Connors MMA Academy

Should You Try to Take The Pressure Off or Build Yourself Up? - Find The Answer Below:

I've enjoyed watching this season of The Ultimate Fighter and Chael Sonnen seems like a great coach. He brings knowledge, experience, technique and moral support to his fighters.

While watching the episode last week I picked up on an interesting coaching lesson. It's difficult to know what really happens on a reality show because of editing, but it seemed in hindsight that Coach Sonnen might have made a mistake when mentally preparing his fighter.

Chael Sonnen was talking up his fighter,  Tor Troeng, right before his fight with Josh Samman. Like I mentioned, who knows the entirety of Chaels' pep talk, but Chael did say a couple of things that I thought were a little strange.

He told Tor something to the effect of "I almost hope you lose so we can have a weakness of yours to work on in training. " I think he said this to compliment his fighter and take the pressure off him. Then he said something like "if you don't win, we'll just bring you back with the wildcard pick." 

Again, I think Coach Sonnen was trying to take the pressure off his fighter. Seems like a good idea but it seemed to backfire in the fight.

Tor looked technically sound at the start of the fight, but something was wrong. What was it? He lacked urgency. He fought as if he was in a friendly sparring match not a fight. He defended strikes okay but he didn't fire back and punish his opponent enough when he had the chance. Against the cage, he'd defend the takedown well and pummel to get double underhooks but he didn't capitalize enough on his advantage. He could have more aggressively went for the takedown or threw more knees. He seemed to be content to simply neutralize his opponent. But you can't win just by neutralizing. You need to bring your offense.

Josh Samman, on the other hand, fought with urgency and aggression. Although he was not controlling the fight, as soon as he had an opportunity, he pounced on it and scored a knockout.

You can't win every fight, but although Tor has very good skills he did not perform at his best for this fight.

So, in hindsight, it's probably better NOT to try and take the pressure off a fighter. Fighters need pressure to force them to act with urgency. Just like a steam engine needs pressure to drive a locomotive, fighters need pressure to fight with the right level of aggression.


This isn't golf, it's fighting. If Tor was trying to sink a put, then maybe taking the pressure off would work better. But a fighter is climbing into a locked cage with someone trying to knock his head off. He had better have a sense of urgency.

Instead of taking the pressure off, a more effective strategy might be to build the fighter up. Let the pressure stay high, but raise the fighter's self esteem or self image to meet the pressure. That way the fighter can compete with confidence and urgency.


I Know a Secret About You...

I know a secret about you...

At times, you get afraid.

Sometimes you feel anxious, a little bit uneasy. And sometimes...  that uneasiness seems to grow and grow...

And then you feel really uneasy. So much so, that you don't want to think about ANYTHING. You just want OUT. Out of this feeling. You want out NOW.

Can I read your mind? 


Just about everyone feels fear at some time. We might not want to admit it. Just like everyone feels hungry or sleepy or sad, given the right set of circumstances.

The toughest guys in the world feel fear.

I remember reading about a fighter pilot who had run many successful missions and was considered a hero. This guy had ice in his veins. Just fearless. So fearless, that an insurance company hired him as a salesman after the war. The thinking was that if this guy could face death so often, then facing sales rejection would be a piece a cake.

They were wrong.

The fighter pilot made a terrible salesman. He was deathly afraid to make sales calls. So you see, everyone has at least an area of weakness: an environment or a domain (heights, the water, sales calls, etc.) where they are predisposed to fear.

In fact, even more than an area of weakness, many of us can still feel debilitating fear in a domain that we thought we had mastered.

Michael Spinks won the Gold Medal for Boxing in the 1976 Olympics. He turned pro and by 1981 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Not satisfied with this success, in 1985 Spinks challenged the great Larry Holmes for the Heavyweight title. He beat Holmes to become Heavyweight Champ. He won again in a rematch against Holmes.

By 1988, Spinks was undefeated at 31-0. He had never even been knocked down.

But even with all this success, Michael Spinks would admit to feeling fear against his final opponent, Mike Tyson. Spinks looked visibly shaken entering the ring and was knocked out in 91 seconds.

Another, great boxer, Shane Mosley held title belts in three different weight classes. He boxed from boyhood and had a long successful amateur career, as well as professional.

But in his second to last fight, he faced Manny Pacquiao.

Mosley got knocked down in the third round and was clearly losing the fight. Between the tenth and eleventh round he turned to his corner man and asked him to stop the fight. His trainer, Naazim Richardson, wouldn't let Mosley do it: "Settle down... I'm gonna talk you through this..." As I remember, Mosley went out and won the next round, even though he lost the fight.

What a shame it would have been if Mosley was allowed to quit on his stool. Granted he had some sort of knee and foot injury, but his trainer saved him from making a bad decision that would have left a stain on his stellar career.

When the great mma champ, Georges St. Pierre was fighting Thiago Alves, after the third round he complained to his trainer, Greg Jackson,  about a possible groin injury. Jackson told him to forget about it and "to hit him with it." Another example of a trainer getting his fighter through a potentially shaky situation.

We all need coaches, teammates, or supporters to help buoy us through those dark times when we want to quit. When that siren song whispers in our ear that we've had enough. We all have those moments when our little devil is on our shoulder trying to pull us down.

When I'm pushing through a particularly tough CrossFit workout, I'm encouraged by my teammates and friends - either by their words or their shared misery. Those times when I ask myself "Why am I doing this again?" I just need to look up at the big banner on my gym wall with my name on it: "Connors Jiu Jitsu". Oh yeah, I couldn't quit if I wanted to with that big stupid banner staring at me.

So don't worry about feeling fear. But get a good coach. A supportive team. Some tactics and strategies to get you through it.

A Simple Trick To Never Get Tired Training Again

A Simple Trick To Never Get Tired Training Again

One time, years ago, I had for some reason been away from my jiu jitsu training for several weeks. When I came back to sparring, I had lost all of my conditioning, as you might expect. Those first sessions when I returned felt brutal. My training partners would ask me, "How do you feel?'. "I feel awful. I'm so tired. I have to get back into shape."

Day after day, my training partners would ask and I would reply, "I'm so tired. I have to get back into shape."

Then one day, two or three weeks later, after the standard question and answer, I thought: "Hold on here. I shouldn't be feeling this tired still. I should be back in better shape by now." I realized then, that I had been telling everyone (including  and especially) myself that I was "tired and out of shape." Was I convincing myself to feel tired and out of shape? I decided right then and there that no matter how I felt, I would answer that I felt great and that I was in great shape. I immediately felt less physically distressed and more energized. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but I was happy to take it.

This simple trick worked then and still works today. Am I deluding myself? I don't think so. Think about the word "tired". "Tired" implies a thorough fatigue that requires a night's sleep to recover. You're probably never really "tired" during training or working out. You don't need 8 hours of sleep to recover. You just need a short breather. That's why I coach my students and fighters to never use the word "tired" to describe their state of energy in training (or in competition). Instead, if we feel the need to refer to our perception of our physical distress, we use the word "winded".

"Winded" implies a short term condition that can be remedied by "catching our breath". The use of the word "winded" will lessen your perception of fatigue compared with using the word "tired". It's more accurate too. If you're one of those people who are nitpicky about being completely "honest" with themselves.

So next time you're sucking wind, tell yourself 'I feel great." If you can't bring yourself to do that, then at least only admit to feeling "winded". Do this simple trick and you'll feel less "tired" immediately. 

If you want another way, to "feel less tired", Give me a call and I will get you in great shape thru Jiu Jitsu,, Muay Thai Kickboxing, MMA, or CrossFit. Call me at 617-285-2401; or email The first three people to contact me will get a special bonus. Contact me now.

There's No Crying in Baseball - But There IS Crying in Jiu Jitsu

I never saw the movie, but I can remember the scene from the Tom Hank's movie, A League of Their Own. One of the female baseball players starts crying after Hanks, the manager, yells at her for a misplay in the field.  Hanks' character blasts her with, "There's no crying in baseball!"

Well, I used to think there was no crying in jiu jitsu, but I was wrong. Our kids jiu jitsu program starts with students age 5 and goes up from there. On average, we have one crying student per week. Now mind you, these students are not getting injured. They're just bumping their nose, or some other small but painful incident. And usually the student is in the 5 to 8 year old range.

This used to cause me great concern, but I've learned an effective way to deal with these unavoidable situations:

 Me (to crying student): "What happened? Did you get an accidental foot to the face?"

 Crying student: "*sniff, sniff* Yes. *sniff, sniff*"

 Me: "Yeah, I hate when that happens."

 Crying student: "*sniff, sniff* Yeah?"

 Me: "Yeah, that's no fun. Why don't you just take a breather until you're ready to come back in."

The student sits to the side (but still ON the mat. The student does not run over to mom.)

 Me: "Catch your breath and let me know when you're ready to come back in."

Usually the student is ready to get back to work in about 2 minutes. On occasion, I'll offer a student an ice pack to put on their hurt. On average, they're ready to go after about 60 seconds of an ice pack.


We're trying to teach the students to soothe themselves. And this simple method seems to work well.

Notice, that we don't pull a Tom Hanks and tell them NOT to cry. Hey, they experienced some physical pain and they're reacting to it.

I've noticed that starting around age seven or eight, students start to feel ashamed of their own crying. When the teacher does not make a big deal about crying, students tend to compose themselves faster, probably because they're not made to feel bad about their own spontaneous reaction.

Then, we acknowledge that something happened to them that was painful. But notice,  when we say "Yeah, I hate when that happens" we're implying a couple of things: first, that we, the teachers, have experienced that same painful experience (and we have); and second, it's likely to HAPPEN AGAIN in the future.

 No "Woe Is Me!" Response

For some reason, this seems to lessen the student's perceived pain. "Oh, this sort of happens to everyone. I wasn't singled out by the universe to be subjected to this." And, it also cues the student to readjust their expectations: "Oh, this might happen again, I'd better get used to it."

At any rate, this simple dialogue seems to help our students deal with jiu jitsu's  (and life's?) little unavoidable bumps in the road. They soothe themselves, get back into the game and they seem a little more ready to deal with the next bump.

Game Theory: How I Learned to Teach Grappling to Kids

Game theory: How I learned to teach grappling to kids

By John Connors and Jon Grayzel

April 5, 2011

Some of you may remember the birthday scene from the Steve Martin movie “Parenthood.”  Steve Martin’s character, an extremely anxious but well-meaning father, has hired a birthday clown for his 9 year old son’s party.  Unbeknownst to the father, the clown has a drinking problem and decides that the afternoon of the son’s party, to which the son has invited all his neighborhood friends, would be the perfect time for a bender.  Having tried desperately to revive the clown but to no avail, the father decides the only way to salvage his son’s party is to stand in for the clown.  The father pulls out all the stops: he tries performing stunts while riding a horse but is bucked through a window (to the delight of the kids), he juggles dangerous objects, nearly incurring life-threatening injuries, and then he tries to make animal balloons, but his poodles look like extras from Star Wars.  Despite this series of failures, he is not deterred in his efforts to entertain the kids.

When I opened my first jiu jitsu school several years ago, I decided to offer a children’s class.

Most of the martial arts industry consultants and experts advise that kids' classes need to be fun, entertaining and involve games. Lots of games.  Some of these expert consultants offered video series that described how to use games to teach the skills and cultivate the attributes needed for Brazilian jiu jitsu and other grappling arts.  Armed with these concepts and a few other activities I played growing up, I put together some teaching schemes for my children’s classes.  The schemes included basic instruction on takedowns and positions, and games, lots of games.  There was British bulldog and minnows ‘n sharks, which involved variations on kids scooting across the ground while others tried to pin them, bull ride, which involved kids trying to maintain rear mount while the “bull” tried to buck them off, jiu jitsu virus, in which the kids scooted around like crabs trying to capture and trip those not “infected,” and many others.

After a few months of teaching the kids jiu jitsu class this way, I began to feel like Steve Martin’s father character: I was the amateur clown desperately trying to keep the kids entertained by coming up with different games to play. I bounced around the class cheering the children on with artificial enthusiasm as they scooted and rolled and played.  After a few more months, I began to dread my kids’ class.  But why?  Games are fun, aren’t they?  Weren’t the kids having a good time and learning valuable grappling skills, almost without even knowing it?  Wasn’t this how children’s martial arts classes were supposed to be run?  Nevertheless, I couldn’t escape the feeling that something was fundamentally wrong with what I was doing.

Gradually I came to believe that the emphasis on games had perverted the nature of the class.  The games had created an atmosphere in which Brazilian jiu jitsu and my standing as an instructor of this incredible martial art were devalued.  The kids indeed saw me as a clown, not a coach, and their class as one more means of entertainment, like a computer game or Gymboree™.  After all, whether implicitly or explicitly, isn’t this what I had been telling them by devoting so much time to games?

But grappling is not a game.  Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but as any practitioner knows it is also hard and it demands disciplined effort if one is to make progress.  Grappling involves physical discomfort and it is not for every child.  But out of the effort and discipline and discomfort needed to learn jiu jitsu, children learn valuable lessons about such things as humility and perseverance in the face of hardship.  And they don’t learn these things because they won a game or because an instructor gave them a new, brightly colored belt, but by dint of their effort on the mat.

As these thoughts began to coalesce in my mind, I decided to change my approach: No more games.  Instead the kids were going to do as much jiu jitsu as we could cram into a 45 minute class.  I didn’t expect 7 and 8 year olds to learn like adults, and I didn’t plan to turn the kids class into Marine Corps training, but they were in my school to learn jiu jitsu and that was what they were going to do.

Now I run my children’s jiu jitsu classes much like my adult classes, albeit with less detailed explanations of technique. We begin class with a warm-up that includes basic jiu jitsu movements like shrimping. Then we work on learning techniques in the context of the repeating 12 week curriculum I have developed.

For both my kids and adults classes, I use the Why? What? How? and What if? presentation structure.

The Why? section explains why they would want to learn this technique; what they will gain from knowing it and what they might lose if they don't know it. This properly motivates students to want to learn what you're about to show.

The What? section explains the what the technique is; it's name and perhaps some brief history or story that goes along with the technique. This gives context to help in the learning process.

The How? section is the actual step-by-step explanation of the technique.

The What If? section is where students try the technique for themselves with their training partners against varying levels of resistance.

During the How? section, after demonstrating a new technique and presenting the steps a few times, I then use the Active Recall Method to reinforce the key steps of a technique. The method consists of asking individual students to tell me the next step in a technique: “Dave, what do I do first?” “Joe, what do I with my right hand?” “Suzy, what do I do next?” I never put a student on the spot. If they struggle with an answer, I quickly give them sufficient hints or the actual answer.

This Active Recall Method motivates students to pay close attention during the presentation of a technique. No student wants to be caught without the right answer no matter how gently I ask the question. Also, the fact that I ask them direct questions stimulates their brains to more effectively store the information in their memory.

I also present (and then ask about) the one or two most common mistakes that people routinely make when trying to perform the new technique.

Once the steps are clear, the students practice the technique with one another, first with no resistance and then with minimal resistance.  Next, the students wrestle in the position we are practicing, using the new technique and others they have learned.  When a partner achieves a dominant position, they reset and begin again.  This gives kids (and adults) lots of experience with a particular position without confusing them with the overwhelming variety and detail that bjj can present. Finally, we free grapple with different partners.

As a result of my change in approach, I no longer feel like Steve Martin’s stand-in clown, trying desperately to entertain children already saturated with entertainment of seemingly infinite variety, to which my meager games can never measure up; I feel like a jiu jitsu instructor.  And for the kids who are interested, I have so much more to offer than games.



John Connors is a BJJ Black Belt and the owner and chief instructor at Connors Mixed Martial Arts in Norwood, MA; Jon Grayzel is an emergency physician, medical writer, and a BJJ Purple Belt under John Connors

How Old is Too Old for MMA?

Is 30 too old for MMA? How about 40? Or 50 Years Old?

Would you believe I train with a 73 year old athlete and author? And his name is not "Blue", it's Herb Kavet. 
Herb literally wrote the book on getting and staying in shape at ANY age:

Die Young... As Late as Possible - A Guide to Staying Fit and Healthy as You Age.

It's a great book filled with the secrets to getting in shape fast and staying that way simply.

Check out this short video with Herb:

PS. The first 5 new students to sign up for one of our programs will get a FREE copy of Herb's book. Just mention this blog.

How Can You Tie Your Opponent into Knots? Try This Straight Jacket Sweep

How Can You Tie Your Opponent into Knots?

Try This Straight Jacket Sweep -

Check out this short video:

You'll Have Your Opponent's Head Swimming with This BJJ Sweep

This Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sweep will aggravate, irritate, and...

 and DISORIENTATE your opponent!

So much so that we call this sweep ...

See for yourself. Check out this short video:

Check out our other websites:

Norwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Dedham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Boston MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Walpole MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Needham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Sharon MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Randolph MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Weymouth MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Westwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Canton MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym  

You'll Have Your Opponent Tapping Like Riverdance with This Sneaky Wrist Lock

You'll Have Your Opponent Tapping Like Riverdance with This Sneaky Wrist Lock

It's simple and it's sneaky - the best kind.

Take a quick minute to check out the video (Sneaky Wrist Lock from Side Control):

Norwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Dedham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Boston MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Walpole MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Needham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Sharon MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Randolph MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Weymouth MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Westwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Canton MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym  

Choke Out Your Opponent Before He Knows What Hit Him...

You'll Baffle Your Opponent When You Catch Him in This Trap...

This choke really sneaks up on your opponent. He's thinking that he's about to pass your guard when you're really STALKING HIM!

Check out this short video: (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Sneaky Snare Choke):

Norwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Dedham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Boston MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Walpole MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Needham MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Sharon MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Randolph MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Weymouth MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Westwood MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym
Canton MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts Gym  
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