High Concepts and Living History

Julie KedzieGreg Jackson Teaches Takedowns and Talks About the Future of Women’s MMA Greg Jackson, noted trainer of such UFC all-stars as Rashad Evans and Georges St. Pierre, taught a seminar Jan. 15 at Big Bully Martial Arts in Evansville, Ind. as part of the week-long, female-focused Gfight Summit. The participating athletes – a group of roughly 50 fighters and would-be fighters, both male and female – were guided through clinch work, takedowns and ground-and-pound techniques by Jackson and Julie Kedzie, an MMA veteran. Among unknown faces and those new to the sport, in attendance were several noted women of MMA, including Kim Couture, Tara Larosa, Shayna Baszler, and Sarah Kaufman.

Jackson’s enthusiasm fed and sped the 3-hour training session as he walked the students through a concept he called the “Horns of a Dilemma,” named after a strategy utilized by General Sherman during the Civil War. Boiled down, the concept means setting up an opponent to defend against one attack – and then hitting them with another. First of the night, the assembled fighters learned two variations of a rear kick fake, baiting the opponent into a front-leg block, and then slamming them with a step-into front-leg kick or a foot jab. Next was a faked switch kick that loaded a powerful right cross.

The theme of the entire night for Jackson was concepts, of which the “Horns of a Dilemma” is just one. “Think concepts,” Jackson advised. “That’s what makes you an artist.” Frequently, Jackson’s palpable enthusiasm for the sport spilled over and he paused, body tense with excitement, and marveled that the force that held the moon to the earth is the same one that makes a pencil – or a fighter – fall to the ground.

Moving on from the kicks and into clinch work, Jackson again emphasized the concept of manipulating an opponent’s expectations. Starting in over/under clinch position, Jackson, assisted by Kedzie, displayed two techniques starting with a shoulder shuck to create space, then followed with an elbow from either the overhooked or underhooked arm. Both elbows then lead into takedowns. For several minutes, the attendees cycled through repetitions of a knee-block takedown, and then when the opponent prevents that takedown, an inner-leg reap that took partners to the ground.

Once on the mat, Jackson pointed out the finer details of ground and pound, namely the importance of the angle of punches. “What hits ‘em, hurts ‘em,” he said, and talked the students through brutal strikes and hammer fists from both guard and mount. Then, to this technique he applied the “Horns of a Dilemma” concept and every blocked hammer fist became a straight strike, and vice versa. The night concluded with side mount shoulder strikes leading into either an Americana or an arm triangle, depending on the experience level of the student.
Jackson, Kedzie and others of their team attentively circulated among the partners, answering questions and giving one-on-one instruction throughout the seminar. Students were given ample time to practice each technique.

Jackson ended the night kneeling on the mat and talking about the future. “You’re living history,” he said, pointing out that every female fighter in the gym was already a pioneer shaping the future of women’s mixed martial arts. Calling again on his familiarity with United States history, Jackson stressed the importance of unification among female fighters. He cited the cautionary tale of the Native American tribes that continued to war amongst themselves and thereby aided the European settlers in conquering them. He advised that women pursuing the sport not get caught up in squabbles against one another but rather unite to become one powerful voice in mixed martial arts. Jackson said he is interested in training female fighters and encouraged interested women to come out to their training grounds in New Mexico.
After the seminar, Jackson spoke at greater length regarding the opposition to female fighters that some in the world of MMA have expressed. It reminded him, he said, of the early days when the sport of MMA itself faced strong opposition. While struggling for their own validation, it was as though the male fighters drew lines; “‘We’ve got to get mainstream…but no, you girls can’t fight.’ It makes no sense,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to support the sport, you’ve got to support all of the sport.” His own feelings about women in MMA are simple: “If you love to do something, you should have the right to do it.”

Jackson has a clear passion for his job of training fighters, including women. “Athletes are athletes; fighters are fighters,” he said, “The guys talk about girls and the girls talk about guys, but other than that … At the core, [the women are] exactly like the guys.”
As for advice the top trainer would give to women drawn toward 4-ounce gloves and a cage, “If you love it, don’t get discouraged,” he said. “And if you’re lucky enough to get successful … don’t get discouraged.”

Josh Kinser contributed to this article

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