James Langworthy is one of my favorite people on the planet and would never hurt me in a million years, yet here he is attacking my arm with ferocity. James and I are practicing martial arts as a way to defend ourselves from an attacker and a path to defend our families if ever needed. If you take the time to think about your reaction, chances are the opportunity has passed. You must feel the proper response through practice. Competing in mixed martial arts teaches you about fitness, especially when you lose. Not many things push you harder than getting elbowed in the face. Pushing yourself teaches you about your limits, lets you know yourself. That very push and the science behind preparing for a fight is why mixed martial arts should be the universal fitness standard. Want to know what kind of shape you’re in? Get in a fight.
Renzo Gracie and John Danaher point out in their book, Mastering Jujitsu, the value of training with a opponent resisting at 100% to develop your working technique. He pointed out the “arts” that work are the ones that have competitions at 100% resistance, such as wrestling, boxing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If a wrestler enters a street fight and encounters resistance, he is used to it. He is used to somebody resisting him 100%, and his techniques will still hold up under the pressure. Renzo also argues that BJJ or grappling is effective because of the ability to train at 100% safely. I agree.
Training under Marc Laimon and Simpson Go at Cobra Kai in Las Vegas exemplified this ethos as well. At Cobra Kai everybody was very nice and friendly, but on the mats these guys went after it. Everybody grappled with great pressure, and many times I saw Laimon never ducking his best students. This team brought it in the practice room, and they owned NAGA submission wrestling competitions every year I reffed. These guys were great at competitions because it was the same speed they trained at daily. Their techniques held up because they were developed under the same conditions. They frequently drilled and practiced at lower speeds, and one of my favorite things was how well Marc Laimon and Simpson Go broke down the techniques and the principles behind them. When the drilling was done though people rolled very hard, at every practice. This was a very similar pace as competition, and the toughness it developed made for some great people. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Marc’s nickname for me: Choke Slut. His exact words, still seared into my mind, were that I would be a choke whore except I didn’t charge for it. I had recently been choked unconscious by Shannon Gugerty and displayed poor back technique. 🙂
Mixed martial arts competition will determine your fitness level very quickly, unless you only fight bums. If somebody can fight hard for twenty five minutes against a UFC champion, then they’re in shape. Fighting makes demands from its athletes physically, and great athletes excel for a reason. Fighters have to be able to move fast and explosively, have good tensile strength, be able to grip things and squeeze, be flexible, develop the will for when things go wrong, and be able to fight deep into the rounds if things go that way. Maybe I’m biased being a retired fighter, but I believe fighters are the most trained athletes on the planet. Fighting demands a versatile athlete, and in the cage there’s no faking it, especially when your opponent would love to remove you from consciousness for not coming in prepared. I train fighters with the late and great Kevin Randleman’s slam of Fedor fresh on my mind. Kevin suplexed Fedor directly on his head with the most powerful slam I’ve ever seen in MMA. Fedor rolled with it expertly and went on to finish Kevin with a kimura. My friend Scott Trayhorn likes to think about what would happen if that had been on pavement. Every single student I train in martial arts gets trained for the street, or the worse case scenario the MMA fight. They prepare for a long hard fight with a tough and aggressive adversary – maybe one you have to run from afterwards, or maybe one you have to carry a friend away from unconscious on your shoulder.
Mixed martial arts is the second harshest environment to test fitness in, behind only war in the violence that occurs. All this risk leads to excellent preparation techniques. If somebody is going to try and smash your teeth in the coming months, you inherently work hard if you have any brain cells in your head. Darwinism will take care of fighters that don’t train; I don’t need to worry about them. What this gives us is an excellent platform to push the human limit, to unlock human potential. Martial artists have been on this quest since the stone age, to make the perfect human weapon.