Building a Foundation (diary entry)

Today's student has suffered a repetitive strain injury to one knee. The injury does not seem to be too restrictive and we were able to do leg exercises, but we stayed away from ground work or transitional drills. Instead we focused on the development of power and speed in the hands. Training with this parituclar student is for self-defence, but we were able to branch out into some cross-training towards the end.

We warmed up with some basic fence-work and line-ups. It is important to build the muscle memory for pre-emptive striking against a live target. This done by having the student perform a controlled strike to the coach every time he breaches the student's fence. As diary entries with this student will testify, this is a standard self-defence exercise.  Next we moved onto the shoulder barge exercise, designed to provide appropriate feedback from hitting a live target without causing injury. We then moved onto the focus mitts, training straights and hooks. These performed with a progressive combination and also isolated to focus on power development. The uppercut, arguably an adjusted hook, was also introduced. It was applied in a manner that differs from a standard sporting type of punch. The punch is delivered with a vertical hand. This is the way Matty Evans first taught it to me. It is a much more natural way through the technique when involved in a self-defence situation.

We then looked at the way the body needs to move in order to hit with maximum effect. Stances need to be as natural as possible without giving away their intentions. In essence you should be able to strike from walking or standing with your full bodyweight. Using a blitzing exercise (where you walk or run forwards over an opponent in an MMA match) we looked at both stability and mobility.

Recently, all at CCMA have been very much into a functional fitness buzz. It is an area that is seeing a melting pool of developments and research. It also forms the third priority in the CCMA "Hierarchy of Training". A key argument being made is to hit the legs before anything else. If your time is short, hit the legs. If need to work on anything, make it the legs. Okay, so we go to the legs and what do we find? Usually a pair of drumsticks Colonel Sanders would chuck in the waste bin, but that is another story. The most powerful strike starts with the feet. It is small wonder why boxers skip so much and focus a lot on footwork. Chris Rowen, a shihan in goju ryu karate who gained his instructorship directly from Yamaguchi Gogen, told me that he ached most in his feet when working through his strikes. So we looked at exercises that would help promote better balance and smoother mobility, as well strengthening the calves and making their movements more explosive. 

Tyre-d Feet (sorry!)

Transitioning from stances with feet on a car tyre – when the tyre moves, you are off-balance. It is as simple as that (try it from 30 seconds to 3 minute rounds)

Side-to-side jumping inside and out the tyre/jumping into tyre and backwards onto tyre combination (20 reps)

This was then applied back into movement drills on the focus mitts to confirm a faster transition. As with any form of conditioning you are not going to suddenly be stronger or faster after doing a single set of any exercise. If anything, your actual muscles should be more tired. However, what training like this does do is create a good mind-to-muscle connection. Objective driven functional fitness works on a mental level. The fighter gets a better appreciation of the physical process and order his body goes through in order to perform a technique. This is why you sometimes see a dramatic improvement. There is also the obvious benefit of having the restrictions or resistance taken away.

Stabilty and Mobility Strength Exercise

Next we looked the legs and core working together. One of the best core stabilizing and leg conditioning exercises is the "Farmer's Walk". Working off the most basic of carrying movements – literally holding a weight in each hand and walking in a straight line – the student gets an idea of correct form when performing any action. Form must be correct. You should keep a straight spine and keep your abdominals firm. By all means do it with dumbbells, but it is more challenging and more functional to carry asymetrical weights. Filled Jerry cans, kettle bells and heavy bags are good pieces of equipment. I used two bags of rocks back home. The student, in this instance, carried two filled buckets of water. He also had to step up and down on the tyre. Step-ups are a great addition for lighter weights. We then returned back to blitzing on the pads to confirm the action.

Specific Hand Strike Power Exercises

Swapping between a heavy sports bag and a medicine ball I had the student perform a drop and strike. The heavy bag loads the student from underneath and the medicine ball from above. You pick up the object and then drop it as you go to straight strike the pad.

Swapping between the car tyre and a medicine ball we performed side chops and tornado chops. This was then overlapped with hooks on the focus mitts.

Moving onto uppercuts again, we performed woodchoppers and slams with the tyre and medicine ball. This was then confirmed with the actual uppercuts on the pads.

Attribute Training for Hand Speed

Turning away from open hand strikes – best suited for self-defence – we moved onto the trained clsoed fist and some boxing/kickboxing drills. We peformed an 11 punch combination on the focus mitts and then reduced movement by having the student hold a soft object under each of his arms. This forces him to use only his hands. Mo Teague always taught me to lead with the body for power and lead with the hands for speed. Combinations can be a good method for developing speed. Somehow knowing that you have a sequence to complete hastens your movements. The combination was also performed through the ring of the car tyre. Kicks, knees and elbows were then included on the Thai pads.


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