Everyone knows who MMA superstar Conor McGregor is. But few people know how he uses karate in his MMA game. I’m Jesse
from, a.k.a “The Karate Nerd” and today I want to break down how Conor McGregor uses the classical Japanese martial art of karate to
supercharge his MMA skills. In fact, there are four very cool things from karate
that Conor McGregor loves to use in MMA. Check ’em out: Number one is what we call “ma ai” in Japanese, or simply distancing in English. Conor McGregor is a master at
controlling the distance, because he uses his distance as a weapon, intentionally,
instead of just fighting from wherever he happens to be, like many other MMA
fighters do. Conor McGregor loves to keep the distance because whoever controls
the distance controls the fight, and of course he wants to be in control. Meaning
he wants to be safe but still be able to attack whenever he wishes to. Conor
McGregor loves to put his opponent in the danger zone while he himself remains
in the safety zone. Using his footwork he can easily go in and out of his distance.
We call this “ashi sabaki” in Japanese as well as body movement and positioning
known as “tai sabaki” in Japanese. Once these skills are combined Conor McGregor
becomes an expert at controlling the distance and controlling the fight.
Intentionally not habitually. Classical karate fighting is all about controlling
the distance to control the fight. The second karate skill that Conor
McGregor loves to use in his MMA is his stance. In Japanese we refer to this
fighting position as “kamae” and Conor McGregor has a great kamae compared
to the other fighters in MMA. If you compare the stance of Conor McGregor to
any other MMA fighter you will usually see that he doesn’t have that boxing
type or wrestling type stance that a lot of other fighters have because of their
background. Conor McGregor loves to keep his hips to a 45-degree angle not
straight on, he has his weight centered meaning he has almost a 50/50 balance or
weight distribution in his legs which gives him that optimal ratio of mobility
and stability. Meaning, he can knock you out if you get too close, he has that
stability and punching power, but he can also move away if he wants to control
the distance – like I said previously. The cool thing about Conor McGregor’s
fighting stance is that he can switch to the other side, which is also a classical
karate move. If you want to have a defensive tactic you keep your strong
side to the back. If you want to be more offensive you keep your strong side to
the front. The ability to switch kamae whenever you want gives you a freedom in
your fighting that very few fighters have. In my opinion that’s classical karate.
But let’s not forget the hands. Look at how freely he moves his hands around
because he knows that his legs can always get him to safety.
Conor McGregor doesn’t rely on his hands to block or cover up for blows. He can
use them to strike from whatever angle he wants to – and that is such a classical
karate stance. The third thing that Conor McGregor stole, I mean “borrowed” from karate is his kicks. Conor McGregor can throw kicks from any angle at any point
in time. He loves to do spinning kicks, back kicks and hook kicks. We call these
“ushiro geri” and “ura mawashi geri” in Japanese, there are so many different terms
for these kicks in karate. The point is, few other fighters have the
freedom and the mobility and the technical know-how and the willingness,
therefore, to throw these types of kicks because it’s such a high-risk move. But
not to somebody like Conor McGregor. He knows that for high reward
there is high risk, and with his type of training and understanding of the human
body it’s not high risk. The payoff from landing one of these unorthodox karate
kicks is totally worth it. Combining these kicks with his distance management
and his stances, switching all of that up and mixing it together it’s just one
more secret to the enigma of Conor McGregor. The last point, number four, is
my favorite. In Japanese we call this “ikken hissatsu” in karate. This simply
means “one punch kill” in English and it’s one of Conor McGregor’s secret weapons.
You see McGregor doesn’t want the fight to go the full length. He wants to knock
you out as soon as he can, with whatever weapon from whatever angle or position.
And the fact that he has that self awareness of how to use and move his
body, means that he has the inter- and intramuscular coordination to sequence
his moves perfectly to knock you out. This is what we call “technique” in karate.
Good technique is the ability to string together your kinetic chain so that you
can generate power even from awkward positions. But “ikken hissatsu”
is not just a physical ability. It is also a mindset. That determination and
focus required to be at your A-Game at all times. Meaning you need to be able to find that opening and knock somebody out whenever you want. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Conor McGregor might look like
he’s relaxed in some of his fights, and he certainly is, but it is a relaxed
awareness. We call this “zanshin” in Japanese. Meaning, he never lets his focus off of you, and whatever he sees that opportunity to
knock you out with one punch, he will. “Ikken hissatsu” – One punch kill. And those were the four main ways that Conor McGregor applies
karate knowledge in his MMA game according to me. What do you think? Do you think he uses other cool karate skills? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Until then, sayonara!

100 Replies to “HOW CONOR MCGREGOR USES KARATE IN MMA — Jesse Enkamp

  1. Thanks for your comments! ? To learn more about my work (books, videos, articles, seminars, training programs etc) visit my website: ?

  2. ok, he stole them from Karate,but the POLICE got him before ending!!Come on! u know he kicks like a green belt, he punches in betwen boxing and sport TKD!

  3. I love Karate's fighting phylosophy: "Whoever controls the distance controls the fight". It's true in every form of martial arts. And to apply that phylosophy, Karate has developed a huge variety of way (stances, movements, training methods).
    I heard this once by Joe Rogan (or Mike Goldberg, I don't remember well) in a fight of Kyoji Horiguchi (an high rank MMA fighter with Karate background), literally means Karate fighters tend to good at spacing. And I totally agree with that statement.

  4. tkd is best for kicks and a lot more fluid. not to be offensive but it is known tkd is the best kickers in the world. so if he wants to learn perfect fluid fast and strong kicking in pretty sure he learned tkd

  5. what about his mouashi geri (side kick)
    giako tzuki ( single punch)
    oshiro geri ( side kick)
    and must of all.. his movment same like in shotokan and shito ryu karate .
    i belive he that some other style in his game that some pepole will notice .

  6. Really good video Jesse! I enjoyed it!i started kyokushin 4 months ago, I'm interested in what you think of kyokushin as a style?

  7. Hey you should try Kyokushin Karate its known to be the hardest karate (i have done it since i was 6) and we do cool shit like breaking baseball bats and ice pillars. We are one of the hardest training styles and we live conditioning our bodies

  8. Hi Jesse, my name is Kaleb and I'm a Taeqwondo student at the Master Choi's institute and I will soon be a black belt but will have for stages to black belt after wards. So I'm just saying hello from South lake Charles Louisiana And look up our school we do some cool things

  9. Hello it's me again we also have a demonstration team including me and 7 others have to be realy good with our forms and combinations including self defense

  10. i think those are skills most mma fighters should have,even if you have a certain background like boxing you shold still aim to be great at everything meaning mma, so i see them not being limmited to karate but further covering a wider range of martial arts

  11. I think these and you explanation of the "karate block" are the knowledge missing in most karate schools all over the world.

    Those that do understand it are able to use it so well in MMA.

    There are so many tactics and techniques that modern MMA can rediscover from karate. If someone can nail Joe Lewis' side kick range game or any other old school karate techniques to complement the MMA fighter, it will be quite a puzzle for people to fight against if they're not familiar with the martial arts history

  12. His yaku Suki is very good hope ive spelled that correctly? He has practiced a few things that works well for him and his distance fighting ,other MMA guys find difficult to adapt to.

  13. Great video. I hope to see him soon into the octagon. BTW what do you think about Floyd mayweather jr going into the octagon?.

  14. Interesting video, as McGregor has apparently never trained Karate or Kung Fu.  Edit:  OK, apparently, he did TKD, which is just Korean version of Shotokan, anyway.

  15. So many McGregor haters and nut huggers but even Stevie Wonder could see McGregor is a phenomenon fighter, looks different in every fight which is very u usual , I gave him no hope in both Diaz fights , won a good few quid in first and lost nearly as much in second, if he could get his cardio higher he would be able to beat anyone in 145 or 155 although fighting at 170 gave me respect for the guy Diaz size advantage was a big factor as McGregor weighed in on fight night at 167 Diaz looked around 185-190 and going 10 rounds with Mayweather in his 1st pro boxing debut was something else I thought he would have about 4 then get dusted , Mayweather steps in that octagon with McGregor he is out inside a minute.

  16. What do you call throwing a dolly through a bus window and cutting ray borgs retina in Japanese lol. Now that that is a karate move you don't see too often!

  17. Yes. 1000% agree with u
    I can realize when i was sparring with my karate do mates these kinds of movement which gives open mindset

  18. Hey Jesse how’s it going? I’m a 17 year old martial artist and I’m currently doing jiujitsu and Muay Thai, but I’m interested in karate as well. I like your vids, and I’m taking everything I have learned from your videos and applying it. Because it I’m teaching myself it may or may not be as effective, but I hope to get better at karate little by little. Thank you so much for the tips 🙂

  19. Been a Shotokan practitioner for 25 years all I can say is that’s. Why him and Machida are so difficult to predict their movements.

  20. MMA is dominated by wrestlers and BJJ practioners. They all learn Muay Thai and that gives a devastating base for MMA. Karate is great too, but it takes a character the level of Wonderboy or McGregor to utilize it effectively. I have done Wado Ryu in the past and I found it interesting extra training. I would never rely on it for fighting though.

  21. btw when u were saying the hook kick names i thought u were ganna say genjis ult btw i do karate and muay thigh i did try to mix em

  22. Conor may using few moves from karate and tkd but his background is kickboxing and he's brown belt in BJJ.

  23. hey jesse i have a question. Im 5'11 200 pounds which type of karate style footwork/stance would be best for someone like me?
    im a big fan of kicks and i think karate has one of the best kind of footwork for it.

  24. I think that karate from Okinawa lacks ground fighting I just think the best style of karate would be a mixed one of bjj and okinawan karate

  25. His fighting stance and move is from karate style (could be from Shito ryu, goju ryu, wado ryu, satokan except kyukoshin) and his hand stricking techniques are 60 percent from boxing and 40 percent from karate.

  26. Great video. I have spoken on this but never the energy or talent to make a video like this. Great stuff as always! I like the “Connor stole” part haha!

  27. The third thing that Connor Mcgregor stole… HAHA I'm still laughing. Nice one Jesse. No need to correct yourself. Stole is the right word. MMA community steals alot techniques from karate and then they shamelessly attribute them to other styles like muay thai. They don't understand that moves in kata are actually MMA. Karate is wrestling with strikes. Just think about it my beloved karate master Jesse. If you didn't make this video and exposing karate techniques that Connor ''stole'' ( haha still laughing ) do you think that anyone would say that he uses karate ? No they would say that he uses ''modified'' boxing or something like that.

  28. Dear friend, it would be great if you dedicate a video about Lyoto Machida, who is another MMA champion whose hitting knowledge comes from Shotokan Karate (JKA)

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