A colleague of mine, BJJ instructor Julius Park, asked me an interesting question… he asked me,
“Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently with your martial arts training?”
What a great question!
Off the bat, I know one glitch that I would have done differently… when I started wrestling back in Miami Killian Senior High in 1996, we were taught to lead with our dominant leg; which is my right. However, once I got into kickboxing, now my orthodox stance was with my left leg… so now I had two stances! I ended up sticking with my left lead now… but even though I have been wrestling for over two years with my left lead – my right lead is still better for wrestling shots (I used my right lead for over a decade).
Make sure as you start up, that you pick the lead you think is best for fighting. Although there are some popular fighters that fight with their strong side forward (like Oscar de la Hoya, Mike Tyson, and others), the general rule is to fight with your strong side back. So if you are right handed, you would fight with a left lead. If you straight grapple, keep consistent with your kickboxing and MMA leads.
Another thing I would do different with my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is focus less on submissions from the mount. For MMA and self-defense, the submission from mount is pretty much not necessary. Some submissions from mount are fine, such as the arm-triangle and the americana – but in general, submissions from mount are risky and give an opportunity for your opponent to reverse the position.
From the mount, your best bet is to take a deep breath, sit up, and pound your opponent out with punches and elbows, aiming for vital areas of the face such as the nose, between the eyes (with elbows, they will slip into his eyes), and the front of the throat. If you are too tired to do this, then a safe submission may be better – but be careful.
Now I’m not saying to practice armbars from mount – but just don’t put a big emphasis on it. It is important to know how to do it so that when people try it on you, you will be ready for it.
It has been years since I grappled like that – plus when I teach in Miami and Davie, I emphasis the same thing.
On that same note, a HUGE emphasis on ending up on top with every leg lock scramble. Back in the day, I used to not care that much about getting reversed from a failed ankle lock attempt.
Still riding on that same concept, I would also never teach pulling guard! I used to pull guard against bigger opponents early in my career – but now that never happens and I never allow it in training.
Don’t get me wrong, pulling guard definitely has its purpose in MMA fighting and self-defense… just not in training! What do I mean by this? You can ALWAYS pull guard in a clinch in a street fight or MMA fight… so why bother training it? In training, you are much better off trying to takedown your opponent or strike. You will make much more technical gains striking or wrestling than pulling guard in training. That is why when I teach, I always emphasize no pulling guard.
Another thing I would have done differently is less pads & bags and more drilling on an actual person. For the first few years of my striking training, besides sparring, the only targets I was hitting were bags and pads. Then I met up with Eric “El Tigre” Castanos (2-time Kickboxing World Champion) and he introduced me to the concept of doing choreographed striking sequences on a partner, from very intense to full blast, back and forth, aiming for the head. For example, I’ll do 1, 2, 3, 2, and you will then counter back with 2, 3, right kick… and by aiming for the head and doing this intense, the other person gets to work their defense. This is how I developed my defense and this concept was the best thing I learned from Tigre. Nowadays at FFA, this is the standard way we practice striking, grappling, and MMA.
All these things I mentioned are from the past… because nowadays, at FFA, all our classes are taught with these corrections. This is why my students are much better than I was back when I had the same amount of training as them.
Keep in mind, as we evolve, we will find other things that we are doing right now that are wrong – and we will continue making improvements. FFA is all about constantly improving and seeking perfection – so our techniques must continue evolving as well. FFA is proud to be part of the evolution of MMA. We were the first true modern mixed martial arts school in south Florida – and we are here to stay.
–Master Marcos Avellan