MMA and BJJ Training - Using Ideas from the Judo Elite
By Daniel Faggella
Alaa El Idrissi has seen a lot for a guy in his early twenties. He's currently a 2-Time African and 3-Time North African, and 3-Time Arabic Judo champion - in addition to being ranked at number 9 in the world in 2009. During our interview, we spoke not only of his experiences in competition, but his insights on training and teaching.
The training wisdom of Ezio Gamba was one of the strongest influences on Alaa's personal approach to the game of Judo. Ezio was one of Alaa's top coaches, and was himself an Olympic Judo champion from Italy, and now coach of the Russian Olympic Judo team. His style of training and teaching tends to be calm and cerebral - and Alaa took the time to identify some of the key ideas that he drew from training with this master coach.
The first of which was that many great Judo players have one or two throws that are their real clutch techniques, their real "money makers." By focusing on leading one's gripping and clinching game (defensively and offensively) into those best techniques, you're able to save time drilling and training to develop a razor-sharp few techniques that always deliver, as opposed to 20 techniques that... well... don't.
This concept transfers pretty easily to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. In BJJ, there are few players who have five positively fantastic techniques from the closed guard, or twelve sweeps and reversals that work on everyone. In Judo, being standing (or in "neutral" position) is like a single position to work from. In Jiu Jitsu, there are more positions (from guard to half guard to side control to back mount, etc...), but the idea of focus is still evident. There is likely a lot of wisdom in being mindful of the one or two "money makers" that you have from each position, and put some extra effort in those areas for drilling and live sparring.
The second concept from Ezio is an emphasis on balance between curriculum drilling and team exercises, and specialized individual drilling and technical focus. Alaa described that in his training sessions with Ezio as involving three categories of activities:
1) Group exercises involving the entire team - such as warm-ups and a number of physical exercises.
2) Group exercises involving specific segments of the team broken up by weight classes. The lighter grapplers had a specific technique set or series of drills to work on, as did the athletes of medium weight, and the heavyweights as well. The specific sequences to be worked by the athletes in the specific weight classes were thought out ahead of time by the coaches.
3) Small group exercises essentially comprised of individual athletes working specifically on the areas that they need the most work in, the areas or techniques their coaches identified as important, or their "money makers."
Again, in the MMA or the grappling world, these same ideas can apply seamlessly. Setting aside time to work on the areas of greatest importance in terms of technique and physique is something the best athletes to exceptionally well (I can only say that after years of interviews). In addition, its not all about what the individual athlete "thinks" is most important, its about getting feedback from coaches who pay attention to your game and can give you valuable direction on your performance and progress. Taking feedback seriously and integrating this into ones sacred individual training and drilling time is another hallmark of a champion in BJJ and MMA as well.
Pick your money moves, and find ample time to work specifically on your game, based on expert feedback from expert coaches - both are big-picture concepts for a better combat athlete.
I'd like to thank Alaa for taking the time to conduct our interview in February of 2012.
Train hard and keep learning,
Dan writes on Jiu Jitsu and Combat Sport training at "Science of Skill"