Featuring 17 mitt-work and partner drills to build muscle memory, enhance fundamentals and have fun in training
Since there is no UFC card to analyze this week and after several requests on Twitter I decided to share some drills from my mittwork and training curriculum.
These techniques were shot using a smartphone so please do not expect high production value. Hopefully you will get to appreciate the content and the information shared. I would like to thank my students Daniel, Page and Vangelis who helped me shoot these videos exclusively for BloodyElbow.
Part 1: Drilling techniques with a training partner. Using proper gear
Here are some fun moves you can use in MMA and kickboxing. Some are more high percentage than others. The important thing here is not the techniques themselves but how we use common training gear to train in a realistic way.
Conditioning and strengthening striking targets
This is a drill based on Kyuokushin Karate. It will help your body warm up and will enhance your ability to take damage. Light discomfort is the secret. Listen to your body. If it hurts you should stop, recover, and try again using less force. However, if you cannot handle a light low kick to the thigh maybe you should avoid contact sports.
Technique #1: Jon Jones style sidekick to the thigh to a spinning back kick (Tony Jaa kick)
This move was inspired by Tony Jaa and Hong Kong action stars. In martial arts movies, fighters often use a variation where they actually step on the thigh before delivering the spinning back kick. This is not a movie so we had to keep it real. The concept behind this is to set up the kick by landing sidekicks to the thigh, connect the left foot on the opponent’s thigh to check the distance, then land a spinning back kick. You need to use a kicking shield for this. I do not recommend using Thai pads. This video is from the first time my students tried this technique.
Variation #2: Using the Left Teep to set-up the Tony Jaa kick
This is the same technique as above but this time we use the left teep to set up the move.
Training Superman Punches.
Using a kicking shield your training partner needs to alternate targets on his front leg (both inside and outside of the thigh). The trick is to land a low kick, lift the foot up as if you are shin-blocking, kick back and land the punch. The combinations is as follows: Right low kick, superman right, left low kick, superman jab, repeat. Build momentum by having the partner move backwards or come forward and make sure to land several combos in a row without interaction.
Kicks to Punches
This is a great drill to combine kicks to the body and punches. As you can see a right kick is followed by a left hook and a left kick by a right cross. As the foot lands you can launch powerful punches and stop incoming opponents. Again, focus on moving from one kick to the other without delay or wasted moment.
The Shogun Punch
This is a way to train the Shogun punch. Dutch fighters often use the gloves as landing targets for strikes and this is also the method used here. I recommend using 16oz gloves for drills if you want to have an injury-free career.
This is a highly effective punch: the punch Mauricio “Shogun” Rua used to knock out Chuck Liddell back at UFC 97.
This is a jab/left hook hybrid using momentum generated by stepping in at an angle with your back foot. This particular type of footwork covers a longer distance and this punch is way stronger than a jab. For a split second it looks like you land in a southpaw position, however a simple hip twist can correct this problem and you can land a right hand, a left kick or a takedown.
You can see the punch in action below:
As you can also see in the following gif, Shogun tried to land this punch in his fight against Jon Jones but JJ, (who studies tape a lot in order to prepare for fights), was able to duck under and counter : Gif link
Machida Style training: Using cones
Here is a way to train leaping left hooks to right crosses while cutting angles. This was inspired by Lyoto Machida training highlights where he often uses cones on the floor as markers. Again, you should try to build momentum and rhythm by landing several combos in a row without interruption
Training the Weldon reset footwork
This footwork is the cornerstone of our training. The objective of the partner holding the mitt is to touch the fighter’s left shoulder and move towards him in a manner that his ear is fully visible. The fighter uses the this footwork to reset (I call it the Kenny Weldon reset) and attacks with a left uppercut and a right low kick. When drilling this move try not to land in a southpaw stance.
Boxing Footwork Drill: Step-Pivot Left, Right Uppercut, Left Hook, Right Uppercut
This time the focus of this drill is to help you become familiar with pivots towards your left side. The training partner keeps moving with his right hand extended trying to touch your right shoulder and leaves the hand extended to be used as a target. You should pivot left and land a right uppercut, left hook, right uppercut. Keep your left hand up to protect yourself from incoming overhand rights. This can also be trained with your partner using focus mitts instead of gloves.
Training the “stiff” jab. Drill #1, right low kick
This is a way to train constant jabs and mix them with right low kicks. I prefer the training partners to hold a 16oz boxing glove against their chest to provide solid pressure. This makes the distance more realistic. Try to go for single, double and triple jabs keeping your target at the end of your punches forcing partners to stay away. Do not stop unless you feel tension on your left shoulder. This drill is deceivingly difficult and requires a lot of energy.
Training the “stiff” jab. Drill #2, Left low kick
This is the same drill as above but this time you should try to attack with an inside low kick. As you can see in the title of both videos these are conditioning drills for the jab. A fighter needs to land many thousands of jabs to be able to use this punch correctly.
Part 2. Mittwork Fundamentals
Although this is just a short introduction, in this part I will focus on some mittwork drills of a mitwork system that I call “Continuous Feedback”© mittwork.
Although I was the one who came up with the terms “Continous Feedback” and “Continuous Pattern Striking Drills” the fundamental principles behind these drills originate from the following sources:
- Dutch Muay Thai Drills (using the training partner’s gloves and shin-guards as targets). Especially the ones used by Rob Kaman and Ramon Dekkers.
- The (highly recommended) Kenny Weldon DVD instructionals and his mittwork drills.
- Cus D’Amato’s principles on cutting corners and attacking from angles.
- The Roger Mayweather mittwork system.
The main boxing counterattacks of the Continuous Feedback mittwork and the training concept of moving from one drill to the other in a non-stop continuous fashion is based on Roger’s system. The main difference between his system and the one analyzed here is that he uses the right hand as the connecting link between combos whereas, depending on the distance, this system also uses the jab. Kicks, knees, elbows, Thai clinching and takedown defense drills are also integrated as the main focus is MMA and/or kickboxing.
To mix such diverse fighting disciplines in a mittwork system is no easy task, so my advice is to study the aforementioned sources diligently. Studying is one thing but mixing things up needs a lot of experimenting and learning from your mistakes. The process is: study, learn, evaluate in action, discard, repeat.
The purpose of this article is to help you create your own drills (although you are more then welcome to try my own). To quote Italian philosopher, famous semiotician, and university professor Umberto Eco, “originality & creativity are nothing but the result of the wise management of combinations. The creative genius combines more rapidly & with a greater critical sense of what gets tossed out & what gets saved, the same material that the failed genius has to work with.“
Continuous Feedback Mittwork Modes
There are three main modes of mitt-work:
- Providing targets for a student to attack with strikes (single attacks or Continuous Pattern combos)
- Initiating attacks forcing the student to use defensive moves and counterattacks.
- Moving and cutting the ring/cage forcing the student to get out of bad spots and check the distance using long range attacks creating an offensive shield.
As a coach, try to use constant motion in order to not let students catch a breath, attack with different rhythms and putting constant pressure. There are ways to turn the pressure on like transitioning to kicking combinations from punches, using MMA drills like sprawls, or forcing them to push you away when you go for the clinch. Other ways are transitioning from blocks and parries to roll-unders, slips, go behinds and duck-unders.
It is also important to use rounds and often asking students to continue drilling after the end of the round, or telling them that the drill will last for three minutes while you set up the timer for five.
The purpose of mittwork drilling is to expose weaknesses both in physical aspects of their game, but more important to strengthen their determination to keep pushing and overcome adversity in order to get the win. That being said, safety is of utmost importance and the student-coach relationship is one that grows through respect and teamwork.
Here is a highlight of my mittwork sessions:
Proper Mittwork for the Jab.
The first thing you will notice in my mittwork highlight is that I use the right mitt as the target for the jab. This is based on Kenny Weldon’s mittwork method as you can see below:
He is not the only one. Here is Floyd Mayweather Sr. :
And finally Mike Tyson:
There are significant advantages in using the right mitt for the jab:
- It teaches students to keep opponents behind their jab without crossing their punches.
- The mitt is closer to the head and the student needs to step-in to land the jab. If you use the left mitt the target is too close and is not realistic in terms of distance.
- Your left hand is free and you can always counterattack with a left hook. You can catch students coming in to land the jab.
- You can use your left hand to go for the Thai plum or go for a bear hug (I do this often when the student keeps getting too close. As a counter, the student needs to push me away and attack).
Continuous Feedback Mittwork Introductory Lesson #1: The Jab
When training mittwork drills from a distance, the left jab is the connecting link between combinations and counters. This means that all sessions should start with a double jab (jab-in) and finish with a double jab, move back (jab-out). As a coach I teach my students to avoid lead right hands. The jab should be constant, unpredictable and launched in a manner that demands respect. My students can throw at least a hundred jabs per round (spoiler alert: they all hate it).
From a shorter distance, the right hand is the punch that ends all combos and invites the coach to launch another attack in order to keep the mittwork moving.
To illustrate this, here is a basic example:
As you can see, using the right mitt as the target makes it easy for me to use my counter jab as my student’s face is way closer than if I used the left mitt.
As I extend my left hand, this is a signal for the student to keep me away with jabs. Constant, non-stop jabs. To illustrate the difference between using the jab or the right cross I initiate my first attack which is a jab. I also provide an initial target for the follow-up counter. If the mitt is close to my chest and in front of me, the student should block, pull or parry and come back with a right cross, left hook, right cross. After the last right cross I will attack with another move to keep the combinations moving.
If I throw a jab and my right mitt is high and to the back requiring the student to step in with the right hand in order to land for a counter, the student should instead attack with a jab. If the fighter goes for a right hand I will catch him with a left hook like most boxers would. This is the great advantage of using the right mitt as a jab target.
To summarize, in this drill the distance is the determining factor for the counter.
Part 3. Continuous Pattern Striking Drills
In this section I will present four great pattern–based drills designed to build cardio, muscle memory, and fluidity in motion.
The Dos Santos Drill
This is a drill popularized by Junior dos Santos and his coach Luiz Carlos Dórea. This is a left uppercut to left hook, right uppercut to right hook. Here is JDS:
And here is my short instructional:
I like to add movement and footwork in all drills so here are two clips with pressure movement:
The Tyson Drill
This drill is similar to the “Dos Santos” drill. This time the combo is: left hook to the body, left uppercut, right hook to the body, right uppercut.
The “Page” drill
This is a more advanced drill. The combination is as follows: left uppercut, right hook, left hook,right uppercut,left hook, right hook, repeat.
The “Daniel” drill
This is an advanced boxing drill: left uppercut, right hook, left hook to the body, right uppercut, left hook, right hook to the body, repeat. We call it the “Daniel” drill.
This combination goes from high to low while avoiding consecutive uppercuts. You can use this combination on the heavy bag.
Thank you for your time. If you would like me to post more Continuous Feedback mitt-work drills in the future please let me know in the comments section.
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That will be all for now. Please join me next week for another breakdown. For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).