Sunday, May 30, 2010

Squatters, Gymnastics and Tough Training

Gymnastics in Wrestling, MMA, Jiu Jitsu
I stumbled across the video below by chance, but it reinforces what I've always believed.  Athletes with gymnastics backgrounds or skills have an enormous advantage in any sport that requires balance, kinesthethic awareness, agility and explosiveness.  When I run gymnastic type warm ups when I coach wrestling or grappling at home lots of people complain.  Some people cop out and don't even try.  It's frustrating because those people can't see the benefits of these types of skills.  I'm fond of telling those people "If you can't control your own body, how in hell are you going to control your opponents body?"
When people say "Why are we doing this?  We're not going to do a cartwheel or handstand in a match."
I respond with "Why do you lift weights? You're not going to bench press or clean and jerk in a match."  The answer is the same for both activities.  They both develop and enhance physical characteristics that are important to wrestling, jiu jitsu and fighting.  I would go so far as to say that if you had to pick only one, gymnastics training trumps weightlifting.  My girlfriend used to coach at the National Training center for mens gymnastics.  Some of the guys there were the most jacked guys I've ever seen and they never lifted a weight in their life.  
Consider the following
  • In Russia and Turkey (where wrestling is the national sport and athletes start in the sport at a very young age) youth programs focus mostly on gymnastics before introducing much actual wrestling technique.  They believe it's important to develop a strong physical foundation before trying to learn things that your body is not prepared to do.
  • Most big time BJJ dudes from Brazil practice what they call "gymnastica naturel"  which is basically just tumbling.  They say it gives them a much better awareness of their body.
  • The sheer number of high level wrestlers I have met that have some sort of gymnastics background is staggering.  It can't be a coincidence.
A little background... AACC is a wrestling and MMA school.  Lots of top MMA guys (and girls ie. Megumi Fuji) train there.  It's one of the places that lots of pros stop in to train when they are in Jaoan for fights.  The youth wrestling club is also world famous, having produced world and Olympic medalists.

New Gym, Hard Work
The new gym has been up and running for a few weeks now.  It's a smaller space, but there is much less wasted space.  The main mat area is bigger than at the old club, but we don't have a ring at the new location.  We still have a bag area, weight area, an office and (a big improvement) showers with hot water.
View of the new club
Un Sik has a big fight coming up in DEEP against a very tough Yasuaki Kishimoto (10-3) and the two of us have been working out together a lot lately. We've been working on lots of wrestling and lots of situational sparring.  I've been getting as much out of it as he has, which is good as I'm looking to fight sooner than later.  My body is definitely feeling it.  Today is Sunday, and my 7th day in a row of training with Un Sik.  We'll go in tomorrow and do some work and then I'm going to take Tuesday off and try to explain the concept of "tapering" to him.  Hopefully someone with decent English will be there to help translate.
There are a few young guys that train at Daegu MMA that have really enjoy the wrestling training and are getting pretty good.  A few of them heard Un Sik and I were training on the weekend they came in to work on their wrestling too.  The smaller guy in the video is only 15 and has better jiu jitsu technique than I do. When we roll I have to be a bully and muscle him around to avoid getting beat. Add in some solid takedowns and defense and that's a tough kid to beat. The bigger guy is about 20 and has a great single leg.  When we scrimmage he can score if I'm not really focused on defending the leg hard.   I think I've been able to leave a few of the older guys and two or three of the younger kids with some much improved takedowns and takedown defense and I think that makes them a lot more dangerous, whether in Jiu Jitsu or MMA

Korean Crappers
This is a "squatter".  If you can't see why it's called that please use your browser's back button and go back to whatever internet hole you crawled out of, your presence alone is hurting the average IQ of visitors to this blog and I have standards to uphold around here.
Squatters are a bit intimidating at first.  Which direction do you face?  What do you hold on to?  It's a bit like the old "grab a tree in the woods and squat", but with no tree to grab.  For these reasons I was pretty apprehensive of squatters during my first few months in Korea.  Sometimes there just isn't a regular toilet to be found though.  In these cases I usually just take my pants right off to avoid a stain that would be very tough to explain to your friends.  Everyone's heard the story of the guy who answered nature's call in the woods and ended up with a present in the hood of his snow-suit right?  Nobody wants to be that guy.
Despite the awkwardness and potential danger of using a squatter there are some benefits.  My friend Margot mentioned a while ago that there is absolutely no skin to seat contact and you flush with your shoe covered foot, not your bare hand. Hygienic!  I guess if you're a germophobe using a squatter is the way to go, although it definitely takes some getting used to.

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