Monday, February 17, 2014

Mixed Martial Arts: Pound for Pound MMA: Nashville, TN

Background: I heard of Pound for Pound via a colleague at work while visiting Nashville. When I told him that I did Martial Arts he mentioned that I could go down the street and check out this “new” place he had seen. With no knowledge of who this school was I drove over expecting to find a new, sparsely populated school desperate for students. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Instead I arrived at a school that was packed with students. I came in at the transition between the kid’s class and the adult class and it was wild. 6000 square feet of floor space was alive with bodies. From the gym in the back to the ring and octagon people were training everywhere. Immediately Coach Brandon Bolton walked over and we struck up a conversation. After having to deny that I fathered any of the children in his class we talked about the project and Coach Bolton said he’d be happy to participate. He also took the time to introduce me to their head striking coach, Bernard “Swiftkick” Robinson.
Pound for Pound MMA sports a gorgeous facility complete with an Octogon.
The facility is so large I couldn't fit it in a single frame. 

I will admit that I was nervous when I returned to film the “Fighter’s Eyes” video. Both Coach Bolton and Coach Bernard were accomplished Martial Artists with a lot of experience on the competition floor. Coach Bolton has competed in numerous MMA and grappling competitions and Coach Robinson holds a 62 – 8 record with 32 finishes by knockout.  This was the largest fight camp I had ever been to and there were butterflies in my stomach. Both these guys were amazing fighters and camps tend to reflect their coaches. I didn't what I was going to be doing but I was actually worried of being busted up by their top guys.

However, like most of our fears in life mine turned out to be entirely baseless. Coach Bolton and Coach Robinson welcomed me into their classes and paired me up with great people to work with. On their website they say “No egos, no BS, just like minded individuals getting together to better an art and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.” That was exactly what I experienced when I walked through the door. They worked with me at my level and showed patience and a good laugh.
I fade back from a punch during the boxing training. 
My partner had enormous patience as I memorized the patterns. 

What did I learn: Coach Bolton’s No-Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was an incredible learning experience for me. I should preface this by saying that I am a capable grappler. I know enough of what I am doing to be dangerous but I lack polish. I win most of my grappling matches because of my Sanda experience. I control the takedown and establish a dominant position and against most low to mid-level grapplers I can secure the victory. Yet my game has some major holes in it. Most critically what happens when someone gets me in Side Mount. As a big guy with much of his height in his legs I can shrimp and get a leg in but I have trouble sliding the rest of my leg through to bring them to guard. Most of time to exit Side Mount I will bait the Full Mount and roll with them because I can bridge high. Although, this works against low level fighters it falls flat against more experienced fighters which can leave me in a dangerous place.
Coach Bolton demonstrates how to roll an opponent using the X-Guard.

Whether by chance or by fate it turned out that Coach Bolton was working on escapes from side control. I had never practised the “X-Guard” before in any length and it proved to be an extremely enlightening class. Suddenly I didn't have to get my leg all the way through to get guard. Rather, I just had to shrimp out and then get my knee on my partner’s belly. The other leg hooks the foot in and forms an “X” with your first leg.
An advanced student invites me into the world of BJJ. 

Once I had the basics of the X-Guard down I began to learn a plethora of ways to tackle the problem of getting out of Side Mount. First I worked a couple of ways to roll my partner over me. This established a dominant position and allowed me to work submissions. Following the rolls we moved into using the X-Guard to pop your partner’s hips back and secure a choke. Finally, we moved back to a basic escape about how to escape an opponent that is smothering you. Coach Bolton showed how to use basic human nature to outsmart an opponent. It was hands down a fantastic series of lessons I will always carry with me.
Coach Bolton will continue the roll into a submission. 

What was similar: Pound for Pound is an MMA school and as the name suggests it is about mixing Martial Arts. The first class of the evening was a boxing class with Coach Robinson. When I spoke to Coach Robinson he had mentioned that he had fought alongside a fighter from Ottawa, Ontario where I used to live. To know that he had fought on the same cards as Jean Yves “The Iceman” Theriault reminded me what a small world Martial Arts is.
Coach Robinson walks us through the striking drill. 

Coach Robinson had us doing pad work and striking drills to improve our hand speed. I have done a lot of pad work as it is a staple of just about every striking Martial Art. However, I have never done pad work like this before. Normally when we doing pad work it consists of shorter combos and the partner holding the pads gets to “rest.” What struck me about the way Coach Robinson taught his class was that the drills got increasingly complex as the class moved on. However, it wasn't just the fact that the drills got more complex for the striker but also that the partner holding the pads had to be involved as well.

The pad holder is required to be almost as active as the striker throwing a variety of straights and hooks. This forces the striker to keep sharp and slip the shots. I loved that it forced the partners to work together instead of just “holding the pads.” Because both fighters were invested in the training it kept both fighters active and engaged. When you see the hand speed this develops it causes you to wonder about some of the drills I have seen demoed. Youtube is full of “How to beat a boxer” videos that show a fighter blocking a boxer’s punch and delivering 3 or 4 punches before blocking the next punch. It is clear they have never seen the hand speed of Coach Robinson’s team because there is no chance of that working at Pound for Pound MMA. This was a great lesson to have learned and a wonderful addition to the pad work I will do in the future.
My partner slips a punch. I had to work and stay active even while holding the pads. 

Conclusion: I have said in previous articles fight camps take on the attitude of their coaches. Pound for Pound MMA is no different. Here you have top coaches that want to push their fighters. In return you get great fighters that want to be pushed and will work hard. Pound for Pound MMA has the coaches and the facilities to develop top fighters. Look for them to be contenders on the regional MMA scene as solid place to train or get your start as a pro fighter. 
Myself and the BJJ Class at the end of the night. Pound for Pound MMA is an amazing training camp.

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
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