In my recent fights I’ve felt disappointed afterward for performing in a way that could be described as “low energy.” I’m not tired, I’m just kind of slow in that I’m lacking urgency in my approach. This is almost entirely mental and, while I’ve always been a “slow starter,” for my whole fight career, meaning the later rounds are my stronger rounds, I’m certain that this can be changed through practice.
It’s quite possible that the way I train, which is very long and very hard hours of work and always swimming in fatigue, is playing a big part in this recent fight problem..even later rounds have slow. I’m confident being tired because I train tired all the time, but the thing is that I’m not actually getting tired in fights… ever. It’s like training for ultra-marathons with 20+ mile long runs and then being pissed that your 5k pace is slow. Or, looking like you’re in for a 50 miler when the course is only 3 miles long. I know I’m better conditioned than any of my opponents, but I’m not doing the right things to apply that advantage – I’d need to stress my opponent in the early rounds in order to tire her out and drag her into the deep waters, where I’m comfortable. And I need to visually display my vitality, later in fights. The judges have to see my freshness.
So I’ve changed up my training a bit to try to hammer out these issues. The first way is on the bag, looking to speed up my route toward fatigue. The second way is in clinch, which is showing energy even when I’m already tired. Step one: get tired; step two: don’t show I’m tired.
On the Bag
For more than 3 years I’ve done among other things five 4 minute rounds on the bag each session, usually with 1 minute rest in between and sometimes shortening that to 30 seconds. In real life, my rounds are 2 minutes in the ring. Obviously there are advantages to training beyond the length of time of my actual rounds – men’s rounds are 3 minutes and they’re all training 4 minutes as well – but there’s also an advantage to being able to feel the time of a round as you’re in it. The rounds in a fight always go by in an eye-blink because I’m used to going double. So, my new approach is to do 2 minutes and 10 seconds for each round, but twice as many rounds. The idea is to work toward fatigue within those 2 minutes – try to get tired in 2 minutes, it feel and recognize the experience. It’s difficult, actually. The pace has to remain high and a bag doesn’t create much pressure, which is really what tires you out in fights more than anything, so it’s purely reaching for fatigue based on power and pace. I’m definitely slowing down after about 7 rounds, but that’s longer than a fight. So I’m still pushing to get more into each of these first 5 rounds. I want to get fight arcs going.
In the Clinch
I’m a clincher. All my fights involve clinch and a great deal of each fight is either in or working to get into the clinch. I’ve noticed recently that, while my clinch is definitely strong and I’m putting my physical strength on my opponents, who are often bigger than I am, it doesn’t look like I’m doing much. As the smaller fighter, the onus is on me to demonstrate power and indefatigable spirit. Fact is, the clinch can be tiring, so it’s very important for me to not look tired while my opponent begins to drain. I’m not actually tired in the clinch, in fights, but because I’m not vibrant I can appear tired, by assumption. Usually I’m just methodological in clinch. I can feel my knees taking it out of my opponents, but sometimes they hide this very well – this fact is like a little secret between us. So I have to work on my own performance and look like I’m increasing, not deflating.
For years Den at Lanna told me to “hop” in the clinch. He does it when against the ropes and it serves the purposes of 1) shaking off your opponent’s grip; 2) looking like you are in control and have energy; and 3) crushes the soul of the person who you’re jumping against. He used to do this to me and I’ll tell you, it is one of the greatest non-verbal “fuck you” expressions imaginable. You don’t always get things right away, you get them when you’re ready for them, and that’s what has happened with this hopping thing. I’m finally understanding what is so important about it, this week, I get it, so I’m starting to commit to it. It’s brilliant. The video above is my very first attempt to bring it full scale into some trainng. In this video I’m clinching with Gan, who is inexperienced with only a few years of intermittent training and no fights, but he’s tall, heavy, strong and has enough technique and skill to be difficult to move. Hopping makes the difference in size much less of an obstacle for me and, while I’m always able to control him because of my experience advantage, I haven’t previously been able to move him so much. Often I was just looking for a lock and I could finally get him kind of stuck and then muscle him to the ground on sheer strength. With the hopping, he can’t get a grip on me and my position is moving enough that I can off-balance him and turn him without using as much physical strength or exertion. Plus, I look like a relentless squirrel attacking a larger animal. It’s a visually expressive advantage. Being the first time trying this out, things are very loose, but if I keep going with it it can become a part of my art.
Update: after only one day of practice with this clinch hop I brought it into my next fight, and it was super successful. I lost the fight (though nearly everyone told me I won), but bottom line my bigger, very skilled opponent Baifern just could not handle the movement. Here’s the fight:
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