Why Competitors Need To Do More Than Just Salsa
Among other things, one significant facet of finding success in fighting relies on rhythm. Not to discount the other variables involved in fighting, but in order to deliver a significant strike or shoot for a successful takedown, a fighter needs to concisely pinpoint the perfect moment in time to close that space in order to find success. In that act, and in its most simplistic terms, energy is generated, displaced, and transferred from one body onto another.
One of the most representative analogies of the competition of mixed martial arts was finely articulated by Kenny Florian earlier this year, via his twitter, where he described the motions and movements of the sport as a dance between two partners trying to impose their rhythm against the other. While this expressive valuing perspective offers an overwhelmingly existential angle on the sport, there is something indefinably spiritual and sacred about the distinct motions and actions that take place inside the arenas of mixed martial arts. In blurring the lines between dance and combat, one could arguably posit that the two are more similar than they are dissimilar.
Both encapsulate a diverse range of backgrounds, history, cultures, and forms that abide to a specific set of rules. Who is to say that the flawlessly executed rotations of a pirouette in classical ballet cannot be compared to the artistry of a well timed rotation of roundhouse kick perfectly utilizing the hip mechanics of Muay Thai. Both rely on an advanced understanding of one’s vestibular and kinesthetic orientation and the body’s relationship to its space and environment. Additionally, both forms of movement act as vessels for cultural expression. In the cage, we may see a competitor represent his Japanese heritage through the techniques of Judo while on the dance floor a dancer celebrates their Afro-Cuban culture through mimicking the quick beats of the Salsa. In further elaborating this viewpoint, what ultimately binds the two is the art and expression embedded in the essence of these two mediums.
In viewing mixed martial arts through this lens, and understanding it as an interplay involving two bodies exchanging forces through the dictation of rhythm and the manipulation of their bodies to movement, it becomes irrefutably visible how necessary it is for fighters to possess a mastery of every domain. Mixed martial artists need to carry a well developed mastery of every genre involved in its medium. In other words, a fighter who is only familiarized and well versed in the Charleston may get away with opponents who force him to dance in other forms of swing dance, but would essentially need to update his repertoire if he wishes to compete alongside the masters of Salsa. In the case of mixed martial arts, this idea highlights the importance of possessing and developing a well rounded game.
A quick glance at the current UFC champions would reveal that the majority of them possess above average competency in all of the significant aspects of the sport. While some may choose to dictate fights based on their most advantageous area, few have ill-developed components of their game which is essentially what separates the goods from the greats.
The recent success of Team Alpha Male provides an excellent case study that illustrates the positive results of strengthening your weaknesses. A team that was originally renown for its wrestling pedigree, Team Alpha Male has been slowly making noise through its consecutive string of victories. Recently, Chad Mendes, T.J. Dillashaw, and Joseph Benavidez have all recorded wins due to strikes with the acquisition of the credentialed striker Duane Ludwig. Under the tutelage of Ludwig, these fighters have displayed a remarkable difference in their striking and look to be on the path to taking their game to the next level. Furthermore, they exemplify the notion of bringing your skills all up to speed.
Think about it. What fighters could propel themselves to the next level if only they decided to reform their weakness into strength or plug a certain hole in their game? Carlos Condit recently acknowledged wrestling to be his Achilles’ heel after his defeat to Division I wrestler Johny Hendricks and vocalized that he will be centering his future training on focusing on that domain. Only time will tell if this will enable him to find success in his future outing, but it would seem that he is taking steps in the right direction.