We’ve all heard the phrase, “You play like you practice,” or some similar derivative. It seems like a straightforward piece of advice. If you’re lazy, sloppy during practice, there’s a pretty good chance that’s how you look when things really matter. The problem with this suggestion is that people often take it on a superficial level and fail to take it to the next level. In this week’s Draft board, we’ll talk about how to amp up your training.
The average practice is quite different from an actual fight. We compartmentalize the training between wrestling, jiu jitsu and striking. The pace is slower and more controlled. Most of all, though, practice is a lot longer than a fight. Some amateur rules may differ, but at the very most a fight goes 15 minutes (technically 17 if you count the minute breaks after rounds 1 and 2). Most training sessions, on the other hand, last over an hour. We need time to fine tune and break down our techniques. There’s so much information to go through, that we need hours just to get through everything.
Unfortunately, many gyms take this thought process to the extreme. One of the most common mistakes fighters make (myself included) is putting in too many rounds. I remember many sparring sessions that went well over a dozen rounds. This method does have some advantages. You push your conditioning, learn how to fight when fatigued and make improvements. On the negative side, fighters that adopt this style of training often lack the explosiveness necessary to compete at a high level. They’re so used to having lots of time, so they’ll spend the first couple rounds warming up before getting into the groove. This has little impact on the practice floor, but if you need two rounds to warm up on fight day, you’ll find yourself in a pretty big hole.
So what’s the answer? The 15 minute training session. Now hear me out, I don’t mean to suggest that you should hit the heavy bag for a quarter of an hour and call it a day. Instead, think of it as a fight “dress rehearsal.” Organize a day with the rest of your teammates and have a modified fight night. Heck, rent out Bruce Buffer and have full entrances if you want. You’ll want to keep your sparring gear on, but other than that everything is the same as fight night. Three, five minute rounds with a minute rest in between. AND THAT’S ALL! You’ll want to do more after the third round, but fight the temptation. If you didn’t leave it all on the mat, you didn’t do it right. If you consider yourself a slow started, this is exactly what you need to break out of it.
Patience is a virtue in the fight game, but it can also be a hindrance. There needs to be a sense of urgency during a fight and this drill will teach you that. You can’t pace and wait the fight away like you do during sparring. Keep score, too. If you’re matched up against someone and they are up two round, you have to go for it. How many times have you angrily yelled at your TV at a fighter down on the scorecards playing it safe? Out gut reaction is to blame it on either conditioning or the fear of being knocked out. That may be partially true, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture. Many fighters act that way because that’s how they train. Think of your last few sparring sessions. How many times did you go like there was serious pressure on you?
“You play like you practice.” We’ve heard it a million times, but we rarely think about the principle behind it. If you have a sloppy double leg on the practice mat, you know you won’t wrestle like a NCAA champion on fight night. For some reason, though, we think casually sparring for an hour is supposed to teach us how to fight. Learning how to fight isn’t that hard. All you need is 15 minutes.