THE UN­PRECE­DENTED EVO­LU­TION OF MMA

GREG JACK­SON ON WHY THE SKILL SET HAS PRO­GRESSED SO FAR SO FAST — AND WHY WE SHOULD BE PAY­ING AT­TEN­TION!

Black Belt - - MMA - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY IAN SPANIER

You know as well as I do that we live in a po­lar­ized world — and have for many years. Sadly, the mar­tial arts com­mu­nity has not been un­scathed by this. Yes, many mar­tial artists were against kick­box­ing when it rose to promi­nence in the 1970s, ar­gu­ing that it was more sport than art, but far more have ral­lied against MMA, and the sen­ti­ment seems to be in di­rect pro­por­tion to the pop­u­lar­ity of the fight sport. For­tu­nately, Black Belt read­ers are more open-minded than the mar­tial arts masses when it comes to this topic — which is why we thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Greg Jack­son, our 2015 In­struc­tor of the Year, to get his per­spec­tive on MMA, its rapid de­vel­op­ment and its close con­nec­tion to the tra­di­tional arts. — Editor The tech­niques you see in MMA are not new tech­niques. They’re just a blend­ing of old mar­tial arts tech­niques. In MMA, we’re just tak­ing what works from a lot of dif­fer­ent arts, then we make sure it does work. How? By ex­per­i­ment­ing. In MMA com­pe­ti­tion — out­side of bit­ing, eye gouges and groin shots — ev­ery­thing else is pretty much fair game. Once we iden­tify a tech­nique that we think might work, we have the per­fect lab­o­ra­tory to do that. It’s hard to ar­gue with re­sults that say, ‘ Here is a move that just failed six times in a row, and here is a move that just worked 20 times in a row.’” It’s hard to fight em­pir­i­cal feed­back. Yes, you can say, ‘ I would just gouge his eyes,’ which hap­pens in MMA oc­ca­sion­ally. Or ‘ I would just kick his groin,’ which also hap­pens in MMA. Or ‘ I would bite him,’ which MMA fighters don’t do. But those things are at the very top of the self-de­fense pyra­mid. You have to pay at­ten­tion to the rest of the pyra­mid be­cause a lot of fight­ing takes place there. It used to be that you had to take peo­ple’s word for it that a tech­nique was go­ing to work. In MMA, how­ever, you don’t have to take any­one’s word for it any­more; you can see if it works.” If you look at the big pic­ture, you see that self- de­fense is about time and place. If I had tried a dou­ble-leg take­down on a samurai, he would have killed me. That would be the dumb­est thing I could do. That en­vi­ron­ment is where the oneshot, one-kill con­cept of karate came from. If you didn’t hit the samurai with that per­fect re­v­erse punch, you were dead. You may know 28 dif­fer­ent mixed-mar­tial arts moves, but the guy just cut your head off. That’s what I mean by time and place. Karate was made by peo­ple who were be­ing op­pressed and who needed to de­fend them­selves. They didn’t have any­thing, and the other guys had swords!” Does that make karate the most ef­fec­tive mar­tial art you can do here and now? Not nec­es­sar­ily. If we find a tech­nique from karate works as well now as it did then, MMA fighters

will adopt it. There are mil­lions of dol­lars on the line in MMA. It would be stupid for them not to bor­row any tech­nique that’s ef­fec­tive. No art is off-lim­its when it comes to bor­row­ing tech­niques. Money is a great im­pe­tus to push for­ward the evo­lu­tion of fight­ing. If some­thing works, we take it. In some ways, ev­ery art has some­thing to give. If we can dis­cover some­thing that we didn’t think was go­ing to work and it ends up work­ing, that’s great. Peo­ple will use it.” Get­ting back to karate, it has some great hand-to-hand moves and con­cepts like dis­tanc­ing. So train­ers and coaches look at karate, and if some­thing seems like it will work, we ex­per­i­ment with it. If it’s suc­cess­ful, we use it. For proof, look at Ly­oto Machida. He’s an awe­some fighter.” Here’s an­other ex­am­ple that will ex­plain what I mean by time and place. In kung fu, peo­ple used the but­ter­fly swords be­cause that’s what they had and be­cause they were fight­ing to the death. Now, we’re not fight­ing to the death and our weapons are dif­fer­ent. We’re not us­ing but­ter­fly swords, just like we’re not us­ing mus­kets any­more. Ev­ery­thing changes. If one day we have lasers on our wrists, then all this stuff we do now with guns will be an­ti­quated. We’ll have to move on.” This change is what makes it so ex­cit­ing to be in the mar­tial arts at this time in hu­man his­tory. It’s all made pos­si­ble by the in­ter­net and video. We can watch peo­ple fight us­ing tech­niques you’d never have seen oth­er­wise be­cause those tech­niques were de­vel­oped on the other side of the globe. In the past, we didn’t have that. If you were a Greek

pankra­tion fighter, you had Greeks and some Egyp­tians and maybe some other peo­ple around, but you didn’t have a lot of Ja­pa­nese ju­jitsu masters com­ing to Greece so you could test your skills against them. Now we have hun­dreds of peo­ple mov­ing around and mix­ing mar­tial arts.” Video and the in­ter­net are big, but so are the con­nec­tions we can now make with peo­ple from France, from Ja­pan, from Mon­go­lia, from ev­ery­where. I can be any­where in the world in 16 hours — from here to Aus­tralia or China. We never had that be­fore. We had some peo­ple, like Mori­hei Ueshiba, who went to China, but not many. We had a few peo­ple who cross-trained, but they were older guys who al­ready knew a lot, and by the time they got some­where dif­fer­ent, they prob­a­bly weren’t ready to ‘empty their vessel’ and learn some­thing to­tally new. But now, be­cause of

video, we can watch fights that hap­pened yes­ter­day or 40 years ago in the city we live in or on the other side of the world. And be­cause of air travel, we can connect with mar­tial artists from the other side of the world and train to­gether.” So it’s video and travel that en­able us to learn and to test tech­niques, and we have the im­me­di­ate feed­back of the fights. We never had that kind of lab­o­ra­tory be­fore. It used to take mar­tial artists months to get to other coun­tries, and they might stay there for a month or two. Now you can do all that in three days and then go some­where else in an­other three days. Never has the world been this small. We get to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese won­der­ful strate­gic prin­ci­ples, tech­niques and method­olo­gies from all over.” The rea­son some peo­ple are re­sis­tant to learn­ing from the MMA lab­o­ra­tory is they’re in­vested in their art. Let’s say you spend 25 years doing silat and that’s your re­al­ity. And then some kid comes along and says, ‘ We’ve been in the lab­o­ra­tory, test­ing all th­ese things you do, and they work some­times but not all of them work all the time.’ That’s hard for the silat in­struc­tor to take.” Re­mem­ber in the ’ 80s when ev­ery­body ar­gued about things like that? They’d be like, ‘ I’ll blast you through the wall with my ki power.’ ‘ Oh, no, my karate will stop you!’ It’s an old ar­gu­ment. And then the Gra­cie fam­ily said, ‘ You do yours and we’ll do ours.’ That’s what en­abled us to ac­tu­ally put things to the test — again, out­side of bit­ing, eye gouges and groin shots.” By the way, there’s plenty of eye goug­ing and groin shots that hap­pen in­ad­ver­tently in MMA, and they can be very ef­fec­tive. So when you’re teach­ing self- de­fense, the les­sons of MMA are still use­ful. You eye- gouge a cer­tain way be­cause of all those times it was done that way in a match il­le­gally. This is what worked, and this is what didn’t. It’s the same with groin shots.” Of course, it all changes when you’re fight­ing more than one per­son. MMA is for one- onone fight­ing. How­ever, you have to ad­dress cer­tain things whether you’re fight­ing three peo­ple or one. If you don’t know how to get up off the ground, if you don’t know how to do a sprawl and stay on your feet when three dudes are try­ing to beat you up, you might be in trou­ble on the street. I’m not say­ing MMA is the answer for all self- de­fense, but for one- on- one com­bat — even if it’s within a mul­ti­ple- op­po­nent sce­nario — you’re not go­ing to find any­thing better.” In a nut­shell, the dif­fer­ence be­tween street fight­ing and MMA fight­ing in­volves en­vi­ron­ment, tools and num­bers. In a match, it’s one- on- one in a static en­vi­ron­ment with just the tools pro­vided by the hu­man body. In a street fight, it’s the op­po­site. You might be us­ing a book or a chair as a weapon — or the desk, which you might push your at­tacker over. There might be three op­po­nents, and if there are, it would be silly to do a dou­ble-leg and get on top. But that doesn’t mean the dou­ble­leg and get on top doesn’t work for one-on-one. The tech­niques used in MMA are very tested. Which tech­niques you use, now that de­pends on the en­vi­ron­ment.”

If your op­po­nent has a knife, the game changes. If your op­po­nent has a gun, the game changes. It’s all about what you should you do at any given time in that en­vi­ron­ment. Is a move ef­fec­tive against one per­son? Against three peo­ple? Is it ap­pro­pri­ate for what you’re deal­ing with? You can’t naysay about the tech­niques them­selves be­cause they’re tested all the time in the cage. In self-de­fense, how do you know whether some­thing works? Maybe you’ll get into a street fight, maybe not.” Peo­ple some­times claim that be­cause cer­tain tar­gets on the body [ like the throat] are off-lim­its in a match, an MMA-trained fighter would have trou­ble tar­get­ing them on the street. In train­ing, I get hit in the throat a lot. In com­pe­ti­tion, fighters get hit in the throat con­stantly. It’s not il­le­gal to hit the throat in MMA. It sucks. But there’s a myth that a strike to the throat is go­ing to stop a per­son im­me­di­ately. In ac­tu­al­ity, it’s very hard to tar­get. Will a throat strike stop the fight? Yeah, some­times, but some­times not. I wouldn’t rely on it in self- de­fense.” It’s not un­like what we had in the ’ 80s with ‘ I’ll just side-kick you in the knee. All it takes is 10 pounds of pres­sure to …’ In MMA, we tested this us­ing ev­ery kick pos­si­ble — be­cause kick­ing the knee is not off-lim­its in com­pe­ti­tion. We hit knees with ev­ery­thing but the kitchen sink, and I think we’ve had maybe one in­ci­dent.” In con­trast, a strike to the groin will stop a fight, and that makes it a great street-fight­ing tech­nique. If I was in a street fight, I’d try to choke the other guy un­con­scious, hit him in the groin and poke him in the eyes. How­ever, again, those things are the top of the self-de­fense pyra­mid. If your op­po­nent tack­les you, all of that’s now ir­rel­e­vant. If he mounts and starts pound­ing on you, you can’t reach his eyes and good luck try­ing to hit his groin. What are you go­ing to bite, his leg or maybe an arm? The top of your self-de­fense pyra­mid needs to be built on strong fun­da­men­tals. If you can re­v­erse the mount, get into a guard po­si­tion and stay out of trou­ble there so you can use a bite and maybe bring in a throat strike, that’s a much better skill set to have.” If you look at the his­tory of MMA, you can see that there have been so many changes in­volv­ing so many tech­niques that were brought in. We had the Brazil­ian

jiu-jitsu guys who could choke out any­body, then the wrestlers who could sprawl and stop any­body, then the kick­box­ers who could knock out any­body. We’ve been through so much in such a short time be­cause the tech­niques get tested over and over. You learn that it’s about ap­pro­pri­ate­ness. Some­times peo­ple mis­un­der­stand it and think it’s about ef­fi­cacy, but it’s not. You wouldn’t do a dou­ble-leg take­down in a bar fight against six guys. How­ever, if one of them does it on you, you’d better know how to get out of it, and that’s what MMA does best.” Re­mem­ber that ev­ery­thing I said per­tains to be­ing more ef­fec­tive in MMA and self-de­fense. If you train in your mar­tial art for other rea­sons — maybe for point spar­ring, for kata com­pe­ti­tion, for health or for re­lax­ation — con­tinue doing ex­actly what you are doing. All mar­tial arts are won­der­ful.”

1 3 2 LES­SON OF THE LAT­ERAL: A ba­sic prin­ci­ple one can glean from MMA train­ing or kickbo[ing is Àght­ing in two di­men­sions is better than Àght­ing in one di­men­sion. Mov­ing straight for­ward and straight back ³ in one di­men­sion ³ keeps you in your...

LES­SON OF THE BITE: %it­ing, like eye goug­ing, is at the top of the self- de­fense pyra­mid, ac­cord­ing to Greg -ack­son. It’s a valid tech­niTue that usu­ally gets an im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion ³ as­sum­ing you’re in bit­ing range. -oe Steven­son demon­strates.

1 2 3 4 5 LES­SON OF THE GOUGE: %ecause they’re so ef­fec­tive, eye gouges sit at the top of Greg -ack­son’s self-de­fense pyra­mid, but he says you must know how to sur­vive ³ and ide­ally con­trol your at­tacker ³ un­til you get a chance to use one. 7o...

LES­SON OF THE SPRAWL: ´ If you don’t know how to do a sprawl and stay on your feet when three dudes are try­ing to beat you up, you might be in trou­ble on the street,” Greg -ack­son says. Per­haps the best way to learn the sprawl is in one- on- one...

LES­SON OF THE FEINT: 'ecep­tion can be the key to vic­tory in a Àght, whether it’s MMA or self- de­fense. Greg -ack­son (left) as­sumes a ready stance in front of -oe Steven­son +e throws a left Mab to make Steven­son look up then re­tracts his Àst while...

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