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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-25-2010, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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New student - hitting a psychological barrier in my training


I recently started MMA training six weeks ago, and I have been training consistently three times a week. I've hit a psychological barrier that I hope you more experienced people can help me with.

A little background info on me:

I have no previous experience with martial arts or wrestling. I have an athletic build and am in very good cardiovascular shape. I normally train four to five times a week switching between cardio, Crossfit, high-intensity training and some power lifting. I'm not a big guy (5' 10", 165 pounds), but I have low body fat and am what you might describe as "lean".

I started MMA training for the challenge of learning something new, to get in the best possible shape, and to learn how to handle myself if I should ever need to protect myself. I have no desire to get into a ring or fight competitively. That said, I'm not timid in my training, and I push myself harder than others in my class.

The school I chose is a Karate school, but all their adult classes are built around MMA. They incorporate Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. Classes alternate from A Weeks (striking and Muay Thai) to B weeks (BJJ and self defense). Adult classes include people of a variety of skill levels and sizes (as well as both genders, although they encourage only male-male and female-female matches for sparing and grappling).

Here's my problem: I often get paired up against guys who weigh 40 pounds or more than me, or someone who has previous wrestling or boxing experience. Try as I might, I keep feeling outmatched. (I admit that I'm a beginner and have a very undeveloped skills set.) My issue here though is that supposedly technique, leverage and speed can level the playing field when it comes to people of disproportionate sizes. Most of the time I find myself overpowered and just struggling to defend in a difficult position.

In addition, with so many white belts in the class (who notoriously lack self-control and usually approach sparing and rolling from a muscle-match point of view), it's tough to apply the techniques we practice.

How can I continue training and improve my skill level without suffering a confidence defeat after every session? I appreciate any thoughts or advice from others who were once new to this too.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 10:30 PM
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How long have you been training for? I'm in the same boat as you, (5'10", 150lbs) with all the guys at training outweighing me by at least 20lbs.

If you're in a class with a lot of big guys, just ask them to take it easy, because under pressure you're not going to be able to have a good chance at focusing on techniques. Do a lot of light, technical sparring. Experienced guys should be more than happy to help you learn. Don't think of being beaten as a bad thing, defeat helps you learn. What would you learn if you were to only spar against people less skilled than you?
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 11:24 PM
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I don't think any pep talk anyone can give you will be the rallying cry you're hoping it will be. There's not a soul who can tell you something that will give you the heart and hope to continue. I, or anyone else, can give you our words of wisdom that will help, but 80%+ of finding your motivation is on you and you alone. You're going to want this, or you don't, y'know?

My words of wisdom is the following: Take solace in the knowledge that it is at white belt that the precedents are set. The way in which you study martial arts henceforth is decided at this level. If you're working hard now, you'll work hard later, and you will always ultimately see the benefits of that hard work. While your classmates to whom this "comes naturally" or who "muscle through", they don't understand the need to truly improve their skills now, and so they will not understand that need later on. They slack now, they'll slack later. They will never have good Karate.

I think of it not unlike playing an instrument. There's plenty of those people who play an instrument well, who can impress with their music. But then there's always that one guy in your group of musically inclined friends who never really plays infront of people, doesn't talk much about his music, nothing. Because he doesn't really need to, cause everybody knows that guy can shred better than anybody.

A year, two years, or three from now, those other guys who are in your class now will be walking around with some mediocre skills, but people will know that they practice(d) martial arts, and will think of those guys as tough as nails. Probably nobody will know what you can do, except for those guys who attend(ed) class with you. And those guys who everyone thinks are tough as nails, well, those guys will be secretly thinking that about you, with a voice in the back of their head saying, "I won't mess with him, that boy will put me down. He's just on a different plane."

Be humble. Do your thing. Do it well. Give it time. It'll come.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 04-02-2010, 04:59 PM
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Honestly, in a white belt class, you have to expect those who will just try and power through. As the level of skill of the students increase, they could possibly be less likely to rely on muscle, then again, some might rely on both muscle and technique. But as your skills increase, your ability to roll with your opponents more effectively will increase. You said yourself its only been six weeks. Some of what you have learned may not even be close to muscle memory yet. And because its still technical and you have to think about it, you go slower. And since you're small, against a bigger guy who's relying on sheer size to overwhelm you, you're overmatched.

If you want to do something, anything to contribute to your training, to narrow the gap with oversized guys outwrestling you. I would recommend some kind of strength training. As for technique, it'll come eventually. There's really nothing you can do to speed up technique development besides sparring. I would recommend finding a regular sparring partner and go through all of the motions slowly over and over to burn those techiques into muscle memory.

On that day you finally tap out some oversized white belt, you'll feel like GOD!

Last edited by Bloodhound; 04-02-2010 at 05:05 PM.
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