by Travis Lutter

Without a doubt the most crucial phase of a fight whether Mixed Martial (MMA), Muay Thai or self defense is moving from the out of range distance to where we engage the opponent whether offensively or defensively commonly known as "Bridging the Gap".

This transitional phase is also a part of many MMA fighter's games that is often not well developed, most relying on speed in their offense of stand up combinations and take down shooting techniques, or on a sprawling and smothering cover tactics to get a clinch that they may or may not win in their defensive tactics.

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When we break down this transitional "Bridging the Gap" phase we find that the success of an entry to engage the opponent is dependent on a number of factors that include the movements and intentions of the opponent.

At first, when learning mixed martial arts and Muay Thai fighting, the apparent inability to know an opponent's intentions may seem to be out of your control, in a mixed martial arts match, and so the reliance on speed of entry or an overwhelming attack flurry is a workable strategy. However, both of these strategies have a degree of risk that is proportional to the speed of the attack launched, particularly against an experienced fighter.

Let us take a brief look at several strategies that we can train, when learning mixed martial arts, Muay Thai or self defense, that will increase our ability to reasonably predict or pre-empt an opponent's movement in MMA or Muay Thai and therefore greatly reduce the risk factor of our entries and increase our probability of dominating the fight.

1) Learning how to get and utilize angles of entry - The use of angular foot-work for body positioning and the manipulation of the opponent's position by pushing and pulling are found in this class of entry. The angular concept is also used in defense and counter where the maxim "make him miss, make him pay" is a favorite strategy.

2) Establishing and breaking rhythm - The induction of a rhythm in the process of a fight can give opportunities for manipulation of the opponent that open excellent opportunities for attack. Once a rhythm is induced - often with the jab - it can be broken to give an opening for a decisive attack that catches the opponent completely unguarded.

3) Developing techniques and combinations to misdirect and confuse the opponent - The use of feints, combinations and redirected (progressive indirect attack) attacks are the most commonly known and utilized methods of entry and should be incorporated early when learning mixed martial arts.

4) Developing and drilling techniques for precision and economy of motion - learning, training and drilling attacking techniques that have a minimal amount of preparation and maximum economy of motion is crucial, when learning mixed martial arts, so that the number of potential that your opponent will have a chance to react to (telegraphing of strikes) is minimized. This also requires precision and correct use of body biomechanics to launch an effective attack which, in turn, facilitates...

5) Training and developing speed enhancing movement - as mentioned above correct body biomechanics play an integral role here together with the use techniques that take advantage of the stretch reflex and the use of physiological and neuro-physiological enhancing methodologies such as plyometrics.

6) The use of psychological upsetting tactics that take the opponent of his/her game plan - tactics that unsettle the opponent due such factors as their perceived inferiority, lack of conditioning and accumulation of debilitating hits that slowly weaken them and lead them to "gassing out" and the introduction of self doubt (psyched out).

7) In addition another area we must consider is that of the defensive entry - Attention to good defensive tactics with effective counter-attacks is crucial. When learning martial arts techniques for this situation we must also be aware of the fact that if our purpose is for the mixed martial art and Muay Thai fighting arena there are certain tactics that we should, and must drill, to the point of unconscious competency, whereas, for street self defense these tactics may be totally useless and a different set of strategies must be learned.

When learning mixed martial arts, Muay Thai or for that matter any fighting system taking the time to seek out and learn tactics that teach us how to use angles, rhythm, economy of motion, misdirection and speed enhancing movements will pay big dividends in the way we can influence and control the opponent.

This together with disciplined drilling of techniques that maximize economy of motion, reduce telegraph and increase the opponents reaction time, due to confusing entry signals, will greatly enhance your ability to engage the opponent in a manner that increases the probability of domination at this point of the fight.


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