ADD MMA to your pad sessions

With the advent of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and its increasing exposure in the mainstream media, MMA's profile is rising rapidly. James McNeill shows you how to add some MMA techniques to your training sessions.

When Sydney's Acer Arena recently played host to its second UFC event, the sport's enormous popularity was highlighted when the 17,000 tickets sold out in just 45 minutes. So what exactly is the MMA phenomenon and how can it benefit you, your clients and class participants?

MMA stands for 'mixed martial arts' and refers to a full contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of techniques including strikes, grappling, submissions and throws. Techniques are taken from a range of different martial arts including boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, judo, karate, wrestling and more – hence the name mixed martial arts.

If you are one of the large number of trainers who already incorporate boxing padwork into your clients' sessions or teach boxing-themed classes, you may question the need to expand your repertoire to include MMA. The findings of a recent trial answer that question. When professional rugby league players were put through a series of basic boxing combinations and then had MMA techniques incorporated towards the end of their workouts, their heart rates jumped by an average of 20 to 25 per cent. It's basic physics; incorporating grappling and wrestling techniques which force you to engage your core, while also transitioning to the ground and then getting to your feet again, results in an all-over body workout which maximises calorie burn. Additionally, it's a fun form of training that also provides clients with a wider variety of techniques and serves as a great stress reliever.

Getting started

Before jumping onto YouTube to search for killer techniques to instruct, you need to complete Fitness Australia-approved MMA training. While the internet provides a seemingly endless stream of information on MMA drills, a lot of the techniques being shown have not been designed for the general fitness population. Trying to teach them to the average gym goer can be dangerous and negligent, so do the training, practice the techniques and trial them yourself before unleashing them on clients.

Conveniently, if you currently teach boxing padwork, MMA doesn't require any additional equipment. If you intend to teach group sessions you will need a set of focus pads and a set of adequate boxing or MMA gloves per pair.

Continue your own training

If you are teaching MMA moves to clients and classes, it is advisable to continue training in some form of MMA yourself at least once a week in order to ensure you are a good role model. You don't need to be the next UFC contender, but it will help you become more confident with your technique and what you are teaching. You might need to mix your training up at a number of style-specific gyms, but doing one session of either boxing or Thai boxing and another session of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or wrestling will hold you in good stead when it comes to improving your technique.

Structuring your class

There is no set format for what should be included in an MMA class; some sessions could focus purely on aerobic conditioning, others might work on strength and conditioning while some may be based on technique execution.

For the average gym goer, keeping a similar format to a boxing pad or bag workout is the best way to provide a feel for what MMA is all about. A good way to introduce MMA to your timetable is to incorporate the techniques into an existing boxing or kickboxing class. Aim to include one or two techniques as part of a strike combination towards the last two to three working rounds.

You can keep your basic strike combinations and then add a grappling, transitioning or defensive move to the end of the combo. Techniques can include clinching, pummelling, sprawling, modified break falling and clinch defence to name just a few.

The following sample combinations provide a feel for what session content can look like.

MMA teaching tips
  • Remember, for most people this will be a new form of training, so don't give them something so confusing that it decreases the intensity of their workout.
  • At the start of the round be quick and efficient in demonstrating the combination, break down the technical and safety aspects and then get participants straight to work.
  • For most people it will take a good two to three sessions to pick up the techniques, so encourage them in a positive manner. If it's not 100 per cent perfect, don't worry – focus on safety and effort and then look to add some polish as they progress. A good rule of thumb is to give participants one technical point per round; any more than this and they'll be scratching their heads.
  • Most people who train with us want to achieve a good sweat and stress release. Don't try and turn them into cage monsters in their first session!

 

The times are changing; boxing and kickboxing classes have evolved, so make sure you don't get left behind. See you on the mats.

James McNeill, BEc
James is co-founder of MMA Fitness, Australia's first nationally accredited Mixed Martial Arts courses designed for fitness professionals. Experienced in coaching Thai boxing, boxing and karate, he works as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor and also provides technique development for the Gracie Barra Brookvale MMA Fight Team. For more information email james@mmafitness.com.au or visit
www.mmafitness.com.au