Do or Die!
By Mark Waters

Mixed martial arts competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Pride, and many other similar events are becoming increasingly popular at an alarming rate. Even though it is a relatively new fighting sport to most people, it is beginning to establish itself among the full contact giants such as boxing and wrestling, which have been around for years. Mixed martial arts is catching on for numerous reasons. For one, it is a much more dynamic sport than it’s cousins, boxing, kickboxing, and wrestling. It combines attributes of all of these sports, and due to its multi-dimensional appeal is , in my opinion, a bit more exciting to watch. MMA events are on the way out of their infancy and headed towards center stage!

One important aspect of achieving this will be to get the training methods up to par with those of other popular sports. In this day and age we have a myriad of trainers who are under the notion that traditional training, which has in fact worked for many years, is worthless, and should be avoided when training athletes. For example, I have met dozens of trainers working with athletes who think that doing “cleans” to develop explosive power is too dangerous. Instead they stick solely to limited range of motion exercises that don’t teach the body to work as a whole unit as well in addition to overusing stability balls and bands (which Arik discussed this week several times). The main question that comes to my mind is, who is spreading this propaganda to trainers and teaching this crap? Unfortunately the bulk of the educational community for trainers is directly responsible for these ill-conceived training philosophies. I can attest to this personally as I have witnessed this time and time again while earning my Exercise Physiology degree at a well known university. Many instructors I have encountered are either 1) informationally outdated or 2) don’t have the practical experience to truly comprehend what they are trying to teach. These things do have a time and a place, but so do traditional training techniques and exercises. The mission is to put it all together to create the most effective training regimen for the sport in question, in this case mixed martial arts training.

For those who are not yet familiar (say, if you’ve been in a cave for the last five years), MMA or mixed martial arts is a true blend of techniques from wrestling (freestyle, Greco-roman, folk style, and catch-as-catch can), boxing, kickboxing, and other grappling sports such as judo, and jiu-jitsu. What most people tend to consider martial arts such as karate or kung fu often times aren’t very prevalent in reality combat or mixed martial arts training. Mixed martial arts was actually invented or brought to life in ancient Greek Olympics and games. It was first called Pankration and was a combination of two most exciting combat sports in those days, boxing and wrestling. Pankration was the most popular sport in the ancient Greek Olympics. Many other events have managed to carry through into today Olympics, but after all these years, Pankration is finally making a comeback through No Holds Barred and MMA competitions. In ancient Greece, Pankration experts truly practiced both boxing and wrestling. Today it has become much more complex, as there are so many new fighting styles that have come along since those days. To be truly competitive in MMA one must have an understanding of all of these aspects of fighting.

So what does this mean to the trainee? It really must be dissected, examined and put back together as a whole. How do boxers train? How do collegiate or Olympic wrestlers train? What do judo practitioners do to train for the Olympics? What does a world class kickboxer do to come in on top of his game? Since all of these different sports are represented in one, does that mean a person has to apply all of the training techniques from each individual sport? That would be ridiculous. There are however aspects of each that will be applied.

The sport today is lacking a good formatted and regimented training protocol, especially in the weight training department. These athletes need to be hit the perfect training routine for strength, conditioning, and preservation. What do I mean by preservation? This sport is very demanding and if a person doesn’t do some conditioning in a lower impact way they will put their body out of commission very early in their career. It is as simple as picking out proper exercises and drills, and putting them into a routine that gradually builds the intensity leading up to a fight or competition. But, it has to make sense and be done correctly. Just as Tiger Woods is not doing 1-3 rep max bench presses to failure to improve his golf swing, a mixed martial arts competitor really has no business doing concentration curls to improve the peak on his biceps. A fighter is only as good as his technique, his strength, and his conditioning. Improving all of these aspects in a fighter while staying healthy and injury free is the name of the game.

In part two of this series we will break down the individual aspects of mixed martial arts training and start putting together an intelligent training schedule that makes sense. We will examine the pieces that are involved to muster up this sort of training regimen and will help create the ideal athlete for this sport. This will also be a great workout routine for the average person who wants to improve in traditional martial arts and simply increase their general level of fitness. Until next time, keep training hard, on the mat and in the weight room!