Tonight we looked at incorporating more movement into our transitional drills for MMA. We began with a series of warm-up exercises in each of the postures, which promoted fluid transitioning. Then we built on boxing punching combinations to each posture in isolation and then through full transition – from lying on the back to a standing fighting stance. We then brought in travelling movement – footwork for standing and associated travelling movements for fighting from the back (snaking/shrimping), seated (butterfly guard movement) and kneeling (knee-walking in combat base).
The next phase involved bringing in some upper-body mobility. We took the humble slip. This Boxing move’s obvious purpose is to slip past a straight punch, usually a jab, and counter immediately to the inside or the outside of their guard. However, it has secondary benefits to reposition and to prevent the fighter from becoming a stationary target. These secondary applications are quite evident through these other postures. Tactically, the slip’s primary purpose is unlikely to do a person fighting from their back any good. Gravity is against them. However, the side-to-side movement allows the fighter to take advantage of possibly angles and, when coordinated with a ground guard, he can destabilize his opponent’s posture. An example of this might be throwing a two-punch combination from side to side and then attack with a Kimura arm-lock.
We then drilled through the grappling transitions. The first grappling transitional drill focuses on the leg-triangle to single-leg entry from butterfly guard to taking the back from standing. After the leg triangle, it provides a series of counter-moves against being stacked. The second grappling transitional drill focuses on arm-bar from guard to butterfly guard to taking the back to a single-leg takedown. After the arm-bar, it provides a series of counter-moves to prevent being put in side control. The second drill highlighted the importance of recovery by getting into a butterfly guard, and it brought up the needle and thread pass. We took time out to work on this position. I learnt it from Rob Stevens at Braulio Estima’s Gracie Barra back in the mid-2000s and found the pass to be a very effective move. Rodney King also has a very innovative finishing take on this move.
We finished the drills off with the kicking transitions off the rear and front leg. The application of these movements is debatable. The kicks certainly serve a general tactical purpose from an asymmetrical perspective in MMA and especially self-defence. However, when combined with punches we have to get into some very specific transitions to see a direct application. At the very least the punching hand serves as a useful counter-balance to swing the leg through each transition.
I then decided to look at how well these drills had integrated into my client’s overall MMA game. It was time to pressure-test and to do so through free-sparring. Previously the testing had been done through specific sparring. This was the first time he had MMA free-sparred having trained through all these postures in a chain regularly. The result was definitely a more fluid and confident game. I felt my client was at ease at each range and took advantage of opportunities that arose, including angling off with punches and using effective counter-kicks at stand-up range, striking effectively, blocking and going for takedowns at clinch range, and taking advantage of good submission opportunities as well as defending on the ground. More work possibly needs to be done on stand-up guard, including the cover, and I need to provide him with more opportunities to see how he fights back to a stand-up position (however, this has been previously confirmed in an earlier lesson). Overall he demonstrated strong movement and proactivity under pressure.