The Philosophy of Adaptation Training and its Challenges in a Combat Sport: Things To Think About

By: Joe Mullings

The sports of Jiu Jitsu and MMA have an intense requirement for strength, speed, power and endurance.

Where cyclical type sports like rowing, biking, running all for the most part predictable requirements and pace relative to the event

Other “power” sports like Shotput, Javelin and Olympic lifting have what I would refer to as a “one way” resistance relationship. In other words there is no change in the stimulus for the most part.

One of the unique requirements of a combat sport is the need to respond to what your opponent is doing. Requiring a blend of endurance, speed, power in variable amounts and at different times. If you think of a Jiu Jitsu match or an MMA fight, in a matter of 20 seconds there could be a suplex, a sprawl, a knee to the midsection, then going from standing to prone and a scramble occurs requiring static strength, dynamic strength and maximum output on the cardiovascular scale…….the challenge for an athlete or a coach is determining and prescribing an optimal training regimen.

Then consider the challenges of the fighter and his style. Is he a standup fighter like Anderson Silva or is he a grind it out take you to the ground fighter like a Chael Sonnen?. Both compete in the same sport but both have drastically different fighting styles. You have to train the athlete to assume he is going to dominate in his field of expertise, correct? But what if the fight needs to occur on the field of battle of your opponent…then what? No fighter wants to fight on the platform of his opponents strength. However, you need to train for that. Then how do you psychologically prepare your fighter in order to manage that?

Imagine the conversations, ego aside for a moment…..when Anderson Silva’s team told him that “Hey, we need to switch up your training because you are likely going to be on your back the entire fight with this guy on top of you….by the way, we know this is your least favorite position…..Black Belt or not”. Seriously, so you are training a standup fighter whose rhythm, timing, dominant muscle groups and cardiovascular systems are trained for a large percentage of his time to be vertical. Then you need to move the focus of the training camp to the horizontal position and the duress being on his back. Those muscle groups and energy systems not to mention the psychological factors will surely impact a camp.

Adaptation is about introducing a stimulus and asking the body to adapt to that stimulus in the most efficient way possible. The challenges in the combat sports world are arguably the most complicated in all of sports. Put a stop watch on the last 5 championship fights in MMA. What percentage of time was on the ground and what percentage of the time was on the feet?

What percentage of the time was the battle determined by pure speed, brute strength, focused power and out of the box endurance. All of these dictated by what your opponent did……. as a coach is there a bigger challenge in sports today?


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