Posts Tagged ‘explosive’

MMA and Wrestling Training

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2013 at 5:26 am


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By Antonio Graceffo

My coaching science class makes me think a lot about MMA training. MMA is a really weird sport when it comes to training. In my mind, sports are divided into 3 major groups: performance (running and swimming), strength (weight lifting), or skill (shooting and archery). Obviously many sports, such as tennis, combine performance and skill. Some sports even combine elements of all of three, most notably American football or rugby. But no sport requires the variety of skills that MMA does. American football players are all specialists, playing offense or defense, or playing a particular position. Rugby players are probably more versatile, but they still only play rugby. The skill set in MMA includes boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, Jiu jitsu and on and on. The only sport that might be similar in terms of skill would be a multi-discipline sport, such as modern pentathalon, which requires participants to run, swim, shoot, fence and ride horses. But to be more like MMA, they would need to carry, not ride, those horses across the finish line.

Skill is a mystery to me and I think is somehow less of a quantified science than is either performance or strength. And this is a unique aspect of MMA. While shooting, archery, bowling and other skill intensive sports probably require some level of fitness, those athletes are most likely not spending the insane hours, dragging truck tires and climbing pegboards, that MMA guys do.

Obviously there were martial artists who ran or lifted weights before MMA, but no major martial art incorporated fitness and strength training as an absolute integral portion of the training. When I used to box, apart from running, we almost never cross trained. The coach might, once in a great while, ask us to do pushups or sit-ups but it was sporadic. Karate and Taekwondo classes always began with some warm up exercises, a few pushups and sit-ups, a little running, but no martial art had all the crazy, completely exhausting MMA running, jumping and carrying drills. MMA is possibly the only sport where guys can lift so much weight but are still expected to have explosive speed, AND to be able to last for 15 minutes. Power lifters are stronger, but they can’t move as fast or last as long. Marathon runners can last longer, but they can’t lift as much weight. Taekwando guys can kick higher and faster, but they don’t have the strength or the physical toughness… MMA is an odd skill set. Strength, speed, skill, fitness, stamina, and physical toughness. The only sport that comes close is wrestling.

Before wrestlers began winning in the UFC, wrestling was almost an orphan sport that no one gave respect to or even thought about. But as MMA evolved, wrestling became the training model for MMA. Dan Gable, the greatest American wrestling coach of all time, was famous for inventing, as he put it, “New ways to make my guys tired.” His wrestlers trained twice a day on stamina, strength, explosiveness… They ran up and down stadium stairs and climbed ropes up to the ceiling. A lot of the MMA training, or the spirit of what would become the MMA obsession with fitness training, came from wrestling.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on




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