For quite some time I have been considering signing up for an amateur MMA fight in the Phoenix area–there are a couple different organizations that hold amateur MMA fights and I have had them bookmarked in my browser for over a year. Since the only weaponless martial arts I have only ever studied have been Okinawan karate and judo I have blended the two in my training but never before have I really sought to apply them in a competitive sport setting. A friend of my Sensei’s, Tim Street, teaches CKSM (Combat Kenpo Street Method) and has been certified in Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell’s MMA program, and he has started teaching Kenpo, aerobic kickboxing and MMA at our dojo. This seemed like as good a time as any to see how traditional training differs from MMA training, beyond what I see when I watch MMA fights.
This past Wednesday I stayed after karate and participated in the first half of Mr. Street’s MMA class. That night he was having us work ducking the jab and clinching up with an arm triangle, then transitioning to a high single leg takedown and going into side control or half guard. I have trained all of these positions and techniques before, but never in that particular sequence so it was interesting and useful, even though my instinct when I achieve the standing arm triangle is to sweep rather than remove my grip to pick up their leg with my arm.
Sometimes when we went to the ground we would simply stop at the position we ended up in and stand up to go again, and other times we would roll a bit to see what we could get from that position. I found that I had a tendency to stop striking and start grappling instead of doing both, so I did have to stop myself every now and then to get myself to strike. I also was told, for the very first time in my martial arts career, that I should not immediately take a submission when it is given to me. This occurred when Jason (my practice partner at the time and the body builder/metal worker who built our bag/makiwara/exercise stand) extended his right arm and I immediately grabbed it and dropped back for an armbar. I had almost extended his arm but was too slow at turning out on my shoulder to go into a belly-down armbar and he was able to shove his shoulder past my legs so he could bend his arm and stop the lock. It was explained to me that some people in MMA will bait the armbar so that you will roll and they can end up on top of you to start dropping punches on your head. This makes sense, but at the same time I know that if I had been just a little faster my armbar would have worked, and what if that had been a fight and it had been my only chance to finish my opponent? These are the kinds of things I will need to learn and adapt to, and I am looking forward to it even though it is sure to be humbling and, at times, frustrating.