Also: GO BISPING!!!
Anderson Silva has never been my favorite fighter. Don’t get me wrong, the “Spider” is a phenomenon. The timing, spacing, and precision of Silva was like nothing else I had ever seen. I was just never into the antics and arrogance that loomed over his fighting style.
When Anderson was defeated by the former champ Chris Weidman, I, like everyone else on the planet, was shocked. At the time, there was no doubt he had the potential to come back and reclaim his title. When he got the opportunity and ended up shattering his leg on Weidman, I thought it was over for him. But, like many fighters who eat, breathe and live for the sport, he had to come back. The recovery was incredibly fast and he returned to face off again Nick Diaz just over a year after the break. Silva pulled off a W only to have it deemed a no contest after he came up dirty post testing. His return was tainted and his win hollowed. I wasn’t surprised by the test results; a man destroying his leg like Silva did isn’t meant to bounce back to fighting condition that quickly.
On Feb. 27th Silva will be making his comeback post suspension against Michael Bisping. I am not sure what Silva’s goal really is. See, I believe that Silva can take anyone in his generation of fighters. He definitely can handle Bisping and Diaz, but I don’t believe he could ever regain his belt. The fighting game moves and evolves fast and fighters know how to beat Silva now. He is no longer the unstoppable force that was in fighter’s heads before they even stepped in the ring. Chael Sonnen showed us how to beat him; Weidman actually pulled it off. Silva can say what he needs to say for press, but I hope he is fighting because he loves fighting and not because he aim to be champ again. He can give us entertainment and continue in the sport he loves, but I do not think he will ever be a contender for the belt. Can Silva do it? Yes, he can be a fighter again, but never a champion.
Also: GO BISPING!!!
There are a lot of style's of martial arts out there... I mean a lot! With the early days of the UFC we got to see tons of matches between people of many different martial arts backgrounds duking it out. We saw full gi BJJ grapplers competing against low handed, squared hips Karate guys, iron shin Muy Thai fighters against veteran wrestlers, and salty boxers throwing with TKD kick specialist. Back then it was a real showcase of diverse fighting styles.
Today, the best of the best in MMA art not purebreds in a style. They fight using what they are good at and what works for them and against the guy in front of him. They fighters that fail to evolve with the times get lost in them. Those that know fighting, know that you can never be the best forever and that you are only as good as your last fight. Look at Ronda Rousey: she had a way and it worked incredibly well. Ronda was the best thing since sliced bread. I heard her name in some media almost every single day. Now, after her first UFC loss again Holly Holmes, I don't hear her name... I hear Holly's.
See, the truth is there is no better style and there is was never one way. Fighting is not magic. Ronda was never magic either, she just had something that worked for her. Fighting , no matter what origin, consists of timing, spacing, and leverage. A martial artist, whether or not they are a fighter, needs to see that hurting people isn't difficult. The challenge is learning "your fight". I have a male student, 50 years old, 6'5'' and about 205lbs. I also have a female studemt, 24 years old, 5'3", and 95 pounds on a good day... We could not expect them be fight the same way because they do not fit under the same umbrella (both literally and figuratively). What they do share is universal principles. Timing and spacing with always apply to them; regardless of extent. Like my instructor always told us: "If you drive a car in a swimming pool, you know what is going to happen to the water. It's going to pour out. If you drop a penny in the ocean the same thing happens... water is displaced." Displacement, no matter what degree is a universal principle in fighting. The truths that apply to us all are what we must learn.
Not everyone is meant to do an effective spinning hook kick; not everyone should attempt to pull off a suplex; but if we come across a bolt we can't undo the answer is the same: We need a bigger wrench. How big just depends on the person.
My school has a lot of different people from many walks of life. No two personalities are the same and each student has their own hurdles to overcome in training. One surprisingly common hurdle that I see a lot is what I call the “athlete hurdle”. First of all, fighting is weird. Hands were not designed with the intention of closing and striking someone with. Tons and tons of motions appropriate to martial arts and fighting are contradictory to what our instincts would tell us. Sometimes, when we get an athlete in a dojo, they struggle with being uncomfortable. See, natural athletes (the ones who could catch a ball at four and run a half marathon without training) are used to success and quickly getting the hang of whatever sport they are attempting. Martial arts is unique, and just because you are athletic does not mean you will be a savant. Athletes without mental fortitude get frustrated and can be incredibly discouraged when dominated in a round with a seasoned martial artist. The ones that quit because of this frustration lack fortitude; the ones that stick with it and work through are some of the best students you can get.
Now let’s talk about Syd! Sydney Paulino is in her early 20’s, is nice (sometimes), unassuming (mostly), and feisty (always). When she started training her big struggle was with flinching. Syd would tense up her shoulders, close her eyes, and look away if I (the instructor) even looked like I was thinking about throwing a punch. It was bad, but it was normal. Most people react to the fear of getting hit by looking away and closing their eyes, but in martial arts it’s something you must overcome with experience and ring time. To be honest though, Syd was exceptionally “flinchy.”
When Syd and I would spar, I had a hard time telling whether or not she even enjoyed training. She seemed constantly anxious anytime we put gloves on. I wasn’t sure how long she would stick around for, but I did my best to work through it with her and keep her motivated. What I appreciate about this student is that she was relentless. In spite of the discomfort and her on again off again irritability, she kept coming and she kept sparring. Weeks went by, then months, and as of today she has improved tenfold. Syd has gained rank in the system, throws good combinations, and scraps! Also, she has a really nice and deceptive head kick. Life will always give you hurdles and challenges. To be successful in anything, whether that is work, education, or martial arts, one must be able to meet the challenges as an opportunity to grow and not turn away. Syd has fortitude and we love having her at The Academy.
Something given never carries as much value as when it is earned.
A lot of different personalities come through my martial arts school. With that, I have to do my best to be dynamic so that each student is successful in their training. One student I have is particularly pragmatic, argumentative, and stubborn. There is not an instance in which I correct or advise him that he doesn’t immediately follow up with a question. That question serves to either contradict me or to make things more complicated than they need to be.
“Bend your knees,” I say.
“They aren’t bent?” he replies.
“Bend them more,” I reply.
He then proceeds to dramatically bend them far past anything close of a good stance. Mind you he is a teenager… Immediately I will shut this down as I am not interested in playing any games; I just want him to bend his knees. I see though, this attitude flares up with that student’s frustration. When there is a struggle to execute a technique or he is being pressed during freestyle from another student, he will begin over analyzing his movements, repeating the same mistakes, and essentially try shoving a square peg in a round hole. Yesterday during free grappling, in the midst of his deep frustration, I pulled him aside and told him something along these lines: “I think you are way too concerned with the fact you’re getting stuck. Rather than think about what you are doing in the moment, you are thinking about why the last move didn’t work. You need to get in there and fail. Just do what you know, work hard, and fail. You learn the most in the struggle and you will be better because of it. You aren’t here to win or lose. You are here to train.”
Whether or not it clicked then or will later, it remains a simple truth. If a student is getting their arm barred over and over again by a higher level student, and they are frustrated because they believe, on a technical level, they are countering properly I tell them: “I have good arm bar defense only because I have been arm barred a thousand times. You want to learn to not get choked? You need to get choked.”
There is no new, radical concept here. It is just something we need to be reminded of from time to time. Humans are refined by fire. The greatest people to not wake up great, but instead, are tried through blood, sweat and tears. Success is never a right, but a privilege earned by those unwilling to yield to failures.
I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about two of Robbie Lawler’s three recent title defenses and the controversy that surrounded them. Sure this is old news but I’m thinking more in terms of how this reflects the mechanics of the sport and what really makes a champion.
On December, 6th 2014 Lawler pulled a split decision victory over Johny Hendricks. Like the judges, the fans where split; many divided by their fan-boy biases and others by the ferocity of the final round. I look back on the stats and see Lawler landed 22 more total strikes and 5 more significant strikes than Hendricks. Over five rounds that doesn’t seem like much a difference. Hendricks shined with 5 successful takedowns and over 10 minutes of control; compared to Lawler’s 1 minute of control and 0 takedowns, one can assess Hendricks took a pretty big lead there. I mean 10 minutes of control is 2 entire rounds! Now when we get into individual rounds it gets interesting. Lawler lead in significant strikes landed in the first and last rounds of the fight. Hendricks, on the other hand, led in strikes the second, third, and fourth round. After re-watching the fight, I recall having a similar feeling as when first viewing it: that Hendricks was playing it safe and Lawler had been very unsuccessful until he went for broke the last round.
See there are two ways to win a fight in MMA. One is by straight finishing it. You land your opponent with either a K’O or a sub. Some guys just catch one in the fray and others hunt for one as quickly and aggressively as possible. The second way is the marathon route; the battle of attrition. George Saint Pierre is famous for this as, through patience, precision, and skill, he would chip away and pick apart his opponents. This can lead to some long and sometimes boring fights, but it serves to showcase true octagon control and a get the fighter a W. I saw Hendricks pick at Lawler, take him down, showcase control, and play it safe. I saw Lawler get controlled, get picked, and in the finishing moments of the fight, throw everything he had left in him at his Hendricks.
If we are looking at fighters as athletes (which of course they are) one would think we would judge and reward them based off their consistency and effectiveness. If we look at them as entertainers (which they are) one would think we would judge them on their aggression and showmanship. There has to be a line though, somewhere in there, where we don’t get caught up in the intensity of a fighter swinging fences, and, in turn, lose sight of the one striking him out. I can’t say undoubtedly that Lawler should have lost that fight. I am aware judging is grey and we must respect the rules of the sport, but still I can’t stop questioning it.
In Lawler’s most recent title defense victory over Carlos Condit, he threw 178 punches (landing 93); Condit landed 177… I find that amazing. In the first 3 rounds Condit just about doubled the number of significant strikes Lawler landed and quadrupled that number in the 4th. It is no surprise that in the 5th round Lawler frenzied and landed more strikes than all previous rounds combined! That 5th round stat was still 10 shots shy of Condit’s 62 landed shots. I look at those stats and am confused at the split decision going to Lawler. On paper almost anyone can see Condit won. Did the judges and people watching at home get distracted by the raging bull that Lawler is and were more appreciative of his tenacity and toughness rather than that of the matador? Lawler is winning fights by being a monster and one of the toughest guys in the sport and probably on the planet. I wonder though, will Lawler be able to form a coherent sentence in 10 years? Is he going to eat thousands of punches over a decorated career and find himself broken in retirement? Is that what we want for our champions? Does toughness make a champion? How do we not give the belt to a man who almost landed more shots than the residing champ even threw?
If fighters are awarded wins by being able to weather their opponents we are going to see more of them rise through the ranks. I can’t help but feel that judges are being pressured by cheering crowds and ‘wow’ factors to favor the “bulls”. We as fans can’t help but encourage this because we love seeing the Lawler’s pummel and get pummeled for 25 minutes of chaos. I too lost interest in the “play it safe” style of GPS in the later years of his career. I don’t really have answers to all the questions in this post, but I feel they need to be addressed. In other sports the best players put the ball in the hoop, in the goal, or in the N-Zone. We know who wins, we know who loses. In MMA it can be never be as cut and dry; especially when victory rest in the hands of bystanders watching from the sidelines.