Strength and Conditioning in Competitive Martial Arts: Part 2

Monolith Grappling Arts

I apologize that it has been a while since my last installment on Soviet training methods. It’s been a shitstorm of events for me over the last month or so, and the sambo team has been pretty active, as well. We competed in the first ever NOLA Sambo Invitational and took first and second in the 74kg weight class, along with a great performance at the collegiate judo national qualifiers, and then the San Antonio Open. One of our young guys is days away from making a trip to Iowa to compete in the collegiate judo nationals. I am definitely bragging here, no doubt about it.

We left off last time talking about hours spent training, and the importance of general physical preparedness, which began our segue into sport specificity. As American athletes, we have heard quite a bit about sport specificity in the last 6 to 7 years, as this has become a vital part of all NCAA and professional strength training programs. There are scores of articles on unilateral resistance training for boxers, in order to develop a stronger right cross, or parachute training for sprinters, as a method to improve off-the-block explosion. Are these new methods? Absolutely not. They have, however, become more and more mainstream in the strength and conditioning world.

Rather than think about what physical activities we should do for our sport, though (we’ll talk about that soon), let’s look at specificity in another way: in the entire spectrum of human physical attributes, which are most likely to create success in your chosen sport? Then, similarly, what characteristics do you have that could play a role in your personal success? Arguably, basketball players have an advantage if they are tall. Anderson Silva has long limbs and a short torso. These things matter.

In the Soviet Union, athletes were selected at a young age for special training, based on physical characteristics that were conducive to success in particular sports. This is an early and very basic form of sport specificity, as certain characteristics are clearly better for certain sports. An example might be a large amount of hip and glute development at an early age, which could easily be tailored to achieve success in strength sports like weightlifting. A combat athlete might show more prowess in local muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, or speed during fine motor skills.

American sambo coach Gregg Humphreys (Dynamo Combat Club in Bettendorf, IA; sambo instructor for Miletich Fighting Systems) described this process to me last fall, as he received a physical evaluation from Soviet coaches during his first trips overseas for training. Coach Aaron Fields from Seatown Sambo in Seattle underwent a similar process, as well, during his time training with the national sambo and wrestling teams in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Aaron is fairly tall, fairly lean, and has a background in judo and wrestling. Therefore, his evaluators determined that his focus should be on foot sweeps. These ideas were based on scientific, repeatable data, mined from hours and hours of research on athletes. From there, they were able to develop real, tangible numbers that applied to specific movements performed during specific sports. Judo athletes under a certain height are mathematically handicapped, because of their body type, in a certain group of techniques. They are advised to focus on dropping arm throws, for example, as opposed to techniques like the hiza guruma, or the “knee wheel”.

Think about your body type, and the things that you do well in your chosen combat sport. If you have long, lean legs, maybe the triangle choke should be your go-to. Or perhaps, if you are short and stocky like myself, sambo groundwork may suit you better: staying off your back, working for pinning techniques, and focusing more on top control than submissions. The same can be applied to striking, in principle. While taller guys tend to have a well-developed jab, designed to keep the opponent at a comfortable distance, there are shorter guys that have great jabs, also, like Miguel Cotto. The shorter guys have to apply it differently, though, and certainly cannot use it to keep a taller opponent on the outside. Rather, it is used for disrupting the opponent’s rhythm, or setting up a lunging hook.

This is all about efficiency, which is a huge component of the Soviet model. How can I make my skills as advanced as possible in the shortest amount of time? Take your natural attributes and exploit them. This is not to say that you should ignore certain aspects of the game; on the contrary, learn everything, but focus on developing those things that will take you to the top quickly, and use your training time wisely.

TexasFighting.com’s Nomad invited to “The Big Easy”


At a recent submission tournament held in San Antonio, Spida Garay, and I were speaking about my travels around the world and how great it would be to share my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) training experiences with all the TexasFighting.com readers. So here goes.

This week I’m in New Orleans “The Big Easy”, Louisiana and honored to be the guest of Professor Matthias Meister, Owner and Head Instructor of NOLABJJ, Brazilian Jiu JItsu of New Orleans. Professor Matthias was born and raised in Switzerland. In 1986, after serving his country in the Swiss Army he moved to the United States. Not long after arriving in the United States, Professor Matthias became interested in BJJ after watching Royce Gracie fight in the first UFC event. Professor Matthias had already studied Judo as a teen so BJJ was not a strange sport for him. Professor Matthias received his black belt in 2009 under Professor Raphael Ellwanger, promoted through Carlos Gracie Jr.

Upon first entering NOLABJJ I was taken aback by the personality of the gym. This is one of the nicer BJJ gyms I have trained at in the United States. I would describe NOLABJJ as a modern MMA gym meets a restored old brick warehouse. The BJJ training area, 1,300 sq. ft., is outfitted with clean, well kept, Zebra mats.

After class I was able to interview Professor Matthias. When asked about his training philosophy, Matthias provided that his teachings “are all about fundamentals.” Matthias continued, “I try to stay on top of new moves as much as I can, but I realized a long time ago that without a solid understanding of the fundamental moves it is impossible to execute any advanced or complex moves.” Professor Matthias concluded with “This sport is a passion for me and I want to pass this on; it makes me happy when I see a student get hooked in BJJ since I know the huge benefits it holds for your mental and physical we being.”

While training at NOLABJJ I meet Victor Garza, a blue belt. Victor is originally from La Joya, Texas and began his BJJ training in Temecula, California under Professor Ricardo Guimaraes and Master Royler Gracie, while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Victor told me that he has been training under Professor Matthias “for a little over a year and a half” and “NOLABJJ is by far the best school in New Orleans and offers several different styles of martial arts to its students.” Victor ended with, “We are blessed to have three black belts guiding us along the journey.”

From the moment I walked into the NOLABJJ I was impressed! NOLABJJ students were very welcoming and Professor Matthias made me feel at home. The gym was very clean, well kept, and well lit. I enjoyed training at NOLABJJ and being mentored by two black belts and a brown belt on the mat. I also enjoyed watching Professors Marco and Matthias roll with each other, it was very insightful. NOLABJJ was founded in 2000 and was the first BJJ school to become established in the Greater New Orleans area. NOLABJJ is a solid center for BJJ, with about 100 students enrolled, in the South and boasts three black belts; Professors Marco Macera, Edward Lirette, and Matthias Meister, for instructors. NOLABJJ also offers yoga, kickboxing, wrestling, and Sambo. The only down fall would be lack of parking.

The next time you travel to New Orleans please stop by and train with NOLABBJJ. NOLABJJ is located at 4521 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA., for more details please visit their web site at nolabjj.

Interview with Anthony “TJ” Waldburger

Ran into TJ Walburgher @ Seguin MMA one Saturday afternoon while visiting King Webb,so I jumped on the opportunity to ask him a few questions: Here goes!
sPidA: First off,thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time bro,much appreciated.

TJ: Not a problem man, glad I could help.

sPidA: First off,what do you have going on in your fighting career,heard you had renewed your UFC contract?

TJ: I actually did, renewed another 4 fight contract,next fight is in Australian and Aaron Rosa is on that card aswell.

sPidA: Good deal,spoketo Aaron the other day and that’s great that we will have 2 fighters on that card to represent our great State of Texas,will this be your first time visiting Australia?

T.J: It is,it’s actually the longest flight ever to,goingto be a long boring flight (laughter by both)

sPidA: Ouch! 16hrs? That is insane…How’s your training thus far? Are you training to avoid jet lag,I mean are you on tune with the time in Australia?

TJ: My training is actually going very well,my coaches and team mates are really pushing me,as for training for the jet lag, it’;s goingto be a long flight, I figure I’ll just sleep and wake up to whatever time it is when we arrive.

sPidA: Sounds fair, you actually have a record in the UFC for most submissions attempted during a match,with that said,do yoo consider yourself a grappler first then a striker?

TJ: Not at all, I’m feel comfortable on the ground but I do enjoy striking,I just go with the flow but I do consider myself a freestyle fighter.

sPidA: Well said, thank you TJ for this opportunity, any last comments or people you’d like to give thanks to?

TJ: Thank you man and yes I’d like to thank the UFC for the opportunities, my coaches and training partners (Grappler’s Lair) and most importantly my wife Shayla and my family for their support!

Bellator XX coming to San Antonio Texas!!!

San Antonio hosts Bellator XX on Thursday, May 27th, at the Majestic Theater  in the heart of downtown.  The Alamo City has played host to an increasing number of top-level MMA events in the last 2 years, and this card will be no exception.

Main Event

The main event features middleweights Bryan “The Beast” Baker and Eric Schambari, both of which have previously fought for the WEC several times, before it was absorbed by Zuffa.  Expect a battle of epic proportions, because each has a 12-1 record and a long history of fighting at the highest levels.

In addition, it should prove to be an interesting match-up because it seems to be an example of a grappler/striker scenario, but one that will be decided on the ground.  Out of Schambari’s 12 professional victories, 7 of them came by way of submission.  Baker, on the other hand, has 6 TKOs. For anyone who is an avid fan of the ground game, this fight will be a must-see, because it has a good chance of becoming a technical interplay between jiu-jitsu and ground ‘n’ pound.

TexasFighting.com will be there interviewing fighters and mingling with the fans as well!

UPDATE from sPidA: and we will have 3 locals making the card… Ralph Kelley (EliteXC) will be going into battle with (UFC) Eddie Sanchez. This one should be a battle of will. Heavy strikers on this one. We also have (Army Combatives/Salazar BTT member) Andrew Chappelle going into battle against Ryan Larson. Two Texas standouts, both hungry for a victory. And last but not least, Aaron Rosa (Strikeforce) will be battling Robert Villegas (HDNET Fights). This in my opinion should have happened years ago. Two of Texas top 205’rs. Rosa a striker gone grappler and Villegas BJJ Blackbelt under Draculino with great striking skills. I have personally worked with both and I’m eager to see what they both bring into the Cage! People,you don’t want to miss this card! Definitely one for the records!!!

sPidA @TexasFighting.com

Tickets are on sale and available at Ticketmaster.com. For more info on the fight card visit Bellator.com.