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MMA 101In the expansion of the "iron game" over the last thirty years, much of its gritty roots were ripped from the soil and the modern gym barely resembles its ancestral heritage of "physical culture." This is a problem from a variety of angles, each with its own level of importance, but none more than with the training of the combative athlete.

Although the date is difficult to pinpoint precisely, since the early to mid 1970's the purposeful nature of training and the development of the "all-around athlete" has slowly been replaced by a more "aesthetics first" idea. While this is a peculiar notion, given the classic notion of the athletic form being most appealing, it has resulted in massive changes to nearly every aspect of the modern gym. Whether it is the need for training to be conducted as quiet as a church mouse (don't dare let a weight clang on the ground!) or the majority of older movements being lost to facilities dominated by selectorized machines, the development of the "all-around" athlete is a rare commodity.

This is unfortunate because the development of the combative athlete must always be approached in a way that best prepares the individual for a highly dangerous sport with an eye towards performance where a false move could have dire consequences. At all times, the training of the combative athlete must be linked to the needs of the sporting discipline, energy cycle and overall "mind-set" needed to compete in a sport where the chaotic nature of the "fog of war" is an everyday fact of life.

This situation is exacerbated with the growth of MMA and the emergence of trainers targeting this market without ever really understanding the physiological needs of the sport. Though those in the sport often gravitate to certain types of training mediums (such as kettlebells), it is important for the training professional to funnel them into a wider selection of stimuli to avoid adaptation, to reinforce the notion of the "all-around" athlete and to utilize chaotic environments. This is a key component in MMA training where they will need to delve into a broad selection of different martial arts disciplines and their non-skill training must be generalized.

For the dedicated training professional, this is good news, as it allows you to jump back into the history of training and resurrect a number of tried and true measures, often making use of "imperfection training." Imperfect training must be included for the MMA athlete as it is the best approach to emulate the chaotic nature of the sport. From my book, "The Mark of R," imperfect training is described as:

"Imperfect environments in the most finite of terms to enhance both kinetic, reflex and neural adaptation. This is an extremely misunderstood area that is often confused because training stimuli can often cross over and is interconnected with motor patterns and neurological efficiency. The athlete must become adapted to not only exerting maximal force in optimal situations but equally so imperfect environments."

This use of chaotic imperfect environments can involve a multitude of different forms but must always be based upon the classic modeling of the Renegade training systems and recognize a long-term development plan. Though more aggressive items garner more public attention, such as my use of kettlebells in the DVD "Deuce’s Wild" while training in crashing ocean surf (not to mention nearby sharks), the key is starting slowly and being patient in your approach. While there are a multitude of simple training mediums to be discussed at a later date, one very important item that has fallen victim to technological advancements in the exercise industry is the climbing rope.

At one time, the climbing rope was a standard piece of equipment in the exercise game, but fell victim to the changing times. However, the use of a climbing rope will not only build a powerful, balanced upper body, but I dare say anyone who used one in their training never lost a lift because of poor grip strength. A free hanging rope, as shown in the photo, additionally adds an "imperfect" setting given the unpredictable nature of the ropes movement.

Borrowing upon "The Mark of R", in the photo below I am shown doing the first stage of a unique rope climbing complex. Starting form a hanging position, the incumbent holds the rope with the arm outstretched (left) and the opposite hanging at ease. The torso should be in a similar angle as the Side Plank with the feet "stacked" and lead (left) hip pushed high. Drawing upon trunk, back and shoulder strength, the incumbent turns to their left, pulling the (right) hand over the left. For followers of Renegade Training, the Rope Turn will fall within the "Supplemental" exercise section, with roughly three sets of six total "turns" to each side.

The unique aspect of this exercise is that it in many ways could be called a compound movement given the broad impact upon overall body development. As we extend this movement further to involve an L-Sit, to a straight climb in an L-Sit or to a complete inverted climb, it not only requires the most from the user, but further establishes how answers to training questions for MMA athletes are often found in the past.