May 2009

The use and manipulation of Rhythm for Bridging the Gap in Mixed Martial Arts Fighting

 In my last bog we looked at the use of angles in bridging the gap, today I want to introduce the idea of taking advantage of the rhythm that tends to be set up during a fight, for bridging the gap.

When we are engaged in a fight, whether mixed martial arts or Muay Thai fighting, we tend to take on a rhythm for entering, retreating, attacking and defending. If you watch a fight from the outside you see this rhythm establish itself fairly quickly; the fighter that takes the lead with the offensive dictating the rhythm.

To understand rhythm, when learning martial arts, we must take a moment to understand beats. Just as in music, where the bass drum sets a beat rhythm, in a fight this is set up by an offensive movement from the attacker inducing a counter movement (such as moving back) by the now, by definition, defender. The attacker may then, if the attack failed, retreat or redirect the attack by changing direction or retreating. To which the former defender moves back in on or mounts a counter-attack. Therefore we get a rhythm of attack – defend – attack (or counter-attack).

What we want to do is take advantage of this fight dynamic - learning how to manipulate the rhythm and break it by inserting a strike in between each full beat at say a half beat. We can do this by making the expected strike, which is in beat, a feint and then follow it immediately by a full strike.

Generally, when learning mixed martial arts, we set up rhythm with the jab and footwork, moving in with the jab and if countered we move to the defense, and if conditions permit we attack again. By applying the offensive jabs we set up a rhythm which we can break. A useful strategy for this when learning mixed martial arts or Muay Thai fighting, would be to step in with the jab and step back, then repeat the action. This is then followed by a feint, that is based on the movement used in establishing the rhythm, followed immediately by an attack on the half beat. For example Jab, Jab, feint Jab (to draw defensive parry) followed by full jab and overhand right punch.

The breaking of the rhythm catches the opponent in mid position change either physically (actually moving in a direction that they thought would be moving with you) or with a mind set to move; either actually beginning to activate motor movement or relaxing because the pressure has come off e.g. if you have moved out on the beat. This leaves the opponent very vulnerable for attack.

When learning mixed martial arts fighting this strategy can also be used with the footwork changes and different combinations using hands, feet and takedowns. For a greater in-depth look at this advanced gap bridging strategy check out my Mastering the Danger Zone DVD series here at which is packed full of more in-depth rhythm manipulation and breaking strategies along with over 100 other gap bridging techniques that will put you ahead of the game when learning mixed martial arts and Muay Thai.

PS. and while you're at it check out the great review if the series at

Learning Angular Movement is Essential in Mixed Martial Arts Training

 Further to my blogs on considerations for bridging the gap let’s take a look at the use of angles.

An often used expression in mixed martial arts and Muay Thai fighting is the need to get an angle on the opponent.

The value in this is by attacking at an angle we move to a position that is difficult for the opponent to defend from, thus forcing them to change position that, in turn, increases their reaction time and presents openings for attack.

When attacking straight on to an opponent, in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai or even self defense fighting, we are directly in front of their vision and their main defensive tools, their arms and legs. This allows our opponent to readily defend attacks and catch us in a moment of reassessing a failed attack, thus giving an opportunity for the opponent to mount an effective counter attack.

However, by moving to a position where we can attack from the side we can often obtain an opening which is very difficult for the opponent to defend and counter from, due to the need to shift position, an act that requires time and a brief change in mental focus that again further slows their reaction time and ability to defend.

In addition, if they are forced onto their back foot as a consequence of your angular attack, both physically and (metaphorically speaking) mentally, their ability to move is greatly compromised and they become even more vulnerable to being hit.

The basic methodology for obtaining an angle as part of the offensive phase is to utilize a change of direction with the footwork, covered by a diversionary tactic with the hands, body or legs.

When learning mixed martial arts be sure to cover the shift in footwork with the jab or other feint to get the most effective and clean shift in angle that will not be picked up by the opponent until it is too late. In addition, there are several very effective footwork techniques that can be utilized to enhance the shift.

Also, do not limit the idea of attacking an angle to just changing the direction of our attack such that you come at a side angle, attacking from an angle also includes, as a sub category, the attacking into a different line; e.g. attacking the high left line then redirecting or changing the attack to the low left line

The learning and drilling of angular footwork in offense and defense, together with feinting and covers respectively, is a major strategy for bridging the gap in both the offensive and defensive mode when learning mixed martial arts or Muay Thai and should be trained thoroughly as part of the base drills.

I have developed a very comprehensive resource on DVD of numerous strategies for bridging the gap many of which utilize the angular change principle, check it out here and get some fee videos while you’re at it.

Mixed Martial Arts Fighting

Without a doubt the most crucial phase of a fight whether Mixed Martial (MMA), Muay Thai or self defense is moving from the out of range distance to where we engage the opponent whether offensively or defensively termed "Bridging the Gap".
This transitional phase is also a part of many MMA fighters’ games that is not well developed, most relying on speed in their offense of standup combinations and takedown shooting techniques or on a sprawling and smothering cover tactics to get a clinch that they may or may not win in their defensive tactics.
When we break down this phase we find that the success of an entry to engage the opponent is dependant on a number of factors that include the movements and intentions of the opponent.
At first, the apparent inability to know an opponent’s intentions may seem to be out of your control, in a mixed martial arts match, and so the reliance on speed of entry or an overwhelming attack flurry is a workable strategy. However, both of these strategies have a degree of risk that is proportional to the speed of the attack launched.
However, if we have the ability to reasonably predict or pre-empt an opponent’s movement in MMA or Muay Thai we will greatly reduce the risk factor of our entries, placing us in a better position once the gap has been bridged and we can engage the opponent in a grappling/throwing situation in which we can take the dominant control of.
By learning how to use angles, rhythm, economy of motion, misdirection and speed enhancing movements we can influence and control the opponent. This together with disciplined drilling of techniques that maximize economy of motion, reduce telegraph and increase the opponents reaction time due to confusing entry signals will greatly enhance your ability to engage the opponent in a manner that increases the probability of domination at this point of the fight.
Over the next blogs I will be discussing these attributes to give some insight in to how we can develop them.It is with this in mind that I have just released a DVD series devoted to this little understood phase of our fight game in which I have given an intensive and thorough study of techniques that will greatly enhance your ability to bridge the gap rapidly and cleanly whether from the offensive or defensive point of view.

Acupressure for Treating Soft Tissue Injuries Incurred When Learning MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

One of the most prevalent injuries that we encounter in martial arts, particularly grappling systems such as; Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed martial arts and wrestling, is strained ligaments and tendons most often in our knees, elbows and shoulder joints.

These are very annoying and often if we try to train through them they get progressively worse. Just recently one of my Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students told me about a knee ligament injury that had been lingering for some time and asked me to relate to him an experience that I had many years ago with a knee injury.

I had partially torn my patella tendon doing full squats, this was accompanied with a chronic pain that would get worse if I sat for long periods and had shown no sign of healing after 2 years. At the time I was learning Muay Thai and this injury seriously impaired my kicking power and not wanting to stop training I just put up with it.

The turning point came when I was attending a physiotherapist (an often occurring event for any elite athlete) for an unrelated shoulder injury. I mentioned to him about this long term injury and he suggested trying a form of acupressure.

I was to use thumb pressure directly onto the most painful area of the injury and knead the area for 5-10minutes at a time, twice a day. I was to press with as much pressure that would cause as much pain as I could tolerate, until the pain either disappeared or was significantly reduced (usually 5-10 minutes).

I repeated this activity for approximately 2 weeks after which the injury had completely healed and I have had no more trouble with it.

When students learning mixed martial arts or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have come to me with similar stories about soft tissue injuries I have related this methodology to them with the majority experiencing excellent results.

After relating this method to the student mentioned above he came to me a couple of weeks later to tell me that it had worked and has not had any recurrence.

The methodology is a form of transverse massage used in acupressure from Chinese Medicine and Japanese Shiatsu. It appears to work by stimulating endorphins to reduce the pain and also increases the flow of nutrients and growth factors required for the healing process into the injured area.

These soft tissue areas of tendons and ligament connective tissue do not have very good blood supply and the added stimulus of rubbing pressure assists in getting flow to the injured areas.

So if you’ve got an injury that’s been lingering give this technique a shot.

However, please consult a health professional to attest the appropriateness of the technique first so that you do not exacerbate an injury by its’ application.