MMA Training

Greg Jackson: 2015 Instructor of the Year Launches Online Mixed Martial Arts Course!

Part 1: If you read the cover story of the June/July 2015 issue of Black Belt, you know who Greg Jackson is. Of course, if you’re a follower of the biggest names in MMA, you probably already knew. The reason you’re reading about him here is he’s much more than a successful MMA coach, as you can see from the comments he’s made in past interviews.

“We, as mixed martial artists, can’t be saying traditional martial arts doesn’t give us anything. In true mixed-martial-arts fashion, we need to take the best of all, and we especially need to grab the social value of traditional martial arts. It has a lot of techniques that we’re using all the time, but the social thing is a big deal. When you learn traditional martial arts, what do you think of? Respect, bowing, discipline — things that are important to the world. We need to absorb that into our culture.”

Greg Jackson on the cover of the June/July 2015 Black Belt

Those sentences indicate that although Greg Jackson spends much of his work week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, coaching MMA fighters like Holly Holm, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Andrei Arlovski, Diego Sanchez, Tim Kennedy, Clay Guida and Sarah Kaufman, his involvement in the martial arts is much more profound than cage fighting. Perhaps that’s why he’s investing so much time to promote his concept of MMA as a martial art. It entails taking octagon-tested techniques and tempering them with the traditional components he mentioned — respect, discipline and so on — to yield what he believes is a superior system of self-defense, one that develops the qualities the arts have pushed for centuries.

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The reason Jackson sees his system as superior is the dynamic nature of self-defense. “It’s context driven, meaning that there are times when you need to be precise and accurate and there are times when you need to sacrifice some of those things to claim the initiative,” he said. “Our system of mixed martial arts, in addition to teaching techniques, also teaches you to think tactically so you can make decisions like that in real time.”

Greg Jackson signing autographs at the 2015 Martial Arts SuperShow

Greg Jackson’s approach is refreshing. It teaches that most MMA moves were borrowed from the traditional martial arts. It teaches that many of the moves that work in MMA are also great for self-defense while others are not so useful.

It also teaches that not all traditional techniques are still relevant for self-defense because of the way society and technology have evolved. So why not cherry-pick the best techniques of MMA and teach them in a progressive manner while reinfusing them with all those treasured intangible qualities?

Greg Jackson enters the Black Belt Hall of Fame

Scores of schools are already on board, and more are sure to follow in their footsteps. For all that he’s done and continues to do to advance the martial arts — both traditional and mixed — Greg Jackson is Black Belt’s 2015 Instructor of the Year.

— J. Torres

Part 2: Greg Jackson Featured in New Online Course From Black Belt!

As you know from reading the first half of this post, Greg Jackson has developed a systematic approach to teaching mixed martial arts that parallels the one that’s often used in the traditional martial arts. In other words, it’s not a random sampling of techniques. It’s a progression that lays a foundation of exercises, drills and basic techniques, then adds more challenging moves. It’s all about taking time to build a skill base that makes sense within the confines of competition and self-defense.

Greg Jackson (top) and Joe Stevenson in a Black Belt photo shoot

We, the people who bring you Black Belt, managed to corral the in-demand coach in our studio, where we had a crew point three video cameras at him. After a lengthy editing session, we ended up with a polished online-education program we’re calling the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum.

The advantages associated with this set of streaming-video lessons are several. First, every video features Jackson, the talented coach who’s trained Holly Holm, Jon Jones, Tim Kennedy, Rashad Evans, Frank Mir, Keith Jardine and Clay Guida, to name a few.

Greg Jackson tying up the arms of Joe Stevenson before executing an elbow strike

Second, the course uses 21st-century digital technology to beam the lessons to your smartphone, tablet or computer. That means you can learn new techniques or review the ones you already know anytime and anyplace. There are no VCRs or DVD players to lug around and no tapes or discs to keep track of. As long as …

4 Punches Perfected! Learn to Strike the Way Boxers Do, Part 2

Punch No. 3: Lead Hook

The boxing lead hook is a more or less rounded punch made with the leading hand. It whips around to the side of the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps back.

The hook draws power from translation, but this takes place in a manner unlike the jab or cross. Because the punch hits sideways, translation in the hook occurs when the bodyweight shifts from the side of the leading leg to the side of the rear leg. Power is added as the hips and shoulders rotate in the direction of the blow.

Lead hook to the chin

Extension in the hook mainly involves the flexion of the shoulder, with a quick snap to finish the sequence. The arm and wrist straighten only enough to contact the target, adding little power but whipping out from the shoulder loosely and quickly, and tensing only at the moment of impact to provide a solid connection between the fist and the entire weight of the body. It lands with the palm facing you.

Punch No. 4: Rear Uppercut

Boxing’s rear uppercut is a rounded punch made with the rear hand. It drives forward and upward at the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps back.

In the uppercut, translation is forward — as with the jab and cross — but to this is added a shifting of the bodyweight to the leading leg. This is the opposite of what takes place with the hook.

Rear uppercut

The uppercut also involves an upward shifting of the bodyweight, driven by a short, quick straightening of the knees. This is a lot of weight shifting; it accounts for at least some of the power of the uppercut — less when the target is closer and more when it’s farther away. Most of the power comes from the rotation of the hips and shoulders in the direction of the punch. Then extension tops off the sequence.

The arm and wrist straighten only enough to contact the target, adding little power but whipping out from the shoulder loosely and quickly, and then tensing at the moment of impact to provide a solid connection between the fist and the body. It lands with the palm facing you.

Punch Training

These four punches of boxing are best learned with the help of a partner or trainer with focus gloves. The partner holds the gloves at head height but just outside your range. You take a short step forward to deliver the jab to the glove opposite the hand you’re using. For example, hit the left glove if you’re jabbing with your left hand.

The partner checks your form, making sure that you don’t “telegraph” the punch, that you don’t drop your other hand from the guarding position, and that you return your jabbing hand to its guarding position and slide your rear foot forward to catch up with your body as soon as the punch is completed. Then he takes a small step backward, and the exercise is repeated, with you and your partner moving back and forth across the floor.

In the same fashion, the cross can be learned on the focus gloves. Again, you punch to the glove opposite the hand you’re using, and your partner checks your form. Then he takes a small step backward.

Hook training on a heavy bag

When learning the hook, your partner turns the glove inward so your punch lands while moving sideways. When learning the uppercut, he turns it downward so the punch lands while moving upward.

For boxers training for competition, learning to deliver punches only from the right or left stance may be sufficient, but a martial artist must be able to deliver them from both stances. As soon as you learn each punch on your strong side, change to your weak side and practice. Eventually, you’ll be able to deliver powerful punches with either hand.

All boxing gyms have mirrors. Use them to get feedback as you work to perfect your timing and form.

Getting Serious

When it comes to developing solid punches, there is no substitute for working on the heavy bag. Practice with the bag held stationary and with it swinging freely. Practice delivering the punches from a stationary position and while moving in, out, to the left, to the right, and up and down.

In all exercises, concentrate on breathing correctly. The sports maxim “breathe out on the power stroke” applies no less to boxing, and a sharp exhalation as you deliver each punch will put dynamite into it and make you less vulnerable to being hit in the midsection as you attack.

In all exercises, concentrate on focus. This is really more of an attitude than a technique. Cultivate the habit of hitting not just with your fist but with …

4 Punches Perfected! Learn to Strike the Way Boxers Do, Part 1

These days, everywhere you look, martial artists are incorporating basic Western-boxing techniques into their fighting repertoire. Although some traditional stylists have resisted this trend, there are many good reasons why it continues and why you should jump on board.

Having evolved in the laboratory of combat, boxing techniques are practical and effective. They’re deceptively powerful and rival even the powerhouse punches of classical karate in the force of their impact. They’re adaptable and combine gracefully with the strikes and kicks of the martial arts. Finally, they’re relatively easy to learn and apply even under the stress of competition or self-defense.

Lead jab

In boxing, the ability to hit hard doesn’t correlate to any particular body type. Knockout punchers come in all sizes and shapes. Although a few fighters seem to be naturals, for most people, boxing is a skill that must be learned. This means understanding and applying biomechanics, learning about how the body moves and generates power, and, of course, investing in plenty of practice.

Types of Movement

In studying how the body generates power, you’ll discover the importance of three types of movement. The first is the movement of the bodyweight as it shifts from one leg to the other in the direction of the action. This is essentially the movement we use to bump a heavy door open with our arm and shoulder. It’s called translation.

The second is the movement of the body as it twists around an imaginary line passing through the top of the head and down to the body’s center. This twisting is driven by the rear leg turning the hips and by the muscles of the trunk turning the shoulders. It’s called rotation.

The third is the movement of the wrist and elbow as they straighten, which is coupled with the flexion of the shoulder. It’s called extension.

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Effective punches must combine all three movements at the proper time. This requires that translation — inherently, the slowest movement — begin the sequence. Rotation, being faster, joins in a split second later. Extension, being the fastest, joins in last.

When all three movements take place quickly, with correct timing and with a solid connection of the fist to the bodyweight (what trainers call leverage), the punch has knockout power. Correct timing can be felt more easily than it can be seen. When everything comes together correctly, all three movements will reach their peak power at the moment of impact. Everything feels right.

Punch No. 1: Lead Jab

The first punch a boxer learns is the lead jab. It’s a good place to begin applying the principles of biomechanics discussed above.

The jab is a straight punch made with the lead hand. It fires directly out to the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps directly back.

Most of the jab’s power comes from translation. It’s created by a small step forward with the front foot as the rear leg drives the body. This is why trainers say, “The jab comes from the rear foot.” The arm, relaxed at first, whips out from the shoulder and tightens for a split second at the moment of impact. By that time, the fist should face palm-down. It then snaps back to the starting position.

Power is added by rotation, a small but rapid twist of the hips and shoulders in the direction of the punch. To maximize it, the torso leans slightly to the side of the rear leg.

Rear cross

More power is added by extension, the rapid straightening of the arm and wrist and the flexion of the shoulder. The key to making this action effective is keeping the shoulder loose so it hangs back for an instant as the torso turns. Contrary to logic, the shoulder actually moves backward in relation to the body for an instant, effectively cocking the shoulder joint. Then, at the last moment, it flexes sharply, and the arm and wrist straighten to fire the jab out to the target. This snap of the shoulder is too quick to be seen, but it can be felt.

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A good jab is loose, well-timed and quick. The key lies in practicing until you get the feel of the punch, then practicing a lot more until it becomes second nature.

Punch No. 2: Rear Cross

The next punch is the rear cross. It’s a straight blow effected with the rear hand. Using the principles of biomechanics in the fullest possible manner, the cross fires directly out to the opponent’s face or midsection, than snaps back.

The …

Meet Cris Cyborg, the MMA Fighter With the Best Chance of Defeating Ronda Rousey

To her fans around the world, she’s a near-invincible fighter called “Cris Cyborg.” To her friends and family, she’s known as Cristiane Justino Venancio Santos. Either way, she’s an MMA killing machine with a professional record of 10-1-1.

Even while growing up in Curitiba, Brazil, she exhibited a love of competition. In high school, she built herself into a nationally ranked handball player. During a 2004 championship, she earned the attention of another competitor’s parent — that man turned out to be Rudimar Fedrigo, head instructor at the Chute Boxe Academy.

Chute Boxe is a renowned MMA gym in Brazil that started life as a muay Thai school. It’s cranked out some fearsome fighters, including Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Thiago Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga and Anderson Silva. Scoring an invite to train there, especially from the head instructor, was an honor Cyborg didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

In an interview, Fedrigo was asked why he invited the teenager to his academy. He said that while watching her play handball, he was struck by her athleticism — she appeared much stronger and better-conditioned than everyone else. All that potential was too much to resist, he said, so he invited her to take a free muay Thai class.

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Cyborg took him up on his offer, and four months later she found herself registered for her first MMA fight. She lost via a kneebar, then bounced right back and went the distance six months later against her next opponent, a far more experienced fighter, and wound up winning a unanimous decision.

The fighting phenom won her next three bouts, all via vicious KOs. It proved increasingly tough to find victims — rather, opponents — so Cyborg executed a course correction and began competing in muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. In 2008 she signed with the EliteXC promotion and proceeded to defeat Shayna Baszler in her first bout.

Cyborg stayed with EliteXC for another fight, then signed with Strikeforce. Her first mission was to take on featherweight champion Gina Carano. The Brazilian knocked her out before the end of the first round.

Cyborg defended her title against three more opponents, winning with a knockout every time. After what would become her final title defense — a 16-second KO of Hiroko Yamanaka in December 2011 — Cyborg tested positive for a banned substance.

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Taking full responsibility for the infringement, she said it wasn’t intentional and apologized for not being more diligent in screening the supplements she took. The Yamanaka bout was changed to a no contest, and Cyborg was suspended for one year. That suspension ends in January 2013.

Because top-notch female fighters are still few and far between in the MMA world, the number of women in the 145-pound division ready to challenge Cyborg is precisely zero. That brings us to the present: MMA sensation and current Strikeforce bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey has called out Cyborg.

Ronda Rousey

If you think such a match would be easy to arrange, think again. Rousey insists that Cyborg drop to 135 pounds, while Cyborg maintains that medical experts have advised her against cutting that much weight because it would create a dangerously low level of body fat. Nevertheless, if fan interest stays high, the match could come about in 2013. If it does, it’ll certainly be one of the biggest MMA events of the year.

In the meantime, Cyborg keeps busy much the same way she did earlier in her MMA career when no one would fight her — by competing in other martial arts events. In 2011 and 2012 she placed first in the female purple-belt division at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Obviously, her skills are still sharp and her drive is still there. Fans can be certain that once she’s free to fight again, sparks are going to fly.

Update: Since this article appeared in a 2013 special issue of Black Belt, Cyborg, now 30, has resumed her MMA career. Sherdog.com lists her record at 14-1-1. She continues to be considered the female fighter with the best chance of giving Ronda Rousey a run for her money. Noting that Cyborg has signed with the UFC, many MMA fans remain hopeful this will happen.

(Cris Cyborg Photos Courtesy of Stanley Day • Ronda Rousey Photo by Peter Lueders)

7 Kickboxing Principles That Will Make You a Better Fighter, Part 2

(Continued from here)

5 — Power

Although everyone loves power, overwhelming force isn’t the name of the game in kickboxing. Sure, knockouts are exciting — they thrill crowds and deify the winner — but you just can’t neglect technique. That doesn’t mean, however, that power isn’t important. The following are two tips for throwing more powerful shots:

•     Get your entire body behind the technique. Chances are, you’ve heard that concept explained numerous times in your martial arts class.

•     Get a good stance. It’s important because it provides mobility and stability, which you need if you want to be effective. I teach two basic training stances — only two because I figure you’ll develop your own stance as you progress. The first is the kick stance. It’s one of the most commonly used stances in kickboxing because it lends itself well to kicking and allows for greater mobility and stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take one step back with your right foot and orient it so your feet are at right angles to each other. Your left leg should be relaxed, with the majority of your weight on your right foot. Keep your body straight but maintain the same angle. Your hands should be in the guard position, and you should hold your elbows forward so they protect your ribs.

When you kick from this stance, always aim for your opponent’s upper chest. However, your field of vision should encompass his entire body. To improve your power, use this stance to kick a heavy bag. Make sure you pivot properly so you can generate maximum punching power, as well.

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The second stance is the punching stance. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pivot on the balls of your feet so your heels and toes are turned slightly inward. Distribute your weight evenly on your legs. Your knees and torso should be slightly bent. Clench your hands, hold your fists at jaw level and keep your elbows forward so they protect your ribs.

Practice switching stances swiftly with and without a partner. As you improve, you’ll be able to change instantaneously, and that ability will come in handy in the ring. Good footwork enables you to attack and defend with speed, economy and balance.

6 — Endurance

You can’t win without endurance. If your conditioning is sub-par, you may be able to survive on tenacity, but sooner or later you’ll discover that mental toughness is not enough. You definitely need to be tough, but you also need stamina. When you combine the two, you’ve got a winning formula.

Fighters who aren’t in supreme condition will likely suffer from a lack of confidence because they know they can’t go the distance. When they get fatigued, their form may also degrade, and they won’t have as much power as they should. Furthermore, they’ll begin telegraphing their moves, they’ll slow down and they’ll start fighting flat-footed. The result? They’ll find it increasingly tough to get out of the line of fire.

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When you’re in shape, however, you’ll have speed, power and rhythm. Your lateral movement will be good. You’ll be less likely to get hit. And you’ll have the confidence to perform mentally and physically.

There are a number of ways to get in shape for the ring. One of the best is to hit a heavy bag three times a week. Do as many three-minute rounds as you will do in your fight. Supplement that with five days per week of running. After you warm up, sprint for a quarter mile, then run easy for a quarter mile. Repeat until you’ve covered three miles. For variation, occasionally run greater distances.

You should also spar three times a week. Again, do as many rounds as you’ll do in your fight. Your daily workout should also include stretching, kicking, shadowboxing and defensive drills. Start with one three-minute round. As your stamina improves, add a few more.

7 — Sparring

Freestyle sparring is the final and most meaningful part of your preparation. It involves stepping into the ring and throwing kicks and punches at will. Beginners shouldn’t try it until they’ve mastered the aforementioned principles and sampled the other training methods.

Sparring is essential because you must make contact to develop your sense of distance. If you never make contact in training, you’ll probably be in big trouble when you need to do it for real — whether in the ring or …

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