In recent years, members of the strength and conditioning industry have become more involved (than ever before) in the development of combat athletes. Fighters often turn to strength and conditioning coaches in search of greater strength, power, speed, and endurance.
At face value, the extra attention (from the coaches) and the eagerness of the athletes should be commended. Unfortunately, many athletes make the mistake of focusing too much attention on the supplemental work, and not enough on the actual skills of their respective sports. The S&C coach who doesn’t truly understand the specifics of the sport is also at fault. He must understand the intensity and steep learning curve of the combat sport.
Strength, power, and added endurance mean little if the athlete lacks skill. Superior skill is the ultimate equalizer, and regardless of what you read in an advertisement, there is absolutely no substitute for skill training with an experienced coach. As a fighter, much of your development takes place inside the ring or cage. Even the best book, video, or web page can’t provide you with live sparring.
The video clip below shows the importance and danger of skill. Watch how Donald Curry counters the jab with a perfectly placed left hook.
Milton McCrorry never has a chance to brace for the punch, as he is hit before he even knows it. All of the strength training in the world wouldn’t have saved him, nor would the most sophisticated periodization model. Curry beat him with skill. The counter left hook is a thing of beauty when properly executed. Developing the skill and instinct to land this punch without conscious thought requires many hours inside the ring. You can’t buy this ring experience in a book. It only comes to those who put in hours of work at the gym.
The lesson to be learned is simple. Each piece of the puzzle is valued, but no single piece should stand in the way of skill development. Supplemental work is supplemental. Do not make the mistake of putting supplemental work in place of your actual sport/skill.