The Problem with UKMMA Coaching Today?

The growing poularity of mixed martial arts has led to a large demand for mma coaching. Unfortunatly the number of high level or even competent coaches is nowhere near to matching this demand. The scary part is that anyone can call themselves a Mixed Martial Arts coach its not like there is a governing body to regulate.This regularly happens when someone looks around and sees there is no mma in an area and decides to give it a go.

They convince a small cult like following that they are the shit and strut around in the head coaches shirt teaching utter nonsense.  Beyond tarnishing the good name of the sport this is all harmless fun. That is until these coaches decide they want some fighters and throw a few of their most talented guys in the cage with a professionally trained athlete. This problem is compounded when traditional martial artists market themselves as running MMA programs with no relevent backgrounds. They simply do what theyve always done but replace the karate gi for some venum shorts.

This all comes down to paying your dues. With any other sport or industry an athlete is coached themselves. Then when that coach decides they are ready they get to coach on a limited basis. As they develop the athlete gains more responsibilities and after a while they may be adept enough to run their own gym. The problem is that a lot of us OG mma guys are self trained and the guys who had coaches often had bad ones. This first generation of coaches has a responsibility to constantly strive for better practices.

Even a successful career in Mixed Martial Arts is not sufficient, in my eyes, to warrant the title Coach. This sport evolves so fast, the requirements for success change all the time. I began competing at a time that if all you had was a good overhook triangle you were a total bad ass. You could amasss an undefeated record just with that skillset. You’d also get a lot of guys killed if thats all you brought to the coaches role today. A few years ago no one in the UK had any wrestling, now they do. Do you know how to use the cage as a tool? If not then it will cost you as this is where fights are lost and won in modern mixed martial arts.

The distinction must be made between the informal training group and the mixed martial arts business. A group of guys working among themselves to get better is a very cool thing, it is how a lot of us got started. But when someone decides to make money from the enterprise without having put the time in thats upsetting. If you are coaching MMA you have a duty to continually improve your coaching skills. This is not a job where you clock in and clock out. When you are not coaching, you are training to improve your own skill set, when you have done that you are watching fights and instructionals, but then again you can’t slack on your strength and conditioning knowledge, but theres that book on sports psychology to read and before it all you have to update the weight cutting and reconstitution stuff.

What Makes a Good MMA Coach?

Technical Knowledge

You dont need to have won the Mundials, an Olympic Gold Medal and a belt at Lumpinee Stadium to justify a coaches role, but a high degree of technical competence is a prerequiste. You need to know the fundamental principles in each of MMA component sports before you can coach mma as a whole. Can you imagine a jits coach glossing over stuff like posture and weight distribution or a striking coach not starting with balance and stance? The more proficient you are in the technical aspect of the component sports the more of an asset you will be to your fighters.

The better you are technically the better you will be at reading a fight and the gameplanning aspect of the coaches role. Last year at the Superior Challenge event in Sweden I was lucky enough to watch a UFC card with a bunch of guys like Urijah Faber, Pedro Rizzo, Thales Leites, Rich Clementi and Kyacey Uscola. Listening to these guys talking about fighting was eye opening. They were experts at reading a bout, they understood fighting. At times I thought big Pedro was playing a Jose Aldo videogame, he would say what Aldo should try and seconds later it was happening.

If there are technical areas you are lacking in make sure you have access to someone who can plug these holes and having multiple sport coaches is great for differing perspective. This is one of the reasons the griphouse has on last count  16 different coaches, 10 of which work directly with the pro team.

Having a coach who has competed in a lot of different combat sports is uusally a good sign.

Communication skills.

There is more to coaching than being a bad ass. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. If its evident by their actions that a coach does not give a crap the guys will pick up on it and their compliance with the system will suffer. The role of a coach is to bring a positive learning atmosphere to every session. The coach is the guy that has to make a room of people battering each other way more enjoyable than it could ever be.  I met Martin Rooney recently and he’s a master of this aspect of coaching, I was literally working my ass of during glute activation drills that I had done a million times and rarely paid much attention to anymore. That intensity continued throughout the workout as the level of coaching was so high.

Being a great motivator is not something anyone is born with and can be trained just like any other skill. A great coach will read up on different learning models and constantly be trying out new techniques to get people to do what they want. If fighters does not buy into the system the coach cannot do his job.

Project Management

I spoke about this in the previous blog post and its probably the aspect of coaching thats done least well. Rest assured you will need a black belt in excel, an never ending to do list app to work from and a calender which might as well replace sat and sunday with the words @ a fight show.

This is still the weakest part of my coach game but it is something I am working to improve upon all the time. For a guy who gets punched in the head a lot my organisational skills have improved despite the impact related damage to short term memory.

If your coach is covering all these bases congrats you have a keeper.


Now we come to a vital stage in jiu jitsu skill acquistion. We need to bridge the gap between being able to demonstarte the mechanics of a technique and being able to utilse that technique against a resisting opponent.

The top guys in your gym probably do this quite naturally. They can see a technique do it a few times then nail people with it.

For those of you just starting out or not as talented
(don’t worry most talented people tend to quit when things get hard. Talent is overrated, hard work will always triumph), we need a little help.

This help comes in the form of isolated drilling. This involves breaking a technique down into it’s constituent parts and applying it against a progressively resisting opponent.

Let’s take an overhook triangle as an example. To utilise this technique we need to achieve our grips, execute the technique and finalise it.

We could begin the game by doing a couple of short rounds of overhook sparring where the guard puller aims to catch an overhook and escape his hips to the side. Once this is achieved the athletes restart.

In our next drill we could have the guard puller with a dominat overhook position. From here he/she must work to bring the leg over their partners shoulder and keep the head down before finalising the triangle.

Finally we could have the guard puller begin with their guard locked over their partners shoulder. This time we will give their partner good posture (the most common defence) and the aim is to break them down correct the hip angle and finish the technique.

All these drills follow the concept of progressive resistance. If you are completely shutting down your partners offence everytime you are being a dick. Ease up a few percent and let them work out the feel of the technique.

Simalarly If they are catching you with ease you need to pick up the pressure a bit.

This pattern can be applied to all techniques is you are creative enough. Many coaches like to throw a vast array of techniques at a class the result is often that they get to see a lot of stuff but can do very little of it.

Training in the manner outlined above will help ensure a steady gradual improvement that can be maintained for the rest of your jiu jitsu life.

I’ll have the final part in this series up by tuesday stay Reading and feel free to leave some comments.

Enjoy UFC111 everybody and watch out for the return of the octagon girl Rachelle Leah.