Why Ronda Rousey became UFC champ.

Besides the hard work and dedication she’s showed to sport (which should never be understated), Ronda Rousey had one simple reason she was so dominant in women’s MMA on the way to the top. This isn’t meant to detract from her ability as a fighter but more to explain why she’s so successful and if anything, to praise her use of this system. It can be explained through game theory. This is the same way economists study people’s behaviour and how ecologists study animal behaviour. It can be applied to martial arts as well.

For those of you who understand game theory, she essentially played the defector in a slightly modified game of prisoner’s dilemma in being a specialised judo style grappler (and a good one at that) in a group full of mostly stand up strikers with some jiujitsu experience, allowing her to reap the rewards. Hopefully someone educated in game theory can stop reading here.

For those of you who aren’t versed in game theory, here’s how it works. In a group where most people are specialised strikers with a bit of jiujitsu, most people do quite well, no one is particularly standout and success is dependent on how good you are at striking (more or less, this is somewhat of a simplification). If you introduce one strong grappler, none of the strikers have experience in dealing with the grappler so they rise quickly and dominate the group. Introduce too many grapplers however and it becomes the same as before, everyone is good at fighting grapplers and introducing a strong striker will have the same effect.

Ronda Rousey’s continued success (aside from the qualities she possesses which are required of a champion) is because she has been able to consolidate her position and become a good striker as well, making challenging her a very difficult proposition. This however isn’t the takeaway message of this article.

What you should takeaway is that it is important to specialise somewhat in your sport but not too much. For instance, running isn’t the best cardio to do to build a strong mixed martial artist, however Nick Diaz is a frequent triathlon competitor and a good fighter. His niche is his good cardio and high volume boxing. He’s not the perfect fighter but he has occupied a niche which gives him a competitive edge. If he specialised too much in cardio he would lose all his power and make no impact with his punches whatsoever as well as take up valuable skills training time in cardio training, reducing his technical ability.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this bit of game theory at work was Royce Gracie in UFC 1. Examples for the strikers out there could be Machida with his karate influenced striking or Conor Mcgregor with his unconventional striking making them very difficult to prepare for.

The advice here is to find what you’re naturally good at and capitalise on it. If you’re strong, make that your competitive edge rather than becoming the same as anyone else.

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Photo credits to USA Today

How to build success habits.

Building good habits can make the difference in what level your game is at. if you are habitually training multiple times per day, you have a good diet and you’re sleeping and recovering right, it’s obvious to think your game will improve. The trouble for many is getting to this point. I’m going to break down an easy way of forming good habits you need to improve your game. This can be applied not only to martial arts, but sport and life as a general.

Start small

Ok so you want to start making things go better for you. The biggest mistake most people hit is doing too much too early. My Dad for instance might decide he wants to lose weight and will change his current diet which doesn’t really have any consistency to it, to an all salad and low calorie diet, it will last for a couple of weeks max and then he gives it up. The message is baby steps.

Take one aspect of your life and do something proactive. Keep doing it over and over again until it becomes natural. An example put forward by Elliot Hulse of Strength Camp is taking a walk every morning to lose weight. This has a couple of effects: your calorie usage for the day goes up, meaning you will start losing weight if all else stays the same but you also start to build momentum. Elliots video on the subject is just below.

Building momentum

So yeah great you can get up and go for a walk every morning or whatever it is you’ve changed as a small start. From here you can start building momentum.

This happens in two ways. The first, particularly if you’re a martial artist or a sports person as we tend to be pretty kinesthetic people is that movement gets you going, gets blood pumping around your body, most ideas I have for new posts, lessons, buisness plans all tend to come during my walk.

The ultimate momentum builder is the habit of building habits. You’ve just started to build positive habits throughout your day with that one simple start.

You can progress from here. For instance the next step might be cleaning up your diet so the next step is to record everything you eat WITHOUT changing what you eat, again don’t do too much too soon. You can then build on it and start cleaning up your diet, sorting out a healthy macronutrient intake and so on riding on the back of the momentum you’ve build from the small initial steps.

You might want to start indroduing more exercise. If you’re a martial artist you probably already go to training a few nights per week, you might want to form a new habit of hitting the gym for strength and conditioning twice per week as well.

The point is once you start building habits successfully, use the momentum to build more positive habits at a good pace, never too much too soon.

Goal Setting

So here comes the science part. What we’ve discussed is the most powerful form of goal setting in sports psychology: the process goals. It’s been found that people react to these goals the best. I find it’s helpful to write down performance goals associated with the process goals (I.E, I want to increase the speed I can run 1.5 miles or the number of times I tap people out per session, I want to lose so much weight etc.) so that I keep the mid-term goal envisioned, but the most important part is the process goals. These are “I’m going to turn up to training 3 times per week”, “I’m going to walk every morning” “I’m going to record all the food I eat” type goals, focus on these but keep the longer term plan in mind.

Jugganought’s article on Goal setting: http://www.jtsstrength.com/articles/2015/05/06/the-sport-psychology-of-goal-setting/

Hard Work Becomes Effortless, the power of 21.

What might have been hard in the past will soon feel effortless. It will become a part of your life. Doing the odd healthy things in an unthealthy lifestyle won’t make you healthy as much as the odd unhealthy things in a healthy lifestyle will make you unhealthy.

Some people talk about the power of 21, the idea that if you force yourself to do that thing for 21 days, maybe it’s get up an hour earlier. After 21 days it will feel natural, it won’t be a chore to do it. Eric Thomas does a great video about this and I reccomend all readers watch his stuff, he’s great for getting you motivated.

The takeaway is that you don’t need to change your whole lifestyle at once. In fact, doing this can really screw you up and you can end up worse than before. Start small, build momentum using the power of 21 and set your goals properly.

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4 signs you should change club.

In the career of a young, developing martial artist, or any sports person for that matter, eventually the decision of whether you should stay at your home-ground or move to pasteurs new. Here, from my experience and from the experiences of some of my friends, are some indicators that you should start looking for somewhere new to train.

1. Run out of training patners

Everyone develops at different weights when they’re growing up. I was always the heaviest at my club but not by more than a weight category. If however, you dwarf the other players you train with, it might be time to look for some other people your own size. Similarly if you’re finding your competetive success isn’t being mirrored by others and no one can touch you in sparring, it’s probably time to find someone who can beat you, otherwise you’ll learn nothing. Even if neither of these two apply to you, you might want to start training some nights elsewhere if you and all your friends have been training together for years, you know all each-others moves and every session ends in a stalemate. If this is you I’d suggest not necessarily moving, but at least finding some other sparring patners to train with who can change things up a bit.

2. Your objectives change

This happens at various develpmental stages. As a young national squad fighter judo was my life, I didn’t have particularly strong motivation to train but there was no reason for me not to train, I’d been training 3 times per week for the previous 8 years. After a break however my new objective was a black belt, I trained hard in a new environment with a goal in mind which I achieved. When I came to uni my new objective was to develop my coaching and it just so happened the club I joined had amazing technical classes and the head coach – Dave Horton-Jones was the gradings manager for the BJA so I had come to the right place to learn about coaching. My point is different clubs have different emphases. Some clubs train to create winning fighters, some to create technical experts and some just for hobbiests who enjoy the sport in their own time. If you always wanted to try MMA but the club you go to has you being beaten up every night, it’s not MMA’s fault, there are other club around which take a more light hearted approach. On the other hand if all you want to do is get your hands dirty and go home bruised up and your club never allows headshots, go find a new club.

3. Development

This really applies to competetive fighters. If you are winning fights in your league and you want to step it up, you will probably have to look at taking your training up a level. You might have been lucky and started off in a club with a great development plan and you can stay there, but otherwise you may well need to find a full time centre or a professional club. These can afford opportunities a weeknight club can’t like strength and conditioning coaches, access to nutritionists and managers if you’re really taking it seriously.

4. Bullying

This is a tricky one. If you’re being bullied where you train, the first thing is to tell someone, a coach or a member of staff who can take care of the situation. Judo coaches have to have learnt about safeguarding and protecting so the coach can be a good start. The trouble can come when its the coach that’s bullying you. When you’re depressed logic can be clouded somewhat, that’s just a symptom of depression. If you’re not willing to face up to the bully or tell someone who can deal with it for you, a good route out is to find a new club. THIS IS NOT A SHAMEFUL ACT you are not running away, you are simply removing yourself from a destructive situation. Psychology is key to success in sport and if you are being bullied, chances are your mental state is sub-optimal. Moving club is taking progressive steps to improving your development. It also gives you a chance to make new friends in a place which you can make sure has a better ethos than your previous home.

Often coaches will tell you when you need to move clubs. This is the sign of a great coach, who understands when it is time for his players to move on. Sadly, not all coaches are this honourable and some try to hang on to their star players. Don’t listen to rubbish about you being disloyal. Loyalty is a key trait for a warrior but not unquestioning loyalty. If your coach is trying to hold on to you because you will make you and his club look better, you ought to find somewhere new to place your loyalties. A coach’s job is to raise othe people up, not to use other people to raise themselves up. If your coach has told you to go or understood your reasons for making your decision to move, that is an act of courage on their part and in the future make sure you repay them with an act of loyalty: come back and coach at their club, hold master classes, promote them, whatever but recognise what they did for you in the past and how it got you to where you are today.

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