Inside Game part II

Let’s talk about a few concepts and principles that apply to in-fighting, and inside game. In part one we talked about the why’s so now let’s talk about the how’s.

The key to successfully landing shots inside while stopping our opponent from landing shots is connection. Weird right? Just like in grappling the easiest way for us to know, and control the direction of our opponent is to be connected to them. Think of this as standing grappling with strikes involved. There really are more similarities than differences. If you’ve spent time grappling, particularly standing grappling, you are well ahead of the average trainee when it comes to learning how to read, and react to an opponent when working inside. I could type a thousand words to describe it but this one minute clip of Roberto Duran coaching in-fighting will teach us more about connection, angles, contouring, and hitting in the spaces then any amount of words.

Pure mastery. Connection using forearms, elbows, and shoulders to monitor, and control the opponents arms. Notice how Duran’s position, and posture create pressure which causes the opponent’s arms to open or look for other ways around Duran’s arms. In so doing he opens himself to strikes. Don’t force openings inside, time them, wait for them, and then strike in the breaks. The breaks are those moments when the opponent pulls away or tries to go outside or around our arms. When you feel that space, throw your shot. We never want to wait, we want to throw first, and when there is space we’ve lost that connection. The fastest way to re-connect is to land a solid shot.

Where are we looking to make this connection? The top of our opponents forearms, inside biceps are optimal. If we can’t get there we can take the outside of the arm however we never sacrifice good technique which would mean our elbows are still against our ribs, hands are up with our knuckles touching the skin under our eyes or our eyebrows. Our body position is almost identical to everything else we do since we can’t forget we’re multi-disciplinary athletes.

Spend a few rounds each day isolating the inside game. Glove up, bite down on your mouthguard, set the timer, start from a point of connection, and do your best to not break connection. If you lose connection stop throwing punches, and go back to the drill, get connected again. Work a few rounds with one side on offense, and one side on defense. Then work a few rounds with both sides able to throw however, keep it light. We’re working here so there is no need to try to take anyone’s head off. There are no win/loss records in the gym so let’s act like it. Practice to learn, to discover what works, what doesn’t. Now is the time to put together combos that flow easily for you, and how to best set those combos up. If you’re getting your bell rung when you get hit you’re going to hard. However, if you’re not a little concerned about shutting them down, and avoiding any shots you need to go a little harder. We need to spend a lot of time in here to master the inside game so we can’t get knocked silly every round however, we also need to remember how dangerous it really is in here, and treat it with the required respect. This is the area where headbutts, elbows, knees, sweeps, throws, and assorted mayhem happens. Everything is a weapon in here, and it all has knockout potential. We have to master it, or it will eat us alive.

Fortunately the way is pretty simple, there’s nothing to it but to do it. Glove up, and do work.

Do the Work

Sometimes I need to remind myself to shut up, and get to work. The weights aren’t going to lift themselves, the miles aren’t going to run themselves, and my training partners aren’t going to punch themselves in the face. There is no substitute for doing the work. Sometimes we just have to stop talking about it, and start being about it.

My favorite glass serves as a daily reminder to stop talking about it and be about it.

I understand we need to work smart. The danger is in thinking that to work smart means we don’t have to work hard. Not true. We want to work as efficiently as possible while working as intensely as possible. If there is any secret to high performance, that’s it. Always use the very latest, state of the art training methods however, be prepared to fall asleep each night exhausted. We’re forcing our minds, and bodies to evolve. Sometimes, actually most times it’s just plain old bone crushing hard work. Embrace it.

Inside Game

One of the most beautiful aspects of Boxing is the inside game. A lot of fighters can bang outside. Hitting, and moving with grace while landing combo after combo. When we study the greats such a Sugar Ray Robinson, Sweet Pea Whitaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali, and Bernard Hopkins we are wow’d by distance management through footwork, excellent defense, and a laser like jab. They appear untouchable, and we understand why Boxing is the sweet science. The angles, and timing all come together to create a puzzle the untrained can not solve before losing consciousness.

While a lot of folks can appreciate the easily observed aspects of Boxing, it would behoove us as multi-disciplinary athletes to spend quite a bit of time on developing the inside game. Most folks see boxer working in the clinch, and assume nothing is happening in there. Sometimes that might be the case although one strategy inside is to put weight on your opponent, simply leaning on them causes them to hold you up. This tactic makes them burn more energy while you rest. However, for our purposes we want to look at fighters that did damage inside. Shovel hooks, body shots, and other forms of mayhem that make the opponent wish they were anywhere but here. Let’s talk a little bit about the inside game in this post, and in a later post we’ll go through some drills we can work on to develop the inside game.

The fundamentals of the inside game are similar to other aspects of Boxing. Manage distance, work angles, make the opponent miss, and force them to play your game. One of the best at working inside was/is Roberto Duran. Duran trained, and coached at the same gym I trained at in Miami. It was an amazing experience to have someone with that much skill, knowledge, and experience walking amongst us. Here is a fairly recent clip of Duran sharing some knowledge on the inside game.

Note the congruencies with the other arts we use inside. Elbows in, maintaining head position, keeping our forehead at our opponent’s chin height so we win the hip level game. So many gems in a short clip.

In this clip we can see Duran show some more of his expertise inside. Obviously this is during Sugar Shane’s training camp, and it’s a sparring session so nobody is going to be throwing hard in this context. This gives us the benefit of being able to see what’s happening here. Digging to the body, angles to create openings, controlling the opponent’s arms, and putting together combos that force our opponent to run into the hit he doesn’t see coming. What is the one punch that’s always guaranteed to knock someone out? The one they don’t see coming. When we master the inside game we open up a world of opportunities to land the punch they never saw coming.

One of the greatest masters of working inside was Iron Mike Tyson. His height led him to develop a killer inside game as he was quite short for a heavyweight. He took the peek-a-boo style developed, (or at least codified), by Cus D’Amato to a higher level than most had ever witnessed or encountered. At 5’10” competing against opponents that were 6’3″ or taller, Tyson knew staying outside was a losing game. This is important for the multi-disciplinary athlete as we can’t pick, and choose our opponents. We should always assume we will be smaller, weaker, and fighting from a disadvantage. This understanding should motivate us to developing a lethal inside game. It can be dangerous in there but, for someone that’s taken the time to develop an inside game to a high degree inside is a great place to be.

Here is a short clip of Kevin Rooney, (who along with Teddy Atlas are the heirs to the Peek-A-Boo throne), working some of the core drills that allow a fighter to get inside and stay inside. Head movement, changing levels, pivoting, and creating angles. Always causing the opponent to miss so his body is left exposed so we can dig those bodyshots that drop people like bad habits, and make them feel it for weeks after. An old saying in Boxing is one body shot is worth three shots to the head, and if you’ve ever caught a solid body shot you might be inclined to agree.

That’s if for this post. I hope this motivated you to work on your inside game. There’s nothing to it but to do it, like everything else we do it’s as simple, and as complex as that. In the next post on developing the inside game I’ll share a few drills I’ve been trained to use to develop this aspect.


The New Normal

I often think about the idea of the new normal.  I used to think normal was some form of static position. Then I realized that as we progress in this journey our understanding and definition for what is normal is constantly adjusting. I had the opportunity to talk about this with a friend that is a serious CrossFitter. We were talking about his first WoD years ago. He thought he was going to die, and had some serious doubts as to whether he could drive himself home after the workout. His normal at that time said this level of effort isn’t possible. His normal said he might have pushed himself too far, and this might just be what it feels like right before you die. His version of normal was about to be reset.

Five years later his version of normal, the new normal, is quite different. He now breezes through WoD’s that would have left him on the floor a few years ago. Incrementally, little by little, his normal changed. As he pushed himself he realized he won’t die, he might pass out or puke, but he won’t die. And most importantly he will adapt, and normal will be reset yet again. Here’s the cool thing, this resetting of what he viewed, and accepted as normal in his pursuit of fitness caused him to change his view of what he was willing to accept as normal in other areas of his life.

This applies to everything we do. How often do we feel like a stranger in a strange land? If not very often, then that’s a subject for another day my friend because we all need to be pushing ourselves. How many of us remember our first day on the mat? Getting smashed, smothered, feeling like we were dropped into the deep end of a pool full of sharks. None of this stuff was normal, and we entertained thoughts of quitting until suddenly one day it was the new normal. One day being in that pool with those sharks was just another normal day.


Look at this magnificent beast.                                                           

Here’s the lesson we take from these experiences; look forward to those times of discomfort, of feeling like things are not normal, we are out of our depth, and that this effort might be more than we can sustain. Whether it’s a calorie restriction, or a new sprint training program, whatever it is dig into that feeling of being out of our element knowing that in just a little while we will reset, and this will be the new normal.

Little by little, day after month after year we keep adjusting, and resetting our normal until one day we don’t even remember what it was like to be what most folks call normal. This is our new normal.




In Defense of Women’s Only Jiu Jitsu Classes

Leah Taylor

How to Keep Women Training in Your Gym and

Avoid Creating a Perpetual Man Cave


My name is Leah Taylor.  I’m a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Matt Thornton and Travis Davison.  I’m a coach and competitor out of Straight Blast Gym of Montana.

I’m writing this in response to a face book thread based around this shared article:

The article was written by a female purple belt about some of the benefits of a women’s only class, which I thought were pretty much common knowledge.

I was a bit shocked by the comments related to the article.  I started to write a response on the actual post two or three times and it just got too long; hence the blog.  Here are some of the misconceptions about a women’s only bjj class that came from that post; some were even from other women.

  • A women’s only…

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Some Days

There have been days when I did not want to practice, and doing the work was the farthest thing from my mind. Based on a quite a few conversations with trainees, friends, and my coaches I think it’s safe to say this isn’t unique. We all have those days. In conversation with Coach Craig Douglas of Shivworks fame we were discussing the hectic schedule Craig has been keeping for years. One of the things Craig shared was that even if he doesn’t feel like it he still gets himself into the gym, and trains. Whether it’s jiujitsu or S&C work, he makes himself go. Not surprisingly Craig has found that some of his record breaking days at Southern Elite, or best rounds on the mat have been had on those days.

This is probably not a surprise to most of you. You’ve all experienced the reward of digging deep on those days when everything was resisting your efforts, and you had a breakthrough. I’ve reached a point where on those days when life has beaten me into a pulp, and the last thing I want to do is see another person, those are the days I know I need to do work. Those are the days I know if I show up and put in the effort I’m going to break through, and experience some sort of peak. The more I’m dreading a session the better I know it’s ultimately going to be. Maybe it’s life testing us to see if we have what it takes?

Next time you’re having one of those days, and are planning on blowing off practice, do the opposite. Prepare yourself for an excellent practice session. Remind yourself that the best sessions have occurred on “those” days. Drink some coffee, or whatever you choose as a pre-workout boost, crank up some motivational music, and get to it. Lets say worst case happens and you don’t punch through a plateau. You still put in work which is an investment in your badass account. A bad day on the mat, in the ring, under the iron or on the track is still better than any day sitting on the couch eating bonbons, and being a keyboard warrior.

It’s always a good day.

Always Be Doing


One of the topics Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives, and I have discussed in the past is micro training sessions. Coach Cecil has written about this topic quite a few times and I thought we should re-visit this as we move into the summer months. We all experience the time crunch yet it seems to intensify during the summer. The kids are out of school, there are vacations, we start to tackle the never-ending list of chores that need attention now that the weather is nice, and before we know it we’ve gone a few days or maybe even weeks without a training session. That’s no bueno my friend!

Micro training sessions are the way to fix this problem. Any time you find yourself with 5-10 minutes, get some reps in! We are tempted to say it’s not that simple yet it really is, note I said simple, not easy. If you actively search for opportunities to train, work on your S&C, or deepen your understanding of core concepts related to self protection you WILL find those opportunities. Your mind is a powerful and highly adaptive problem solver. Start putting conscious effort into considering ways to find a few moments each day to invest in micro training sessions and you might be surprised at how resourceful you can be.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” – Thomas Jefferson

Coach Cecil has talked about shadowboxing while waiting for coffee to brew or the shower water to warm up in the morning. Is that a lot of time? Nope. However, if you put enough of those micro sessions together, consistently over time you have hours and hours of reps. Would we rather have those hours of reps or hours of idle time wasted just standing there? I’ll take the reps. We can do the same when prepping food or any other task that involves waiting. During my competition prep periods I would do technical standups, sprawls and other solo drills during slow time at work. I remember the looks I would get from folks when I would sit on the edge of the trunk of the car and do leg raises while fueling up the squad car. Hey, a few more reps invested in armor plating the core can’t hurt right? Who cares what a passerby might think, will they be with you in the ring, cage, on the mat or, (worst case scenario), in a criminal attack? I’d rather have those reps than not have them. Never let a moment pass, DO WORK.