integrate or take a beating

We have recently had the opportunity to work with a very good jits guy. He is getting ready for a fight and came in to work with us for 2 weeks. Straight rolling, he is real close to untouchable. When we started working MMA, he was knocked out within 2 minutes of his first 5 minute round, he went for a takedown, held on to the leg and ate about 10 shots to the side of the head before dropping. His next round involved trying to pass while getting punched in the head repeatedly, up to the point we stopped it because he was out of it and unable to defend himself.

He told me that the jits guys never, ever worked any type of striking on the ground or in the clinch. The training was segmented rather than integrated. One session for Muay Thai, another for jits, another for wrestling.

That approach to training is cool, if you are going to compete as a specialist or your training goals are those of a hobbyist. In other words, if you are going to compete at a high level in jits, train straight jits. If this is something you want to do as a hobby, training in a segmented fashion won't really hurt you.

We personally know 2 fighters that have demolished 3 blackbelts in MMA fights. These blackbelts had impressive jits records but when they started getting punched in the face, kneed in the head it all went out the window. Of the 2 fighters we know, one is a purple belt and the other doesn't even own a belt. On paper the blackbelts should have owned them once it hit the ground. It just didn't happen.

If you are training to compete in MMA or for self-protection, you need to include striking in every aspect from the beginning or at least, as soon as possible, in your training evolution. Your training must be integrated rather than segmented and your mental approach should be one of, this is all fighting, not, this is boxing, this is wrestling, this is jits, IT, this training, this conflict is all simply fighting.

This isn't a slam on the blackbelts that stepped up but fell short, rather on training methods that should evaluated. This same discussion could be and has occurred, regarding guy's that trust completely in their ability as strikers.

The athlete that came to train with us reads this forum but doesn't post, it was cool with him for me to post this, as its not a slam on him or anyone else for that matter, just on training methods that don't prepare guy's properly for a fight.

I should've trained with you guys prior to my fight in the Philippines. I was doing Muay Thai, Wrestling and BJJ, but no good integration. I gave my opponent hell during the first 2 rounds though.



Hi Paul,

Excellient post, but I have a question.

In your post you wrote:

"If you are training to compete in MMA or for self-protection, you need to include striking in every aspect from the beginning or at least, as soon as possible, in your training evolution."

This may sound like a dumb question, but that statement is goes against the idea that you should/have to learn positions first, before you add any kind of striking.

The common paradigm seems to be that when an athlete joins our gym, we should concentrate on holding mount, passing the guard, escaping mount, developing a bottom and top game...all without strikes. How long would you say that an athlete should train straight jits before adding strikes? I realize that this is a personal decision and of course is based of the performance ability of the athlete, but from reading your post, I get the feeling that you are adding strikes right from the beginning.


BIG Sean




This cycle spirals in both progression and intensity directly in proportion to who is training, why, what for and when.

As soon as possible is directly related and defined by the quality of performance you desire and / or are being coached to attain.

You can train for one competition or a lifetime and these do not have to be diametrically opposed though they are a great percentage of the time.

Who wins is who endures.

Train smart.


Luis beat me to it.

It's the 'I' method all over. Your approach is correct Sean. If you don't isolate the technical skills and instead integrate and bang right away, then people will begin to develop bad habits, do goofy things in the guard, place to much emphasis on power and strength, etc.

At the same time, if you don't integrate as well, as Paul mentioned, then you will not be able to fight.

The reason our athletes do well from all locations, UK, Ireland, here in Oregon, Africa, Denmark, and all over the USA, is because we strive to maintain that healthy balance between those two paradigms.

That is what the SBG 101-401 programs are about.

After Aliveness the #2 principle of the Gym has always been ADAPTABILITY. . . . . .this is true integration.

The ultimate idea of an SBGi Gym is that it is a place where men, women, children, professionals with 50 hour a week jobs, and pro/am athletes looking to compete, can ALL train together in a safe, FUN, and healthy environment.

In that sort of Gym one can train for gi Jits, no-gi, MMA, self defense, LE, or for whatever event one would like. That is truly adaptability in the real sense of the word.

Always train smart and safe.

If you are injured and maimed five Years from now, then what is the point? That means you are doing something wrong today.

Above all else have FUN.

-Matt Thornton

I have every thing from pro mma competitors to the mother of three grad student who just likes the work out. 18 year old testosterone monkeys to middle aged music teachers. Every one trains the same material in the same way in the same classes. Everything is Alive, everyone grows, and everyone has a good time.

The key for us is, as soon as possible. This is based on their training goals. If they want to train straight jits than sitting up and working towards posture is a good thing. However, if they are interested in MMA, posture isn't the priority, as Matsui learned when he was punched in the face repeatedly by Rory while in Rory's guard.

That is one example, but hopefully it illustrates my point. Its been said that 80% of jits is the guard game. Not when strikes are involved. Even Mario Sperry has said that the best MMA pass is to punch your way out. Jim Theobold throws a wicked shin kick as you are passing his guard, he's knocked training partners out with that shot, Bas does that knee thing as you pass his guard. That is, if you pass without acknowledging the dangers presented by strikes.

So again, we come back to training goals and objectives. If they are interested in fitness and fun, which would be the two new guy's that signed up this week, then they will learn positions, escapes and how to roll. However, if a guy comes in tomorrow morning and says he wants to compete MMA, he will be coached to deal with strikes from day one. We will still isolate weak areas, take a week or two to focus entirely on one area to bring it up, but as soon as possible we will integrate that back into his total game with the goal being a well rounded athlete, specific to his or her chosen sport.

Hope that makes sense, I'm at work and in the middle of a report. =)

"Integrate or take a beating"

I should tell that to my Calculus professor.

"Jim Theobold throws a wicked shin kick as you are passing his guard,
he's knocked training partners out with that shot, Bas does that knee
thing as you pass his guard. That is, if you pass without acknowledging
the dangers presented by strikes."

Paul: Is it possible for you to describe these strikes?


ttt curious

Paul Sharp = Illinoise tax dollars being well spent.

I couldn't agree more with your assesment Paul. I have seen people holding guard get slammed and ko as well as the person unwilling to let go of the single leg and move to something else. Shoot, we all know what happened to JJ when he fought Trigg.

Nice post Paul! Thanks for sharing!

I have seen this SO many times. Well, not guys getting knocked out because of it, but having a REAL hard time of it.

I have been shooting down the 3:00 BJJ class, 4:00 Wrestling and 5:00 Kickboxing class for years. A very common reply is: "Almost no one does it that way. There are very few pure MMA gyms." etc.

I don't know how many times I have said "You can have a purple/brown belt escapes in BJJ, but when you try to integrate strikes in you have white belt escapes. You have to start all over." I have seen it myself too many times.

On day ONE, I coach with this escape progression.

A) How to posture.

B) How to keep from getting KOed by attacking his balance (using bucks, grips, clinching, & other tactics to keep him unstable).

C) Do a few rounds with light G&P.

D) Break down the principles of one escape. Setting it up, using blocks and captures.

E) Do a few rounds trying to use these escape principles while being lightly G&Ped.

So within a month, my guys can escape the major bottom positions while being struck.

They can ALSO escape the major bottom positions in a grappling (no strikes) environment.

The same can't be said for someone that only works the no striking situation escapes.

I have the same attitude towards the clinch (strikes from day one) and the Stand-Up/Free-Movement range (tackles/takedowns from day one).

I guess ultimately it comes down to making sure that you know EXACTLY what you are training for and making sure that your training mimics it as close as possible.

Of course this is my personal coaching style...other coaches may think differently.


Shit. JJ vs. Trigg. I just saw that fight for the first time last week.

Bloody mess would be an understatement.

("Almost no one does it that way. There are very few pure MMA gyms." etc.)

That's probably sadly true.

But again, this is what the SBG 101 programs have always been about. It's all together, and all from the start. And no, we are not just a MMA Gym.

I think with a little careful planning any school or Gym can create a similiar format that will work for people of all types, and needs.

This sort of training should be available to every-body, regardless of athletic background.

It's a good thing.

"I think with a little careful planning any school or Gym can create a similiar format that will work for people of all types, and needs.

This sort of training should be available to every-body, regardless of athletic background."

Amen. If people would just dip their toe in the water, they would find out how rewarding an experience this is.

I have a REAL hard time getting people in the door. Since it's a private gym, we only use word of mouth and are very selective about who comes in.

Here are some of the actual responses and reasons why people weren't interested in coming to train:

"You guys ACTUALLY hit each other?"

"I don't need to train like that, I would just bite his ear off or stick my thumb in his eye. The thumb in the eye is all you need."-streetfighter friend

"I wouldn't need to learn to pin someone, there is a pressure point under the nose that if you just put one finger on, it will prevent someone from getting up."-random guy off the street at a MMA gym w/ an open door policy. COMPLETELY decked out in a full I the street with a FULL Gi.

"I'm not interested...that sounds too violent and offense minded. In Karate we are taught it is more spiritual and in tune w/ the universe to await his first attack, then counter w/ the least amount of harm."-from a Karate BB in discussions about being attacked by a knife or gun wielder

"All you gotta do for a REALLY good pin, is put your foot on his throat. He won't be able to move, or you will kill him"-same streetfighter from above

I could go on and on.

The sad thing is that there is a 15 and a 13 year old that come down to train. These teens are FAR more educated than these grown men.

Alas, man's pride.


That's one of the reasons we allow and encourage everyone that walks in to take a free trial class.

By joining in they learn a few things right away:

1- They can do this. . .they just did.

2- Everyone here is cool, friendly, and not elitist, or a meathead. It's a comfortable place to be.

3- Nobody will hurt them, and it's safe.

4- It's FUN.

5- It actually works. . .as they usualy experience success with a headlock escape, basic gillitine, or CM boxing structure on day #1.

It's signs itself after that.


Those are the reasons I encourage new people to participate in a class instead of just watching.  Some things just need to be experienced first hand.

That's it Aaron.

If they watch, it may seem scary for them.

And it is NOT for me to judge that.

But by participating they learn first hand that they CAN do it. And that everyone in the Gym will gladly be there to help them along the way.

It would be cool if I had guys come in right away and say they wanted to fight MMA. . .and already have some sort of stand up, clinch, and ground game. That would make my life much easier, teaching wise.

But that rarely happens, and when it does they are usually experienced wrestlers. Those guys are easy to teach. It's like being the school teacher with the gifted kids class.

What is more likley to happen is someone will come to me with intentions to fight, and very little if any real "game". This is the majority of cases over the last Ten Years or so.

When this happens we want to make sure we prepare that person so that they are HIGHLY technical, in shape, and ready to go in and have FUN. I know when we put someone in a competition that they are prepared, and it's something THEY want to do. Not something we have pushed upon them, even in subtle way. That's a healthy approach, and one that will breed long term success for the athlete.

Getting them prepared to fight, when starting from scratch, involves learning all the proper fundamentals of stand up, clinch, and ground, and making sure they put the time into the Alive drills so that those basics become second nature.

Some of the younger athletes coming out of SBGi now will be amazing if they choose for themselves to fight in MMA. Keep an eye on Jonanthan from Luis school as a classic example of a relaxed, technical, and natural competitor. Another one to watch will be Dave Roach from John Kavanagh's Gym.

And of course Rosi Sexton. Who would have thought someonewith a PHD in mathmatics from Cambridge would want to go on and become the womens cage fighting champ of the UK?

As Tim Leary would say. . .you can never generalize.

There are many-many more from all the Gyms, west coast, midwest, south, and east. And they ALL have our support.

It will be fun to see and it will be whole new era of well rounded, smart, happy, athletes.

What an evolution!

We, also, strongly recommend prospective students participate in
a lesson rather than watching. Sometimes this lesson is done
one-on one and at other times, it is a group class. We have had
the same experience with people watching (even if it is a
beginner's class): they walk away thinking "wow, that was cool,
but I don't think that I could ever do that." When they participate,
they experience first hand that they CAN do it.


But let's not get off topic, I want to hear Paul describe those knock