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Reactive Strength: Neck Mobility For MMA And Boxing.

Recently a few fighters and coaches asked me how to prevent concussions and knock-outs in MMA. Learn how to improve your strength and agility too!

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Note: This is part one, click here for part two!

Recently a few fighters and coaches asked me how to prevent concussions and knock-outs in MMA. I recently read a trainer commenting that because people said his neck "looked stronger and thicker" he advised people to do what he does: Nose-to-Mat Bridges. Guys like this always try to out-condition rather than out-perform opponents. They concern themselves with exhausting the opponent by trying to make the opponent work harder. But they always fail to develop the notion of paralyzing the adversary by denying him the OPPORTUNITY TO EXPEND EFFORT. They remain locked inside the box lacking an understanding of SPECIFIC performance enhancement.

A Russian national boxing coach advised me many years ago, when it comes to absorbing blows to the head, it is less about girth and more about enhanced muscle reactivity: timing, rhythm, coordination, suppleness and agility!

These two strategies fought it out on the only 3D battlefield: the skies. The convention was one of attrition: superior speed and strength targeting decisive victory. These jets were either loaded to the teeth and armored like flying concrete bunkers or lightly armed and armored jets that could sprint flat-out. This strategy derives from Carl von Clausewitz, the foremost Western philosopher of War. Even the U.S. Marine Corps' fighting doctrine "Warfighting" finds its basis on Clausewitz's "On War."

Clausewitz advised attacking the most densely-concentrated mass: the center of gravity. The reciprocal was also true: fortify one's center of gravity and then strike out from it. This overwhelming force is the dominant model for competition (whether the average grunt or coach knows his philosophical influences or not). We see this in the creation of many effective fighters in short training time. However, you will never find a great athlete using this strategy, especially with a cradle-to-grave history of efficiency, potency and triumph.

Enter one USAF fighter pilot John Boyd. His premise was that a moderately fast, moderately armed and armored but HIGHLY AGILE jet would be victorious over the (heavy) "bricks" and the (fast) "needles." He proved this over and over again: agility could outmaneuver both power and speed, respond decisively to fast-changing conditions, and defeat its rivals consistently. And he helped design and champion the F-16, a jet which defies physics, and represents everything Boyd knew about competition. It maneuvers like Baryshnikov unfettered by gravity and Randy Couture with 29,000 pounds of thrust.

Clausewitz and the thick-necked cadre neglect the impact of magnifying uncertainty in an opponent. You Renegades out there know this as the difference between the Zone and the Upward Performance Spiral and the Vortex and the Downward Performance Spiral. They don't get inside the opponent's mind, or as Col. Boyd described-the OODA loop.

How Speed & Agility Benefit You

Strike at the vulnerable yet critical connective tissue and the activities which permit a large center of gravity to exist, Boyd guided. An agile athlete transitions more rapidly than thicker or faster counterparts can respond, and so opponents fall farther and farther behind the swift sword of agility. Ever see an opponent that just doesn't know where to move next, who gets increasingly more confused by the blitz of an agile athlete? Agility can help you move and strike like a swarm of bees destabilizing the opponent's center of gravity and causing many conflicting and independent centers of gravity within him. How many times have we seen a great fighter just rip the rug out from under a "stronger and thicker looking" opponent?

Are you training to be an F-16 or a B2 Bomber? Victory isn't simply a matter of being fastest to strike, or of expending the greatest effort, or of having the largest girth. You MAY win by using any of those methods but only if you do one thing more: outmaneuver your opponent.

Which One Are You?

Agility is the essence of strategy in the air and on the mat. Agility will help you decode the environment before he does, act decisively, and then capitalize on his initial confusion by confusing him more. Push him in the Vortex! Neck mobility is more important than girth.

That's the bottom line. Stay relaxed and go at your own pace. You might want to start slow, using your arms to support your body as you check your neck's range of motion. Don't push yourself past ranges you're not ready for. Exhale through the entire motion. And, of course, try the neck roll in both directions. Fly like an eagle.

Click Here For Part Two - De-SISS-ifying Pushups!

Scott Sonnon