Fill in the blanks

Written by Graham Kuerschner

Think your skill set has no holes? Think matter how many wins you've had.

Rousey-Holm-CREDIT-PAUL-CROCK AFP Getty-Images
 Holly Holm knocks out Ronda Rousey at UFC193. Photo credit: Aul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

Along with 57, 240 others, I went to UFC 193 in Melbourne. By chance I was at the ‘open workout’ on the Thursday beforehand at Federation Square to see all the main card fighters do a demo/promotional workout. This was my first chance to see Ronda Rousey in action continuously for more than a minute or two (it was 30 minutes) live and uninterrupted by film edit cutaways, etc. It was clearly the Ronda show but I came away both impressed and at the same time quite disturbed at what I saw. I did a quick post on my school’s Facebook page on that Thursday, three days before the fight. That post is still up there as proof.

“Surprises:…Ronda had all 4 coaches and a segment with each: Judo, wrestling, BJJ (Rener Gracie) and boxing. She needs some Muay Thai. No kicks!! Knees fast but no hip thrust and elbows not technically correct (says he). Shocked me a bit.”

I was going to also write that her footwork and body movement were poor, especially compared to Holly, who was on previously. However, I deliberately edited myself so as not to be too negative. Another analyst after the event called her movement “awkward”. Have another look at Rousey’s fight with Beth[e] Correia and you’ll also see it there — but of course, she easily won that fight so it didn’t matter.

I followed with another Facebook post on the Sunday after the fight:

“What did I say in my overly long report Thurs after the open workout? … Crap footwork, no kicking ability and hence no practice at kick defence. Read again what I said 3 days ago!

Yes her approach has worked till now but…don’t you think someone as switched on as Greg bloody Jackson would see what I could see.”

I’ve competed at the national level in both judo (Rousey’s specialty) and kickboxing but I don’t regard myself as a combat sport instructor, as my heart is in teaching self-defence. So my rant was fuelled by both frustration at what I believed to be obvious holes in Rousey’s sport combat game and genuine confusion that this wasn’t obvious to those in the game beforehand. It was, of course, mentioned in many of the post-event articles written by post-event experts, but not before.

My point? Well, while Rousey’s loss was arguably due to a combination of factors including personal issues and exhaustion due to overcommitment, she still had holes in her game that surprisingly went unnoticed. Certainly it went unnoticed by her head coach, Edmund Tarverdyan, who was quoted the day after the fight by as saying: “Holm wasn’t getting the better of Ronda in the striking”. Say what? All credit to the talent of Holly and her team to make the holes plain for all to see.

But I digress. My point is that you can have no holes in your game — and worse is when you believe you don’t, but you do. That applies to sport combat just as it does to self-defence. You can have fights (in the ring or street) and, as much by chance as design, the nature and parameters of those fights suit your game, your areas of strength. These fights — through pure luck — don’t take a direction that exposes your weaknesses, so you come to believe even more that you’ve got it sorted, that your style or approach is the best.

I’ve noticed that some sport fighters can carry that arrogance. One of my instructors was recently at a gathering at a crowded city hotel with some sports grapplers. The grappling instructor happened to be a friend of ours. One of his senior students openly and confidently said, for all within earshot to hear, “If anything goes down, leave it to me. I’ll sort it.” My instructor, an experienced security professional and veteran of many pub fights, just rolled his eyes. Misplaced confidence in the ring may lose you a sporting win; on the street it may lose you a whole lot more. Either way, my advice is to stay modest, assume you have holes in your game and always look for what you can learn from others to fill those gaps. By all means argue the virtues of your approach, but be careful not to slip into arrogance. Life may just choose that point in time to hand you a big lesson — perhaps a very public and painful one.

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