You hear the phrase all the time. “Work smarter, not harder.” It implies that you should use your intelligence when solving problems instead of just putting your head down and forcefully running through a problem like a caveman.
Don’t make ten trips to the store just because you keep forgetting things. Instead, make a list of what you need, then get all of your shopping done in a single trip.
While that mentality will work very well for the majority of obstacles in your life, Combat Sports are a semi exception to that rule. Because of their nature, Combat Sports are hard. So you must also train them hard in order for you to perform them at your maximum potential.
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Most people involved in combat sports do understand this. They know that if you aren’t training hard, you won’t be ready when it comes time to go. Regardless of whether that’s in some sort of competition or even in an actual self defense scenario. If you aren’t training at 100% on a regular basis, you won’t be ready. Learning how to apply a choke to someone, and learning how to apply a choke to someone who is actively trying to not get choked, are two separate things. While the prior can be done with relative ease, the later is going to be hard.
However…… that doesn’t mean that you should make things harder simply for the sake of making them harder. There must be skillful purpose with your training. Are you accomplishing something meaningful with everything that you do? Or, are you working hard towards something that has nothing to do with accomplishing your goal?
A recent Instagram video from Garry Tonon expressed this very sentiment. In the video he compared drilling a proper technique (using head movement to close the distance before shooting for a takedown), versus being strapped to resistance bands while lunging at a bag to simulate a ground and pound scenario. The later, being obviously unrealistic.
That exact ground and pound scenario is one that you see fairly often throughout the community. A fighter actively striking a bag that’s lying on the ground. It’s an attempt to simulate a very common position during a fight. In doing so it allows the fighter to throw strikes at 100% without damaging a partner. By itself it’s actually a great drill. The problem comes when coaches attempt to take it to the next level but don’t thoroughly think it through.
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Now they want to add resistance to even further simulate the drill. Because in a fight, the person on bottom isn’t always going to just lie there for you. A common defense is to create further separation by either pushing or kicking their opponent off of them. To simulate that, coaches will either use resistance bands, or in other cases I’ve even seen a coach grab a fighter by their ankle and drag them away while the fighter tries to get back to the bag to continue striking it. Both are obviously unrealistic in nature. (Unfortunately some coaches don’t even think into it that far, they’re simply trying to make things more difficult simply for the sake of making it more difficult.)
So what could’ve been done to make this drill actually affective? Given the above scenario we already know that we have a few things. We have a fighter and a coach, as well as a gym to train in and the normal equipment that comes with it. And we want a drill where a fighter can throw strikes in a ground and pound scenario at 100% without seriously harming a partner. Is it possible?
It absolutely is. With one partner or coach lying on the mat while holding Focus Mitts or Thai Pads, we can accomplish everything that we want. The fighter can strike the pads at 100%, and the partner or coach can actively push or kick the fighter back to create separation. Not only are you better creating the resistance you originally wanted, you’re doing so in a much more accurate way. Even adding in the fact that the fighter now has to deal with two legs in between themselves and their target.
So if such a simple answer exists, why isn’t it being done? The answer to that brings us right back to the beginning. It’s harder. Now, instead of one person working hard, two must work hard. The mentality of “Work smarter, not harder” is incorrectly applied and a haphazard, inefficient, McDojo type drill is created. Something that at best is a waste of time, and at worst will create bad habits that will adversely affect you when you need to perform.
So remember, “Working smarter not harder” is not completely accurate when referring to Combat Sports. We must always work hard, but that doesn’t mean that we need to work harder simply for the sake of working harder. We must work both smarter and harder.
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