"As real as it gets." Often used as the tag line for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it refers to the fact that the event's bouts are as close to a real fight as the law and the fighters' safety permit. The catchphrase also refers to Spike TV's reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. In this classic interview, former UFC champ Randy Couture talks about what it takes to mold someone into a MMA fighter. Black Belt: How do you start training someone who wants to be an MMA fighter? Randy Couture: The first thing you need to find out is if he has a background in wrestling or judo or some other combative sport. You can play off that and develop other skills. The person's basic fitness level is also important. You have to teach the kind of fitness needed for MMA competition through cardiovascular training, anaerobic training and inner-strength training. Black Belt: What kind of athletic background besides combat sports would be an advantage? Football, sprinting, long-distance running? Randy Couture: All those sports bring a particular foundation, at least at a fitness level, that you can play off, but I'm not sure any of them offers a distinct advantage in MMA. However, it’s important that the person has competed in something and has a competitive spirit. Black Belt: Is competitive spirit something a person either has or doesn't have? Or can it be taught? Randy Couture: You can certainly test it. There are so many innate qualities that a person either has or doesn't have, but you can still educate him, push him and see how far he can go. And you can constantly push that wall back until he can go further and further. Most people can go a lot further than they think. Black Belt: Once you evaluate the person and learn about his background, where do you go from there? Randy Couture: Being at the top level in this sport, I've developed some tools and techniques for conditioning a fighter’s body the way it needs to be conditioned and for developing the skill sets he needs to be well-rounded. So the next step is to set a training regimen that builds conditioning through sprinting, running, biking, weightlifting and circuit training. It also includes time on the mat, light sparring, mitt work, ground training and wrestling. The goal is to develop skills and tools he can rely on when he needs to. Black Belt: Do you agree with those martial artists who insist you can get all the strength and endurance you need from doing your art, as long as you do it enough? Randy Couture: To some extent that can be true. There are plenty of examples of people who don't do any of that extra stuff. But when you get to the higher levels and want be the top dog, you have to do the extra stuff that will distinguish you from the others. You have to do those extras like increasing your foot speed and improving your dynamic, explosive power. Black Belt: What comes next for the budding MMA fighter? Randy Couture: Light sparring and putting him in different situations. You have to ensure he has an open mind and checks his ego at the door. He has to believe that he's always going to learn something, and he has to put himself out there. He has to risk being tapped out, risk losing-not only in training but also in fights that will challenge him. Black Belt: Say you're training a grappler who's got some decent skills. Do you try to perfect his grappling techniques, or do you focus on striking because it's his weakness? Randy Couture: I would spend more time-and this is the perspective I have as a wrestler who'd never been in a striking sport-on striking. Weaknesses have to be made into strengths. But the second you neglect one area of his training, somebody will point it out to him in competition. With a grappler, I would spend a lot of time on his hands and his ability to stop takedowns. Black Belt: For the grappling portion of his training, which arts would you draw from? Randy Couture: Certainly wrestling and jujutsu would be big components. I've also learned some things from judo players that I've found applicable. Wrestling is great because of the mat sense and intensity it brings, as well as the ability to take opponents down and control them from the top position. Jujutsu will teach him how to be on the bottom, how to fight on his butt and back, and how to find ways to not only submit his opponent but also to sweep and change positions. I would couple that with Greco-Roman wrestling, especially the clinch position, because in mixed martial arts, a fighter's posture is so much more upright than in most grappling sports. It applies very well for infighting and being able to take an opponent down while controlling him. Black Belt: What about for striking? Randy Couture: Western boxing and kickboxing are the most effective striking arts for this combative sport. Black Belt: Why not Thai boxing? Randy Couture: I think Thai boxing fits with what Greco-Roman and clinch fighting do best: infighting. The elbows and knees are very effective tools at close range. Black Belt: What are the essential skills and martial arts techniques you would cover? Randy Couture: The fighter needs good balance and footwork. He has to be able to defend himself, use his hands and elbows to cover his head, parry punches, and slip punches, kicks and knees. He also needs to be able to throw a proper punch and execute good combinations of kicks and knees. From there, he should move into clinch range, where he works inside control, neck wrestling, trapping and ways to not only strike but also take his opponent off his feet. He has to meld wrestling with striking, especially from the open position. He can't just go out with the intention of setting up his opponent and taking him down. It's too obvious to work, too easy to counter. Black Belt: Is that because fighters these days are too smart to fall into the traps that might have worked during the early days of the UFC? Randy Couture: Yeah. Everybody's cross-training, learning wrestling skills, learning to counter takedowns. A fighter's got to be prepared and understand that his opponent is going to know what's coming. And then he's got to work at being adept on the ground-whether he's on the top or bottom. He's got to be able to scramble, sweep and get back to a neutral position-and find in those transitions opportunities to submit his opponent. Or if he gets his opponent down, he's got to be able to keep him at a disadvantage so he can chip away at him. Black Belt: Would you also teach him how to use the environment—the fence and the mats—of the octagon? Randy Couture: There are definitely tactics for fighting in a ring and a cage. There are things he has to watch out for and things he can take advantage of. Black Belt: How do you approach strategy? Is there one you always teach, or are there four or five ways you would introduce? Randy Couture: It varies from opponent to opponent. Obviously it's more difficult training younger fighters because you don't have a lot of experience with them and their capabilities, and you generally don't know much about their opponents. But as a fighter moves into the higher ranks, you get the opportunity to see a lot of tape of his opponents. You notice their tendencies and how their strengths and weaknesses will match up with your fighter's strengths and weaknesses, then you figure out ways to win. They have to be willing to break themselves down and be honest about [their abilities]-and then go to the gym and do what it takes to execute that game plan. Black Belt: Did you encounter any special challenges while filming The Ultimate Fighter? Randy Couture: There were a lot of challenges for the athletes that created some challenges for me. Guys came in with different levels of conditioning. Some were really prepared and ready to go, and others had no idea what they were getting themselves into and consequently suffered physically, which made it difficult for me to push them. Some guys had better skill sets in some areas versus others. If I tried to focus on their weaknesses without singling out individuals, I couldn't spend the proper amount of time with others who didn't need that extra training. In general, I put them through a peaking phase as if, at the end of this, they were going to have a big fight. I tried to get them physically in the same kind of shape I get in for a fight. Black Belt: What have I left out? Randy Couture: The biggest piece that guys miss is the mental skill it takes not only to get through a training camp, but also to deal with the adversity of competition. They have to deal with the negative self-talk, and the jitters and the pressures of going out and performing in front of a bunch of people. They have to relax enough to do what they're trained to do. Black Belt: At the beginning of the UFC, it seemed like it was average guy against average guy, art against art. But now it's Superman against Superman, and everybody knows every relevant art. Seeing how much the whole sport has progressed, are you limited with respect to how good you can make an average person who might weigh 170 pounds and have done 10 years of karate? Randy Couture: It depends on the individual. We're all blessed with certain gifts and abilities, and that average guy has those things, too. Maybe he just hasn't tapped into them yet, and for some people, it's going to take longer than others. There are so many variables that play into making a good fighter; mind-set is probably the most important. What does he think his limitations are? Is he willing to do the work to get where he wants to go? It's almost more important than any physical gift he has. Black Belt: What's the optimal age to attend a training camp like the one shown in The Ultimate Fighter? If you're a champ when you're 40, that's one thing. But if you start when you're 40, that might be totally different. Randy Couture: Again, it depends on your background: What did you do in that 40 years? I'm 41, but I've spent my entire life since I was 10 competing in sports. To take a 40-year-old guy who's never competed in anything and get him up to speed physically and mentally for this combative sport is a big challenge, but it could be done. Will he be a world champion in a year? Probably not. Will he be able to compete within a year? He probably could. Black Belt: What advice would you give to people who will read this article and aspire to compete in the UFC? Randy Couture: The environment is a huge factor, so they should find a place where they're comfortable and where they're going to be exposed to all the pieces of the mixed-martial arts fight game. They should find a group of guys they can trust, guys who are going to teach them things and help them progress as a person and a fighter. You're only as good as your workout partners. Black Belt: What about advice for people who aren't quite ready to move into a training camp? What about that 16-year-old in Kansas who thinks, "When I'm 20, I really want to be a fighter; but now I'm living at home and training three days a week"? Randy Couture: It's not too early at 16; he still has to find that right place, and hopefully it'll be fairly close to home. It'll be a little more accessible when he turns 18 because he can go his own way. If he has a wrestling program in his school, that's a good place to start because it's an organized sport, and most programs are pretty good at developing at least one piece of the game. Black Belt: What about other options like going to the YMCA and doing boxing two days a week? Or lifting weights at home? Randy Couture: Those are all pieces of the puzzle. If all he can work on where he's at now is striking, then he should go to town on that and look for a different situation to add the other skills down the road.
Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants
At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.
Fighting Style<p>Johnson attributes much of his success to his background in pankration and wrestling, a foundation he laid before he embarked on a career in <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/arts/mixedmartialarts/" target="_blank">MMA</a>. Both styles emphasize the strategic use of leverage, which makes them ideal for smaller fighters."</p><p>I try to find my opponent's weakness and exploit that," Johnson said. "Being well-versed and competing in several types of martial arts in my amateur career allows me to find that weakness, take [my opponents] there and then put them in that realm where they can't survive — and beat them there!"</p><p>This strategy, inspired by the teachings of pankration and wrestling, has proved a viable solution for Johnson time after time. In fact, it's his proficiency in both systems that's enabled him to excel in MMA. Consider the following:</p><p>Any observer of the fight sport will tell you that plenty of practitioners are proficient in one discipline, which they often augment by cross-training in techniques extracted from other styles that are believed to help them round out their skill set. These fighters tend to lean on their adopted techniques for setups and fakes designed to engage their opponents. Unfortunately, when fatigue sets in, they frequently fall back on their primary skill set in an effort to gain the upper hand — or, in some cases, just to survive.</p><p>This isn't the case for Johnson. He represents a new breed of combat athlete who's gained extensive experience in a variety of fighting disciplines. Being well-versed at executing a mass of moves, fighters like him need not rely on their primary martial art, which winds up making them more adaptable and unpredictable in a match.</p><p>Johnson's record of 30-3-1 offers tangible proof of his ability to exploit his opponents' weaknesses. Those 30 wins consist of 12 submissions and five knockouts via punches, head kicks and knee strikes, a testament to his proficiency in all the ranges of combat.</p>
BODY JAB TO HOOK PUNCH TO HEAD KICK
TAKEDOWN TO ARMBAR
Technique Alteration<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjgxMjcyOH0.4UkgOc1GZ7yTg669vPYYZyapzuJhaTJmn137mIW17z4/image.jpg?width=980" id="b07bf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5dd1006607f5c8bb7c069aa8adb2b1a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Alteration With the right coaching, almost any basic martial arts move can be altered to make it work better for a shorter fighter, Johnson said. He brought his point to life as he walked through setups for his combinations and takedowns designed to fell taller opponents during his Black Belt photo shoot. He started his explanation with the simplest punch of all.</p><p>"When a jab is thrown from someone at a lower angle, you can fit it between [the opponent's] arms and into this wide-open gap to the body," Johnson said. "[The opening] just isn't there with guys the same height as you."</p><p>He went on to say that this observation can allow you to elicit reactions from your opponent as he defends himself. That, in turn, can open other areas for you to target.</p><p>The same logic, Johnson noted, applies to takedowns. Here's how: Against a taller opponent, the conventional double- and single-leg takedown normally do the job. A shorter fighter's size, however, enables him to shoot in at a lower level, which makes the techniques harder to defend against and the shooter harder to grab. Furthermore, the shorter person's often-superior speed permits him to transition to a follow-up grappling technique before the pair even hits the ground.</p><p>"By grabbing the right spot on the wrist during a single-leg or starting to climb up their body as they fall during a double-leg, you can put yourself in the right position," Johnson said. An expert at such tweaks, he noted that advanced concepts like this have allowed him to dominate in the cage despite disadvantages in height and reach.</p>
New Challenges<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTUwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjkwNjY3OH0.cdhkoclQKHqpeRWm3QDkeET7-uJIvVkkSXUkqPzxTaY/image.jpg?width=980" id="b7dc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1c786eb156d34f93628ff1422aeaa94b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>New Challenges Johnson's decision to join <a href="https://www.onefc.com/" target="_blank">ONE Championship</a> in late 2018 means that his previous success as a flyweight in other fight franchises may be in jeopardy. </p><p>That's because the Singapore-based promotion touts a strict "no weight cutting" policy that will force the American to take on heavier opponents in his normal 135-pound weight class.</p><p>The new challenge is nothing he can't handle, Johnson said confidently, because he's well-versed in using his size to his advantage. On top of that, he has years of experience on the North American MMA circuit to back up his skill set.</p><p>Nevertheless, Johnson admitted that a fight is a fight and therefore unpredictable, and that his opponents from the Far East will not be easily conquered. In fact, because ONE is based in a part of the world where fighters tend to be smaller than in the West, he likely will have his work cut out for him.</p><p>"I'm fighting guys who are a lot taller," Johnson said regarding his ONE Championship opponents. "In my last fight, I fought [Tatsumitsu Wada], who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, and when he took my back, he was able to get a triangle on my body so easily." That feat, he added, is rarely accomplished on a person who is equal in stature.</p><p>Johnson's solution? When preparing to take on a taller opponent, he likes to abandon the "fighting tall" mentality that's so common in his sport. It revolves around the urge to strike the taller person's face while squaring off. That tactic is simply not an option in such situations, Johnson said.</p><p>Instead, you need to focus on your strengths as a smaller fighter, he said. Get low and use your leverage for offense and defense. Take advantage of the gaps that exist in the taller person's stance. When you strike, do so with intent. Get in, execute and get out. Don't get caught in between, taking your time — because sooner or later that mistake will catch up with you</p>
Future Fights<p>Whenever you're the first person to gain fame for achieving something, it means you have to pave your own road to success. When Johnson entered the martial arts in 2007, he found no prominent examples of smaller fighters who consistently saw success in the cage. Consequently, there was no one he could turn to for inspiration.</p><p>"When I jumped into martial arts, there was no avenue for me to go," Johnson explained. "[I was] sitting there as a kid, watching these guys who were all heavyweights in boxing and MMA. With me weighing a buck twenty-five, I never thought those were the professional athletes I wanted to be like."</p><p>The fight sport is different now. As Johnson enters his 13th year as a professional mixed martial artist, he serves as an exemplary lightweight role model — precisely the kind of person he failed to find early in his career.</p><p>As scores of smaller martial artists scramble to follow in his footsteps, Johnson has inadvertently secured the future of his weight division on the global stage. For an athlete as disciplined as Johnson, the notion carries no added burden.</p><p>"I'm at a point in my career where I'm just focused on the grind of putting on great performances," he said. "That way, when I'm done with this sport, that's it. I'm good. I can be done with it and with no regrets."</p>
SIDE CONTROL TO MOUNT TO ARMBAR
2019 MMA Fighter of the Year<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTU2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTU2MjM3Mn0.LrW3wCdX6bc_Ago2X34P1EG87EwZP6pUhXwJbpZ-Iec/image.jpg?width=980" id="ffa02" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21aff8779f96ba47af9b40ef6aaedcb3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>When he hit the MMA circuit in 2007, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson was a human tsunami. An immediate force to be reckoned with, he dominated the bantamweight and featherweight divisions of the sport thanks to his lightning-fast fists and his arsenal of grappling techniques. Like a true martial artist, he hasn't let his success go to his head.</p><p>"I am very happy with where I'm at in my career," Johnson stated. "The martial arts have given me and my family a wonderful life. If I were to stop fighting today, I'd be satisfied with the way everything has turned out."</p><p>That said, Johnson has no plans of bowing out of the ring anytime soon. In fact, he's gearing up for his next big fight, which will have taken place in Japan before this issue of Black Belt hits newsstands.</p><p>"I'm training for the World Grand Prix — ONE: CENTURY in October,2019" Johnson said. "It's a big event! This is the 100th time [it] has been held, and I'm very excited to be part of it. I grew up watching Japanese MMA, and now I get a chance to win one. It's awesome!"</p><p>From the moment Johnson first came to grips with an opponent in the cage, it was apparent that he was a rising star. Now, with a string of victories under his belt and numerous awards and honors bestowed on him, he's been dubbed one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. In a sport abundant with talent, Johnson has achieved rock-star status with legions of fans glued to his every move.</p><p>Why are they so devoted? A glimpse into Mighty Mouse's makeup comes from one of his most-talked-about fights in which he squared off against Miguel Torres. After breaking his fibula when he checked a leg kick in the second round, Johnson continued to wage war. He ignored the pain and concentrated on his grappling skills to survive. In the end, he won a unanimous decision.</p><p>"The key to winning, and sometimes the key to surviving in order to win, is having the ability to stay focused and take care of the task at hand," Johnson said. "That is how I approach my fights and my personal life. I know what I really want out of life, and I stay focused on that task — whether it's winning a fight or taking care of my family. My wife Destiny and my three children are the most important things in my life."</p><p>Because of his past accomplishments, his bright future and his pervasive martial mindset, Black Belt is pleased to make Demetrious Johnson its 2019 MMA Fighter of the Year. </p><p><em>— Terry L. Wilson<br>Photography By Patrick Sternkopf<br>Event photos Courtesy of ONE FC<br></em></p>
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The Chinese Wushu Association, the primary governing body for Chinese-style martial arts in that nation, has released a statement declaring martial arts practitioners should refrain from calling themselves "masters" or the head of a style. The organization also seemed to indicate that practitioners should not participate in staged public fights.
The decrees apparently come in response to a series of public humiliations alleged traditional Chinese martial arts masters have suffered in challenge matches against mixed martial artist Xu Xiaodong and other modern trained combat sports fighters. Xu ignited a firestorm of controversy when video of his 2017 demolition of "thunder style" tai chi exponent Wei Lei in an MMA fight went viral on Youtube.
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If you're a Bruce Lee fan and or want to learn about his philosophy and liniage, these 3 books are a must have!
Out of many of Bruce Lee's amazing published books that are out there, we have chosen to narrow it down to these 3.
The Tao of Jeet Kune Do Expanded Edition
Compiled from Bruce Lee's notes and essays and originally published in 1975, this iconic volume is one of the seminal martial arts guides of its time. The science and philosophy behind the fighting system Lee pioneered himself—jeet kune do—is explained in detail, depicted through hundreds of Lee's own illustrations. With the collaboration of Lee's daughter, Shannon, and Bruce Lee Enterprises, this new edition is expanded, updated, and remastered, covering topics such as Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. Featuring an introduction by Linda Lee, this is essential reading for any practitioner, offering a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world's greatest martial artists.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do Expanded Edition<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODcwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzAzNjYxM30.x738H65oe7YBXRJJz576O5oEyA6O9EibrvgKwVIU91Y/image.jpg?width=980" id="b8488" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f443edf887e9fb1c9216fcb26f5796ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vbWVkaWEucmJsLm1zL2ltYWdlP3U9JTJGcyUyRmZpbGVzJTJGMSUyRjAyNjAlMkY3OTM2JTJGMzEyNiUyRnByb2R1Y3RzJTJGQkJFNDk0XzFfMTIwMHgxMjAwLmpwZyUzRnYlM0QxNTg2OTc0MDEwJmhvPWh0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkZjZG4uc2hvcGlmeS5jb20mcz02MCZoPTJiOTQxN2Y4MWQyMmRlY2EyZjI1NWVkYjc0NjE5ZDM2ODIzOTMwODA1MDE2NjQ4NGE3YTA1OGE4NDAzMzk5YWYmc2l6ZT05ODB4JmM9MzE1MDUwODI3OSIsImV4cGlyZXNfYXQiOjE2MjU4NzE4MjB9.77rXK5dfgkAmyZJp1gAdddw87947mAVLh6EuJwnSrP0/img.jpg" id="f42d9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b63d5a60ad001cc35a1031ad1c3df371" />
Bruce Lee: The Evolution of a Martial Artist<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vbWVkaWEucmJsLm1zL2ltYWdlP3U9JTJGcyUyRmZpbGVzJTJGMSUyRjAyNjAlMkY3OTM2JTJGMzEyNiUyRnByb2R1Y3RzJTJGYnJ1Y2UtTGVlLVRoZS1Fdm9sdXRpb24tb2YtYS1NYXJ0aWFsLUFydGlzdF8zMDB4MzAwLmpwZyUzRnYlM0QxNTg4MzQyNDkwJmhvPWh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGY2RuLnNob3BpZnkuY29tJnM9MTAwOCZoPTFlNzIxYzRjOGU3ZWU1YWJkNDA1YmM5YjZjYWVmYjIyMGQ5YWY5YzdkYjYyODM1NzA2MWVlMWM5NTA4YWVkOGMmc2l6ZT05ODB4JmM9Mzg3MTg4MjMzMyIsImV4cGlyZXNfYXQiOjE2MDYwOTA1Mzd9.K6yXp-6OwDl-xNeE5ArllH9BtcaDJBqCYxBCLj7MC48/img.jpg" id="f147b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccee8a16976c6359e4c629dada43f8eb" />
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