Monday, July 14, 2008

Single Leg Takedown

Learned my first "proper" takedown early this month: the common single leg takedown.

Bert was the instructor that night and I must say his coaching skills have improved tremendously ever since he signed on to become a Trainer-in-Training of the Crazy Monkey Defense Program. There are occasions where I felt I enjoyed his class more than Vince. Hope I won't get my ass kick by Vince for saying this. ;D

Now onto the single leg takedown:

1. You must first set it up, normally with some strikes (eg. a fast jab-cross).

2. Level change to the opponent's hips and grab his lead leg using gorilla grip (no interlocking the fingers). Grab it tight and lift up his leg.

3. Rise up and place your head on his chest as if listening to his heart. This will make it difficult for him to sprawl or guillotine your head.

4. Push him forward to bring him down or swing him around by moving your lead leg to the rear.

5. Follow up with side control, mount, knee ride or anything you prefer.

Another variation below where you see the instructor did not grip his hands together but rather place one hand behind the opponent's knee and the other on his ankle. He did not rise, he just drive forward and pull the ankle up to bring the opponent down.

My understanding is single leg takedown has a higher percentage of working compare to the double leg takedown, and it's a widely used technique in many MMA fights. Looking forward to practice it in this month sparring.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Crazy Monkey drills as introduction to MMA

Lately the Crazy Monkey Defense Program here in KDT Academy has been incorporating many drills covering more than boxing: punch-kick combos, takedown defense, sprawl, escape from sprawl and recover to standup.

I found these drills to be great introduction to MMA techniques and I realised what I thought I knew (from BJJ, Boxing and watching too much UFC) were quite different when tried, bringing the old adage to mind: it's easier to say than to do. For me, it's ten times of that coz my cardio is crap (isn't it always) and I haven't been training regularly this year.

Perhaps it's better if we spend more time drilling on a single aspect of MMA, eg. sprawl to recover and sprawl escape instead of doing the whole standup, clinch and ground within an hour. Nevertheless, these drills brought to life what I imagine MMA training to be: functional, complete and thoroughly enjoyable. Can't wait for us to try all these techniques out when we spar. For my buddies who have done it while I was away: save some fun for me ya. ;)

PS. For those who are wondering, I'm the clumsy dude in the white shirt.

Parrying and Counterpunching

Picked up something interesting from Bert. When I sparred with him, he surprised me when he parried my jab downward instead of employing our standard CMD (Crazy Monkey Defense using the forearms).

I then copied his method and used it successfully against few guys later. I threw a quick counterpunch everytime I parried away my opponent's punches. When my counterpunch connects, it stumped my opponent's momentarily so this is best time to unload combos, and kicks if he's backing up. I've to be mindful of parrying it just straight downward without lowering my hands too much, or it will compromise my defense and ability to counterpunch. I suspect that parrying & counterpunching works better using the lead hand than the rear hand since the lead hand is nearer to the opponent.

Works great when mixing it up with basic CMD. Neat repetoire to add in my arsenal. Will experiment with using parrying to secure the clinch, overhook and underhook. And also to add more offenses (hook, cross and uppercut) after the parry.

Sparring - defense or offense first

After a long absense, I attended my first class in Jan 9, 2008. I've gained 5 kg, became slower, and forgot my few favorite combos. Despite the long holidays, Vince ran the first class like a regular one, with drills and 5 rounds of free sparring (which seems like 5 years) at the end of the class.

I realised a few things from this first lesson of the year:

1. Basics first - hunchback, tuck in chin, look in front, hands up, push off from the rear leg.

2. Maintain posture, look in front when doing the modified duck or bop and weave. Never look down, or I'll eat uppercuts and knees.

3. Remain calm, find openings, and use angles.

The last part is kinda dodgy because I think I was too eager to "win" that I neglected my defense in the pursuit of strikes that connect. There were many occasions I felt like a sitting duck with gaps all over that my opponents can easily take advantage of. And I ate some nasty shots when I stand still to slug it out, zero footwork. I guess it boils down to one thing: must improve my mental game, ie. Defense First. Yes, I did use the clinch successfully but in the process of gaining the clinch, I saw so many lapses in my defense that even a 10 year old can KO me given the chance.

From now on, I'm just going to go slow even if I got hammered, and slowly work on my defensive skills first.

Note to self: must discover how the mental game and defensive approach fits in different types of fighting styles: eg. jabber, counter puncher, slugger, southpaw and etc.

Proper MMA punching techniques

Vince told me I'm still telegraphing my punches too much. So I gotta to practice more shadow boxing.

Few points to note when sparring:

1. Keep your chin down and mantain a general vision at opponent's chest. Punch from your forehead, elbows pointing down.

2. Visualize your opponent in the mirror. Your mirror image becomes your "opponent", aim for your opponent's chin when punching. Visualize making contact with the knuckles of the index and middle fingers.

3. There should be 95% extension of your arms with the straight punches. Remember to tuck your chin in under your arms when firing straight punches - diving board punching.

4. Retract your punches back to your forehead fast.

5. Do not telegraph your punches. Never allow elbows to go behind your body, particularly with uppercuts. KEEP ELBOWS IN FRONT OF BODY ALWAYS.

6. Always keep your lead foot pointing toward your opponent and rear foot visible in mirror (when shadow boxing) - square on to him.

7. Never bring the feet together when punching, don't cross your legs. Rear leg on your heel, ready to push off when firing jabs or combos.

Now if only I can find some time to practice shadow boxing, been so busy with work lately. :(

MMA footwork and movement

Today sparring session reminded me again to pay more attention to my footwork and movement.

For MMA, it's better to have a wider stance in anticipation of any shoots or takedown attempts. It's also easier to sprawl with a wide stance. The instructor in this video, Vitor Belfort is my favorite MMA fighter. Although lesser known, I admire his lightning fast boxing skills very much. He can be considered one of the first person to mix and use Boxing with BJJ successfully in many UFC matches, compare to the more preferred mix of Muay Thai and BJJ common in today's MMA training.

1. Always square-on to your opponent (turn to face him with both your hips).
2. Keep my rear leg on my toes pushing off my whole body when firing punches.
3. Always circle away from the opponent strong hand (normally his rear hand in a boxing stance).
4. Push off with the rear leg when moving forward, and push off with the front leg when moving backward.
5. Move the rear leg first when circling away.
6. Avoid sloppy movement and crossing your legs.

Hope to improve with more practice.

Muay Thai clinch

Learned a basic Muay Thai clinch last week from Adam Kayoom. The clinch is one of the skill I've yet to learn or experience. Although I did a bit of clinching in the past during my Karate randori sparring and nage-waza (throwing or takedowns) training, it was quite different from the Thai clinch.

Adam taught that the clinch can be used to:

1. Disable your opponent momentarily so that you can rest awhile.

2. Unbalance your opponent to slip in your power shots.

3. Gain a position of advantage where you can hit him more.

4. Safely disengage to a good position while slipping in a few parting shots.

I found the clinch to be useful when I sparred with Laurent. I was exhausted and I used the clinch to catch a breather while minimizing his shots to him. Cool! Going to train more on this area.

The Mental Game

After many relatively "bruiseless" sparring session, I bumped the bridge of my nose against Leon 2 weeks ago. I literally walked into his ducked head and that left me with a bloodied painful nose.

Why did I do that? After all, I've been training in Crazy Monkey Defense Program (CMDP) for sometime now, and one of basic defensive posture of CMDP is to hunch our back and duck our head in. Well, it was pride and ego, both "destructive" emotions to me.

Ever since I found my skills (both offensive and defensive) improving, I've taken many things for granted: like letting my defense down during sparring and underestimating my opponents. But the worse enemy is my pride and ego. When my traning partner Imran bombed me with penetrating combos that nite, I was so eager to hit him back that I neglected my defense totally (head out, hands down, charging in blindly etc.), and in the process got beaten more. So the more emotional I got, the more I got hit. See how destructive pride is?

By the time I finished sparring with Imran, I was so eager to "win" my next bout that I walked straight into Leon's headbutt. Ouuch! The price of letting pride rule my head. That's why it's so important to stay calm in a fight: whether it's in the ring or on the street - a simple lesson many of us forget.

I'll strive to be more mindful of my emotions from now on, whether in the gym or outside. It's best not be attached to winning or losing, but just focus on developing my skills, and having fun along the way. ;)

Rodney King seminar in Singapore 2006

Came back from seminar by the founder of Crazy Monkey Defense Program, Rodney King in Singapore on Nov 2006.

Here's my take on his seminar:

1. Initially I was kinda intimidated by the majority of participants who were there: those mean MMA types with their "dun-F-with-me" look. I wasn't sure if I could measure up or if their light would be too heavy for me during training.

2. Rodney is a great coach who delivered his points with gusto and he constantly challenged us to test his points/principles/techniques with a training partner thoroughly augment our understanding of the Crazy Monkey Defense Program.

3. I think two of the most overlook aspects of my game are balance and footwork. Although I'm still not 100% clear on these, I now realised how important it is to maintain balance in a fight, and why we must eliminate risky stances such as crossing our legs and lunging forward. Closing my eyes when shadown boxing really bring home this point, great practice. Rodney had said even the most conditioned or experience fighters got KOs in fights due to wrong footing or lost balance, that is scary indeed.

4. I particularly like his breakdown of CMDP into 4 main pillars: Balance ~ Crazy Monkey Defense ~ TES (Tight Economical Structure) ~ Conditioning. The last part is another harsh reminder for me to get back in Vince Core Strength workout classes.

5. This seminar also shown me the difference between Crazy Monkey Level 1, 2 and 3. Personally I like CM2 - crashing the line with a tinge of CM3 since I prefer to counterpunch.

6. Although I prefer Mark Hatmaker's definition of fighting ranges: either feeling (not fighting) or fighting (just 2 ranges) compare to the typical kick-punch-clinch-ground ranges, I realised we end up on the cross-sword position more often than we wanted to. Now we know what to do - use the pop & drive or squat & push combos.

7. Since I like to crash the line (and setup for the big right), now I've learned it's much better to shove & cross/elbow/headbutt - a very intimidating move.

8. Despite what Rodney said, I felt that practicing drills, training with focus mitts, medicine balls, shields and punching bags still have their usefulness. Perhaps Vince can enlighten us on how to reconcile Rodney's approach of learning by sparring entirely compare to our gym current approach.

Overall, it was a superb seminar, beyond my best expectation. I came back recharged with many new ideas, principles and few awesome techniques.

Joint-locks for knife defense

During a practice session with Big Raj (the BJJ giant who also has a background in Jiu-jitsu), I realised my knife defense techniques are rather sloppy (probably due to long break from practicing such techniques).

I learned a few things from the gentle giant:

1. Make sure I control the arm tightly.
2. It's better to block (or jam), then lock his arm to the back than overhooking it (forget the Thai clinch for this).
3. Remember to head-butt, knee thigh, or sweep to take out his CNS (mind) from hurting me.

What I learned from Alex:

1. Jam and move off the centerline.
2. Strike with whole forearm to attacker's chin/throat while breaking his elbow with my chest.
3. Knee to thigh or sweep to unbalance and control.

Practical and nice. Thanks guys!

Rosi Sexton - MMA champ

Sparred with Rosi, a visitor from the UK recently. She was sorta like the first woman I sparred with for years.

Like most visitors to the gym, I gave her to chance to throw the first few strikes to gauge the kinda level I should go. I sensed that she had some training background considering how relax she was and when she threw her first couple of shots, I knew she is good (but not how good).

What I didn't know was she's Rosi Sexton, a 6-0 MMA women's champion in the UK (as at Aug 30, 2006). So I kept it light and the few rounds ended without any fireworks. Couple of days later she went hard on the other guys in the gym in my absence and I lost my chance to "test" my skills & learn from such an accomplished fighter. She must have thought I can only take "light contact" in view of my laidback approach during sparring.

I resolved not to underestimate any opponent man or woman in the future and to improve my communication so that my training partner really knows how hard to go.

To Rosi, it was really cool to train with you and hope I'll get the chance to do so again in the future.

Ground and Pound

Think you can throw decent strikes? That's what I thought. Well, try that on the ground and the whole thing changed. After going through few sessions of ground and pound (GnP), this is what I learned:

1. Being pounded on from the top is terrifying - think he's the hammer and you're the nail, or Thor raining thunderstorms on you.

2. Striking him from the bottom is really tough, and exhausting.

3. It's very hard to defend strikes from the top, esp. from an open guard.
4. You need to be very fit to do ground and pound (from whichever position).

To defend from the bottom:

1. Keep a tight close guard.

Cover your head with both your hands.

3. Sit-up to left or right whenever he pound down and grab his arm, one at a time.

4. Grab down to his wrists.

5. Pull his hands under your knees as you change to open guard (or butterfly guard) by resting your feets on his hip. Kick his face from the hip.

6. Work your escape once you have controlled his arms this way.

Lead hand first

Well, like the often quoted business strategy: 20% of your techniques should reap you 80% of the results you wanted (stunned, disabled, KOed). I remembered reading Mark Hatmaker's book, No Holds Barred Fighting, the most often used striking arsenal in NHB fights are hand strikes. That means it's only logical to devote most of our training time to learn how to strike with our hands.

But a new boxer is often overwhelmed by the vast arrays of hand strikes to learn and master: jab, cross, hook, uppercut and the combinations you can use. My take on this is simple: just focus on your lead hand, then slowly work your combinations. Find your personal bread and butter combo, and train hard to be good at it. Mike Tyson used to KO many fighters just by using his lead hook alone.

Try this nifty combo:

1. Make the opponent think you have a static striking pattern, eg. by punching lead-cross repeatedly.

2. Then level change to strike him with a low lead.

3. Feint a cross by staring at him and moving your shoulder.

4. But WHAM! strike him with your lead again.

Fighting tall opponent

Fought with Leon, a 6ft. tall Dutch guy who has a background in Kickboxing and Jiujitsu. I knew he was good the moment I stepped into the class. Funny thing with martial arts, you can easily distinguished someone who has some skills from a newcomer if you have some experience in MA yourself.

Leon gave me my first bloodied mouth with his fast and long jab.

Things to note when sparring with a taller opponent:
1. Level change when hitting them lower.
2. Duck the head in the arm when punching.
3. Work on overhand combos: lead jab up-down then overhand right is a good combo against a tall opponent.
4. Put bodyweight behind my punches by taking a step forward when throwing cross and overhand.
5. Counter-punching seems to work with proper defensive timing.
6. Stop sparring with them to prevent painful injuries and damage pride. ;)

I also need to decide whether a defensive game, attacking game or counter-punching is the most suitable style for me. Hopefully, I'll make a good decision after sparring with more people from diverse backgrounds.

Overall, it's a good experience for me. The more different people I spar with, the more exposure I get.

Fighting a Southpaw

March 24, 2006 was another first for me. I was almost KOed by Vince when sparring with him. We went for three 2 mins round and on the third round, Vince caught me with a vicious right hook. For few secs, it was lights out for me, I dropped my limbs and went down on my knees.

Later Vince revealed that I threw too many telegraphic haymakers, esp. the right and I dropped my hands too much. But to me, my main problem fighting Vince is that he's a Southpaw, ie. someone who use his right hand/leg as lead boxing hand/stand. And worse, he's a right-hander who fights Southpaw. That means his lead punches are real fast and hard-hitting.

Vince then taught me to:

1. Counter his right lead hooks with my right cross immediately after I managed to block it crazy monkey style.

2. Throw more crosses and straights instead of wild haymakers.

3. Move away from the strong left hand when fighting a real Southpaw. At least make keep moving to make yourself a hard target.

Must make a mental note not to feel overly intimidated when fighting my instructor or any opponents perceived to be better than me.

Watch out for the hook!

My sparring and training on Feb 2006 was another eye-opener. Having incorporated some western boxing into our training with advance techniques as taught by Rodney King and Mark Hatmaker, we find them especially useful against a typical Shotokan sylist, esp. the hook punch. Called kagi tsuki in Karate, the hook punch is seldom taught in most Karate schools who prefer to focus on straight punches like oi tsuki, choku tsuki and gyaku tsuki.

This blends well with Kissaki Kai Karate approach of moving 45 degree into the opponent or quarter turn facing the opponent. It'll often open up a gap in the opponent's defense for you to throw in the hook. I need to polish up my hooks on the bags and ensure proper alignment of my elbows when I throw my hooks to generate enough power for a KO and to prevent injuring my elbows.
Next stop, combos and mixing it up!

Sparring will keep illusions away

Just realized that I too suffered from typical martial artist delusion of perceived skills vs actual skills. Worse, I'm not as fast or strong as I think I am! Thanks to Vince and his evolution of training approach emphasizing Aliveness, all my "personal myths" are busted. The myth buster: constant sparring against a moving resisting opponent. That's is the main reason why Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) are so effective: it's the way they train.

Sparring with a fast ex-national Karateka, Alex and a Muay Thai exponent, Imran showed me just how much I need to brush up on my skills and fitness. The good thing is: the more I spar, the more I improve. Add in intense aliveness drills and core strength workout, we'll have a perfect mix of balance training.nothing beats sparring to develop functional fighting skills.

Sparring with head gear

Did some boxing recently and realised that typical Karate head gear with face cage really hampers visibility or peripheral vision: which is a crucial component in any fights, esp. when defending yourself from harm.

I didn't realised this earlier because the typical Karate kumite (traditional Shotokan ways) use mainly linear attacks (many straight punches).

Now western boxing is whole different ballgame. The typical Karate head gear with face cage simply reduce my defense to nil. I couldn't see those hooks and uppercuts coming in fast and furious. Beautiful art, western boxing. Now, let's hope my new head gear will provide much better visibility without sacrificing too much protection.