Does CBD do anything for the combat sports athlete?

You will have seen it everywhere on social media. Your favourite fighter is using it, Joe Rogan is into it and you can even find people adding it to their morning coffee. That’s right CBD or Cannabidiol, the other less fun substance in marijuana, is big news in our community. There are claims that it decreases inflammation, aids sleep, treats anxiety and may even cure cancer. Its not just you that gets to benefit, is your dog looking a bit anxious or arthritic? CBD YO!

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Having been in the martial arts industry for a bit now and having seen various products make claims and gain popularity before dying on their holes, I was not entirely convinced by the testimonials from the many athletes being paid to market CBD products.

Does anyone remember those altitude masks (don’t replicate training at altitude), cherry super drinks (its tastes like Ribena but shit), spirulina (tastes like pond water) or magical butter coffees (won’t improve IQ, sorry).

However, after taking the time to look at the scientific research there appeared to be more potential to CBD than some of these other gimmicks.

 CBD and Epilepsy

The promise of CBD products began its rise to “miracle cure all” status initially within the epilepsy community. It became apparent that parents of children with epilepsy where trying to help their kids by giving them CBD.

These desperate parent’s stories are truly heart breaking. Many had infants who where seizing hundreds of times a day, were barely conscious between seizures and had an extremely poor prognosis.

Some of these parents found decades old studies suggesting CBD may alleviate certain seizures. With nothing to lose the parents got in contact with growers in search of strains of marijuana with a high CBD content.

In some of these kids the results are incredible. Seizures that were in full swing often stopped and went away for weeks. Many of these kids had special needs but they could begin to have normal lives that didn’t revolve around the inevitable seizures.

It was very evident that CBD was having a dramatic physiological effect in the bodies of some of these kids with certain forms of epilepsy.

CBD the viral phenomenon

The narrative is compelling, a compound in a demonised substance is found to save kids’ lives. There was no way that was not going to go viral and if it works for epilepsy it must work for other things, right? Well that is what the companies selling CBD products would love to be true.

Now we have CBD products for everything, muscle aches, anxiety, insomnia and the ubiquitous cancer cure. It has been speculated that CBD works its magic by attaching to receptors in our bodies endocannabinoid system. This important system is involved in our immune response, emotional regulation and other processes. If CBD was binding to receptors in our endocannabinoid system this could explain such a diverse range of effects from one molecule.

 

The problem is that CBD does not actually bind to the receptors in our endocannabinoid system. Its doing something but not there.

So, we do not really know the mechanism of action, how it works or what it works for. Part of this is due to the vilification of marijuana (the substance from which CBD is derived). As a schedule 1 drug, in the US, getting permission to use the substance in clinical trials is extremely difficult.

With this lack of research there is little evidence to invalidate the CBD companies claims. We have a wealth of anecdotal accounts (possibly the worst form of evidence) that indicate where more research is needed, but when these anecdotal accounts are being initiated by social media influencers it is wise to be sceptical.

Is there any CBD in your CBD Product?

Probably my major concern with the products is the lack of regulation. There Is no government body checking what is in the products you are consuming. One US study showed 70 percent of tested products had labels that didn’t match the stuff inside. They either had too much or too little CBD. Perhaps more concerning, is that 1 in 5 of the products had some cheeky THC in them. This is the psychoactive chemical in weed that gets people high and gives them the munchies. It might account for some of the subjective effects like better sleep, relaxation or the desire to watch 6 hours of Teen Titans Go.

 

The “I don’t have time to read 800 words, McVeigh, give me the gist of it” summary.

Does CBD do anything?

Yep, in people with certain types of epilepsy and folk with certain neuropathic pain syndromes there is good evidence CBD can help.

Will CBD help with my training/recovery?

We do not really know yet. It will not do all the things the company’s marketing it say it will. Any time a new product comes on the scene and claims to treat a wide array of ailments its usually ballax, but CBD clearly is doing something in these epileptic kids. So, it has more potential when compared to the run of the mill trash products we see periodically.

Bottom line, if you think it is helping you, you can afford it and you are confident the company you are buying from is reliable, work away. There may be something to it and when the research is there to back up the claims, I might even join you.

 

Getting better, faster. The Purposeful Practice Series part 2

You may have heard of “Deliberate Practice”. It is the gold standard method for developing expertise.

Anders Ericsson is the guy who coined the term and did all the research into expertise that has since been popularised in books like Outliers and Talent is Overrated. Unfortunately, for us, it requires a field that is already well established, where optimal training practices are known.

The Suzuki Method for learning the violin is one such form of deliberate practice. Follow the steps, do the work, under the watchful eye of a skilled instructor and after a prolonged period you will be an expert.

People have been playing violins for centuries and have had the time necessary to develop optimal practice, culminating in programs like the Suzuki method. Jiu Jitsu is a sport in its infancy (particularly no gi jiu jitsu) with a huge range of training methodologies. Some are excellent and some are not so much.

Although many coaches and teams are pioneering a more thorough systems based methodology and regularly producing world champions. We have a long way to go before we reach the deliberate practice level in the sport of jiu jitsu.

That being said the way in which you train or practice anything can be improved even without the established deliberate practice structure provided you follow the principles of purposeful practice.

Purposeful practice (deliberate practices unruly little brother) is defined by 4 principles that will enable you to consistently improve in any discipline over time. There will be a degree of trial and error involved as optimal training methods are developed but with time creativity and commitment to the four principles outlined below you never have to stop getting better.

4 Principles of Purposeful Practice

Always have an aim for the practice

The first step in improving in any field is often to identify the aim of the practice. If you are drilling in your own time you should make the effort to actually decide what it is you want to improve. If you are in a class structure your coach may state the aim and if not hopefully its self evident. Maybe you will be working on finishing the bow and arrow choke from the back or resetting your guard from the headquarters position.

Having an identified aim for the practice allows you to determine whether or not you have used your time well. If your aim is to improve your ability to recover half guard from side control and you were able to do so more effectively after the session you have evidence that you have improved.

Whatever the aim is there will be smaller components that comprise the overall goal. In our half guard recovery example one such component, which is vitally important, could be getting inside the cross face. Establishing set aims makes the game smaller allowing for more detailed understanding of positions and techniques. This is more effective than going through the motions and hoping to get better by accident.

 

Focus

This is pretty obvious, but unless you are giving what you are doing your full attention you are probably limiting your ability to improve. This is particularly common in group classes where the material may not be to your liking and you are with all your friends. There is a social aspect to jiu jitsu and its important but if your training partner wants to tell you all about some gym gossip while you are trying to figure out a crab ride sequence, they are inhibiting your ability to improve. Try to keep talk focussed on the task at hand.

Since having kids I have come to value my training time much more due to its scarcity. I can no longer spend all day in the gym training and farting around in equal measure. I come in with an aim for the practice and focus on achieving the steps that will allow me to complete the task… usually.

 

Feedback

All this planning and focus is not going to help if you are doing movements incorrectly. This is why it helps to get feedback. You can get feedback from your coach, your training partners and yourself. When you are comfortable with a technique you have mental representation of how it should look and more importantly what it should feel like. What separates expert performers from the rest of us is often the quality of these mental representations.

If your mental representation for what you are working on is refined enough you will feel when you’ve done a bum rep and can alter accordingly. Feedback from training partners and coaches is also invaluable, some of the best guys I have trained with are constantly asking training partners how a movement felt, where was the pressure and how they could improve.

Gettting outside comfort zones

Living in the land of good enough is positively delightful, you don’t have to think that hard and you get to play your best stuff. The jiu jitsu hierarchy, and the social status engendered by that, makes tapping out to lower belts unpleasant for many people in gyms where that culture exists. This promotes the automated “A game” approach that preserves egos but kills improvement.

To improve your overall game, finding weakness and working on them is imperative. This will often mean letting people onto your back to work defence there or getting your guard passed while playing a new type of position.

It is important that you don’t get too far out of your comfort zone. If your training partner is a 100kg black belt and you are a 65kg white belt looking to develop side control escapes, this might not be the right plan unless you have spoken about your aims before hand.

Putting it all together

In our bow and arrow example we have established an aim. After rolling, a few of your training partners have noticed getting to the back might not be the problem but staying there and winning the hand fight is where you are coming up short.

With this feedback you have identified the main ways you lose the back and what is preventing you from completing the choke. You do some research and talk to your coach and figure out a couple of back retentions and hand fighting drills that may help. You drill these techniques until they become smooth, then work on several drills to improve retention and hand fighting.

Drilling with progressively resisting opponents bridges the gap between compliant technique practice and live rolling. After a few weeks of focused practice you have greatly improved your ability to finish with the bow and arrow choke. So much so that your training partners are bailing to mount rather than have you any where near their back. Maybe its time to start working on your ability to hold mount and finish from there?

Taking your training seriously and following the principles of purposeful practice will take your ability to murder hug folk to a new level.

 

What your Jiu Jitsu Coach doesn’t want you to know?: The Purposeful Practice Series Part 1

Apologies for the click bait above, I know its terrible and I feel dirty.

So, you have been training for a while, you are a regular at classes, you do the techniques/drills and assume you are getting a little bit better every time you step on the mat.  Its probably safe to say that most people doing Jiu jitsu expect this to be happening and this is what they pay for with gym fees.

As Jiu jitsu coaches we tend encourage the idea. Just turn up and you will get better. When you guys turn up and give us money, it allows us to continue doing the job we are passionate about and buy luxuries like food. Consistency and mat time are hugely important, but unfortunately they do not constitute the complete picture.

What we don’t want you to know is:

It is entirely possible to train for years and years without improving significantly.

Thanks to the popularity of Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, it is now culturally accepted that the more you train, in your chosen discipline, the better you will be. The 10 000 hour rule popularised by Gladwell posits that if you amass 10 000 hours in any discipline then you will have reached the expert level. This 10 000 hour rule is so ubiquitous it even has a Macklemore song. The problem is that it is wrong on several levels.

Let’s suppose you picked up on learning Jiu jitsu from watching the UFC. Getting elbowed in the head is not your bag but Jiu jitsu looks fun.  You find a gym with a good reputation, buy a gi and watch an instructional on how to tie the belt, so it doesn’t look like a flappy dong.

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You attend the fundamentals program for a while and you eventually get to the point where you sort of know what is going on and can join in with the sparring classes. You still aren’t very good but your more experienced training partners will let you apply techniques if they are performed correctly and you get your first taste of what the sport should feel like.

You are still fuelled by that initial motivation that got you going in the first place and you keep putting in the hours. Learning something new is fun and you are engaged in the process. The training partners that helped you in the beginning now must try harder to stop you applying techniques and the new guys see you as one of the more experienced athletes. You understand the main positions, concepts and have internalised your go to techniques.

Eventually with more practice you get good enough that training is fun, you can apply your techniques automatically and you understand the food chain, you know which training partners you can dominate, hang with and which will smash you. You have reached a comfort level at which you can turn up for practice and just enjoy yourself.

This comfort level can be reached at any stage of competency, but once you have reached this level and your performance is automated – you have stopped improving. You are doing the same positions every round and a lot of the time this works for you, but some of the more experienced guys have noticed you can’t remove leg lassos or struggle with knee cuts, and they use this knowledge against you. But this only happens with the purple belts and above and nothing works against them anyway, so you don’t let it bother you.

Training is tough, its satisfying, you are well on your way to clocking up hundreds and thousands of hours, but you aren’t improving.

It is important to stress that this is not an indication that you have reached some sort of innate, insurmountable plateau in your abilities. Everything that has been observed in the science of expertise indicates that such immutable limits do not exist. It is always possible to keep going and improving, unfortunately its not always easy.

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For the past year I have been working on my guard retention which has been an area of weakness for me. It has been a brutal, ego crushing experience. The techniques are not as fun to drill as a bolo and I was murdered by everyone in the first few months. It still a work in progress but I am much better than I would have been had I simply played my automated, comfortable A game.

In the next few parts of this series we will look at how to specifically train with purpose in order to keep improving as an athlete. Remember improvement is always possible at any level, all it takes is attention, engagement and a willingness to make yourself do things that are uncomfortable….in a jiu jitsu context….not like weird stuff.

Hip Mobility: How to improve it so you can kill people better!

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Why you should do it?

The more mobile a jiu jitsu athlete is, the more options there are available to them.  There are no techniques that they cannot physically do and they can direct their development in the sport  in whatever direction they wish.

Those of us with joints that do not work as nice, we may find ourselves restricted, mostly to that brutal half guard lifestyle with all gi burns and face smooshing that it often entails.

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We will begin this series by focusing on the hips. You may not be consciously aware of it but the active range of motion at your joints will already be influencing how you train. If you find out you have wonderful hip external rotation on your right, well that is where you will be guiding your omoplatas. If you are an hip internal rotation ninja your knee cut passes will probably be quite scary.

I have never been great mobility wise. A severe lack of external rotation at my left hip in particular has always bothered me even when I was not consciously aware of it. Id rarely throw up a triangle or omoplata to that side and it felt as though I had a hole in my guard as I was unable to high leg effectively.

After attending a number of Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) Courses I felt that I could finally do something about it. FRC is a systematic approach to mobility development and joint integrity which is backed up by a scientific rationale that keeps the nerd in me happy. Its where I have robbed all the stuff below.

How to do it?

Irradiation

During the exercise descriptions below you will often be asked to irradiate. This is probably the single most important concept in the FRC stretching protocol and one that I did not fully grasp until around 6months of regular practice.

The concept goes like this. If you can generate a shit tonne of muscular tension around the joint you are trying to stretch the more pronounced the improvements in usable range of motion will be.

So whenever you are asked to irradiate:

1. Take a big breath and trap as much air as you can in your lower abdominal region.

2. Brace your stomach like you are expecting a body shot.

3. Allow the contraction to spread out from your stomach to incorporate the rest of your body as you gradually build up the intensity of the contraction.

4. Breath shallowly while maintaining the contraction and try not to poo.

External rotation

The protocol for the stretchy bits or Progressive and Regressive Isometric Loading (PAILS and RAILS) works like this: Start in the 90/90 position pictured below, lean forward to achieve the initial stretch on the outside of your hip.

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a. 60 sec of passive stretch focusing on deep breathing and relaxing into the position.

b. 30 sec PAILS contraction, irradiate and begin pushing your lead leg foot and knee into the floor. Imagine having scales under the foot and knee and you are trying to make these scales read as heavy as possible. Gradually build up to 80% of your maximal tension.

c. 15 sec RAILS contraction, while maintaining your irradiation attempt to increase the stretch depth/intensity by trying to make the imaginary scales as light as possible as your chest comes forward.

d. 15 sec passive stretch

e. Repeat steps a-d for 2 more sets.

 

 

 

Now we have expanded the joint range a bit we can start looking at gaining some more control with holds and lift off’s.

Side lying hip external rotation lift off’s

Assume the starting position and irradiate. Raise your foot by externally rotating the hip while keeping the trail leg knee in contact with the floor

 

 

 

Supine hip external rotation lift offs

Assume the starting position and irradiate. Lift the foot away from the knee focusing on driving external rotation through the hip

 

 

 

Internal rotation

Internal rotation Pails/Rails

The protocol is the same as before

a. 60 sec of passive stretch

b. 30 sec PAILS contraction irradiate and try to lift knee while pressing ankle into the floor

c. 15 sec RAILS contraction attempt to lift foot from floor while bringing upper body closer to the trail leg

d. 15 sec passive stretch

e. Repeat steps a-d for 2 more sets.

 

 

 

Internal rotation lift offs

Assume the starting position, irradiate and lift the foot from the floor. If foot doesn’t move, lean forward until you can. You want to find the range where you can just about lift the foot from the floor.

 

 

 

Putting it all together

Your hips will probably feel weird and tired after all that. Lets now put our new found hip external and internal rotation gains to good use in the form of some more complex movements.

Standing Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARS)

4 reps both ways

Squat hold

Sit at the bottom of a squat for 1-2 minutes then rep out 10 low squats

Programming

I see the biggest improvements when I am doing this regularly, therefore for this experiment I would recommend we all try to do this 5-7days a week. Sometimes if my hips feel goofy I will reduce the intensity of the PAILS and RAILS but the other movements can be done everyday at a high intensity.

I also like to do hip rotation movements and CARS any time I have a a spare second. We will expand more on why this is a good idea in subsequent blogs, but for now give this a shot for a couple of weeks and let me know how you get on. If you have questions or want me to go through any of the movements catch me at The Griphouse.

Program Overview

  1. Hip External rotation Pails and Rails
    1. Side lying hip external rotation lift offs
    2. Prone hip external rotation lift offs
  2. Hip internal rotation Pails and Rails
    1. Hip internal rotation lift offs from 90/90
  3. Hip Controlled Articular Rotations
  4. Squat hold and reps

So you wanna be a fighter? A how to guide.

I have had a few emails recently that have led me to understand that the path to becoming a competitive mma fighter, competing out of the Griphouse, is not as clear as it should be. One of the more common questions I get is “I want to be an MMA fighter, what classes do I do?”. We have a large timetable, a lot of different coaches, multiple classes going on at the same time and it can be confusing for those trying to decide how to proceed.

With this blog post I hope to cover the path for the athlete looking to compete in MMA representing the Dinky Ninja Fight Team.

The Prerequisites

  • The time to develop

Learning the fundamentals of numerous complicated combat sports takes a while. The bottom line is that if you are not able to commit 10-12hours a week to developing your MMA game. It is unlikely that you will compete representing the DNFT.

That figure is a minimum, our top athletes and those guys who got good really, really fast usually do a lot more.

  • Work Ethic

The volume of training outlined above is tough on the body. There will be times when you want to miss a session, duck the tough spars or loss concentration during a technique class. It becomes easy to make these single occurrences a habit. Not every training session will blow your mind and by around Friday all of our fighters hate anything that involves them moving.

Becoming a fighter must become a part of your identity. You are making a commitment to the future, scarier, more dangerous version of yourself not to slack off.

  • A genuine love of the Sport.

You will only ever persist in improving in an activity that is difficult if you have a genuine passion for it. Novelty and excitement can get you through the first few weeks and months but you really need to enjoy what you are doing in order to keep going when it gets really tough. Joanne Calderwood was the lightest member of the pro team and  once mentioned how much she loves fighting as it means she “gets to win a round of sparring”. It takes a lot of determination to keep going when you are constantly competing against team mates who are larger, more skilled or more experienced. When you start out you tend to be the nail and ball your sparring partners are hammers.

  • An absence of Ego and a desire to improve.

As mentioned in the paragraph above. When you start out it can seem as if everyone else is moving in fast forward. The stuff you are trying to learn your opponent does instinctively. Your team mates have more experience and it will be a long time before you are taking rounds from them. One way to stay sane and avoid falling into a pit of self pity is to concentrate on winning the small battles. You may not win the round but you can stop that single leg takedown a couple of times or land the cross counter on a decent opponent. Each one of these is an indication that you are improving and reinforces solid technical abilities.

The path of the MMA Athlete at the Griphouse

So if you can handle the above prerequisites here’s how you go about becoming a fighter

  • The Foundation

The back bone of your training should be the two MMA fundamentals classes Tuesday 6pm and Sat 1pm. These classes, coached by Dean Reilly and I (Paul Mcveigh), will introduce you to concepts unique to MMA. These are also the guys who will be putting you forward for bouts so let them know you are interested in competing and they will let you know when you are ready.

As well as these two classes, when you become comfortable sparring, the Friday 7pm MMA sparring class is added to the foundation and is now the single most important class in the week. This is the class where you will develop your own style and adapt techniques to work against resisting training partners in a chaotic environment.

Another hour of Muay Thai sparring will be a useful addition when you are experienced enough Mon 7pm or Thurs 11am.

  • Building on the Foundation

If you are a complete beginner it will be a little while before you are fully sparring so you have another 6-8hrs minimum of training to account for. Those with more experience can guide their training towards weaker areas but in general an equal distribution of wrestling, Muay Thai and Jiu jitsu works well. Our full timetable is available here the fundamental classes are geared to those new to the sports so feel free to round out your training week depending on your schedule.

Training week example (no sparring experience)

Monday

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Tuesday

6pm MMA Fundamentals

7pm Wrestling

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Wednesday

6pm Jiu jitsu fundamentals

Thursday

6pm Wrestling

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Saturday

11am Wrestling

12pm Jiu jitsu fundamentals

1pm Mma fundamentals

Training week example (sparring experience)

Monday

6pm Jiu Jitsu fundamentals

7pm Muay Thai sparring

8pm Jiu jitsu sparring

Tuesday

6pm MMA fundamentals

7pm Wrestling

Wednesday

6pm Muay Thai fundamentals

7pm Jiu jitsu sparring

Thursday

6pm Wrestling

7pm  No gi Jiu Jitsu intermediate

Friday

7pm mma sparring

Saturday

11am wrestling

12pm Jiu Jitsu fundamentals

1pm mma fundamentals

Total 13hours per week.

Before your first bout.

Prior to taking your first amateur mma bout we have a number of recommendations. We strongly believe that competition breeds excellent. Nothing can refine your training like competing in front of crowd. Mistakes are highlighted and strengths are noted. By competing in various formats out with the main sport of mma you can experience the stresses of competition but as it is not your main goal you can concentrate on the performance a little more objectively.

  • Compete in grappling tournaments

Grappling tournaments are great for destroying the ego. If there are 8 guys in your division 7 guys are going to lose at some point that day. Learning how to deal with a lose in a positive manner is a vital component to becoming a successful mixed martial artist. A defeat should drive you to be better and plug the holes in your game. Upon making the transition to mma one of our Muay Thai coaches Sean Wright entered many Jiujitsu comps to refine the grappling aspect of his game.

  • Compete in a novice striking bout

Over the course of an MMA career you will be hit a lot. Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is vital for the mixed martial artist. By competing in a striking discipline you are helping refine offensive and defensive skills that will serve you well in MMA competition.

  • Get 5-10 inter club bouts

Inter clubs offer burgeoning fighters cage experience but in a relatively controlled environment. Opponents are often team mates and there is a crowd of people watching. However contact is controlled, shin guards are worn, submissions do not end the bout and technical proficiency is emphasised.

This is one step removed from competing and is a valuable tool to ensure the fighter is comfortable competing in the unique mma environment.

  • Be an asset for your team mates.

Probably the most important prerequisite. By the time you are ready to compete you will be an asset to the entire team. You will be able to hold pads and spar with the pro team guys. It may just be you in the fight but you have had an entire team of guys who have got you ready for this experience. You can call upon their knowledge and past experience at every turn.

The vast majority of those getting involved in MMA would be better off financially if they put the same hours into a minimum wage job. Many fighters, even successful ones, can come to the end of their careers with a catalogue of debilitating injuries and very little financial security.

If you are interested in MMA as a means to become rich and famous, things probably won’t go your way. Instead if you have a true passion for the sport and that passion is supported by a strong work ethic and the constant focus on gradual improvement you have got everything you need to be a successful competitor.

Blending the Ranges: Wrestling into strikes

Many MMA coaches have long known how effective punching your way into a takedown is for those looking to bring an MMA bout to the mat. Striking an opponent forces them to cover up leaving their hips and legs vulnerable to attack. This is a MMA mainstay and something almost all fighters are proficient with.

Less common is the idea of using wrestling to create striking opportunities. Often a successful takedown is the difference between winning and losing a bout. Fighters have to respect these attempts and defend, often leaving themselves open to strikes as their hands come down and their levels change.

Many great fighters have utilised these principles and it seems to be a hallmark of the new breed of fighters, who have been trained in MMA from the start of their careers. As opposed to the first wave of athletes who were primarily strikers, wrestlers or Jiu jitsu guys. When you have the bigger picture in mind from the start you are less likely to pick up small but detrimental habits that can sometimes come from exclusively training in one of the component arts.

The true Mixed Martial Artist can blend the ranges seamlessly, striking into takedowns, punching into guard passes, attacking submissions to gain striking opportunities etc.

There are a number of athletes who do this well but as I have watched about billion hours of Demetrious Johnson footage and its all on my hard drive we will have a look at how he does it in the video below.

You can check out the other parts of our why we should all love and be more like DJ series in the links here

https://thegriphouse.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/the-frame-clinch-and-other-stuff-i-have-stolen-from-demetrious-johnson/

https://thegriphouse.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/the-stance-switching-magic-johnson-demetrious-that-is/

The Frame Clinch and other stuff I have stolen from Demetrious Johnson.

Wallwork

In MMA the clinch position along the cage is practically another martial art in itself. None of the combat sports which make up MMA address the position as their rule sets do not usually allow athletes to smash each other into chain link fences.

In the eyes of most judges, if an athlete has their back on the cage they are at disadvantage and are therefore losing that part of the round. When a fighter finds themselves in this predicament their fundamental athletic stance is disrupted, they cannot throw strikes with the same effectiveness and they must sprawl differently (wall sprawl vs ehm sprawl sprawl). The constant repummeling, wall sprawling, dragging guys up of your hips and efforts to turn off the cage make this area of the bout incredibly gruelling.

Some of the most interesting developments in mma are happening with athletes working to use this unique environment to their advantage.. One such development comes from Demetrious Johnson who utilises a unique framing clinch along with the more traditional plum clinch to great effect in his bouts.

Strikers clinch Vs Grapplers clinch.

A grappler style clinch would be something like the over under or double under hooks positions. Here you are limiting the opponents ability to strike and gaining a great deal of control over the opponents body. The final aim is to hold the opponent and achieve a takedown.

overunder

The strikers clinch differs from the grappler’s clinch in that there is always some form of barrier creating chest to chest separation. This again allows the athlete to limit the opponents ability to strike but also gives them the ability to effectively strike back. The Thai Plum clinch is a great example of this. Other examples are single collar tie for dirty boxing  and any clinch where head position is used to create chest to chest separation.

plum

The Frame Clinch

Demetrious Johnson is primarily a striker style clincher. He utilises the plum position excellently. He seamlessly enters into the clinch from punches and kicks and batters his opponents with knees to the body and head. Elbows and punches follow when they try to break away clean.

But things get really interesting when you try and pin him against the cage as we saw throughout his bout with Ali Bagutinov. What was really interesting about this fight was DJ’s ability to be the more effective athlete even when his back was pinned to the cage by a much more powerful opponent.

How did he do it? Well lets look at his Frame Clinch position.

This position is characterised by two main features the bicep frame and the lat frame (as in on the latissimus dorsi muscle).

framclinch2 frame clinchpic

The Bicep Frame

The bicep frame is massively important and serves a number of purposes.

  • Creates distance and angles: opponent cannot make true chest to chest contact. The shoulder of the bicep controlled arm is kept out. The space this creates will regularly filled with an onslaught of knees to the body.
  • Prevents opponents hands connecting: its hard to think of a more effective takedown in mma than the double leg against the cage with the hands locked below the hips. The bicep frame prevents the opponent from connecting their hands in double unders or when dropping down to double leg positions. The opponent is forced to commit to the single leg and as we can see in the video at the end of this article DJ is rather good at turning his hip out of those.
  • Opponent cannot use framed arm to strike: by monitoring the bicep you will no longer have to worry as much about strikes from that limb.

The Lat Frame

While the bicep frame is pretty constant the Lat frame is more of a mobile trouble shooter, moving around to create space, defend takedowns and bash the opponent. The latissimus dorsi (side of ribcage/armpit area) tends to be the reset point but it can end up in a variety of positions depending on the aim.

  • Creates space and angles: the hand on the lat helps the athlete to keep the opponents weight of them and allows them to slide the hips out along the cage to create angles, knee or move along the cage.
  • Striking: As the arm is not trapped in an overhook the athlete is free to wing the framing hand over the top to strike the opponents head. This is not a knock out shot but it is annoying and can force the opponent to move.
  • Transitioning to a single collar tie:by angling out with the hips, pulling on the opponents neck and framing on the bicep the athlete will be able to secure a single collar tie and a beneficial angle to strike or move of the wall.
  • Transitioning to the head push knee: by angling the hips towards the lat frame side the athlete can push the opponets head into a knee strike. DJ does this a lot.
  • Moving to an overhook to defend the level change: while the bicep frame prevents the opponent connecting their hands on the double leg the lat frame can transition to an overhook and assist in dragging the opponent upright to where the frame clinch is most effective.

Linking the Frame Clinch with the Plum

Against a powerful clincher like Bagutinov one does not simple turn off the cage. What DJ did was use the frame clinch to create an angle on the cage before latching onto a plum clinch and pummelling Ali with a poo tonne of knee strikes to the body and head.

The plum is a great striking position but is not very effective when your hips are square to the cage. The frame clinch allowed DJ to angle out where the plum became much more effective.

Here is a sequence which covers a tonne of the stuff mentioned above.

Using the Frame clinch and Plum offensively

When you have the Frame, plum or an intermediary version with your opponents back to the cage you are in a great position to cause damage. Not only are your strikes no longer hampered by chain link fence biting at your ankles and messing with your movement you are free to create real separation and land more long ranged attacks at will before crashing into your opponent once more.

Getting this sort of rapid separation from grappler clinches is much more difficult as the opponent has over hooks to lock you to them.

Another cool feature of clinch work that encourage a lot of knee strikes is that it tends to bring an opponents posture up as the try to avoid getting decapitated. Unfortunately for them this puts them in a great position to be double legged.

DJ does a lot of other cool stuff with his clinch work, such as using double under hooks to move off the cage before transitioning to his vicious plum clinch or doing that cool Dekkers inspired jumping elbow thingy on Dodson, but I think we will leave it there.

If you want to check out more have a look at the full video of clinch awesomeness below.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Cheers,