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The 7 Steps To Learn How To Fight

We have so many tools at our disposal in the gym to work out each technique or combination. Every tool that we employ lends different dynamics to the training.  At some gyms I have witnessed people doing countless hours just hitting the bag, some gyms jump the student right into sparing and others just working the shit out of the pads. At Carlson Gracie MMA in Maple Ridge, we use a progression from Coach Toby Combat Systems, which I developed from my studying under Sifu Hon Lee and attending many martial arts schools, Muay Thai gyms and Boxing clubs. I apply drilling methods using different strategies adapted from years of music training and my study of how the brain works and how we learn using cognitive learning principals from DeBono and Erikson. As a coach it is my job to communicate with the student and transpose the knowledge between their body and brain; easier said than done! A structured process is absolutely necessary. (learn to box here)
Whether you are learning to fight or teaching a class, try taking a technique and put it through this formula.

The 7 Steps To Learn How To Fight:

1. Basic instruction: This is usually not so basic, as there are so many elements to a particular technique. The instructor can spend time correcting all of these pieces of the puzzle before bad habits set in and make sure that the student is strict with their execution. Show the student exactly how to do the technique properly and make sure they understand.
2. Mirror: The student, looking in the mirror, will try to mimic the posture, hand and foot positioning and movement patterns of the instructor as well as the more advanced students. A side benefit to punching and kicking the air is that it teaches you how to balance and control your trajectory in the event that you miss your target. As you get to know the proper way to do each technique, you can begin to self-correct. I often call the mirror “the other coach in the room”.
3. Bag: The stationary opponent is great to work out your reach from one position and striking an object that provides resistance will teach you to compensate for the stopping of your movement when you do connect in a fight. The more advanced training on the bag will work your angles left and right. Remember, bag work is not about how hard you hit it. Pounding the crap out of a heavy bag will only accomplish joint problems, besides, there aint no judges there to give you points and it’s very hard to knockout a punching bag.
4. Pad-work: Now we have the dynamic of unpredictable movement and forward and back that we never had on the bag. The pad man can call out combinations and throw punches and kicks to work on some defensive skills and reflexes. This method will teach you timing and distance much better than a punching bag! Also, hitting focus mitts and Thai pads are very different. I like using the Thai pads to train powerful punches because there is a weight to them that is similar to hitting a chin and if you practice carrying your power through the target it will give you that leverage you need for that knockout punch.
5. Specific, one-on-one drills: This is not sparing but we are getting close. An example would be; one student punching and the other countering with a kick. Another would be, slipping and countering with a jab. Now we are drilling a single technique but we are under pressure to defend and while remaining composed. This method will teach you timing and distance better than any other form of training in my opinion, partly because you feel safe enough to execute your technique in good form while the pressure is minimal, therefore you have less chance of developing bad habits!
6. Single technique sparing: The students begin, usually by jab sparing to establish timing and distance, then add one technique at a time to teach them how to pull off that punch, kick, take-down or combination while in danger of getting hit. It is important mentally to be able to pull off the technique in real-time; otherwise you will never feel confident enough to use it in competition. Use this strategy for learning a ground technique while the opponent sits up and throws punches at your head, try to set up that submission. It is a much better time to do this while in the gym than wait until you are in the cage on the receiving end of “ground and pound”!
7. All in: For Boxing or MMA this will look different but the idea is to put all your skills to the test. The trick with this stage is to have several levels of intensity which are agreed on by the students. One way to do this is to use percentages i.e.: 50% intensity would mean that you are not hitting very hard, mostly working your technique and timing. Closer to a fight you might want to build it up to 80% or more to prepare you mentally for the battle. If you or your students spar full out all the time they will develop bad habits, particularly getting “punch shy”. They will lack the confidence to “do their thing” and, instead, work off instinct; which we know is the wrong way to fight against a trained competitor.

As a coach I watch closely all of the students and fighters to make sure that they are keeping composed. If/when I see their stance and proper technique start to fall apart, I stop them and bring them back to basics then slowly work everything else back in piece by piece.


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