Everyone knows who MMA superstar Conor McGregor is. But few people know how he uses karate in his MMA game. I’m Jesse
from karatebyjesse.com, 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!