some targets) with your punching combinations, then it's going to be much harder for someone to take you down.

It also has a lot to do with the way someone sets it up. If you always come in with a jab, or jab-straight right, then it becomes easy for their opponent to time them. Or, if they're just throwing combinations robotically and not because those are the openings that they see, or they have figured out the opponent's defensive tendencies and are setting them up for a solid hit. Things like doubling, or even tripling up the jab before the straight right is a very effective way to throw more than a 2 punch combination, make yourself less predictable, and increase the chances that your jab and/or straight right will land.

Also, since his strength is counter wrestling, it's unlikely that many guys would even be able to take him down if he were to just stand still and throw punches. At this point things like sprawling, fighting for underhooks, pushing down the head, and all of the other components of takedown defense are probably pretty instinctive for him.

Gotta give Joe Lewis credit for coining that phrase/concept.

Baby step one would just be to make sure that he can move skillfully (keeping his balance the whole time, not over-committing his weight, keeping his hands up the whole time, etc...) in any direction. Make sure he can move forwards, backwards, straight to the left, straight to the right, angular forward to the left, angular forward to the right, angular backwards to the left, angular backwards to the right, pivoting to the left, pivoting to the right, circling to the left, and circling to the right.

Have him imagine that he's standing on a clock, then tell him to either step to a specific time (i.e. "3 o'clock" would be straight to the right), pivot to a specific, or circle left/right. Once he gets good at singular directions, start having him move in multiple directions. For instance "step forward, pivot left, circle left", or "short pivot right, short pivot right, angle forward left, angle forward right, step back, circle right ".

Once he gets good at that, start to add strikes/evasive headmovement with the footwork. For instance, the second footwork pattern above might be combined with "bob and weave under left hook while simultaneous left hook to the body, left hook to the head, right hook/short right (depending on range) to the head, left hook to the head, "bump" (could be a jab, a forearm, 1 or 2 handed shove) out and circle toward's opponent's back to regain the "center of the ring". You could also throw in a right leg kick after the bump (or even bump and "post" with the right hand) before the circling.


I understand.

The thing is that he is likely used to wrestling with wrestlers. Even if he wasn't great at takedowns or reversals against other wrestlers, he'll probably find that he can be effective in those areas against regular joes or BJJ guys. If he doesn't want to shoot for takedowns, then work on ways to get him into the clinch, where he can use his wrestling to take things to the ground from there, or at least just gain a superior position (like side or rear clinch) where he can strike, but not be in danger of much from his opponent.


cool, thanks for all the advice!

in grappling with him, i've noticed he counters a lot...he can stuff my double leg half of the time (until i wear him down), but i can usually get a hip toss. but, i also outweigh him by about 35 lbs.

i think down the road we're gonna try to come in on the weekends and have some longer sessions where we can spar and work on some specifc weaknesses we have (i for one, tend to stay in the pocket too long and brawl when i should use more strategy. granted, i've ko'd or tko'd everyone i fought, but i haven't trained like that for about a decade...).

what's your opinion of using the overhand right? it seems to me a lot of wrestlers in MMA have a lot fo sucess with it...


Strategy somewhat depends on an individual's innate tendencies and physical attributes and the opponent in question. If you're a natural "slugger" (someone who is naturally very heavy handed, tough/good chin, and aggressive) standing in the pocket and brawling may work well for you against a lot of opponents. If you ever run into a better slugger though, or someone with good enough defense to nullify your attacks and counter attack you, you might be in trouble.

It's good to practice different types of strategies for different types of opponents. Just in case you might need them at some point. But trying to completely override your natural tendencies is something that takes a very long time to develop.

Well, are we talking about the big swing overhand right that you see guys like Marcus Hicks throw? Or a tight technical overhand right like Arlovski tends to throw?

Both can have their place, but I think the reason a lot of wrestlers in MMA tend to use the swing overhand is because it's a pretty easy punch to generate power with; unlike the tight technical overhand, or straight right which take more time to develop. Many wrestlers don't have any striking arts background whatsoever and have a hard time developing good straight line striking. Either that or they just don't actually go and train with good striking (boxing) coaches who can teach them how to throw such punches and instead train with other wrestlers or less technically astute striking coaches.

So, the advantages to the swing overhand are:
-easy to learn/generate force with
-can come at an odd angle/catch the opponent by surprise if preceded by straight line punches

disadvantages are:
-telegraphic (fist must travel a long distance to reach it's target)
-can leave one open to a counter (since one must "open" up so much to throw it)
-more likely to hit top of head (because of trajectory)

The advantages to the tight technical overhand are:
-travels a straight line to the target (faster)
-allows the fighter to stay tighter and better protected
-less likely to hit top of head

disadvantages are:
-harder to learn/generate force with (at least for those who don't easily grasp striking)
-somewhat easier to defend (since it comes at a much more similar line to the straight right than the swing style) if thrown offensively (both can work well if thrown as a counter).

That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more pros and cons to each style.