mma techniques

How Not to Get Hit

The concept of being able to submit an opponent rather than just beat him to a knock out was all the rage when mixed marital arts hit the main stream. However that does mean that getting knocked out is not a serious concern for a fighter as well. There are many defensive styles that are seen by different fighters, each offering its advantages and disadvantages.

Is There a Correct Defensive Stance?

Get a little creative with a tai chi stance

Get a little creative with a tai chi stance?

The short answer is no, there are so many styles and variations in this sport that there cannot be one “correct” way to do anything really. However, there are certainly some basics of a defensive stance that remain true throughout many different styles.

The basic idea of a good defensive stance should be obvious, protecting the vital areas, i.e. your head and ribs. The first step is to always keep your chin tucked into your chest; the quickest way to get knocked out is to catch that one clean punch to the jaw. Your hands should be kept up at all times as well, with your fists near chin level to protect it and your face from strikes. Your elbows are kept in towards your sides to protect your ribs from body strikes.

As a fighter grows and progresses he tailors his style to his own strengths and comfort. Lowering the hands provides more striking speed and uses less energy whilst giving up protection. On the other end of the spectrum, keeping your hands higher, towards your temple, gives you better defense while sacrificing some quickness.

Good Offense

Its an old adage that the best defense is a good offense, and this can apply to a mixed martial arts style as well. It will be awfully hard for your opponent to hit you if you are constantly on the offensive and he needs to worry about his own self-preservation rather than attacking.

This can be effective especially against very aggressive fighters. The idea is to take the opponent out of his comfort zone and make him fight on your terms, not his. Someone that is used to being on the offensive, and planning on being on the offensive, can get flustered with an unexpected offensive push.

Bob and Weave Baby

Another defense against striking in mixed martial arts is to avoid getting hit all together by dodging punches. Now this sounds extremely easy, and really pretty obvious, but it is a lot harder to do in real life. There are two advantages of using this style of defense, one you are not getting hit at all (in an ideal situation) and two it gives great opportunities for a  counter strike

This style of defense takes extreme athleticism and conditioning. Being able to time and dodge an opponent’s strikes takes a lot of training and experience; and a serious pair of cojones in some cases because potential knockout punches can be very close to landing. This style uses a lot more energy than blocking punches as well because of the constant movement. In addition if your conditioning is sub-par and you utilize this style, when you get tired and your timing starts to slip up it could be disastrous for you.

However this movement allows for the potential counter punch as well. After missing a punch your opponent will have one side of his body unprotected and may be slightly off balance. Using your dodging motion effectively is the key to effective counter striking. As you slip a punch you also load your body up to explode into the counter punch, hopefully ending in a clean strike.

The best example of this style of fighting can be seen in Anderson Silva. He is so good at this he makes his opponents look like fools when they try to hit him and then he can quickly land a knockout blow of his own. He uses expert timing, positioning, technique, and Badass-ness to do this so trying what he does is not recommended for the glass jawed. Here is a video of Silva explaining some technique.


Counter Armbar

I know I wouldnt want to be caught in a Carlos Newton armbar

I know I wouldnt want to be caught in a Carlos Newton armbar

The arm bar is an extremely versatile submission in general. There are variations of it that can  be performed from a host of different positions. In general the arm bar gains its notoriety from really just how simple it is. In a fight, especially mixed martial arts, you are constantly using your arms to try and attack your opponent. This means that there is a lot of time when a fighter is focused on using his arms to attack and not deffending them, the perfect time to sneak in for an arm bar. 

This particular arm bar setup was used by Carlos Newton in a  fight against Kazuhiro Kusayanagi. He finds himself on top in a side control position and is immediately being hit with a Kimura attempt. Instead of letting the opponent finish what he started Newton, looking completely calm and under control, quickly made his opponent pay for this.

The Setup

The setup for this specific arm bar is very unique and pointed towards a specific situation. First though is that you are in side control position on your opponent. Once in this side control we are going to assume that the opponent is a Kimura lover and goes in for his submission attempt.

The Kimura is a shoulder lock submission that can be equally as quick as an arm bar if you get sloppy with your appendages. From the side control position your opponent will need to bring your arm up and over your back though which is not always very easy to do. This small gap of time in between when he isolates your arm and when he completes the submission is your time to strike, don’t be late though.

The Counter

The beginning is the do or die situation in the technique. submit or be submitted. To reverse this kimura and bring the hurt to your opponent is technically not very hard but practically not nearly as easy to finish as Carlos Newton makes it look.

First DO NOT let yourself get submitted. Next, your free hand is planted on the opponent’s hip and used as a pivot point as well as a means to separate yourself from your opponent’s body. From here speed and precision of movement are key to switching your position successfully for the finish.

To complete the arm bar you need to be on the other side of your opponent. To do this you walk your hips around on the head side of your opponent. The center of your hips should end up right behind the shoulder of the opponent. One leg is placed over the opponent’s head/neck to keep in pinned down against the mat. The other leg is left bent with the foot/shin pressing into the opponent’s side and up under his armpit.

From here all that is left to do is hold the arm to the body and raise the hips up to finish the submission.

Intangible Factor

There is certainly an intangibility factor to completing this submission. You could look at it and drill it until the cows come home. During a real match anything is possible and this move has a lot of variables and moving around. Also this is a counter move so by nature there is risk involved, for example if you mess up and the opponent simply finished  his submission. If you are going to attempt this move it needs to be done quickly, powerfully, precisely, and with confidence to finish successfully.

Here is a video with a technical explanation of this techique


The Great Omoplata

A great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique is the Omoplata. The original is a shoulder lock that uses the legs to rotate the arm and put pressure on the shoulder. This version is slightly different though. Instead of completing the shoulder lock, it is stopped halfway through and the submission’s finish is switched to a wrist lock.

The omoplata is a relatively advanced BJJ technique. It requires good technique and quickness to successfully finish in a mixed martial arts fight or BJJ match. However this move is a very useful technique for a smaller fighter who finds himself on the bottom against a  larger fighter.

Using an omoplata in a fight requires a lot of quickness and mobility. These are the attributes where a smaller fighter generally has an advantage over a larger fighter. This submission also has the advantage of removing your body from under the opponent which nullifies his advantage over you on the ground. CLICK HERE for more information on the small man’s technique in BJJ.

Omoplata modified

This omoplata is a very simple modification to the classic one. It attacks the wrist joint of the opponent instead of the shoulder, which is smaller, weaker, and easier to put pressure on. This technique was used by Royce Gracie against a Sumo Wrestler, Akembo. This fight is probably the ultimate example of how the Omoplata, specifically this version, can be extremely useful against a larger opponent.

Setting up the Wristlock

This setup requires you to start from the full guard position. The first thing you need to do is break your feet from behind your opponent and slide your hips out from underneath your opponent, lets say to your right side. Then your left foot is placed firmly in the front of your opponent’s left hip to hold him back for your next move.

Your right foot is then Swung around the opponent’s back and your foot is placed underneath the opponent’s head against his neck. This positioning gives you very good control over the opponent. Your legs and lower body have a huge power advantage over the shoulder of your opponent which gives you this control.

Now Your left foot can also be released. By rotating the hips the opponent’s shoulder can be pinned to the ground. This immobilizes the opponent and this gives you the opportunity to finish the submission.

Finishing this Omoplata

This setup can be finished in many different ways. Many of which focus on attacking the shoulder joint. However, as any BJJ practitioner could probably tell you, it is not always easy to finish the traditional omoplata against every opponent. This can be because the opponent is simply too big to move, ask Royce Gracie, your technique isn’t perfect, or the opponent knows a good counter.

However this modified finish can be much quicker because it does not require the additional position changed of the traditional version. To finish the Omoplata wrist lock the hand is bent forwards, such that his palm is forced towards the underside of his forearm. Both of your arms are used to do this, making it impossible to fight against the lock with the comparitively small muscles of the forearm.

Below is a video of this move from start to finish

Bringing the Fight to the Ground

In mixed martial arts takedowns are a very important part of the game if you are more confident in your grappling game than your stand up/striking game. Your opponent will not just roll over and flop onto his back so that you can attack him on the ground. However ineffective takedowns can be dangerous as well. Taking down a grappler can be dangerous since well he is a grappler, and a striker will probably be very familiar with at least his takedown defenses.

Judo Throws

A Judo leg weep takedown attempt. And I’m pretty sure this will be successful

What Muay Thai is to knee and elbow strikes, Judo is to throwing and takedown techniques. Judo’s throwing techniques are very widespread and can be implemented with much speed and power. However there is a very specific technique that makes them exponentially easier to perform and it is why experts make it look so easy. There are also many takedowns taught in this martial art that are equally as quick and powerful when performed right. HERE is a site with tons of great videos of judo techniques, throws, and takedowns. 

Some judo moves you see a lot in the mixed martial arts arena are the leg sweep and hip toss. Both of these are effective takedown techniques when in close while standing up with your opponent. This makes them great for grapplers, and really BJJ users since takedowns are not emphasized in it, because it neutralizes some striking opportunity before your takedown. Videos of both can be seen in the link above.

Single and Double Leg Takedowns

The single leg takedown is a classic takedown in mixed martial arts and knowing how to do it is almost crucial if you want to round out your mma game. This is a dangerous technique if you fail though because you are =vulnerable in the position you are left in. If your opponent sprawls or gets a good push on your head to put you in a guillotine it could mean goodnight for you. This is why the correct technique and also importantly the correct timing are required for this takedown as well.

The double leg takedown is a powerful takedown that can be very technical or very powerful, ideally both. Former football players will have to take notes because the idea behind a takedown in mma is not to land in your opponents guard. One main concept to remember is that during the takedown you need to turn your opponent to the side to land in a better grappling position. Also with the right technique getting enough leverage to lift your opponent high off the ground can be easy and that opens up the opportunity for a slam.

Watch Out

A takedown is certainly not a guaranteed success like anything else you try in mma. Even with the right technique there are a lot of good counters to many of the takedowns you can execute. It is easy to slip in a guillotine on a bad takedown attempt becuase your head is just sticking out there. Or even a well timed strike can ruin your takedown. The reality of the situation is that if you are a grappler in a mixed martial arts arena you better start practicing your takedowns so that you can fight your game not the opponent’s.

Triangle Chokes From Everywhere

The triangle choke is so easy you can celebrate while doing it

I have said it before and ill say it again, triangle chokes are awesome. They are a triple threat submission: quick, simple, and effective. With some know how and some flexibility triangle chokes can be your greatest friend in the submission game. There are so many positions that triangle chokes can be performed from it is disgusting. You could learn how to do only triangle chokes and probably still be able to submit somebody from three quarters of the positions you found yourself in.

Of course the good old triangle choke from a closed guard is what many people in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu learned first, and it really teaches all the fundamental concepts of all the the different variations of it. If you don’t know or want to brush up on some basic technique CLICK HERE. Any guys who didn’t click the link because they think they have it down already, you might want to brush up on your technique… trust me.

Mounted Triangle

Many people in mixed martial arts might prefer to simply punch there opponent in the face when they get to a mount position. However this option is not present in strictly grappling tournaments. A mounted triangle is a great submission  to perform from the mount.  You maintain your center over your opponent the whole time from the mount and you have both of your hand free to work with. This combination is great for maintaining your dominant position throughout the submission.

CLICK HERE for a full mounted triangle tutorial.

Half Guard Triangle

Although there are a lot of feasible sweeps from half guard, being on bottom in half guard does not always leave you very many good options for a submission move. But of course there is a sneaky way to pull off a triangle choke with a little quickness. This would not be an easy technique to finish under real conditions but it shows how quick and unexpectedly the triangle choke can be applied.

Side Control? No Problem!

When you are on top in side control you have very many options. One is to transition to mount and work from there. However you can skip that phase completely and go right into, that’s right you guessed it, a triangle choke

Bottom side control is not the first position you would try and perform a triangle from. Well its not, but a reverse triangle choke certainly is. This move is slightly complicated and relies and your opponent trying to gain control of your arm from side control. But add this one to your playbook to surprise your opponents.

Still More…

We can’t always lock in a triangle choke, but even a failed attempt can be salvaged. This video shows how to turn a failed attempt from closed guard into a sweep and then easy submission. The ending submission in the video is a type of kimura armbar; but I’m sure you could find a way to change that up into a mounted triangle if you so choose.

I implore anyone who has seen all of these types of triangle chokes to keep learning about them! There are so many more variations of them. I only picked a couple of them to talk about but they can be a martial artists best friend if you know them well enough.

What is Normal?

A superman punch can catch your opponent guessing. hopefully guessing wrong.

Unorthodox really just means straying from the norm. So in mixed martial arts striking what is considered to be an unorthodox strike. For my purposes an unorthodox strike is essentially anything that when you see the first thing that comes to mind is along the lines of, “damn didn’t see that coming.”

Striking is obviously a great way to end a fight is you have the power in your strikes to knockout the opponent. However sometimes a straight forward charge is not the best idea because your opponent is blocking/dodging your strikes or he is countering them because you are so predictable. By mixing up the pot a little bit and adding variety to your striking package you can surprise.and hopefully land strikes on your opponent

The Strikes

Sometimes your regular punch and kick combinations just wont scratch the surface of an opponent. Whether he is too quick or too defensive, throwing ineffective strikes is just a waste of energy. However maybe try mixing up your striking game by implementing some that catch your opponent so off guard that they cant dodge or defend against it.

To name a few unorthodox strikes that are seen more commonly seen (oxymoronic i know) there are things like the spinning back fist/back elbow, The superman punch, the flying knee, spinning kicks, and other moves that involve unpredictability and speed. These strikes are seen pretty often watching professional mixed martial arts and when they are landed it is easy to see a quick unexpected strike’s results on the opponent.

Why Are They So Effective

It is basic knowledge that in a fight you generally want to stay balanced and on your feet to have as much control over yourself as possible. That is why it probably isn’t smart for someone to just throw a tornado kick and expect it to be effective. To effectively strike unpredictably it looks like your out of control but in reality you are in complete control, controlled chaos. Striking like this takes practice and training not just blind luck.

There are really two main advantages given by this kind of striking. First is the fact that a lot of them increase the power of your strike. and type of spinning strike adds a bunch of rotational kinetic energy to the strike making it much more effective. This is especially the case for types of spinning kicks because the length of the leg leads to even greater speeds during rotation.

Secondly there is the element of surprise  You become much less predictable if you start spinning around instead of standing still in front of your opponent. There are ways to make your opponent give himself up for a strike as well. For example, if an opponent is being very defensive a superman punch might be the move that drops his guard for just long enough to get the punch to connect.

You tell me if this kid saw the power of this kick coming

I mean i clearly saw this flying knee coming when it happened i don’t know how this guy didn’t…

Are We Sure?

Unorthodox is a relative term. What might be abnormal for one form of competition might not be all that ridiculous to another. In karate and taekwondo many of strikes thrown probably look unorthodox to most people. However the effectiveness of an unexpected strike remains pretty consistent if it lands on the opponent, because usually you cant block what you didn’t see coming. But practicing and knowing when to throw an unorthodox strike can be a useful weapon in your arsenal.


Wonderful World of Leg and Foot locks

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu there are a number of submissions that involve putting pressure on points in the legs to cause a tap out. Completely unsurprisingly there are categorized as leg locks. They can be extremely useful in BJJ because they can be easy to use but also hard to defend against without good technique. In mixed martial arts they are seen less often but can still be extremely useful because its only natural for an opponent to protect his head and arms in a fight while leaving legs out in the open for attack.

It is much more natural for people to work with their arms than their legs. Our hands can hold onto things to help anchor them into position and generally have better fine movement control; both things are good for defending against submission attacks. However an opponent certainly wont be clasping his feet together to prevent a knee bar, unless of course he is half chimp. Also in mixed martial arts just going for any type of leg lock generally takes you out of effective striking range which is a plus.

The last advantage of a leg lock, especially in a MMA arena, is the element of surprise. Its natural to defend against attacks to the upper body more than the lower. If your still not convinced watch the great Anderson Silva get caught hook line and sinker in a leg lock when he could have easily won the fight

Achilles Foot Lock

Basic Achilles lock positioning

There are a few basic leg or foot locks taught in brazilian jiu-jitsu, with each having multiple variations of course. The most basic of which is probably the Achilles foot lock. This basic submission consists essentially of putting the opponent’s foot in a guillotine choke; his Achilles tendon being the neck and the pressure being placed on the tendons/ligaments in the top of the foot. Your whole body is used to push back on the foot causing pain and the risk of tearing needed tendons.  This foot lock is effective because of its simplicity and flexibility.

Heel Hook

Another type of leg lock is called a heel hook. These are quick and deadly submissions that put enormous pressure on the knee and demand a quick tap out when sunk in correctly. In training there is great care to finish this move in because of the possibility of damage to the knee from the applied pressure.

The basic idea behind the submission is to immobilize the opponents foot and lower leg against your body and upper leg with your legs. The two are then rotated independently with the two halves of your body to put pressure on the opponents knee. It doesn’t even sound all that simple but it is still easier said than done. There are also a number of variations to the heel hook which make it a serious threat in the hands of an expert.

UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares is known for his leg locks and more specifically his heel hook. For some of his highlights and technical breakdown of a more complex heel hook setup CLICK HERE.

Less Common Locks

The knee bar really does look similar to an arm bar

The knee bar is another leg lock that is taught in Brazilian jiu jitsu. As the name would imply this is essentially an arm bar for the knee. The pressure put on the knee to bend it in the opposite direction generates excruciating pain and can cause injury if the victim does not tap out. This is a less common submission because of a generally lower success rate than other leg locks.

Lastly there is a calf crank. The calf crank is not a traditional submission that aims to rip apart a joint. Instead it focuses on putting pressure on the opponents calf muscles and lower leg bones. This means that it causes more pain than threat of injury. The calf crank isn’t seen much or a guaranteed submission but there are a ton of variations that make its use very flexible. For an in depth look at the calf crank CLICK HERE.