In this day and age MMA has become the litmus test for what will, or wont work in fighting. While reality based self defense pundits will argue that it’s sport fighting, not street fighting, there is no denying that what you see is real unarmed combat against skilled fighters. While there is some validity to the argument that it is sport, the truth of the matter is that most reality based self defense approaches avoid the unpredictable, chaotic, uncooperative nature of MMA for a more sterile scenario based approach where they are always the victor. With few exceptions, almost non of the proclaimed self-defense experts on YouTube ever show what they teach outside of a neatly choreographed set up. As such, MMA like it or not, remains the go to laboratory for what will or will not work against an opponent of equal measure.
With all the innovation MMA has provided the world of ‘fighting’ I still cannot rack my head around why most combat athletes pay little or no attention to defense. If we think of the ground game, any MMA athlete would agree, that knowing how to defend an arm-bar, triangle etc, is paramount. Yet, so many MMA fighters, even those at the top of the game still seems to default to blocking strikes with their face. What is it? Is it stubbornness? Or no proper coaching in defense? Have they resided to the fact that its hard to defend strikes, and because they don’t know any other way, concede to just taking them? Is it because the defense they are exposed too doesn’t translate well to an MMA environment? Or do they know they are tough and are willing to try ride out the storm – in hopes that they land that one lucky fight stopper punch?
Personally, I think it is a little bit of all the above. For example when I was coming up in boxing, defense was always secondary to landing the punch. The defense we were taught took a lot of precision, great timing, and guts to pull off. It took guts to face off across from a world class boxer and then have to slip his punch, only to know another one is on its way. When I trained Karate, there were so many defensive actions, one for almost every kind of strike that it was easy to get confused (many traditional styles are still like this). Then when I competed in Karate, we all basically threw those myriad of blocks away, and defaulted rather to a more parrying game. When I trained in Muay Thai there was a slightly more focused approach to defense, but it tended to be more towards the kicks.
In the end, I quickly realized once I began combining everything together, from stand up, to the clinch, to the ground, and putting in strikes in all those positions, all the defense I had ever been taught was sadly ill equipped to deal with that kind of environment. A bob and weave works great in boxing, where you only have to deal with hands, but in an MMA environment trying to pull that off may see you running into a knee to the face. This is the first problem as I see it in MMA. It seems whenever fighters are taught defense, much of it comes from styles that are fought in very different environments. For example boxing as mentioned earlier where your only concern is hands. Going into an MMA fight then, fighters quickly leave the defense they have been taught by the wayside as it simply doesn’t work. Part of the problem to for some fighters is an often compartmentalized approach to training that they take, where a fighter goes to a boxing coach to learn hands, a Muay Thai coach to learn kicks, elbows, and knees, and a wrestling/BJJ coach to learn how to fight on the ground. While they are all base arts of MMA, they are as practiced individually not MMA.
Secondly, I see a kind of stubbornness, mixed with a tenacious attitude to score the big shots. There’s no denying that top level MMA fighters are super conditioned, and because they spend a lot of time training and sparring (taking shots to the face even in the training environment itself) they become somewhat conditioned to taking blows. I say ‘somewhat’ because in the end, most people can be knocked out. If you go 5-min, 5-rounds getting rammed in the face and survive it, it’s likely either because your opponent didn’t have the stopping power to drop you, or he never found the sweet spot to put you on your ass. But the truth is, even if you can take those shots to the head, it’s in my eyes careless. Not withstanding that as we are learning more and more, the human brain, encapsulated in a person’s skull, is not designed to take repetitive, sustained trauma.
Over time, and I will predict it here, we will see more and more incidents of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in fighters, especially those who have retired (for those who don’t know CTE is a disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma). The problem with CTE is it can only be diagnosed after the fact: when you dead! Part of the problem to, is MMA is one of those sports that people even in their 40’s continue to fight, when most other professional athletes in other sports have retired. Many (but not all) MMA fighters have trained in other combat sports previously. There, they likely already took damage to their brain even simply in sparring in the gym. A decade of getting knocked about, taking punch after punch (or kick) to the head doesn’t just do surface damage, but will invariably affect the brain itself.
The Defensive Action of Crazy Monkey Defense
This is where the defensive action of Crazy Monkey could be of benefit. Granted some MMA fighters have tried to use it to mix results. Part of the reason for that is that their coaches learned it off one of my DVD’s, then passed it on to their fighters, minus all the intricacies that are needed to make it work. Bottom line, they taught these fighters CM hand defense, but placed within a framework that will see it fail. To make CM defense work, you need to know a lot of important key elements, notwithstanding the hunchback stance, the spirals of the fight, where to us CM1 hand defense (and not), and where and how to apply CM2 hand defense to close the gap. There’s a lot more, but I think you get my point. In the same sense that you can’t just transplant boxing based defense into MMA, you can’t just transplant CM hand defense without knowing the method and system it is meant to be deployed from.
To be frank, it would be great if more MMA fighters would learn the CM System and apply it in the Octagon, it would save their brains, make it harder for their opponent to hit them, and dramatically improve their striking game: but in the end, that’s not my main goal. My main goal has always been to ensure that what I teach in a combat athletic environment crosses over to the street in self-preservation. I have no intention to see my students stand for 5-minutes out on the street defending strikes to their head (luckily most street altercations are typically short, and intense). And here is the crux of the matter, very few people can stand toe-to-toe with someone and take one punch after another to the face and not be knocked out. It’s also a fact, that most untrained people, when having to deal with punches barrelling down at them will try cover their heads (i.e., a fetal response). The reason for this, is along with the flinch, wanting to cover your operating system makes evolutionary survival sense. This is why CM is so effective. It takes a primal reaction and turns it into a shield of defense, allowing the body the ability to become a weapon of attack.
To my horror many MMA fighters have seemed to override this instinctive response in favor of getting slammed in the head instead. For those few who find themselves in trouble, and go to some type of cover response, they often have no idea how to convert that response effectively into a defensive action that will help them ride the storm and return to the fight. One can only hope that MMA fighters will wake up and learn how to defend themselves properly. For all the evolution of MMA, the one place it hasn’t evolved is in defense. I wouldn’t say MMA would stop evolving if they got that right, but in my mind MMA it is still not a complete fighting approach until this part of the game is addressed. Thankfully, every night, somewhere in the world, students in CM gyms, are learning how to effectively defend themselves, knowing how to ride the storm of incoming attacks, and building the psychological armor that comes along with knowing they can. If they used it in the Octagon great, but I am more concerned that they can effectively use it when it matters most, when they have no choice but to defend themselves.