Throughout my martial arts training and especially since I’ve been coaching I’ve been interested in investigating more efficient ways of training. I’ve never been convinced by people who say ‘this is the way they’ve trained in Japan/Thailand/Brazil etc. for 100’s of years’. Interestingly this doesn’t happen in other sports. Golf coaches don’t stick to the same coaching methods that were used in 15th Century Scotland, Soccer and Rugby coaches don’t use the same training methods that they used 100 years ago so why should training for Martial Arts and Combat Sports be different.
Speeding up Reaction Time
Another major problem that students experience in sparring is remembering which technique to do at which time. At the end the round the student realises that they could have used a specific technique which they had been practicing for all of last week. Too many techniques and positions at the early stage means there is too much to think about which slows down the students reaction speed and decision making.
Isolation Boxing Sparring
An example of how this works can be seen in boxing sparring. A group of students have just spent the class working on their jabs and then moved onto slipping jabs, head movement and counters. Now if they go straight into boxing sparring it is likely that everything they have been working on will go out the window, they will be throwing lazy jabs and forgetting how to slip. The alternative is that we go into ‘Jab Only Isolation Sparring’. I have found that this leads to much better results as there is less to think about and allows the student to just focus on and perfect one aspect of their game.
Isolation BJJ Sparring
There are many variations of these types of drills, some of the most successful that I have used in the past are BJJ positional sparring drills. A good example of this is the side control sparring progression drill. One person starts off on top in side control and just has to maintain the position while the other tries to escape, as you progress you can add other variables to the drills such as the person on top cannot use hands, person on top has to switch position every 5 seconds, person on top has a specific objective such as getting to mount or knee ride position.
Benefits for Both Training Partners
The great thing about training like this is that it’s beneficial for both partners rather than just one person doing the techniques while the other is the dummy. Also, training like this can be better than sparring if there is a big difference in the skill level between students. In a sparring situation the less skilled person would never get a chance to do any attacks of his own and would just spend the entire time unsuccessfully defending attacks.
Don’t Try to Win The Drill
Also, within every group of students the majority will see the benefit of the drill and have ‘lightbulb’ moments (‘oh yeah I do struggle to regain half guard/check kicks/move my head… this drill will really help’) but there will always be one who tries to ‘WIN the DRILL’ by finding loopholes in the rules rather than using the drill the way it was intended. So make sure everyone is clear that the objective is to learn & develop skills rather than just trying to win. Like the person in this clip.