So what's this all about?

I turn forty at the end of the year. Before I get there I want to have another amateur MMA fight. This blog is a record of how, and if, I manage to achieve this.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Limber 11

If you've followed this blog you'll know that I'm a fan of Joe DeFranco's work and utilise his Agile 8 to get my old bones moving and prevent injury.
Well, the man's just revealed his Limber 11, a longer prehab/mobility routine that adds to the Agile 8 and looks very interesting.
Few of us, particularly those of us who are getting on in years, do enough of this kind of stuff and I'll be trying this out, especially before training.
Check back for the results....

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Insight Part 2

Q: How many psychotherapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One. But first the lightbulb must be motivated to change.

It's an old joke but one that rang true for me as a substance misuse worker (Drug Counsellor). I lost count of the number of times I heard colleagues talk about clients “ see he's just not motivated to change, there's nothing I can do to help him.” Perhaps I even rolled the same hackneyed line out myself when frustrated with the lack of progress a client was making. I don't believe it any more if I ever did.

What's this got to do with reflections on my recent(ish) experience of competing?


Once I'd competed I had a real sense of there being no need for, and therefore no point to training, watching my diet, working on conditioning. After all, I'd done what I set out to do, I'd even won my fight and lost a significant (20lbs+) amount of weight in the process. I was a bit lost.
It was amazing to realise that I'm a person who needs an end goal to aim for, or if not needs then benefits from having a target. That's the first point I want to make. It would be easy and clichéd to talk about this as having been a journey and having discovered new things along the way, but it would also be true. I found out:

  1. That I can benefit from setting goals if...
  2. ...they're real and
  3. ...meaningful and
  4. ...I actually CARE about achieving them.

So much has been written about goal setting that I'm not going to rehash it all here and contribute to the 95% of psychobabble that passes for goal setting advice. My experience was that having a goal I cared about and could conceivably achieve gave me the motivation to hurt, ache, eat a lot of fish and greens and drag my sorry backside on to the mat or in to the gym five nights a week for three months. But that wasn't the only thing that kept me going.

People did. Firstly, I told people what I was trying to do – at work, at home, at the gym. When you tell a lot of people whose opinion you respect about your goal you'd better deliver. When Nathan (Head Coach) at the gym found out what I was aiming for he talked to me about it and when asked said, yes, it was possible. That was important. Someone else believed I could do it. Other more experienced fighters at the gym also helped with training, especially sparring, and never intimated that it wasn't worth training me, especially guys like Jake Constantinou who had his own fight in Japan to prepare for but still spent time with the beginner amateurs. Finally, John and Rob who were competing in their first MMA competition were great training partners and motivators. I hope I served them the same.

The final group of people who provided motivation were the faceless forum members on T-Nation and Ross Training. Not only did I get some really positive and encouraging comments on my training log but whenever I felt like sitting a session out or taking it a bit easy or not hitting a number of reps I'd think of what I'd be putting in my log. What would it look like if I didn't post any training or if what I did post was weak. Shallow, maybe, but helpful all the same.

Outside of people, I've always found motivation in the writing of others. I've written about them before but whenever I need a literary shot in the arm I go to:
  • Dan John Strength, conditioning, athleticism, rambling, eccentricity.
  • Jim Wendler Strength, conditioning, misanthropy, Drone/Grind/Dark metal.
  • Marshall D. Carper Cauliflower Chronicles easily bears repeated reading and inspires.
  • Sam Sheridan Fighter's Heart and Fighter's mind are required reading

It's not just about the information contained in these authors' books, it's that the stories they tell inspire. Quality information does not necessarily an inspiring read make. The story and the writing have to be good.

Finally, I'm a sucker for documentaries. When they're good (cast + story + direction + quality) I can draw a lot of motivation from them, specifically:

  • Strong (Joe DeFranco)

  • Choke (Rickson Gracie)

  • Rites of Passage (Bobby Razak)
  • UFC all access series.

  • Destiny (Kostya Tszyu)
  • Legacy (Renzo Gracie)

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting but you get the idea.

To summarize, for me to ensure my motivation it is important to: 
  1. Have a goal - achievable, realistic, worthwhile, specific.
  2. Be surrounded by the right people.
  3. Know what inspires and use it - preventatively and reactively.
I know that I'm working on all three again, when I've got a goal I'll let you know.
I could write more on this and maybe I will in future, but for now Good Luck and Godspeed!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Insight Part 1

There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

My opponent & I after our fight.

As promised in my previous post I've spent sometime thinking about the things that I learnt on the journey to my fight (no, not the 55 miles down the M1 to Milton Keynes!). Initially I thought that I'd be able to rattle off four or five points, offering a little narrative along the way but it has transpired to be a lot more difficult than this. It's not that I haven't got stuff to say, far from it, it's that every time I come up with an idea or a learning point it grows in to a whole post as of itself. Or near enough. So, I've decided to pick out my personal learning and reflection points and to write about them in a series of posts, some longer, some shorter. We'll see how it goes...

#1 In the court of Combat, Conditioning is King

Conditioning is my best weapon.” – Frank Shamrock

I remember reading an interview with Pat Miletich in which he told the story of losing his first kickboxing match due to being tired and pledging to himself that he would never again lose due to his conditioning. In the article Pat went on recount how he sought to 'find ways to make himself more and more miserable' – ways of pushing his conditioning through the roof – running until he vomited then carrying on because he no longer had to worry about having anything left to throw up, chasing down cross country teams, consistently training as a welterweight with a heavyweight training partner. Seemed to work for Pat and for his stable of fighters for a good while.

If there's a hierarchy of attributes possessed by an amateur fighter I'm pretty sure that conditioning sits atop it. It could be argued that technique is number one, a view I'd have some sympathy for, but there's a bit of me that feels you could have the quickest hands, most devastating leg kicks or slickest submission combos but if you're too knackered to lift a limb, you probably won't have much success in applying them.

In his awesome book 'A fighter's Heart', Sam Sheridan states that conditioning wins Thai boxing matches, plain and simple. I don't know that this is necessarily true but an ability to outlast your opponent can't hurt your chances of winning a fight. Having the energy to be able to get in to range and apply a technique on an opponent who hasn't the energy to defend it could be the difference between a W and an L, or at least a D.

Taken further, gassing and being caught by an opponent who's got better conditioning is worse: nobody wants a mark in their loss column with the note 'Submission – too knackered to continue'.

One of my training rules – a set of principles that I have written down to refer back to when I'm feeling lost – is that time spent on conditioning is rarely wasted. The point of this is that on those days when I don't know what solo training to do, when indecision may lead to time wasted or worse, not doing anything at all, I can refer to my rules and be guided to do something useful, probably conditioning. The question then, is what is the best way to improve conditioning for MMA or grappling?

Although there is a place for Long Slow Distance (LSD) work in fight training, this is primarily for weight management and building endurance in untrained individuals. For those with some training and/or a base level of fitness interval training seems to be the way to go:

It seems that, for athletes who are already trained, improvements in endurance performance can be achieved only through high-intensity interval training.

Laursen, B & Jenkins, D (2002) Journal of Sports Medicine.

Logically, this makes sense when we think about the way in which combat sports are typically structured – burst of high energy activity followed by periods of active/inactive rest. There are quite a few ways of mimicking a fight or grappling match, some requiring more resources than others which can be a key factor when considering what conditioning to do. The other key considerations are:

  • Time – How much have you got?
  • Boredom – Can you do the same thing repeatedly? Do you need a menu of ideas to draw from?
  • Congruency – How much will your choice of conditioning correlate with your sport/goals?

Below are some of my 'favourite' forms of conditioning, please leave comments, particularly on some of your favourites.


Surely there's no better way to condition for competition than to mimic it as closely as possible, i.e. sparring. The downsides are the need for partners and a suitable space. The bang for your buck factor is huge given the right set up. Six three minute rounds with a minute's rest in between has got to be a fantastic use of 25 minutes in order to up conditioning in a wholly congruent way. My favourite way is to limit the actions/behaviour of one or other of the sparrers, e.g. to imitate a grappler, kicking or wrestler, etc. or to work on key development points, e.g. takedown defense, sweeps from the bottom, etc.


Doing fight related circuits is a good way to keep the boredom at bay. I like to use a ten exercise, 1 minute each, 10 seconds between exercises method, for example:

Heavy bag boxing


Sandbag shoulder


Floorbag G'n'P

Floorbag lift/suplex


Band resisted shot

Floorbag bodylock (isometric hold)

Heavy bag boxing.

I posted up a load of variations a while back....

You can use a fair bit of kit or you can use mainly bodyweight exercises, or you can mix it up a little bit (as a certain Mr Rutten would say, more on whom below). The only downside is that if you do these solo you have to be able to push yourself or you'll coast. And nobody wants that.

At Leicester Shootfighters the circuits involve 1 minute at each exercise, 2 exercises at each of 6 stations. 30 seconds between exercises at the same station, 1 minute to move between stations. While there's more recovery time in this set up the paired exercises work you hard and the group/coached environment really pushes you.

Bas Rutten Workouts

If you don't know who Bas Rutten is you should. Google him.

His workout CDs are a collection of workouts based around boxing, Thai boxing, MMA and bodyweight training. Each workout involves Bas shouting out punch/kick/sprawl/bodyweight combinations for rounds of 2 to 25 minutes, 1 to 10 rounds. Check it out here.

I love these. When I'm undecided about what to do I do these. When I'm lacking motivation and feel I might coast I do these. When I need conditioning but want to hit things I do these.

Awesome. The only downside is that they can become predictable if you do them a lot.


Up hills.

Up lots of stairs.

With active rest between.

With a sled.

With farmers' walk implements.

Always outside. Sometimes puke inducing. Definitely awesome/hateful in equal measure.

Other stuff...

Barbell complexes a la Dan John, Martin Rooney, Alwyn Cosgrove.

My favourite:

6 reps each, barbell never leaves hands, aim for under two minutes.

Romanian deadlift



Whip/ricochet cleans


Floor press

Bent over row



Strongman medley; worked the right way these can seriously tax the heart and lungs. I like yoke carry, farmers' walk, stone carry, log press.

So that's the first post on what I learned on the journey to take part in Combudo. More to come. Keep checking in and please feel free to leave comments.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Job Done

Leicester Shoot Crew, from third from front left: John, me, Rob, Nayan, Levo, Daywalker
And so the journey comes to an end.

Last Sunday I was part of a four man team from Leicester Shootfighters that competed in the Combudo Amateur MMA tournament in Milton Keynes. Those of you who've followed the blog up to this point will know that this is the culmination of seventeen months of training, the last two being significantly tougher through the addition of sparring sessions in to my training schedule.

The fight itself seemed to be over in a flash and conducted at a lightning pace, though how much of that was due to my emotional/mental state – I don't remember much of it in any detail - and how much to the actual pace of the fight... In one light it seems crazy to have trained for even the last two months for 3 minutes of scrapping but in hindsight I know that I would have liked to have done more rolling, sparring and conditioning work in preparation to compete, that it would've made me able to do better than I did. Ah, hindsight, the only truly exact science...

The Friday two days prior to Combudo I weighed just under 96kg on the scales that I have been using since January. On the day of the competition I weighed in at 98kg. I knew I was pretty much bang in the middle of the 90 – 100kg with little chance of being over or under so I didn't attempt to cut any weight and ate pretty much whatever I felt like. I was far more concerned with running out of energy due to getting my diet wrong than with hitting any target weight.

As is the norm for me, my opponent was at least four inches taller than me and went off at a blistering pace utilising his reach advantage to land what felt like plenty of strikes. I was struggling to get my punches and kicks off first and grabbed a knee on a couple of occasions without managing to finish a takedown. Finally, realising that I wasn't going to win the fight standing I fully committed to a shot and a (single? Double-leg?) takedown. Rather than try to finish it by pivoting or going to the corner, I drove through taking him to the mat on his back. It's difficult to recall much detail but essentially I passed guard to the side and, despite Leicester Shoot Head Coach Nathan Leverton telling me to improve my position, maintained side control in spite of my opponent's best efforts to escape, and laid in to some ground 'n' pound. Not pretty, but it got the job done and got my the decision win. Looking back I would've liked to have moved to mount but on the couple of occasions that I tried I felt like I was losing the dominant position. As it was I moved between north-south and side control as well as switching hand positions to maintain control. If I showed any grappling skill it was through the maintenance of the dominant position.

As an aside, as I was working to stay in side control a female supporter of my opponent was shouting 'he's got nothing!'. This riled me a bit and I have to admit put a bit of spite behind my punches as well as drawing a little chat from me to my opponent(!).

The whole experience taught me a lot and in the next post I'll reflect on what I learnt. One thing I do know, this part of the journey may be over but I think there's further I'd like to travel....

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just get it done

A "perfect storm" is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically Andrew Stern (2008-01-01).
 "Wordsmiths, avoid these words."

The definition above pretty much sums up the past few weeks for me in terms of the combination of my work and training circumstances; a little melodramatic perhaps, but a pretty accurate reflection nonetheless.  Work has been crazy with 14 hour days and 200 mile drives and to be honest after some of the shitty things that have been happening at work, the last thing I've wanted to do is train.  The convergence of work pressure and the need to prepare for competition is unfortunate to say the least.

However, with time ticking away before the Combudo competition the need to train has become critical if I'm not to embarrass myself. 

Experience has taught me that you rarely find the time to do things, you have to make it, and it was with this in mind that I came across this article on the website of Mile High Multisport discussing the various ways that an athlete or sports-person can life around training... or vice-versa.

I heard Dave Scott speak a few years ago and he said the hardest thing for him in training was knowing that he had an hour workout planned by only had ½ an hour in his schedule or wasn’t feeling the workout for the day. His theory is one I adhere to religiously in training. If you can do at least 20 minutes, DO IT is what Dave said. Either you’ll snap out of your “I don’t want to work out today” funk or at least you get something in. Sometimes work gets busy and I want to do an hour long workout, but only have ½ an hour left. I add a bit of intensity to the workout and know I at least got something in. It always feels better.

The article has a number of good suggestions and some that are pretty off the wall - changing clothes whilst stopped at traffic lights??!!!  Compounding my own difficulties was the issue of food.  I've spent the last two weeks working away from my office or home in an environment where food is provided and it's been starch city - sandwiches, potatoes, cookies - and while I've tried to curb the ingestion of too many carbs it hasn't been easy.  On top of the availability of poor food choices, long working days and early starts have made preparing food to take with me a proposition for which I've had little enthusiasm.  Even leftovers or soup has been off the cards as I've had no access to a microwave.  Of course if I'd been more organised or motivated I could've prepared food...... oh well.

So, with all this in mind, the following is a list of some of the things I've learnt which could be helpful in the battle for time:

  1. Just do it.  I often spend a lot of unnecessary time in a state of indecision with regard to whether or not I can get to training or what I need to do if I'm training on my own, or whether I'm too tired or injured to train, or etc, etc.  I've found that the answer for me is that anything is better than nothing.  I often challenge my own self-talk when I'm over thinking like this and just do something, often resorting to the mantra "What's the worst that can happen?".
  2. Nuts and fruit are fast food.  They need no preparation other than their purchase.  Often I'll keep almonds, cashews and pistachios, plus a bottle or two of water, in the car for days when lunch may not happen or dinner will be late.
  3. Training economy is vital.  Done in the right way, bagwork can develop skill and improve conditioning.  Sled work will develop conditioning, strength and explosiveness.  Strongman style training - Farmers' walks, loaded carries, etc. - will develop strength and conditioning.  When you've little time, train smart.
  4. When you're there, do stuff.  If I can only get to Leicester Shootfighters on one night I'll try to a) make it a night when I can take part in sessions that correlate well with my goals, and b) try to make it a night on which I can take part in more than one session, sometimes as many as three.
  5. When you're there make the most of it.  Concentrate during teaching, concentrate when drilling, be a good training partner, make the most of sparring.  Don't be one of those guys who chats, becomes distracted and doesn't learn anything.
  6. Find out what helps you learn.  Drilling, technical sparring, etc.  For me, writing a journal helps to cement what I've learnt and gives my something to refer back to.
  7. Make your rest count.  I've been working hard at sleep (oxymoron?) using hypnosis to help me get to sleep and get good sleep.  This has been invaluable in maximising my already limited energy stores.
Finally a quick word on weight.  Even though my diet's been pretty poor I've managed to continue to lose a little weight which I'm very pleased with.  I'm on course to comfortably hit the middle of the 90 - 100kg category.

More soon, Godspeed!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Grapplethon 2013 - Grappling with a thorny issue.

Spending any kind of time on the internet - especially the various forums that abound - can be depressing.  There is so much negativity around and the downer it brings is often compounded by the fact that we feel that we should feel some kinship and share the views of those who frequent the same forums as us.... after all, we've been brought together by our love of something...haven't we?

Most recently I've found the debate around Fallon Fox to have uncovered a whole heap of transphobia  and narrow-mindedness on various forums in the MMA and BJJ worlds.  My initial reaction is always to engage with these views but it gets so, so tiring and do I ever achieve anything by it?  I doubt it.

The controversy surrounding Lloyd Irvin and his team and Irvin's cynical and disgusting (non)response to the actions of two of his team members allegedly raping a team-mate is a HUGE cloud over the BJJ/MMA scene and it'll be interesting to see how the community responds to it over a longer period of time.  However a beautiful ray of sunshine in this whole miserable affair has been the response of some of the UK's BJJ community. 
Can Sönmez of Slideyfoot BJJ Blog has set up the Grapplethon 2013 to support Rape Crisis.  Setting out to raise £3500 for this cause, the Just Giving pages have already raised over £4000 with a month to go until the actual event.

On top of this Meerkatsu produced a 'Heavenly Footlock' T-shirt to raise funds for the same cause.  An awesome shirt that had sold out of my size before I could grab one (Sad Face!).

So, all things considered, my faith in human nature has been restored and my misanthropic tendencies can be put back in a draw... until next time.

Please check out the Grapplethon Just Giving page and also the site of Rape Crisis to see what work they do - I don't believe in blindly supporting causes/organisations without finding out what they do or stand for - this is a good one.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's On!

So the countdown has begun in earnest. In the words of Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys 2, “Sh*t just got real”.
Those of you who have checked in here before may have noticed the countdown timer over to your right. This is counting down to the Combudo Amateur MMA tournament that me and a group from Leicester Shootfighters are entering.

Combudo is run and promoted by Lee Hasdell, a name known to anyone who has followed the UK MMA scene since its inception and a pioneer in terms of both competing and promoting. The rules are interesting in that they're not the usual 'no headshots' amateur rules – they allow shin and foot kicks to the head (standing of course!). In the style of Japanese amateur MMA there are also ring escapes, i.e. If you get caught in a submission and you can reach the outer ring of mats you can escape.  Allowing head kicks encourages competitors to keep their hands up adding a different defensive aspect to the bouts. Training has stepped up for those of us not regulars to competing with sparring becoming a key part of the preparations. This includes stand-up striking, wrestling and submission grappling,  making sure to get enough good quality rounds in for each discipline as well as the transitions between stand-up, clinch and ground.  

At a recent seminar legendary Judoka Neil Adams stated that fights are often won or lost in the transitions, and thinking about it, this is certainly the case once clean knockouts are taken out of the equation. How many times do we see scrambles resulting from clinch work, takedowns or transitions/submission attempts on the ground?  The positional hierarchy that often results can decide a fight or at very least a round.  

Taking all this in to consideration, some of our recent sparring has been about winning these scrambles.  For example, if the opponent wants to fight on the floor and I don't, I need to ensure that I've got a game to keep the fight where I want it and make my opponent fight there.  Therefore I've got to be able to stuff the takedown/sweep and win any resulting scramble.  We've been training exactly this kind of thing recently.

Some of the sessions of sparring have been led by competitive fighters at the gym and it's a real tribute to the spirit and culture of the gym that they make time for and tolerate the likes of me, a rank amateur.  I've been blown away by the time that these guys will take to help those of us who are less experienced and with the encouragement,  coaching and tips they're happy to provide. Especially as it has to sit alongside their own training.

Hopefully I'll be able to find the time over the next couple of weeks to get some updates on here outlining some of my preparation.  Until then, Godspeed.