In Part 1 of this beginner's guide to MMA, UFC veteran Nate Marquardt tells you what attributes you need to get started and the best ways to develop them!

In the early days of the mixed martial arts — back when the sport was called “no-holds-barred fighting" — victory usually went to the competitor who’d mastered one fighting system. Recall how Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist Royce Gracie beat everyone in the first few Ultimate Fighting Championship shows, often without breaking a sweat. The level of MMA fighters gradually rose, and athletes discovered that cross-training was the key to winning: Master one art and supplement it with techniques from other arts that better deal with the ranges your main style may not address. For the most part, that has remained the recipe for how to become an MMA fighter and succeed — with one important addition: Nowadays, you have to fine-tune your mix with guidance from a skilled coach. Nate Marquardt is living proof of that concept. His 34-10-2 record has stemmed from his ability to master his base — Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing — and his recognition of the need to round out his skill set and hone it under the tutelage of renowned coach Greg Jackson. Black Belt met up with Nate Marquardt at one of his favorite haunts, the Grudge Training Center in Denver. In this exclusive interview, he offered his advice for martial artists looking to learn MMA, whether for competition or personal development.


If a young person were to ask how to become an MMA fighter, would wrestling be the best base for getting into the sport?

Nate Marquardt: If you’re an American kid who’s interested in MMA, wrestling is the best place to start because it’s taught in most high schools. It gives you a great base and teaches balance and leverage.

Once you have the wrestling base on your checklist for how to become an MMA fighter, what do you recommend for hand skills — boxing techniques, kickboxing training, Thai boxing drills?

Nate Marquardt: There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them — and to karate-style striking, for that matter. The best way is to get good at one and then switch. Boxing is great. My first instructor was a boxer, but he also did kenpo and kyokushin. I learned how to use angles from boxing and kicks from karate. Thai boxing is good for the clinch.

When considering how to become an MMA fighter, is it better to train from the get-go at a gym that teaches a proven mixture of arts?

Nate Marquardt: If you have the opportunity, that’s great, but there are very few gyms that have that. A lot say they do but don’t. How good they are at each art is questionable. The more practical way is to find a school that’s very good at jiu-jitsu, for example, and go there for a while, then go to a striking gym for a couple of days a week. It doesn’t matter so much what style it is as long as the teacher is high level.

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How far will starting with BJJ techniques and striking take you in MMA?

Nate Marquardt: Eventually, if you want to be the best, you have to find a gym that has top fighters. But to start off at a gym like that — it’s not going to happen.

Are BJJ techniques essential for the grappling component of MMA?

Nate Marquardt: Some guys who come up from jiu-jitsu do well, and some guys who come up from wrestling do well. You definitely need to get to a high level in grappling — it can be wrestling, jiu-jitsu or judo. A world-class wrestler may not know any jiu-jitsu, but if he goes to an advanced grappling tournament, he’ll probably clean up even though he knows no submissions. Same thing with a judo guy. It’s important to be very good at one art rather than so-so at everything, but at the same time, you do want to be well-rounded.

Obviously, aerobic conditioning is crucial to ensure that you have the ability to access your grappling and striking skills. What type of training do you prefer?

Nate Marquardt: The best thing for endurance training is hard sparring. The only way to really build endurance for your sport is to train your sport. I supplement it with interval sprints and other things, but the best thing is to spar with guys who are as good as or better than you.

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What about conventional endurance activities like running, biking and swimming?

Nate Marquardt: I don’t do long-distance runs. I do interval sprints on a treadmill and on flat ground. I focus on short bursts for explosive energy. You actually work your cardio harder when you do interval training.

So a two-hour bike ride through the Colorado mountains isn’t applicable to MMA?

Nate Marquardt: Not at all. The only thing I might do is, if I’m sore or have an injury, I’ll swim for longer periods at a low intensity, but that’s not really for cardio.

How about strength development?

Nate Marquardt: I use weights for strength, power and speed three times a week if I’m not injured or beat up from a fight. I do a mixture of free weights and machines, but if I had to pick one, it’d be free weights. The most important exercises are the powerlifts — like the clean and jerk. About the Fighter: For more information about Nate Marquardt, see his fighter profile at UFC.com. About the Author: Robert W. Young is the executive editor of Black Belt.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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