Super Combat Recovery Techniques

Marcos Avellan, along with his brother David, founded South Florida's Freestyle Fighting Academy (FFA) in 2001, and has trained fighters for the UFC, WEC, Bodogfight, EliteXC, Strikeforce, and dozens of other promotions. He is a writer for the website and is a leading expert in combat mental training.

Recovery is a huge part of training and combat.  Fights can take minutes, even hours, and yet nobody can truly hit a straight out five minute sprint with everything they got… it is during lulls in combat that one can recovery.

In training, we have rest periods.  Rest periods could be a simulation of resting during actual combat – but they are also necessary for giving us more energy so that we can continue pushing past our walls.  That being said, it is useful to make our breaks seem as close to a real combat break as we can.

Here are some tips for handling breaks.  First of all, don’t make a big deal out of them.  The mentality you should have is that you never “need” a break.  If the situation demands it, you should be ready to keep going without any breaks.  The break is a luxury.  When you are granted a break, you shouldn’t be making a huge drama over it.  You shouldn’t be bending over at the waist, or laying on the floor, or showing very visible signs of fatigue.

The mind and body are connected.  If your body is bending over at the waist, your face is contorted from exhaustion, and your breathing is irregular and out of control… what is your body communicating to your mind?  I’ll give you another example… if you had to be $1,000 on who was the best student in a high school class and have to pick between two students… one student is sitting perfectly upright, with pen in hand, looking up at the professor taking notes… or the other student, who is slouching in his chair, has a facial expression like he’d rather be somewhere else, and is breathing out sighs every time the teacher talks while he keeps checking the clock… which one would you bet on has better grades?  Probably the upright and attentive one… because although he may have worse grades (the other kid could be a genius) you have already developed a subconscious understanding that body language does speak volumes about what the mind is like.  The way the mind feels influences the body and the way the body feels influences the mind – it is a cycle.  As a fighter, you are starting to feel fatigued and weak, then you will want to break the cycle and start feeling great… and the easiest way to break the cycle is to have the body posture and external behavior of someone that feels great.

How does a champion that feels great look?  They are upright, they have controlled breathing, their face is determined, they make eye contact, and they got a bounce to their step… if you physically do all these things… no matter how your mind may think you feel… you will notice an immediate difference.  The contrary, which is bending over at the waist, showing weakness in your facial expressions, panting uncontrollably, and looking away from your opponent… these send the mind into a tailspin of fatigue and weakness.

I learned an excellent training exercise on recovery from Master Lloyd Irvin, Jr., trainer of BJJ and UFC World Champions.  While his guys are sparring or grappling hard, during the rest periods, rather than pacing around or bending over, he has his competitors meet at the center, nose to nose, totally upright, and make eye contact… yes, a ruthless stare down!  Do you know what happens with these stare downs?  AN ENERGY BURST!  There is no way you can straighten up and stare your opponent in the eye and not get hyped up!  If you try this experiment, you will notice the quicker recovery time as well… because the body is posturing itself in a way that the mind associates with feeling ready to fight.

Most live combat resting occurs in clinches and on the ground.  Sometimes it happens from the feet as well – but usually this form of resting is mutual.  If one man is trying to rip off the other man’s head from standing… it is hard for the passive man to “rest” on his feet.  However, if both guys are tired, they may take a minute or so of mutual dancing around and throwing pitter patter jabs to rest up for a bit.  However, with clinches and takedowns, one can force the lull in action on their opponent – he doesn’t need his consent to rest.

Sometimes a rest is necessary to recharge for more violence.  Sometimes you may have gotten rocked by a hard punch and need a rest simply to get your bearings back.  Either way, when it is time to rest, you need to get the most out of it.  You can’t be uncomfortable while in the clinch and expect to get recovery rest.  Why?  Because whenever you are uncomfortable you are tense… and whenever you are tense, your muscles are in contraction… and when your muscles are in contraction, they are sucking the oxygen out of your bloodstream – which is going to accelerate fatigue.  That is why in boxing, it is crucial to stay relaxed while striking… if your shoulders are crunched up and your strikes are stiff – you will gas fast.  When deciding to rest for a moment in the clinch against the fence or on the ground, you need to be relaxed.

A way to get used to this style of rest is to do so in training.  Rather than have one minute rests where people go to their corner in the ring during sparring training… simply have them rest in a clinch or on the ground, while throwing pitter patter punches.  This way they associate these positions with recovery positions and expect to have more energy as a result because that is the way they gain energy in training.  For striking, an alternative style of this active rest would be to have your strikers shadow boxing, throwing jabs and longer range punches while having an emphasis on footwork… this way when he is resting on his feet in combat, dancing around throwing jabs, he will associate this with recovery rest as well.  This is a much more realistic training alternative than the old fashioned… “TIME!  One minute rest…” and then everybody just sitting around waiting for the bell to ring again.

I can keep on going on this topic but we’ll stop here for now.  Come back to this site and stay tuned for my next article!  If you would like to learn more, you can visit my site at

Marcos Avellan