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Recipe for success: Becoming well rounded in mixed martial arts (Part Two)

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In our second installment of the "success" series, we will focus on two new ingredients in the recipe for becoming a well rounded fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA).

In part one we zoned in on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art and discipline as a skill required to find success in the elite levels of this sport. The whole reason for this series is to really focus in on what MMA is made of: The arts, the intangibles and really the heart and soul of the sport we all love.

Our sport is often referenced by the acronym MMA. But how many people understand what that actually means? Mixed Martial Arts is pretty straight forward, it’s a mixture of the martial arts, but dig deeper and you will so much more to it than just a combination of Karate and Wrestling or Sambo and Sumo. The arts include other techniques and skills; some are taught and some you just have inside of you.

It may be an old cliché that you can’t teach heart but it is also a very true one.

To be relevant in the sport today, a fighter has to not only combine an assortment of arts together but make sure they mix well in translation when in usage. Knowing the arts and studying them would hardly matter if you were not able to use them to your strength.

MMA Manias own Andrew Keller was able to inspire this series with his tactical use of his mixture of martial arts, especially when he mentioned his opponent being physically stronger and faced adversity when being illegally struck multiple times.

Yet the usage of the martial arts prevailed for him.

Let’s dig in and talk about our next two ingredients after the jump.

Heart

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This is an unteachable skill. Either you have it or quite frankly you don’t.

What are you going to do when adversity is right in your face? When the pressure is so strong you feel like you have nowhere to go? It can be like quicksand, the more and more that you try to escape, the deeper and deeper you are pulled into it.

The answer for the majority of people is that they crumble, they bow down to adversity, they give up and they take the easy way out.

It is not a desired feeling to be put into deep waters and asked to mentally and physically fight to get out. People rarely push themselves to the limit, they rarely attain their potential and in consequence they never truly find out who they are and what they are made of.

Heart can be placed in the same category as Discipline, it's all on the inside. That hungriness to succeed, the feeling the coach is looking for when he says "Who wants it more?" When your opponent has you pinned down along the fence do you cover up, turtle up and wait until the ref stops it or do you fight back, find a way to survive and determine your own fate?

When that deep choke is locked in like the anaconda choke on Randy Couture vs Minotauro Nogueira, technique won’t be the only thing that gets you out or when you are in round five of a fight you have no hope in winning buy yet you push forward and give everything you have. Heart will give you that extra breath, that extra adrenaline rush or that extra explosion to escape.

Someone with heart is mentally strong. You can have all the muscle in the world and have no heart. You can say anything you want before the fight and get in there and have no heart. It is real bruising to label someone heartless but in this sport everyone will at one point or another be put in a bad spot, staring eye-to-eye with adversity.

And people will handle it different.

Whether it be tapping to strikes, giving up on the stool or even losing in all of the big fights; all of those can be examples of someone crumbling under pressure and unwilling to fight back when the walls are caving in around you.  

Muay Thai

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Modern Muay Thai started in the early 1900’s, more so in the 1920’s when most if not all Muay Thai (*Thai Boxing) matches started using gloves to protect the combatants. Developed in Thailand as a hand-to-hand combat method, the roots of the art can be traced as far back into history as the 1700’s.

Not one person is attributed to inventing the art, rather several "Thai tribes" who used the hand-to-hand combat style in favor of spears and other weaponry.

The modern Muay Thai we see today slowly developed throughout the 1900’s with a boom in the 70’s which is mainly attributed to the popularity of Bruce Lee and his martial arts influence. But Muay Thai as a sport is much different then the Muay Thai used in MMA. Of course it has to be tweaked so it adapts to the overall sport of MMA.

Muay Thai in MMA has been shown in several different ways and has countless advantages in the sport when used efficiently. Of course the threat of a takedown severely hampers the willingness to fully let the knees, kicks and hands go in a traditional Muay Thai style, however, a lot of fighters have shown that studying and utilizing the martial art has its rewards.

Fighters like Kit Cope, Duane "Bang" Ludwig and "Razor" Rob McCullough have Muay Thai backgrounds, while fighters like Anderson Silva and Mauricio Rua have used the Muay Thai martial art as a huge part of their successful striking arsenal.

"Shogun" uses a very Muay Thai-oriented stance when striking, one of his legs is placed in front of his body with the foot of that leading leg facing straight towards the opponent and the heel of that foot is slightly raised off the ground. His other leg is placed behind with the foot of his rear leg facing about 45 degrees away from his leading foot.

The rest of his body tends to be turned at a 45 degree angle as well in sync with that rear foot. He isn’t always technical with it but that is often the stance he strikes with. His upper body posture tends to be very Muay Thai-oriented as well when he raises his shoulders and raises his forearms in front of his face, he keeps his hands open and he stalks forward bouncing his lead leg which enables fast push or thrust kicks.

Muay Thai’s stance can be hazardous in MMA especially versus wrestlers who will feast off single legs, but the skills attributed with Muay Thai are another story. Muay Thai is also referred to as the art of eight limbs because it utilizes punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes compared to boxing which uses two limbs and traditional kickboxing that utilizes mainly four limbs.

The art is traditionally taught in two forms, major strikes and minor strikes. Regardless whether major or minor, almost all techniques use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block. Anderson Silva’s use of the upward elbow, the spinning heel kick and flying knee are all techniques favored in the sport and discipline of Muay Thai.

But the most devastating usage of Muay Thai has to be the clinch work.

Plain and simple, the Muay Thai Plum, a double collared clinch is effective in MMA more so than any of the devastating strikes offered by the art. It is where Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva and fighters like Cheick Kongo deliver brutal knees to the head and body. A proper clinch will allow you to dictate where the fighter moves and allow you to bring the body or head closer to land knees with momentum.

But if used with other disciplines it can be even more so lethal.

You can execute trips and takedowns as well as pulling guard. Striking such as uppercuts can be utilized, as well as cage and Octagon control. With a healthy dose of wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and even Judo, being in these clinch situations will leave you advantageous in almost any outcome. Mix in boxing or "dirty" boxing and you are even more of a weapon.

That's it for today. In part three we will take a look at Coaching/Gyms and the martial art of wrestling in MMA.

Until next time...

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