Assessing your performance in MMA – Understanding The Technical Gap

In the first part of this series we looked at some of the reasons why you might not feel like you are progressing as much as you really are and in the second part we gave our top four tips for seeing progression in yourself. In this final part of the series we look at an additional important factor when it comes to assessing your progression in MMA training – the gap between how well you can do a technique under ideal conditions and how well you can do it when the pressure and intensity increase.

Assessing the gap between these two measures is a vital part of understanding your progression. With any individual technique, set combination or tactical piece the first thing you’ll learn is how to apply it under ideal conditions – in other words with a compliant training partner at a relaxed pace and with little intensity. Under these kinds of conditions your base technique should improve quite quickly, with the right instruction and a few repetitions you should start to get to grips with the elements you are working on (depending on the complexity). However, this is very different from being able to apply the technique in a competitive scenario, whether that’s intense sparring in training or in actual MMA competition.

At the point when you are first learning a technique this gap will be at its greatest, you may be able to demonstrate a rudimentary ability to perform the technique under ideal conditions but you’ll find it almost impossible to pull off in a competitive MMA environment. At the other end of the spectrum once you’ve been performing a technique for years you should be able to perform it at a very high standard under ideal conditions and only experience a small drop off in technique when you perform it in competition. So really there are 3 measures for any technique

  • Ability to perform it under ideal conditions
  • Ability to perform it in a competitive environment
  • The gap between these two measures

Let’s take a 0-10 scale as our measure of ability – when you first learn a technique the numbers may be something like this

Ideal : 4
Competitive : 0
Gap : 4

After a good few months of hard work the numbers may look more like this

Ideal : 7
Competitive : 4
Gap : 3

so you’ve improved both your ability to perform it under ideal conditions and you’ve become considerably better at making it work in a competitive situation. Also you’ve managed to close the gap between these two measures and the gap is down to 3.

After another year or so the numbers may look more like this

Ideal : 8
Competitive : 7
Gap : 1

You’ve now managed to bring your performance in a competitive scenario up to almost the same standard as you can do it in ideal circumstances and the gap is only 1.

The time when these measurements become really important is after you’ve been practising a technique for several months. The learning curve for any technique grows rapidly at the start and then starts to shallow as you become more component. If you just measured your performance under ideal conditions you wouldn’t see so much improvement after a while as the gains become much smaller but at the same time you’re still likely to be making really good ground with your performance under competitive conditions. If you recognise this as a separate measure then you can continue to see progress and be motivated by it.

Ultimately you want the gap between these two measures to be as small as possible while understanding that they won’t ever be the same – there’s always some drop off when it comes to performing the techniques when the pressure is on especially at times where you may be exhausted. As someone who has been training for decades the gap is where I focus much of my self assessment. I can perform many of the techniques that I know to a very high level under ideal conditions but some have a much larger gap than others when it comes to a competitive scenario. Being conscious of this allows me to focus my training appropriately and really concentrate on reducing the gap where I can.

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