Friday, December 13, 2013

Can training MMA actually help one's jiu jitsu?

I've dabbled in MMA classes in the past, for a month or so at time, but just for fun and without any commitment or intention to fight. What's held me back was 2 things - 1) fear and a well developed sense of self-preservation 2) concern that time spent training MMA would detract from my jiu jitsu.

Tournament jiu jitsu is my bag. It is something that I can compete in for a long time and be successful at. A desire to win is what drives me to get to the gym early to drill and to stay late to get in a few extra rolls while others are mopping. Self-defense jiu jitu techniques are important to me as well. They are what give me the tools to stay safe when I walk into a creepy house at work, for example. Self defense techniques will empower me for the rest of my life and are part of a legacy that I want to help pass on to others. There are only so many hours to train in a given week, and I don't want to do anything that would slow my progress in either of these areas.

But MMA is a young person's sport and I am not getting any younger. If I ever want to compete in MMA, even in the vague bucket list sense, it is now or never. I think that I can put fear and self-preservation aside for a period of time - but I am certainly not willing to sacrifice my jiu jitsu progress.

But in giving MMA training a more serious try, I made a surprising discovery - MMA has been the best thing in the word for my jiu jitsu. I'm not saying this is true for everybody.  But for me, my body type, and my set of skills, it is proving to be the case.

My rationale is the following:

- I am now sucking less at scrambles. I've been an endurance athlete all my life, but fast-twitched, explosive movements are my downfall. In jiu jitsu, I've basically conceded that I will lose scrambles against fast people, so I've worked on tightening my game to minimize the occurrence of these scrambles. In MMA, I train with people who are much faster than me and without the fiction of a gi to slow everything down. Only here, losing scrambles does not result in tapping, but more often results in physical pain. Being of sound mental state, physical pain is something that I try to avoid. So MMA training has pushed me into a fight-or-flight state that has made faring better in scrambles a physical necessity. Sure, there are days at jiu jitsu now when I am too fatigued and beat up to roll worth a damn. But on a whole, I am finding that I am actually rolling better now that I am more scrambly. 

- MMA has forced me to develop takedowns. My strategy in jiu jitsu tournaments has typically been "try to bully my opponent into pulling guard and if that doesn't work, pull guard before she can take me down." It's worked ok because I have similar skill levels at guard playing and guard passing. But this strategy is bitchassness. I know that as I progress in jiu jitsu, not having a strategy to take the match to the ground on my terms is something that would impede my progress.

Say no to guard pulling

- MMA has forced me to use jiu jitsu in a way that is more realistic for self-defense. MMA and self defense are different beings. Jiu jitsu self defense is about surviving and escaping, while MMA is about dominating and winning a fight. Still, training some MMA has shed light on some sporty jiu jitsu habits that I have developed that would be devastating in a self-defense situation. Falling to my butt and playing deep half guard work for me in tournaments, but are suicide in MMA and self defense. MMA has also reinforced the importance of standing in base - instead on fighting on bottom from a losing position, why not stand up and fight again from a neutral spot?     

I will never compete in MMA on a high level. I still have too much of that pesky self preservation instinct and frankly, I'm too old. But if training MMA can actually make me better at jiu jitsu, my true love?! I'll take it! 

1 comment:

  1. Good luck on your jiu-jitsu career! You may not yet be ready for MMA, but I see that even if you have a high regard for self-preservation, you also have this more-than-a-hobbyist dedication. That attitude might help you dominate in the MMA world too!

    Ritchie Yip @ InFighting