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What’s in a Tap

Since getting back to training pure BJJ, I set myself a target. I had aimed to tap out the black belt I usually roll with. With the benefit of hindsight though, I realise that was a stupid goal… really stupid.

Last time I rolled with the black belt in question, I had top position, isolated an arm and got into a position where 99.9% of the time, the submission would be successful… then the round ended. As the bell went, he said, “saved be the bell” at the time I didn’t think much of it. Then after training I thought, “damn, I nearly got the submission and my goal there”, but straight away I thought, so what? When we rolled that day, we did a 6-minute round then went through the 1-minute break and did another 6-minute round. Throughout our 13 minutes of rolling, he tapped me out 3 or 4 times, it wasn’t a complete one-sided shut-out, but he is obviously better. We have rolled many times in my return to BJJ and he has tapped me out numerous times. Therefore, I feel that if I’d gotten that tap, the disparity in skill wouldn’t have changed. The only thing the tap would’ve helped would be my ego. If I placed this situation into a striking comparison – in a sparring scenario. In the sparring round, you’re landing shots at will, then after a few rounds, they land a punch on you. What does that punch prove? Are they better than you now? That you are all of a sudden worse or that they just landed a punch? If you train with someone long enough, you are going to get success against them in some way sooner or later. When rolling with the black belt I would rather get sweeps, escape positions and maintain control consistently than get the odd submission.

It has been quite cool to be on the ‘other side’ of the submission hunt – in MMA, people are hunting to submit me. Luckily for me, they have to get through striking and wrestling to get to my submission defence. By the time they have got me down and got position, hopefully there isn’t too much time left in the round. I always tell people to not celebrate the tap, takedown or punch. I say this because you never know what the other person is working; they could be focusing on being in a bad position or head movement for example.  

A few years ago, there was a purple belt practicing arm-bar escapes, the white belt he was against did not know this and went for the arm-bar and the purple belt couldn’t escape in time and had to tap. The white belt celebrated. In reaction, the purple belt proceeded to put on a BJJ clinic for the rest of the round. All this did was confuse the white belt and the purple belt walked away angry. It is quite common for more experienced people to work in bad spots against less experienced people. This works well as both people get a good workout and both get something out of the round. I was in a situation rolling with a guy who I usually have quite a battle with. It is usually me passing guard with him maintaining guard/stopping me passing. We started rolling and I passed his guard rather easily and he worked hard but got his guard back, I then passed easily again, and he worked to get it back and that was pretty much the whole round. Afterwards, I asked him if he was working getting guard back, he said “yes, how did you know?” I just said that I have never passed your guard so easily, so I thought something was up.

When training, don’t get so caught up in the win or the loss as it’s just training. The focus should be on improving and working things; being prepared to lose rather than being the mat champion. As people get better, the victories become smaller. For some people I train with, landing a punch is a victory. For others, my victory is characterised by a takedown and control. Against people of that level, the odd finish does happen but for me it is more about beating them where I planned to. This can also be on the defensive side – not getting hit, not getting taken down, escaping a bad position and so on. To me, these victories are more important against people that are a challenge and you are beating them at their own game. Challenge yourself and see how you go against people in their strengths (as long as you are the same level as them). If you keep getting caught with chokes (RNC) then start off in a position where people have your back. If you keep getting taken down, start standing or give your opponent a start of a takedown. If you are getting caught with things, embrace it and practice that position until it not only feels better but starts to feel normal and you no longer need to worry about it.

As fighters, by nature we are competitive, but we have to use it in a way that helps us improve rather than stopping us from trying things through fear of losing. Tapping someone better doesn’t mean anything in the big scheme of things; the same goes for getting tapped out by someone worse. We are all just trying to get better, and above all, enjoy what we do. And let’s face it, we enjoy things we are good at so it makes sense to try and improve as much as we can. We just need to keep the big picture in mind about what we’re trying to achieve and keep heading towards it.    

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor ffff

Hot In The City

Without doubt, the number 1 fight gym in New Zealand is City Kickboxing. Based in Auckland, City Kickboxing has received a lot of success; in one UFC event, they had three fighters come away successful and they are also the home of the current interim middleweight UFC champion – Israel Adesanya. In terms of MMA success, City Kickboxing is light years ahead of other gyms in NZ.

The head MMA trainer at City Kickboxing is Eugene Bareman. Eugene was fighting in the era I was, you would often hear his name mentioned as he was a multiple NZ kickboxing champion in different weight divisions. Eugene has also competed in MMA and won multiple national titles in BJJ; the guy knows how to win and what it takes to get to the top level of the sport. Eugene has demonstrated his skills as a world-class trainer and his ability to breakdown a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses to earn victories for his fighters. He has shown that you don’t need to be based in the United States to have success in the UFC.

Doug Viney, one of their striking coaches, won the New Zealand K1 championship in his first attempt. He went on to have a very impressive career, boasting the K1 Las Vegas championship and representing Tonga in boxing at the Olympics as career highlights. I was fighting about the same time as Doug and thought we would end up in the ring against each other. While this scenario did end up eventuating, it wasn’t as I had expected it to. When I was training in Vegas, he was over there, and we did a few rounds of sparring. From that little taste of Viney’s ability, it was lucky I didn’t fight him for real. Doug was a level above me, and I learnt a lot from sparring him. The scary factor of it all though, was seeing Viney get beaten by Ray Sefo. Between the three of us, there were three different levels, and I was at the bottom. From that short time with Doug I was able to gain an insight into his fight brain and I was very impressed, so I can see why he is doing so well as a trainer.

Andrei Paulet is the wrestling coach and the former junior Romanian national wrestling champion. For those of you who don’t know, that is very impressive as Romanian’s like to wrestle. I have been lucky enough to do some training with Andrei and his wrestling is on another level. He always has another move to get you with, even if you think you have the upper hand, you soon find out that you don’t. As an instructor, Andrei manages to make things seem simple and can really break down a move/position so anyone can understand it.

Mike Angove is another one of their striking coaches. He has all the talent in the world with the ability to match anyone in the gym. However, when it came to fight time, the nerves would get the better of him and wouldn’t perform to the level of his true ability. Lockdown MMA was really lucky to have Mike as a visitor for a session and he lived up to his reputation and more. Mike was a great fighter with an even better attitude, he had no ego and sparred everyone at the right level. The most impressive thing about Mike is his fight brain – his fight computer is elite, and you get a glimpse of that when you hear his fight commentary on sky sport. The factor that all these coaches have in common is their humility. I have only spent a short amount of time with them but always had a laugh and picked up many valuable tips.

So, if you haven’t clicked yet, City Kickboxing has elite trainers. While they have additional coaches to the ones I have mentioned, these are the ones I have spent time with and know better. From what I can see, Eugene makes it a process for improvement and reaching targets throughout the fighters’ career. It is all mapped out and the fighter has all the information in front of them, so they know exactly where they need to be. They have produced many top fighters and from the looks of it, there are more on the way. The star of the gym at the moment is Israel Adesanya, who is the current UFC interim middleweight champion. Adesanya has a big fight coming up against Robert Whittaker for the undisputed UFC middleweight title. This is going to be a very tough fight to pick as they have contrasting but similar styles. They both have good stand up and the ability to put you to sleep. Whitaker is more power-based while Adesanya is slicker on the feet. Israel has the advantage on the feet as I think his striking is just a little more educated, but Whitaker has a better all-round game. However, I think his ego will dictate that it will stay standing. Whittaker seems to like to stand-and-bang, whereas the smart play against Adesanya is to smother him and get him to the ground (easier said than done). I have however, written off Whittaker a few times. I picked him to lose against Jacare and Romero, and both times, was proven wrong. Whittaker has shown the ability to find a way to win and Israel will have his hands full for this fight.

As a fight trainer, there can only be respect for what City Kickboxing has achieved. I can only think of one other fight gym in New Zealand that has produced a UFC fighter. City Kickboxing have 3 fighters in the UFC right now and one has a title – consequently, the level they have achieved is a thing to behold. They have great trainers and a great system for producing fighters. If you are a budding MMA fighter with aspirations of UFC glory then that would be the gym to train at. It is now the job of all the other fight gyms in NZ to catch up.    

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Which One Are You?

When a person trains in MMA, it is normal to go through phases of placing more emphasis in one area more than the others. The areas we train are striking, wrestling and BJJ. Currently, at Lockdown, we are going through a wrestling phase. Within MMA wrestling, most people fight in one of three categories: power, strength or technical, which one are you?

In New Zealand, wrestling is not a very big sport so the gulf between the haves and have nots is quite large. The people who are genuine wrestlers have a big advantage over those that just drill takedowns in training. Within wrestling, there are three main types of wrestlers. The explosive, power-based wrestler, the wrestler that uses strength as their main source of wrestling ability and thirdly, the technical guy. To me (at least), the most impressive type of wrestler is the power wrestler, or the ‘Jordan Burroughs’ of wrestling. These guys can shoot a double-leg from another zip code due to their speed and explosive power. From what I’ve seen, most of the elite wrestlers are power based; these guys are the hardest to combat as their attacks are fast and if you misread their movement you are likely to end up on your back. Against these guys, you can feel safe and then before you know it, you’re on your back thinking, “where did that come from!?” With these wrestlers, you’re rarely safe due to their explosiveness.

Another type of wrestler is the strength-based wrestler or the ‘Alexander Karelin’s’ of wrestling. Once these guys get hold of you, it’s a nightmare; everything they do makes you uncomfortable – from the power of their grip to the weight of their under hook. They feel heavy, strong and create a sense of danger as soon as they get hold of you. It seems no matter what you do, these guys are eventually going to get hold of you and then you are in a world of trouble.

Then you have the technical guy or the ‘Buvaisar Saitiev’ of the wrestling world. They are not the strongest or the fastest, but due to their technical ability, they feel like a strong and fast opponent. Their best weapon is their brain; they know exactly what they need to do to beat you and they don’t use any more energy than required. In the clinch you feel in danger due to their subtle movements and positions rather than strength. At distance, they seem to do the right thing at the right time. They manage to exploit the split second that you are off balance. These guys seem to do the right thing at the right time and beat you in transitions using less movement and energy – in a word, they are ‘frustrating’.

Each type of wrestler poses their own risks but also have various ways to get around their strengths. This is how I approach each of the different styles of wrestler. When going against the power wrestler, they are dangerous but can only go for short bursts. This is dictated by the nature of power athletes; they are extremely explosive, but this drains a lot of energy by virtue of their sheer power-output. If you can get into a safe place against them (the clinch for example) then you can get them to use a lot of energy with very little result. Once they have lost a little steam, the playing field becomes a little more even. But be aware that one little mistake can get their confidence back and with confidence comes the power. This means that you have to capitalise where you can. For example, you can snap them down with a front head lock and ride them, forcing them to use a lot of energy to get back to their feet. Then as soon as they are up, get in close and keep them working to keep their energy down. You have to keep the pressure on them and make them feel like they have to attack because as soon as they have time to recover, the chances of getting slammed increases.

The strength wrestler is someone you do not want on top of you. With these guys, you try to keep them moving. Preventing them from being set in a position with both their hands on you is vital. You do not want them holding you up against the cage wall as it will just be a matter of time before they get you. If you can keep an angle by attacking one of their arms or getting a good under hook on them then you can do ‘fake’ attacks. The fake attack is just to get them moving and hopefully wearing them down a little. Once you start losing the position (under hook) then exit out and move them around until you can find the next safe position and repeat. You do this until you have a set up for an attack and then you give it hell.

When wrestling the technical guy, you have to find the advantage you have over them and keep the match/fight there. You will either be taller, shorter, faster or stronger than they are, so you have to use that advantage to put them in a place where they are playing catch up. This is easier said than done as their game is all about being one step ahead. Somehow, you have to get the upper hand and start dictating the terms. If you let them dictate, you will most likely come out second best. One way is to keep attacking, but you have to be careful as these guys work things out fast and will adapt. The technical and mental battle is the hardest but also the most rewarding.

There are some other little tricks when wrestling for MMA. Keep in mind that when wrestling against heavier opponents, only do attacks above the knee; the thigh or higher. Then you can keep good posture and still recover positions even if sprawled on. If you go for takedowns, give it everything and don’t stop until you physically can’t push anymore or until you get the takedown. Belief and intensity are the main parts of getting success in wrestling and when coupled with technique, your chances of success greatly increase. Against smaller and quicker opponents, attacks below the knee are good.  For example, a low single; this is useful as you have extra weight, and this means you can recover from being underneath them if needed. This also gives you a wider range of attacks to battle their speed and movement.

Like anything, to get better takes practice and you need to practice with people that actually wrestle to get the best improvements. Wrestling is all about position and technique, then you add in your god given talents like speed, strength, size and so on; in addition to skill, you use those physical attributes to beat your opponent. Getting a takedown is so damn satisfying and is one the most important parts of MMA, it can be the difference between winning and losing a round. More UFC champions have come from a wrestling background than any other style and the others aren’t even close. Being able to out-wrestle your opponent in MMA allows you to decide where the fight will take place.     

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor fffffff

Working The Body

The hook to the body is one of the most effective punches there is. For the puncher, it is a thing of beauty. Do it right, and your opponent is out for the count. However, like anything else in fight sports, it is easier said than done.

I should first mention, the hook to the body I’m discussing is the left hook to the body that comes from the orthodox stance against and orthdox fighter. I am aware things may differ from a southpaw perspective, but since I am an orthodox fighter, it is mostly appropriate to speak from this understanding. I first met the left hook to the body when training for my first fight. My trainer had brought in a guy to spar with me. He was 6ft tall and 120kg; when you see a guy that size you know they are going to hit hard. We got in the ring and to my surprise, he not only hit hard but was fast, flexible and light on his feet. In addition to these attributes, he would also throw up head kicks like his foot was made of metal and my head was a magnet. I blocked so many head kicks that I was bruising myself with my knuckles through the gloves. I noticed his elbows were high, so I just started throwing body shots. I stayed close to avoid getting kicked in the head. Then, out of nowhere, I landed a clean left hook to the liver and down he went – from that moment on I have worked and worked that punch.

Being one of my favourite punches, I have analysed it and worked out a few ways to make sure it lands. So, there are a few things you need to make this punch work. Firstly, their elbow needs to be away from their ribs; either with their hand up defending or while they are throwing a punch. The second element is the ability to drop people with the shot, which, either you, or you don’t, it does not seem to be a skill you can learn. In saying that though, I will discuss ways that make sure the punch is as effective as possible. Attacking the body can be a little scary as you have to get so close. To get around this, you have to set up the punch. To simplify it, you have two choices. You can either go in behind your punches or go in while they punch.

Firstly, going in while they punch: When you are in your standard fight distance, which is just out of range, it comes down to percentages and you just have to work them. At range there is a very good chance that they will throw a jab or a straight right, this means you set up all your movement to counter the jab or cross. For me, I do not guess what punch is coming correctly when sparring but as long as you don’t get hit then your first job is done. Your front foot and shoulder dictate which side you will go; if you want to land that left hook to the body then you need your left foot in line with their right foot. When you drive off your back foot, your goal is to get your right shoulder close to their right shoulder which results in your body being rotated in preparation for the left hook. Since your right shoulder is close to theirs, they cannot punch with their right hand. You then use the rotation to get power in to your left hook. After the hook to the body is thrown, it is all about recovery and getting out safely. You can double up with a left hook to the head or body or throw a straight right to the head. The most dangerous area here is getting in and out of range as this is the position when you can get caught with a counter shot.

Going in behind your punch: The biggest concern when moving in for the left hook to the body is walking into a right hand – this right hand could end your night. As a rule-of-thumb, if you are concerned about a counter punch, then throw a punch at the hand you think will counter. This means if you are going in behind your jab then you have to make sure your left foot is in line with their right foot and you throw the job at the right side of their head, which, in theory, will tie up their right hand with defence. Then you can step in without fear of getting caught with the right hand. As a second phase, I like to follow the jab with a short right hand. I take a step forward while throwing the right hand – this means it is not a straight right but rather a short right – I just want a punch to keep their head up and their defence tied up to make it’s safer to close the distance. Once the distance is closed and all going well, their hand should be up defending the right to the head, leaving the ribs exposed. Put the left hook smack into the ribs and use the double left hook or straight right to exit.

These are just two examples on how to set up that body shot; there are many more options. The main thing to keep in mind though, is footwork. To land this shot effectively, you have to know how to get in and then get out without getting hit. When closing the distance the concern is the right hand. And when exiting, the left hook is the big worry. This is why it is important to use angles to minimise the chances of being caught with counter punches.

There are a few ‘signposts’ I look out for in my opponents’ movements and reactions. If your opponent has planted their feet in front of you, then it is safe to assume they will be moving their head/shoulders. If this is the case, no set up is needed as they are just standing still for you. In regard to their movement, if their right shoulder is moving forward (or wants to) keep an eye on that as when it does move, that is your opportunity to move in for the hook. I pop out some jabs to get their head moving and wait for the opportunity. Once that opportunity arrives, I go in for the attack. However, most people use footwork and move around. This is when you need to get them against the ropes or the cage wall. Once they’re there, the perfect time to land that shot is when they lean forward a bit. This means their elbow comes forward and leaves that opening to land that punch to the liver. When under pressure, a lot of people lean forward when they’re caught against the ropes/cage. It is also quite nice if they lean back against the ropes, which again, opens up the ribs for a body shot. 

The left hook to the body is my favourite punch as it has gotten me out of a lot of tough spots. When you see people that really make it work, it is a thing of beauty. In world boxing right now, Katie Taylor has about the best body attack. If you want to work your body attacks, work your head movement and footwork. Above all, you need to have to confidence to attack the body as the payoff is well worth it.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Work You Bottom

Since I’ve gotten back into grappling with a gi, I’ve reached a point where, in order to improve, I need to change what I’m doing. For me, that means working my bottom game – turns out it’s not that easy.

With my mix of wrestling and BJJ, a usual roll consists of passing guard (which is often a challenge and can take a fair while) getting to side control and holding that position. I go for subs but find that my offence is lightyears behind their defence, so I end up just holding side control and not doing much else. This may seem like a first world problem in BJJ as passing guard then holding a good position is more or less the aim of the sport. My issue with it though, is that it’s all I seem to be doing. So, a few weeks back I started on my back against most people. There are people that I use as a measuring stick, so I go to my ‘A game’ against them, all the time, every time. I would let the person start in side control and go from there. Against these people, I find myself doing the same damn thing; using wrestling / BJJ escapes then ending up in side control. Of course, I struggled to get out of side control but once again I used the same system I always do – get hold of a leg, get belly down and pray that my wrestling gods know more than theirs.

The next evolution required in my game was to work my guard. Now, my guard is blue belt level at best. However, I did the same thing with my guard. I would go for some offence, then get my guard passed and this would lead to me grabbing a leg, going belly down and praying to the wrestling gods again. I find this very frustrating because I am keen to improve my skills when training but end up going to what works; going to my ‘safe zone’, rather than genuinely upskilling. Part of the problem is that I aim to roll with the best guys on the mat as I want to test myself. In these rolls though, I don’t want to lose, and this leads to me doing the same damn thing each and every time. So where to from here? Do I roll with less experienced people to get some success with my guard? Do I just experiment against the best guys and get owned for a while? (a while can be a long time, sometimes years). Or do I pick specific training partners to roll with, and choose to do and work certain things?

As it stands, I feel I am a one-dimensional grappler. I need to work other options because if and when I come up against a guy that’s able to shut down my current game, then I will have no back up. However, in saying that, I am only a purple belt and do not have BJJ “under-wraps”, let alone developed my own individual system. So, the way ahead is to think about how I would train someone else. I would recommend thinking about the outcome you want for every session. If you are going to work your weakest position, aim for one small success (e.g. retaining and regaining guard), and after the session, look at who you had success against and aim to get more success with people of that level. Once you’ve succeeded multiple times, then it is time to change your measure of success or change the level you are testing against. With something singular like an armbar, you would train it for about a month. Working it specifically to get some marked improvements. However, something as complex as the guard, you would be looking at 6 months at least; one target a month to get marked improvement. After 6 months you would hope that you would become comfortable in the position you are working.

This is the point where I contradict myself though; the thing with BJJ is that mindset and body type dictate your style to a certain extent. People under 75kg spend most of their time on their back so they develop a good guard from the outset and their top game is secondary. People over 80kg and especially over 100kg, become top game crush-kill-style (me) as they can get away with a lot due to size and strength. To get real improvement we need to keep working our main skillset but also spending more time in the places we don’t like and find uncomfortable as this will be great for our overall game – but this usually means losing.

Have a good look at your game and think about what your biggest weakness is and then do what you can to make that area stronger. The hardest part about this is pride; pride is what causes us to want to win rather than improve. Pride is what makes us crush and kill someone because they catch you with a submission. Pride is what makes me avoid guard as I get punched a lot in that position in MMA. We have to put pride aside and work our skills to get better. This is not specific to BJJ, this is in all areas of MMA. I am just questioning my direction in BJJ and what improvements I should make. Take this time to think about where your improvements lay and do what is needed to get them. If you are not sure ask your instructor or someone that always kicks your ass, I am sure they will have some ideas.    

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Working It Out

Years ago, I was told something that stuck with me. When training for fight sports, “more isn’t better, better is better and any fool can train hard”. So, with our limited time, how do get the most out our workouts?

Before we start, this is assuming you are not a pro fighter. I’m assuming you have a job, a family and things that you have to juggle your training around. Since training revolves around your life and not vice versa, training usually takes place at night, and this means that your nights are already full. If you had a night free, you would most likely be training, because let’s face it, that’s what we do. This leaves the morning or daylight hours to get our conditioning work in – since we have limited time, we must find effective ways to make the most of it.

When training for a competition, the duration of the event can guide the training that is needed. For example, a wrestling match is 6 minutes, kickboxing the same and 9-15 minutes for MMA. Assuming you’re not having pro fights, your training should generally not last longer than half an hour at high intensity. You want to go in there and go as hard as possible to simulate the biological conditions you feel in a fight or as close as you can get to that level. This is not about fight drills, rather, I’m talking about your cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems.

In saying that, as athletes, we want to be doing workouts that are time effective, useful and event specific. For example, going for a 10km doesn’t help with fighting as much as other training. When running, you are holding a steady heart rate for a long period; this is contrary to what occurs in a fight. To get a run closer to fight conditions, you would need sprints. I would base this workout on time rather than distance. So, as an illustration: sprint for 20seconds, rest for 20 seconds and repeat 10 times. For my training, I like to have a cardio session, a heavy cardio session and a heavy weight session. Cardio is like that sprint session – it’s all about the heart rate. A heavy cardio session is a weights circuit. One such workout can consist of a 150m Row, 1x 140kg Dead lift, 5 kettle bell swings. I do as many reps as possible for 3 mins with 1mins rest for 5 to 7 rounds.

The heavy session is a sport specific weights session. One area that a lot of fighter’s neglect is the glutes – my partner, who is a glute master, has shown me some very cool exercises to target this area. When you think about it, the glutes are the biggest muscles in the body, yet not many people train them specifically. Wrestlers have big glutes, and this is due to the low stance and explosive power used to perform takedowns from that position. Sprinters also have massive glutes, and this is shown to great effect by their explosive power and speed. Using these examples, it is easy to see that there is definitely a correlation between power and glute activation (not surprising). For fighters, you want to be exercising on your feet as much as possible. This is in opposition to sitting or lying down i.e. machine weights. This is because when you are fighting, it is all about kinetic linking – that is, producing force through your whole body. Think of throwing a ball, your foot twists then your hip, then shoulder and finally your arm throws the ball. If you want to see how important this is, try throwing a ball without moving your foot and see what happens. This means that instead of using machine weights and things like that, you want to be replicating movements that you do in your sport as closely as you can. Some moves, like attempting to make your armbar stronger through weights is not only going to look really weird, it also will not work as that is more about technique than muscle. The idea is more about making movements stronger. Twisting, pushing, pulling, jumping, lunging and squatting are the most basic and important movements, especially when being an athlete. If all those movements are strong, then you are strong. The other thing with kinetic linking is that it beats absolute strength, think about those guys in the gym that can out lift you with weights yet when wrestling you can physically dominate them. Kinetic linking and technique go hand in hand, the people that can get their body to work as a unit will always be better than those that work their limbs in isolation. When lifting weights, stay on your feet as often as possible (except for bench press because everyone cares about that) get your body working as a unit to produce the best result. One of the best examples of a lift that gets the body stronger as unit is Olympic lifting (clean and jerk, snatch). Other training that has great crossover to fight sports with strength is body weight stuff (gymnastics) and all bodyweight related movements create good strength that works well in martial arts.

When training for competition or training in general, keep it as specific as possible. The idea is to replicate the movements that you do in your sport with resistance in the gym. The resistance can come in various forms, including weights, weight vests, resistance bands, sleds, ladders, power bags, medicine balls, gravity and so on. Once you have the movements sorted, then it comes down to reps and duration. As our sport is all based on time, that is a great place to start. Set a variety of short duration high intensity rounds, 40sec of work, 20sec rest time, and complete 10 sets. That is only one example of a timed round, but the possibilities are endless. Time is also a great training partner as it is always consistent. One thing that is always important is to change up the routines and that can be done easier than you think. Keep the exercises the same and change the reps, weights, duration and you end up with many different workouts from the basis of one routine. As an example: 10 reps of each with dumbbells, renegade rows, burpees to shoulder press, walk outs, 10m bear crawl. Then for a second workout, add 5kg to each dumbbell and do 5 reps of each and go twice through. Option 3: as many reps as possible within 4mins and 1min rest. Option 4: reps of 20,15,10,5 and each time through, the reps move to different exercises, 4 times through, so every exercise gets every rep count. That is just an example of how you can get variation out of the same routine. When going hard, simple is best, then all you need to focus on is going hard.

When training hard, being as physical as it is, it is also trains your mental capacities. Your body is always going to hurt, and it comes down to your mind-set to push through the pain. This is very good practice for fighting as it gets tough in competition. You need get used to being uncomfortable and even go as far as embracing it. If you can hold the pain a little longer than your opponent, then there is a good chance you will come out on top. Remember though, train smarter, not harder as any fool can train hard.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

What’s Your Worth?

When competing in fight sports, some of us connect our self-worth to the result of the competition. One’s sense of worth is tied up in victory; often feeling better about ourselves when we win. Now, what I am saying is different from enjoying winning, I’m talking about how a person views themselves in relation to a victory or a loss.

Just to be clear, when I fought, I connected my self-worth to the result of the fight, even though I was not aware of it at the time. I now see the same thing happening to other people and I think this is quite common amongst fighters. To me, self-identity and self-worth are very closely related, and that I think these are very important to a person’s view of themselves. Let’s use a BJJ blue belt as an example. The blue belt knows they’re not the best on the mat, but they might see themselves as the best blue belt. When they go into a competition and get beaten, how the see themselves change. They ask themselves, am I really the best blue belt in the club? Will the other people in the club think I am crap? These questions go on and occur because one’s sense of self-worth can be wrapped up in victory. In reality, all that happens is other people see the loss and think “gosh that other guy must’ve been good”, their opinion of you doesn’t change.

From what I have seen, the pressure we put on ourselves is far greater than that which is bestowed on us by others. The most common response I hear when asked “why don’t you compete” is, “I don’t want to let anyone down”. This is rarely the real answer. They don’t want their image of themselves to change. Let’s face it, what is the worst this that can happen at a BJJ comp? You get tapped out; that is the single worst thing that can happen in terms of competition. When you think about it that way, you begin to realise that most people get tapped out on any given night and it doesn’t stop them training. There is obviously a lot more to it than that though. Some people worry about the crowds and some people don’t like the pressure. What that really means is they don’t want people to see them lose or they don’t want to ‘officially’ lose.

Self-worth is a very important thing. However, as competitors we should not link our sense of self-worth to a win or a loss. Some of the best fighters seem to be able to take it for what it is – a win or a loss. Yes, they hate to lose and love to win, but they don’t get too down on themselves if they lose as there are greater values which make up their identity. They are still a good person, have a family and so on, regardless of the win or loss. However, in saying that, a lot of professional sports people are not content; there has to be something driving them after years and years in the sport. I found it the hardest when I stopped fighting; I couldn’t look at myself as a fighter any more. A fighter was who I was, it was all I wanted to be and consequently, my life revolved around that. Then when I stopped, questions flooded my head. Who was I? A failure? A loser? All these things came to mind. Not once did I think, “well, that didn’t work the way I planned – on to the next thing”. It took years and a trip overseas to a fight gym to finally reconcile it with myself. All of my self-worth was tied up in me being a fighter.

If you could step out of yourself and see that no one really cares about how you do in a competition; they are usually more concerned with themselves, or like you too much that a loss won’t change a thing. The level most of us compete at is local so hardly anyone knows about it, or watches it anyway, so why do we worry so much? It goes back to the start where we worry because it can change how we view ourselves and that is a very difficult thing to deal with.

When you put it in perspective, if getting tapped out in a BJJ comp is the worst thing that happens in your week, that is a damn good week. At a funeral you are not going to hear someone’s sporting record, no matter how good they were, the sport will be mentioned but it will be more about how they made people laugh, how they inspired people and so on. So, if you are like me and link your self-worth to sporting success, change it now. There are so many better measures in life than how good at sport you are. Get out there and compete and give it all to win, but if you don’t, does it really matter? The competition does not change who you are.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

It’s Going Up

We have had a period of growth at Lockdown. I think this is due to two main factors. One, being our amazing social media person, and secondly, we have restructured the way the classes are run. This has made us adapt and make unforeseen changes, which has been great for Lockdown.

For a while, the training sessions consisted of the fighters, then everyone else. This meant that you knew who your hard rounds were, and who the easy rounds were. Due in part to the session changes, the gap has begun close, but this has been in a fun way. There are people who have improved through training due to having more training partners, more focused training and a different attitude. This means there are people who used to be an easy round and now they sneak up on you and if you aren’t alert, they will catch you.

The real bonus is that on any given night, there are 3 people on the mat who can beat anyone else in a variety of ways – takedowns, submissions and getting punched. With fighters, one part of their brains hates this and makes them come back to the next session looking to exact vengeance. The other part – the more important part – which, as a coach I love, is if I can train people to be better than me then I have done my job. Not that I am great fighter, but as a coach, if you can take people to a level above yourself that is a success. Greg Jackson is not the best fighter at his gym, in fact he would get mauled by a lot of people, but he is great coach as he is a real student of the fight game. His job is to take people to the top level (this goes for a lot if not all top-level coaches).

At Lockdown we are putting the fighters in groups to train specific areas and at a higher intensity. Just by the nature of this training, there is going to be a learning curve. This is not new, it is just easier with more people at that level. Most of the guys haven’t been beaten much in training very often and that is going to change. We are going to sit down and have a chat about this as some people deal with ups and downs better than others. There will be nights where you are at the bottom of the pile and there will be nights where you are at the top of the pile. The focus I want to see is all positive, when you are at the bottom of the pile and you are having a bad night (which we all have) I hope that you understand what is happening and then keep pushing and giving it everything. Above everything else, there are no excuses, congratulate your teammate and move on. Then on the flip side, when you are having a good night, make the most of it and get as much success as you can – practicing winning is important. On average, with the group we have, they are going to have a night with mixed wins and losses which as a coach makes it perfect. This means that there is no clear number one and depending on the discipline depends on the outcome (typical striker v grappler). This also means that everyone is trying to learn from one another and trying to beat each other. When you are getting beaten, it keeps you hungry and humble, two very important things for fighters. Steel sharpens steel as they say.

The people at the top of your club set the culture and at Lockdown we are very lucky, the top level people are always the last to leave the mat as they are always looking for another round. Then we get a visiting specialist, e.g. a pro boxer, those at Lockdown line up to test their skills against said specialist. Just by the nature of MMA, a good grappler, striker or wrestler will beat us; they are specialists in their field. However, that does not mean we go down easily or that we don’t love the challenge of someone skilled and trying to beat them in their own game. In the past I have trained at clubs where the instructor didn’t train against good people just in case they got beaten. That mentality is an old martial arts mind set. News flash, I am not a world champion in anything and therefore, there are always going to be people better than me out there, so who cares. It is very hard to improve if you are the top dog at your gym; you really want people snapping at your heels wanting to take your place and, on some nights, get the better of you.

With the increase in intensity at Lockdown and having the people who can really push each other, the level is going to increase, and I get a front row seat to watch it all happen. It will be interesting as they are improving, my job gets both harder and more fun. We will see what a group of skilled, motivated and positive individuals can do, watch this space.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Complain or Complete

In the fight world, we need to have very short memories. Within fight sports, generally speaking, we try to avoid making as many mistakes as possible. Some of the best fighters earn this title due to the limited number of mistakes made during their performances. In saying that though, it is a very difficult task, and this often results in a series of obvious mistakes. However, if we think about what just went wrong for too long, then the chances are you’re about to be drowning in a sea full of mistakes.

In the world of sports, they call it ‘complain or complete’. That is, if something happens, you can either complain about it, or get over it and complete it. Most people, after making a mistake – like dropping a ball in a game for example – will dwell on it for a decent amount of time. While this is a natural response, athletes have had to train themselves out of this. For example, top sports people might dwell on a mistake for about 30 seconds. Then you have the elite of the top sports people – they will dwell on a mistake for 10 seconds. The legends take 5 seconds to get over it, and the greats, 1 second. When I think of the greats, I am thinking the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Don Bradman and Pele. When they make a mistake, or have a bad start to the game, they would just move on and keep playing; they do not let that mistake affect their performance.

Martial arts are great for letting you know if you got something right or not. If you were hit, then you got it wrong – instant feedback. When striking, things are moving fast, and it seems you don’t have time to dwell on your mistakes until the end of the round. After analysing your mistakes, you can come out for the next round with your changes and see if you can incorporate them. However, in grappling and wrestling, it’s a different story. In wrestling, if you get taken down, the first thought is usually a swear word – then it’s figuring out what went wrong. In wrestling, you have to get on your feet for the restart. If you don’t have a short memory, all you are thinking about is the last takedown, how you got caught and how it will not happen this time. You see your opponent go for the previous set up and you think hell no and defend with everything. Your opponent takes this gift and gets you with something else – now you are pissed off. Once you are grumpy, things unravel really fast and that is how training, or a match can go downward. This is even worse in BJJ as once someone is caught in a submission, they do not want to tap again, so they tend to defend that limb (or neck) with everything they have. This usually means they give up position, which, usually, if the opponent is good enough, opens up for other submissions and the cycle repeats.

For the rest of us that do not fit into the category of the ‘greats’, we have to keep our minds in the moment (Thank you Bruce Lee). Think about the times when you are performing well. You’re not necessarily thinking anything good, or bad for that matter, you are just doing. There is no “watch out for this” or “go for that” thoughts in your head. You’re just doing. Going for what is available and defending what needs defending. Compare that to when things go badly. All you can think about is avoiding that move and making sure it doesn’t happen again. This takes your focus away from everything else you’re trying to do and gives you are very narrow focus. Of course, there are times for a narrow focus, but you don’t want this to dominate your thoughts. If I could give you the formula for keeping the flow I would, but you know how it feels when you are just doing it all subconsciously – it feels good.

The short memory is also relevant when you have success; get over it and move on. This situation has happened to me a few times. In striking for example, landing a punch and admiring it, then getting caught with a counter shot. The same occurs in wrestling when you admire a takedown before securing positon and missing the switch. Then BJJ, getting the sweep and relaxing as your opponent scrambles and betters his/her position. This is why the flow seems to happen against someone roughly your ability. If you are better than the person, everything is happening slowly, and you start thinking and trying/playing. Then against people that are better, you are just trying to survive. When you are against that person who is your level, their moves and counters happen at a pace that your brain can keep up with – if they were faster, they would be better. A faster fight brain has nothing to do with muscle speed – it is all about position, timing and being able to pick up the transitions. People with faster fight brains are frustrating to go against as it feels like they are always one step ahead. They always seem to find a way out of bad situations (that is everyone when you a starting). It seems you need an opponent with a fight brain speed that is close to yours in comparison to the slower or faster fight brain in order to have the best rounds.

Thoughts are very hard to control, but in the fight world you can’t get too up or too down. If something doesn’t go right, then deal with it and move on. If something goes right, don’t get too excited and then move on. Keep the process and the plan in your head and stick to that. One thing that makes all of this a lot harder in the fight world is the pain – if you miss a shot in basketball it doesn’t physically hurt… but a punch does. Making mistakes in the fight world hurt and as humans we try to avoid pain. In your fight training, work on completing moves and not complaining if you miss a move – it happens, move on, no excuses. Also practice success and don’t get caught up with it, complete and move on. In training try to get the flow as often as you can and your progress will be very visible and rather enjoyable.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

3 and Out

Over the years I have noticed something interesting in sparring. People will try a move three times and if there is no success then they will give up on that move. Turns out that this trait is hard wired in to our mammal DNA.

Dr Jaak Pankseep a famous neuro scientist who studied how they brain affects behaviour, as in what part of the brain affects what. In one of his studies he observed that rats would box and wrestle as part of play. They rats would stand up and swat and grab with their front legs while trying to get the other rat on their back. Being on their back is a submissive behaviour as with all mammals, so it would mean a loss. There would also be some playfull biting on the ‘defeated opponent’. The main objective in the game was to get the other rat on their back. Sometimes the smaller rats would ‘play’ with the bigger rats, as size is a factor in these matches the smaller rats would almost always lose. The bigger rats would sometimes let the smaller rats win and this would motivate the smaller rats to keep trying, thus giving more practice / play to both the bigger and smaller rats. However if the big rats did not let the little rats win more than 30% of the time the little rats would give up and stop playing. This means that given a little success the rat will keep trying, but take that little success away and they will stop. Interestingly this is what poker players do as well, they let a weaker player win every now and then so they are more likely to stay in the game and make more money out of them.

Now we are not rats and I have not wrestled a rat but that success ratio seems to be alive and well in us humans. Think the last time you wrestled and you shot for a double and get sprawled on, you think that is not so bad. You go for another double leg take down and get sprawled on again now you are really thinking about your set up and that seed of doubt shows itself. You work your set up go for the third double leg and get sprawled on again you are now second guessing yourself and will likely switch to something else. One part of it is missing the double leg, another is getting sprawled on as that sucks, that there is getting out from underneath the sprawl and that takes a lot of energy. The chances are you will not go for more than 3 double legs in a round with out success, this lack of confidence will flow on to the other rounds. There are some might be who are able to rise above it but most go to plan B and find another way.

In sparring the system I have seen used to great effect is get someone up against the cage wall and take them down then they try to get back up so you take them down and punch them. They usually try second time so you take then down again and punch them. Then comes the final attempt for this I give my biggest effort on the takedown and really try to punish them after the takedown. At the point you will see most people stop trying to stand back up and they will instead try to improve their position on the ground, or to put it bluntly stop getting punched. At first I thought this was a fitness / effort equation, as in they can’t keep giving all this effort for no reward as they will run out of gas. However there are plenty of people out there with massive engines that I have seen stop and stall in this situation. Then I wondered if it was a belief thing, as in this guy is better I want be able to get out so I will just stay here (as in on the ground). But it turns out that it runs a lot deeper than that. If we as mammals don’t succeed 30% of the time we don’t want to play any more.

There will be a bunch of fighters thinking I will never quit, you could take me down all day and I will try and get back up and so on. With this it goes a little more than that, in terms that once you have failed on three attempts it doesn’t mean you quit, all it means is that you stop trying that particular move and look for something else. That is after the 3 efforts people don’t just roll on their back and give up. However it seems that after three efforts you do not try the big move any more, rather most will try to establish a better position through smaller efforts to a position from where they can work. The fighters that say they will not quit you are right, all that happens is you change your effort in to something that could work rather than something that did not work.

This effect does not happen in striking, maybe because it is easier to try different things and the effect of missing a punch isn’t so bad at all (unless you get countered). That is compared to wrestling where you miss a takedown you can get sprawled or get taken down yourself. Also in BJJ where an escape attempt can open you up to be submitted or risk of your opponent upgrading their position. In striking where the negative outcome is in milli seconds the risk of repeating that behaviour is going to be high as nothing really bad happens. The lack of success is defintly more in wrestling and BJJ as the effects are more pronounced and last longer than in striking (in general terms). Next time you are grappling or wrestling and you have an opponent in a bad spot count how many times they try to escape before they give up and try something else to get a better position – I am betting it is 3

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor