The Key Elements of Training for MMA
Thanks to the popularity of the UFC, more and more people are taking an interest in mixed martial arts. Learning MMA is difficult because it is a form of fighting which involves all ranges, from stand up striking to clinch work, takedowns, and both striking and submissions on the ground.
To become a successful and competent MMA fighter you will need to train all of the disciplines. You can gain a lot from training them separately at high-quality boxing or Thai boxing clubs, wrestling schools and Brazilian jiu-jitsu academies. However, each of those schools will most likely teach the ruleset of their sports. This can leave an MMA fighter in difficulties when they try to combine the skills in the cage.
Combining Separate Martial Arts
Traditional Thai boxing, for example, uses a short stance with plodding footwork, which could leave someone open to being taken down. Wrestlers who do not have to fear submissions often leave themselves open to guillotine chokes when they shoot for a takedown because their ruleset gives them no incentive to protect their neck. Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners who train for their own sport’s ruleset do not have to consider strikes, and as such are very comfortable being on the bottom and working to sweep from positions that would be hugely disadvantageous were striking allowed.
For this reason, it is important that someone with MMA aspirations spends a large portion of their time training at clubs where the MMA ruleset is used, or in classes that are taught with an awareness of MMA. There are many skills that are sport-specific, such as ‘wrestling from against the cage’, or ‘striking from within closed guard’, that will be taught at MMA clubs but overlooked in more narrowly focused academies.
Aliveness in Martial Arts
One area where MMA and combat sports differ massively from traditional martial arts such as karate and Japanese jiu-jitsu or Aikido is that of aliveness. The concept of aliveness describes how it is important to practice your craft against a fully resisting opponent so that you can learn what does and does not work. Aliveness is what ensures that only useful techniques are taught since techniques that do not work well will be ‘found out’ during sparring and then either refined or discarded.
Grappling arts can be trained with intense resistance every session, through positional sparring or ‘free rolling’. Striking arts put more mileage on the body because they involve shots to the head, and it is not a good idea to be hit hard, repeatedly, for the risk of traumatic brain injury. This means that smarter training practices should be employed. It is best to spar with experienced people who can moderate the pace, to do short rounds, and to wear domed padded MMA gloves to reduce the risk of cuts to the face while training.
Nutrition and Your Training Camp
MMA is a weight class sport, and training for competitions or bouts is hard work. Dehydration is a common issue, and many people find that the strain of training 4 or more times per week leaves them feeling run down. There is the risk of skin infections from training (especially if the skin gets scuffed up from velcro glove straps, or from wrestling against a cage wall), and good nutrition is essential to boost the immune system and allow the body to recover between training sessions.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner it is important that you are mindful of your health and that you do your best to train smart and with longevity in mind. You can’t improve your skills if you are constantly ill or injured.