Open Mouth Insert Foot : Part 6
Anything can happen in a fi ght. Once the match up has been confi rmed, the odds-makers set the lines, the so-called experts make their predictions, and everyone else weighs in – from informal water cooler talk to published articles and blogs. But the bout’s outcome is ultimately decided in the cage. Flesh and bone. Strength and skill. Heart and desire. That’s why fi ghts – and all sporting contests, for that matter – actually take place rather than just get bandied about ad nauseam on chalkboards, strategy schematics, and computer screens. When the fur begins to fl y, anything can happen.
Take the Mark Kerr/Kazuyuki Fujita bout at the 2000 PRIDE Grand Prix. The consensus was that the “Smashing Machine” would pulverize “Ol’ Ironhead.” Apparently, the Japanese wrestler didn’t subscribe to that theory and earned a hard fought decision victory. And then there’s the fi rst Matt Serra/Georges St. Pierre bout. The Sin City handicappers had “The Terror” as a 7-1 dog. Turns out, GSP’s chin was the Yorkie and Matt’s fi sts were the Pit Bulls; Serra won by TKO in the very fi rst round. And not too long ago there was the fi ght between everyone’s favorite Howdy Doody-on-steroids-look-alike Forrest Griffi n and the #2 pound-for-pound best MMA fi ghter in the friggin’ world: Mauricio Rua. A ridiculous underdog, few people on the planet gave the inaugural TUF winner a chance. Lo and behold, Forrest didn’t just beat Shogun, he absolutely dominated him for three solid rounds before submitting him via rear naked choke. And if that stunning upset doesn’t convince you that the impossible is most certainly possible, take a time machine back to February 11, 1990 where an unheralded heavyweight by the name of James “Buster” Douglas knocked out the most ferocious boxer the world has ever known, none other than “Iron” Mike Tyson. The biggest upset in the history of organized pugilism, Tyson was listed by The Mirage’s sports book as a 42-1 favorite.
However, stellar upsets aren’t just limited to the ring and the cage. In 1980, a group of amateur collegiate hockey players beat a seasoned, professional Russian squad in the gold medal match at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid; the aptly named “Miracle On Ice.” And then there’s the Joe Namath-led New York Jets trumping the highly favored Baltimore Colts in 1969’s Superbowl III. Yet another Olympic vision quest with a tearjerker ending came at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, where the world’s toughest teddy bear, American wrestler Rulon Gardner, defeated the Kremlin’s Alexander Karelin to capture the gold medal. Not only was the “Russian Bear” carrying a 13-year unblemished record at the time of their bout, he hadn’t given up a single point during the last six!
It’s stories like these that I keep in the back of mind as I train for my upcoming fi ght. The odds are defi nitely stacked against me – age, experience, and skill will all be in my opponent’s favor, no matter who they match me up with – unless, of course, I wind up fi ghting Clay Aiken or Cindy Brady. It all boils down to the simple fact that anything can happen in a fi ght. Be that as it may, I am still doing everything I can to tilt the balance of power in my favor. I fi gure at this late stage of my athletic life, if there ever was such a thing, and factoring in the whole “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” scenario, there is simply no way I will beat anyone using conventional training methods. So, I’ve been going off the reservation to fi ll in the gaping holes of my fi ght game. Granted, some of the training routines you are about to read are as far from the norm as a super model with a hairy back and a long weenie but, hey, give me a break, I have to try something!
This worked out pretty well for the samurai so I thought I’d give it a shot. The Japanese art of test cutting with katanas (samurai swords), tameshigiri is ideal for building upper body strength, core strength, hand-eye coordination, balance and, if that’s not enough, it’s helped me connect even further with the history, tradition and spirituality of martial arts. It also might come in handy one day if I’m ever attacked by fresh produce at a farmer’s market and I happen to be armed with a ginsu! Although I have swung a sword or two in my day, it had been a long time since I engaged in any formal practice. So I called my friend Jason Moore, Operations Manager at Swords of Might (www.SwordsOfMight. com), “Your complete swords store.” Bottom line, when it comes to swords and edged weapons, if they don’t sell it, you don’t need it! Jason was kind enough to set me up with a hardy blade, a Paul Chen Practical Elite katana, to help get me back into the swing of things (pun intended). Now, while I certainly don’t claim to be the next Toshiro Mifune, and my cutting strokes are far from silky smooth, I’m reasonably certain Uma Thurman wouldn’t be too much trouble to dispatch. At worst, I know I could slice off Quentin Tarantino’s head. All kidding aside, as a training method for unarmed combat, using the sword has greatly improved my power, upper body rotation, and focus. Now if only they’d let me bring that sword into the cage!
CATCH THE PIG
It goes without saying that Sly Stallone looked like a tweeker in the midst of a meth meltdown when his lovable little trainer, Mickey, had him chasing those chickens in Rocky II. However, I did a little digging and discovered this is actually a legit technique for improving reactionary speed and odd-angle directional change. It certainly worked for Rocky; Apollo Creed went down for the count. Ahh, but he probably studied the script. Chances are my opponent won’t give two shits how my pre-fi ght screenplay reads. I fi gured if chickens were the “it” training tools of the late ‘70s, there had to be a better way to go in 2008. Months of research led me to a small village in the interior of southern Mexico. There I would learn to chase…drum-roll please… guinea pigs. I know, I know, it sounds as if I took one too many jabs (or roundhouse kicks) to the noggin. But until you’ve actually tried chasing those furry little varmints around, don’t poo-poo the idea. It’s not that they’re extremely fast creatures, or abnormally shifty, or overfl owing with endurance, but they have the ability to send out subliminal messages, getting you to think they’re going one way when they’re actually going another. And unless you counter their initial move immediately, too bad, so sad, bye-bye. It took me close to fi ve hours before I fi – nally was able to grasp the proper footwork to be profi cient. But considering that Rocky was able to catch chickens after only a couple scenes, the way I see it the score reads: domesticated rodents 1, poultry 0.
CHINNING WITH A GOLF BALL
First thing trainers will tell you, and this goes for pros and newbies alike: “Hands up, chin down.” Well, not being accustomed to formal hand-to-hand combat, when I fi rst started training my chin was anywhere but down. Hell, during some sparring sessions, if I gift-wrapped my jaw and stuck it on a silver platter it wouldn’t have been offered up any more obviously. But after eating a few stiff rights and lefts – along with a fl ying knee and a couple of kicks – I got the message. But just to make certain that point was driven home, I began practicing hitting the bag and shadow boxing with a golf ball tucked beneath my chin. If the ball dropped, I was screwing up. Talk about an odd, unnatural sensation. It made me feel like I had a nasty case of whiplash but was too cheap to spring for the neck brace. However, any exercise that’s designed to keep my head from being knocked onto my back – or worse – I’m all for it.
I didn’t wrestle in high school. All due respect to those that did, but the male-on-male contact just didn’t do it for me. I realize it’s a macho athletic pursuit, but what can I say? I’m just not wired to enjoy rolling around on a mat with muscular, sweaty dudes. However, I know I’m going to need some rudimentary wrestling skills if I hope to prevail in my cage match. Naturally, I wanted to receive that training on my terms. My search led me to the doors of the CCTTJWA – the Collegiate Co- Ed Tag-Team Jell-O Wrestling Association. Comprised of three dozen fraternity brothers and sorority sisters from a smattering of Western universities, when these Greeks get together to party, togas and oil are swapped out for bathing suits and fruit-fl avored gelatin. It took a while for me to get my footing (once again, pun intended) in the sport, as some of the maneuvers are a lot more tricky than they appear, but by the end of the day I had a pretty fi rm grasp on ten solid techniques, most of which should translate well to the cage. Now, if only my upcoming opponent was a 5’5”, 120-pound brunette with big boobs and a perfect ass like the chicks I spent the day battling amid gallons of translucent raspberry dessert, I’d have it licked!
Wanderlei Silva uses snorkel training to vastly improve his cardiovascular endurance. I watched a little bit of his routine on the Internet. Fuck that noise! Way too hardcore for me. Instead, I found a training regimen that’s similar in spirit but ultimately more satisfying. While it still involves a snorkel and the taping of your nostrils, it also involves a house of ill repute. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to involve a pay-for-play sex joint, but when I walked into my girlfriend’s bedroom with the snorkel in my mouth and my nose taped shut, my chick completely freaked! She even pulled a gun from beneath the bed and threatened to shoot unless I about-faced and scrammed. All dressed up with no one to plough, I tried my luck at the fi rst singles bar I came to but the snorkel proved to be one helluva cock-blocker. Not wanting to risk a third strike, I decided to use my paltry but workable FIGHT! Magazine expense account to get the job done. So I dashed out to Pahrump, picked a semi-pretty from the Moonlight Bunny Ranch’s line-up, and put my technique to the test. I’d give you all the details of the subsequent exercise but a gentleman never talks. Just use your imagination. I know I did!
Without trying to sound like a complete egomaniacal asshole, I’m extremely profi cient with fi rearms. Pistols, rifl es, shotguns, submachine guns; put a gun in my hand and chances are I can shoot the hell out of it. So when one of my trainers suggested I increase my usual weekly range sessions, I thought he was a bit daft. How the heck could coring human silhouette targets at distances of seven yards to a thousand yards possibly help me inside the Octagon? The answer: target acquisition. By practicing bringing my sights to bear on shooting targets, my mind and body would subconsciously be trained, as well. It would sharpen my focus, creating a mental tunnel vision of sorts, so that when it’s time to fi ght, I see only my opponent and nothing else. Besides, when it comes to smuggling, swords are rather diffi cult to conceal. But a gun? Much, much easier. Now, if only I knew where to fi nd a miniature M-60 that’ll fi t inside my cup!
LET THE HEALING BEGIN
Last but certainly not least, my body is desperately craving some rest and recuperation time. My left knee (not the one I initially injured) sounds like a spastic electric accordion with gravel inside it. When I put a lot of weight on it, it feels as if a hundred Humboldt squid are trying to pull it in different directions. My middle fi nger on my left hand – dislocated twice during sparring sessions – now sports a knot that looks as if the central joint is pregnant. My left ankle feels like it contains some of the Jell-O I recently rolled around in. And my right elbow has been drained twice; the fl uid removed looked like it came straight from a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Where does that leave me? Hell if I know. Another month or so and I should be ready. Uh, maybe.