Alright. Sorry it took me so long to get to this but I put a lot of thought on how to go about it. Because really this is a whole different animal. Getting close to your opponent both safely and effectively. Your approach is VERY relative to whatever fighter you face, and you have to be wholly cognizant of his tools and advantages over you. A lot of guys who train "MMA" nowadays have a hard time with this. If we put them into video games that show a fighter's mental status, they'd have a big question mark over their heads the whole time they fight. You do not want this, you want a big exclamation point over your head. If you're REALLY good, you want two of them. So you have to train up and practice. Practicing closing the gap is something I notice very few places do. As an example leave us take both seasons of TUF. Because these are Champion Level UFC fighters training guys and I almost NEVER saw drills on this particular technique. Now I know we didn't see a lot of their training. However when the guys got in the cage what still did we see? The one cardinal sin of fighting. Hesitation. Hesitating lets your opponent know you're confused, un-confident, and lets him know if he presses you...even if you're more skilled than he is he stands about a 60/40 chance of whippin' your ass just because you were doing diddly-fuck. This is how guys end up with blemishes on their record that should not be there. So, how do we counter-act this. I'm going to move on and list some exercises I used to work my class on way back when I taught to rid them of hesitation and fear of moving into hitting-range of the opponent based on whatever goal they wanted to achieve: Strictly Stand-up techniques that seek the KO: This is for you strikers who like to avoid the ground if you can and want the nice KO on your record, more comfortable with throwing blows versus rolling. You should NEVER...and I mean NEVER be confused as to how to move in on an opponent unless he is equally as good as you or better, and even then, you should have a toolbox full of tools you can use to adapt. 1) The jab - Almost no one uses the jab correctly in MMA. I always see squared-up pawing jabs that don't even come close to landing. Reason? No one moves their feet when they jab. If you jab, take a little step forward with it. If you have a very stiff jab, take a big step forward. But keep your eyes on your opponent and watch for counter-punches. There's also NO REASON not to jab to the body. If you fail at it it's because you're just not fast enough. But that's what the gym is FOR. To train up speed and accuracy. How do we do this? Glad you asked: Focus Mitts - Have your partner hold one of the Mitt's head-high. Near his face. So your targeting is close to jabbing at his head. I would say begin with whichever Mitt is his lead. Now, tell him to take a shuffle-step back every time you throw the jab, timed so that he's out of punching-range. Watch the magic. All of a sudden you won't be able to touch him and it'll piss you off. But you have to practice. You have to train to step quicker. When you can finally hit the Mitt, have him take bigger steps back. When you're finally fast-enough that he can't back away and make you miss on a straight line, have him side-step to either side. You have to learn to fire your jab at angles, too. Straight-jabbing becomes too predictable. Now here's where it gets fun. When you have this down where you can chase him down (if the guy gets too slow switch to faster guys in your class, but a good partner will get faster right along with you), tell him to counter you. Everytime you step in for that jab tell him to throw a counter-hook to the body or the head with his opposite hand. So that every time you land the jab, bing, you get popped. Sucks huh? Well there's a way to stop it. Use your opposite hand/arm to block. Don't parry, just put the limb in the way (for now). This will do WONDERS for your confidence in not worrying about being countered when you step in. Yes kids, it's JUST THAT EASY. Not really because this is a pain in the ass to practice a lot. And getting countered is very frustrating. But you'll get better as time goes on. Faster and more accurate. Now, here's a little twist to do as well. Switch your target hands of your partner. Have him hold his REAR hand face-high and make that your target. This will suck balls because it's SOOOOO far away. At first you'll feel like you'll never hit it without being exposed. But like I say, you'll get faster at it. But then do as the previous exercise. Have him counter you with the LEAD hand. So you fire a jab at the rear pad, and he counters with a lead-hand hook to your face. His counter is going to be naturally faster because there's a lot less distance involved. Plus you won't have time to bring your rear-hand around to block. This is where keeping your chin tucked and knowing how to duck and feint will come in handy. Plus it will make you more aware of whether or not you're properly balanced when throwing the jab. After a while you can incorporate other punches, tying combinations together and varying the counters. You'll get much more slick and better with footwork and balance, and your confidence at moving in with punches will be a lot moreso. Increase the pace as you get better as well, after a while you should be able to do this at full speed, with your eyes closed. The Double-end bag - My double-end bag has dual purposes. One is obviously learning to slip punches, but I also use it to train accuracy at hitting a moving target by varying what punches I hit it with and at what pace. But there's varying exercises you can do to use it to help you know how to move in and not be afraid of defending a counter. The first round I do on the double-end bag is just punch, slip slip, punch, slip slip, puch, circle, punch punch, slip circle, etc. Slower-paced, and working mostly on slipping and footwork. Second round on the bag I switch it up. I throw this combination drill repeatedly: jab, jab, jab, jab, cross, jab, cross, jab Getting faster and faster with it as time goes on. I also circle while I throw this. Why? So I can be comfortable throwing an extensive combination at full-speed, on a moving taget, going either backward or foreward. I do my best not to stop for the entire 3 minutes, some days I do some I don't. What makes this drill hard is the circling part. Because as you circle the double-end bag will start to respond all jerky and whatnot. Plus, this drill will help you understand that a jab has to CONTROL where your opponent is. The four jabs you'll find have a lot of effect on whether or not your crosses accomplish anything. My third round on the double-end is pretty odd as well. What I do is I throw a punch. Let's just say my jab. Now the bag comes RIGHT back, correct? What I do is I jab, and when by the time the bag comes back I have my arm up to keep it from popping me in the face, glove near the ear. It'll bounce back off your glove when you do this, when it retracts from my deflect I throw a counter-cross. This emulates countering a counter. And you have to be wicked accurate to do this with any kind of rythm, timing, or consistency. Especially because for all basic purposes your blind as to where the bag is on the second retract. Your glove being up to deflect may block you from seeing it for a second. I do the same thing with the cross. Throw the cross, pull the hand tight to deflect the bag's counter-punch, then when it bounces off from being deflected, boom, hook. Fourth round on the double-end bag is spent throwing hooks off the jab, cross, and 1-2 combo. Because a lot of guys have a good 1-2 and really don't know what punch to follow it up with. A good hook or uppercut will do the trick (duh). But, they hesitate because they think they won't land the hook, that they'll get countered. Hooking on the double-end will send it all over the place and really stress your accuracy. And you might get popped once or twice in training up the KO punch, so your confidence in eating a punch to land the KO should be fine. Variations: I listed jab as the main punch focused here. But you can work on leading with any punch using the focus mitt exercises. You want to work on leading with a cross? Shouldn't be a problem, your partner's posture doesn't change, just you get slower. You want to work on leading with a high hook? Have your partner hold the mitt a little in-front of their face turned in the direction your hook will be coming from. Low hook, same thing just they have to hold it low (this is how you train leading with bodyshots). Uppercut they hold it just before their face turned facing the floor. If you can lead with a hook or uppercut and deflect the counter, you're slick as all Hell. 2) Kicks - Closing the gap can be just as effectively done with kicks, and again the focus mitts are a great tool to train with. Focus mitts with kicks? YES. They're small, and you have to be very accurate to do this properly without injuring your partner. I would also have them wear headgear and shinguards though, for optimal conditions for training purposes. The teep or front-kick. I always hear how in-effective the standard front-kick is in MMA. Let's get one thing straight. If ANY technique is in-effective in MMA it's because the fighter isn't doing it right, or at the right time. Now that that's been said, closing the gap with a front-kick or teep is an ideal way to close the gap. Problem is almost NO ONE follows through after throwing the kick. I know kicks are fun to throw, and they make you want to stand back and laugh at your opponent, admiring your work for landing one, but that insntinct is WHY you cannot close the gap and are uncomfortable in kicking-range. The teep/front kick is the jab of kicks above-the-waist. You gonna win a fight with just a jab? No. Same with this kick. You MUST follow it up with something. Use the same focus mitt drill as the jab to establish how to get close with it in the first place. How to extend your leg to hit the target when the target is moving. How to take a small stutter-step before you throw it and not lose balance. Then once you're fast and accurate with it, how to do it and deflect a counter. But now that your partner is dawning shin-guard you can even have them counter-kick you. Here's a little secret though, deflect the kicks the same way you do counter-punches. Yes kicks are harder, yes it will hurt more, but not as bad as taking the kick flush, and the deflect will allow an opening for you to counter the counter. Blocking Pads: Very few people use blocking pads to their full use. Most people just use them to develope power. I always thought of this as stupid because in my days of teaching I noticed something. If I shuffled back a step or two when my students went to kick the pad with a front kick or teep, or side-stepped when they went for a round or side-kick, they got this look on their face like someone just robbed them. Then I'd say "figure out how to get to me." They'd have to work on chasing me with kicks. Or stepping in deep enough and kicking hard enough that I'd get caught. Footwork is more important than you guys think. If any of you saw my Highlight Video of Benny Urquidez I did he frustrated Suzuki (the Japanese Champ) because every time Suzuki went for the leg-kick Benny was nowhere to be found in-range. Also, Benny knew how to throw kick-combinations whether a guy was moving or not. Don Wilson was very good at this in his day as well, as was Bill Wallace. Studying the old school won't hurt you young bucks. The sun don't rise and set with Fedor you know. lol But anyhow, a couple of frustrating days of your partner shuffling away from you as you attempt to kick the blocking pads and you'll start to see everyone moves on a rythm and can be timed. You just have to be paying attention. They also have sides they favor moving to. Points of balance. Stances they feel more comfortable in (regarding how their legs are placed). Pretty soon you'll be able to catch a fast opponent with a kick to get close, and follow up with a kick OR punch should you chose, the whole time cognizant of deflecting the counter because of the focus mitt drills. But what about grapplers? How to avoid being rushed: This is for all you pundits thinking "YEAH AND IF SOMEONE DID THAT TO ME I'D JUST RUSH AND SMOTHER THEM, U SUK U IDIOT!!" Avoiding being rushed is easy enough and because of these drills you'll now have the footwork to have an easy time practicing such a thing. Here's how you do so with each apparatus and one other: Focus Mitts: Now that you're faster and more accurate and can hit a small moving target, rather than counter-punch you have your partner counter-clinch you. Or attempt to. The trick here is he has to do it FAST. So the first bunch of times your lead attack will reel you in like a bass to a drunken redneck on a Sunday morning. You need to learn how to counter-this by one of two means. One is slipping out. Learn how to feint, duck and slide out of the grip of his clinch, shuffle back and then to either side, and establish striking range all over again. If you put this into practice in a fight it'll REALLY piss off a guy with a strong clinch. A lot of you guys who know how to grapple practice the Wrestling move we call "the standing switch" a lot, switching your arms with your opponents and what side he's on to disrupt whatever pogress he thinks he's made. Did a light-bulb just go off? I hope so, because this is a PERFECT chance to slip free and move out of range. The other way to get out of the clinch is just pure mucle. If you can get your gloves right in his armpits as he tries to clinch, step forward deep and shove. You might even knock him down. Plus this is a good way to set up for a combination. You can also do this with one glove in his face and the other on his chest. Avoiding the shot for the leg takedowns? One word. SPRAWL. But for fuck's sake sprawl fast and hard. I see too many guys who take WAY too long to execte a sprawl and sever himself from the opponent looking to ground him. Blocking Pads: Out of nowhere have your partner just walk right at you. And fast. I used to panic a lot of students with this because they feel real pressure and a sense of smothering because the pad does not react to their strikes. So they had to learn to back and side-step effectively. They also learned how to kick me hard-enough when they did get out of the way that it disrupted my sense of direction and they had control of the real-estate. Heavy-bag: There's a good way to train this on the heavy-bag. Kick it and when you find it swinging back in your direction, step and circle. I used to do this with my teep when I was doing Muay Thai. Teep the shit out of the bag, it flies away, comes right back at me. I side-step, step-back, and teep it again and now it changes direction to come right back at me again. Like a persistent grappler looking to get me into the cage. 3) Shooting - One of my favorites. I actually love grappling. I just never post in the Grappling Forum because I dislike certain temperments. Anyhow, shooting is a WONDERFUL thing to know how to do even if you're primarily a Striker. Scoring a takedown or a slam on a grappler can be more devastating than grapplers let on. They WANT you to think they don't mind it at all because they want to be on the floor and are better than you at it. But if you can score a shot, a takedown, then sever yourself, stand back up, point and smile at them...well that'll suck. lol I won't go into the how-to's of shooting a single or double-leg takedown. The grapplers in the grappling forum will have better mechanics than I may describe, but I do have some exercises as to how to develope a STRONG and fast shot. Sand-bag shouldering - No I am not copying from Ross Enamait. Though his technique of shouldering the sand-bag WILL help because you'll be able to lift and bully your opponent. My exercise is a bit different. Have your partner (if you need to) hold a sand-bag of your preferrential weight upright, so it's standing vertically on one-end. Now what you do is shoot on it. Do your lean, lunge, slam your body into it, plant your feet, lift. Repeat, and do this from all directions. Of course you can vary the weight of the sand-bag as you get better and stronger. When you shoot on a live person after practicing this for a while, all they'll see is the top of your head in a flash and then the ground or lights. Medicine ball toss while shooting - Sounds wierd eh? It is a bit wierd but this will help you develope instincts to deflect blows and catch your opponent when he tries to counter your shot. Go through your shooting motions but right where you would grab your opponent have your partner toss you the medicine ball. Really have him kind of throw it AT you. lol At first it'll be dis-orienting. And if you have a proper sized medicine ball the circumference and weight will make it difficult to catch. But as you do so with more ease you'll find it easier to shoot on someone who tries to kick you to counter your shot. **Dragon Cross - I knew in typing all this I'd forget something. This is an exercise I learned that wasn't intended for improving strength, speed, and proper form of shooting but it just too closely resembled the motions for me not to notice. Take two dumbbells of moderate weight, say 10 or 15lb'ers. Stand with your feet together and extend your arms outward, palms up, dumbbells gripped in-hands. Step forward and lunge, as you lunge turn the dummbells from horizontal to vertical, and as your rear knee gets closer to the ground bring the dumbbells together in front of your body in the fly motion. Hold the bottom positon as long as you can, then slowly rise by stepping forward and pulling your rear-leg forward as you stand back upright, slowly lower your arms until they are at your sides (this should resemble the fast yank you do when pulling someone off their feet for a single or double-leg takedown). The exercise ends when you're back in standing position but now with your hands at your sides and a couple feet forward from where you began, repeat. Tying it all together: Now you should have more than enough tools to get close to your opponent. You've worked on footwork, balance, timing, accuracy, speed, technique, counters, and both executing and defending takedowns. So when it comes down to put this to use in a fight or sparring session you SHOULD NOT HESITATE. If your opponent gives you even ONE second of stale time, move in. Execute. You should be able to lead with a kick or punch, and even tie in kicks with punches (which it's up to you to work on that aspect). You should even be able to throw a one-two combination and THEN shoot a takedown if needs be, all the while cognizant of being countered and a strong sense of timing and what to do should that happen. I hope all of this helps some of you'se guys.