Two months shy of his 63rd birthday, Skip "No Mercy" Hall is the oldest active mixed martial artist. That's not a typo, Skip is 62 years old and he has four fights set up, three in his home state, Alabama and one outside the U.S.
As a student of human performance I felt compelled to speak to Skip and share his thoughts. Speaking to Skip is refreshing. He tells you exactly what he thinks, he's more than willing to share his opinion, he's a personal trainer-workout machine, a Vietnam vet who served with the Special Forces and competed in powerlifting. Hall has deadlifted over 600 lbs., Benched over 400 lbs., and squatted over 600 lbs., while over 50 years old!
Skip did not start BJJ training until he was nearly 50. He has fought in various parts of the country as well as in the UK. He even took on his friend, mma legend, Dan Severn. Severn, who outweighs Hall by 40 lbs., is 6" taller and 14 years younger, won by choke in the first round. As far as I'm concerned Skip Hall is always a winner.
Respect goes to anyone who has served the country, raised a family, enjoyed great career success and continues to challenge and improve himself by preparing for and getting in the ring/cage. To be nearly 63 years old and showing no sign of stopping is awe inspiring.
From the press release:
Speaking on behalf of the WFC, mma fighter and promoter Shannon Ritch said, “Skip is a fierce competitor and highly regarded by both the fans and fighters. His age might initially cause people to take notice of him, but that soon becomes secondary when they see him and watch him actually compete on the same level as the usual 20 year olds in MMA.” Shannon said, “Skip is a huge box office draw and never fails to excite the crowd. He is in extraordinary physical shape and is an inspiration to many of the younger fighters as well as the older fans.”
Skip candidly said, “As a kid I learned to fight out of necessity in order to survive. Now I get paid for something I use to get in trouble for doing.” When asked about competing in the hardest sport in the world, Skip says, “Thanks to my overall speed, ability to train hard and recover fast, and my family’s support I have been able to continue doing something that I love.
I love to give the crowd what they want and regardless of the technical skills required to master grappling, hitting my opponent in the face is what I do best and that’s the crowd’s favorite thing to watch. So, I love to stand up and face-to-face bang with my opponent.”
Skip is sponsored by House of Pain Ironwear. House of Pain Ironwear is the premium manufacturer and distributor of sports apparel and aids for weight training and now, fight training as well. Additionally, Skip is sponsored by Sprawl Fight Shorts, manufacturer and distributor of the finest fight shorts available for the MMA fight environment. Konjo Fight Gear also sponsors Skip in part with some of their excellent fight gear. And the most innovative sunglasses you’ll ever see are manufactured by FATHEADZ – another of Skip “No Mercy” Hall’s excellent sponsors.
Skip Hall Interview
by George Demetrious
1) What is your MMA training routine?
I really have two different training routines: One is when I’m Maintaining and not really getting ready for a fight and the second is when I’m 6 to 8 weeks away from a fight. The Maintenance MMA training routine essentially addresses me staying in a good baseline cardio condition and is the time I really try and work new skills and techniques into my fighting arsenal. My baseline cardio is comprised of an hour and a half of constant cardio with light weights mimicking the things I do when I fight. As an example I do several minutes back to back of jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts all with 3 to 5 pounds of weight and all very fast.
I want to keep my cardio level at 65 to 75% of my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) as I’m doing all of these light weighted exercises. I’ll add to that Hercules Curls, knee-ups, lateral elbow strikes, etc. again non-stop to keep a good cardio rate and work on my striking and moving skills so that they become an inherit movement and not a learned one. I finish that off the last 15 minutes with constant heavy bag contact but not at 100% of power. Again to keep up my cardio rate.
My Fight Ready training routine is about 25% specific to address my opponent’s skills or known favorites. Another 25% is addressing cardio from an anaerobic perspective, so I do everything with Rounds in mind. To get ready for a fight of 3 five minute rounds I’ll do speed bag, heavy bag, grappling, kicking, striking all with 7 minute rounds. In total, I’ll do 7 seven minute rounds of all staggered over a 5 day period.
The next 25% is with active sparring both standup and ground. I try and find three kinds of opponents: One, someone faster than me. Two, someone stronger than me. Three, someone bigger than me. Plus I work with my boxing coach, Adam Hulbert, my kickboxing coach, Bucky Kennedy and Dave Fergusen of Memphis Jui-jitsu. The final 25% is with weight training plus my Baseline Cardio Conditioning program.
I weight train pretty hard for most fighters but it is what I like to do and the way I do it helps me keep up my speed. I really don’t worry about power per se, I just try and improve my speed through weight training. Having said that, I don’t do a lot of reps or sets but I do moderate weight using movements that mimic the articulation of the body in striking, kicking, blocking, grappling.
An example would be instead of doing a “standard” flye, I’ll do a flye and twist my hands so that I use more muscles in the movement than the typical weight training flye. When we grab someone in a fight, we usually end up locking our wrists in one way or another and that means that somewhere along the way your wrists, hand and forearm must articulate or twist. That’s the philosophy behind my weight training.
Each one of these sections has very specific things I do. As an example in my standup training, I always work my boxing, kicking and shoot recognition plus clinches – all offensively and defensively. It is a structured training program with EVERYTHING written down and planned for the ENTIRE 6 to 8 weeks for every day! Every training session I remind myself that I can’t be in good shape for my age, I must be in good shape for my opponents’ age. I don’t take anything for granted.
2) What do you do in the way of diet/nutrition?
Diet is a four letter word and while I am strict with it, diet is the toughest part of my training. My wife, Sally is a chef and caters to businesses and events. She cooks GREAT and that makes my dieting even that more difficult. Both she and my son are happy when I’m not getting ready for a fight. I’m a natural 220 pound guy but I fight at 205 because I’m short at 5’8” and most of the guys at 220 are over 6’ tall.
I use a diet routinely that is comprised of 45% protein, 35% Carbohydrates and 20% Fat. I try and not eat any carb meals after about mid-day, but my biggest carb meal is breakfast and pre-lunch. I eat about 8 to 10 times a day to keep my metabolism up. All meals are small and about 600 calories each with the makeup of 45 to 35 to 20 (protein-carb-fat). In between each three major meals I’ll eat a “snack” of about 300 calories again with the makeup of 45-35-20.
I know everyone first says, “Wow that’s a lot of calories.” Yes, it is but then again looking at my training schedule and you’ll agree that it requires a lot of calories. The keys to my diet are when I eat, what I eat percentage-wise and that I watch my water consumption. Without the water the diet tends to bloat me. I drink an average of 1 gallon a day when not Fight Training and as much as 2 gallons when training and the week prior to the fight.
As far as supplements, I don’t have a supplement sponsor so I’ll just give you the names of the items I take. Lots of Flax Seed Oil because with a high protein diet it is absolutely necessary in order to properly pass the protein out of your body. And, Flax Seed Oil products available today contain lots of Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils to help your overall ability to resist illness. I take Effervescent Creatine: 5 grams normally a day for 6 days a week and as much as 10 grams when in the beginning of my Fight Training cycle.
Add to that L-Glutamine because heavy training will deplete the Glutamine in your body very fast and that is absolutely necessary for proper muscle conditioning and repair. I drop my creatine several weeks prior to my fight because it makes me retain too much moisture in my muscles and I carry several extra pounds because of the creatine. I normally use MSM plus Glucosomine and Chondroitin Sulfate on a multiple time daily basis for my joints and connective tissue. That’s really about all I do for supplements since I don’t have a sponsor, otherwise I would do more as there are some great products on the market to help us as fighters with our conditioning and recovery.
3) Is there any equipment you highly recommend?
The best rash guards are from Sprawl Fight Shorts and they have without a doubt the best fight shorts money can buy. I’ve seen shorts more expensive and they fell apart with my frequency of training use. Sprawl has constantly improved the design so that they are perfect for most any athletic training program. Their durability is excellent, the fashion is manly and its adaptability to fight training is perfect.
To improve your hand speed and reaction speed, I’m a stern believer in the speed bag. Not so much to improve your striking speed but even more important as to improve your hand-eye co-ordination which I believe is more important in real fighting in your ability to block something your opponent throws at you – like his fist. Most people don’t like to use the speed bag because they can’t. Invest the time in it and you’ll be glad you did when you fight and your opponent tries to hit you in the face multiple times.
Obviously I love the heavybag for fight strength and endurance training. Don’t get a bag or use a bag that’s extremely heavy without using wraps and padded gloves. I always use heavy boxing gloves when using the heavy bag. One for safety and the other reason is to make my hand speed and endurance better. I also recommend a water ballast bag and not the old type that I grew up with that is filled with everything from rocks to your grand mothers’ nylons.
I don’t work out on the mat or when I kick with shoes but obviously I do run with shoes. A good pair of running shoes is the first thing I’d buy if I started out on a physical training of any type. My personal favorites are New Balance but only because my feet are so wide – 4E’s. I go through them like waste paper, too. It seems that if you get a pair that’s comfortable enough and light that they wear out very quickly. New Balance has that problem just like all the others. A pair of New Balance though will permit you to begin using them that week for hard training unlike other manufacturers’ shoes.
All sunglasses are not created equal. Try a pair without UV protection and you’ll find out quite quickly. I train a lot outdoors and I looked the world over for a durable, light, attractive pair of glasses. I found that the only ones that matched that bill were from a company called, FATHEDZ. They have the classical type of sunglasses then they have the “wire” glasses that is the most innovative pair of sunglasses I’ve every seen. This equipment will make a difference in your outdoor training.
Without a doubt the best training clothes is from House of Pain Ironwear. I just can’t say enough about their stuff – first class material, workmanship and a full line of clothing from training stuff to casual attire. They are also a sponsor of MMA and powerlifting throughout the world. Their slogan is their dogma, “Clothing with an Attitude.”
4) Is there any equipment you definitely avoid?
Yes, I avoid the typical weight training equipment you find in hotel and apartment/home gyms. Why? Because they are usually of the “one size fits all” mold and does not permit me to adjust the equipment for my body specifics. I have clients and know of more people than I can name who have hurt something using this type of equipment. I personally don’t care for any of the Century equipment because it doesn’t hold up for professional use and has a feel of a “consumer product” designed to look like but not be anywhere near the quality of its real professional counterpart. Same goes for a lot of MMA specific gear like speed bags and heavy bags.
Everlast just doesn’t seem to hold up and is addressed to more of a “consumer” public use. I’ve got a collection of broken down Everlast products. Wonder how they got the name, “everlast?” I also use to have Fairtex as a favorite MMA glove, but it seems like they can’t decide on a design and stick with it. I’ve had two pairs that I purchased absolutely fall apart while using them. Having said that, I still don’t know of a good comfortable and lasting MMA glove. I use them up like waste paper.
I have one other comment about the equipment supply chain. I’ve tried numerous “regional and national” equipment (MMA, weight training and clothing) distributors and there are only a couple that I’d count on for good service, a full product set with CHOICES, and problem resolution that’s quick and fair after-the-sale.
My favorites for fight gear are Konjo Fight Gear and my favorite for anything with weight training is House of Pain Ironwear. These two distributors and manufacturers always meet or exceed my expectations. Beware of the distributors that have few choices and most of their products are from out of the country. Why? Delivery, stocking and service after-the-sale is usually very poor overall.
5) What makes a 62 year old man fight in MMA events?
Competition and the challenge of it is the only real means to test your knowledge and ability. I participate in MMA because I still love to fight. A fight to me is a fun activity much like many people feel when they play softball or golf. MMA is kind of like golf except instead of hitting the golf ball, we hit each other in the face. Softball is great activity but it just doesn’t turn me on… maybe if you actually threw the softball at each other to try and knock your opponent out I’d appreciate it as a sport. Maybe.
The young guys in the sport also keep me participating. It is very rewarding to be participating in the toughest sport in the world with such great athletes and people. Some of my best friends have hit me in the face, but you know what? I’d not trade any of those fights for a dinner with a room full of dignitaries. I’ve met some of the best people in this world in MMA and through fighting.
I know that when training for an MMA event my attitude and physical alertness is at the best level I can possibly reach. When I’m not training for an MMA event I’m just maintaining. At 62 I’m still learning and my body is still getting better in many ways. MMA keeps me mentally alert and challenged. I believe that MMA helped me turn back my “age time clock” 20 years or so, because I don’t act, look or feel like I’m 62 years old. My kids ask, “Dad, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I think that about says it all.
6) What advice would you offer someone coming into the sport "late" in life?
That’s a great question because I’m now seeing more and more guys over 40 get into our sport of MMA. First, forget your age. Second, don’t make excuses for your age. Third, plan on being sore and tired and buy a lot of Epsom Salt for your hour of soaking in the bath after training. Fourth, do what your body and cardio permits you to do and practice that until it is your best skill because that’s the best your body is giving so use it. Fifth, agree to learn something new every week and learn WHEN to use it and of course, how. Last, don’t settle back into the comfort zone that we get a lot as we get older. Push that envelope so you’ll live longer and better.
Find a school that is willing to accept you and teach you understanding that you are as different as any of the other students. Add a stricter diet, weight training and daily cardio routine to your MMA training, because you have to work to get back what a lot of the younger guys still have. Do not listen to people who say you are too old. If you aren’t dead then you need to be improving not readying yourself for dying.
7) Who in the MMA/combat sport community have you trained with?
Conan Silvera, Marcello Silvera, Carson Gracie Jr., John Pellegrinni, Master He Ill Cho, Grandmaster Pak (in Korea), Professor Pressas (Weapons), Chris Mize, Chris Conolly, Greg Young, Rick Weems and others.
8) What martial arts have you studied & which do you recommend for MMA?
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled throughout the world on business at IBM and as a General Motors consultant and got to train with many people and different styles. I believe that no system of martial arts is THE system or THE style. I think that the more you learn the better you will be, but you must learn it and not just have done it once or have seen it done. For many years cross training was actually frowned upon by the classical martial arts communities. If you did take another style, you didn’t disclose it or you would be banned from whatever you were training. That all changed when MMA and the UFC exposed itself, and it is still evolving today.
I think that good standup must have boxing as a basis along with a good kicking background. Many of the Asian classical arts like TKD or Shotokan are excellent for the kicking background. You probably won’t be able to use many of the kicks but the arsenal will give you diversity when you have to. Nothing is better than boxing for standup strike training. I also like Kenpo because of it’s focus on minimal movement and maximum strikes in a small amount of time and space.
Nothing is better than Jiu-Jitsu for ground fighting. If I could map out a training course it would start with basic wrestling followed by a form of Jiu-Jitsu such as taught by the Gracies’ or Machados’. Traditional Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t seem to be on a level with the Brazilian style of Jiu-Jitsu.
Add to this Hapkido (or Aikido) and Okinawan open-handed training plus Sambo. Besides teaching the kinesthetics of body movement and positioning, the pressure point and anatomy understanding of Hapkido is great knowledge for any type fighting. Okinawan open-handed techniques that are used prior to actual Okinawan weapons training is invaluable for teaching blocks and reactionary responses to a strike. Nothing is better for leg, knee, ankle and heel grappling than Sambo. The Russians used this in their special forces training and it is a completely different approach to ground fighting than Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
9) If you could only train in one style/system which one would it be?
This is a great and very difficult question. If I was limited to only one style/system to train in it would have to be one that included in its skills a lot of ground techniques. Why? Because 9 out of 10 fights, if they last beyond about a minute, end up on the ground with the two combatants groping for a skill to render his opponent helpless at least enough where escape is possible. Of all of the traditional styles, Jiu-Jitsu offers what I think would be a good all around system. While it is far from perfect, it recognizes the importance of standup and transitions to the ground as well as ground fighting itself.
Having said that, I’d really like to have more than one system to pick my personal arsenal from – that’s why I developed a system of teaching multiple styles concurrently using the best of all. I actually have several Black Belt students proficient in this system with over 5,000 techniques from White to Black Belt. I named the system of teaching the styles of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Hapkido, Kenpo, and Okinawan Open-handed techniques exactly what it is – Combat Martial Arts or CMA. It is a documented system with a specific curriculum and requirements through the advancing belt ranks.
10) How has MMA changed your perspective on what works and what don’t for real combat?
Professional MMA is as close to real combat as one can get without a weapon. More traditional forms of sport combat really just puts its practitioners expertise to the test within that specific “form” of martial arts. An example is the plethora of Taekwondo tournaments and events held throughout the United States. They are great beginning platforms for a serious MMA practitioner and help its participants hone their skills within the standup techniques of Taekwondo. But they do nothing for the ground fighting skills needed in a pro MMA fight.
In more realistic combative situations you will find yourself in positions that if you do not know how to escape or reverse from you will become a fatality statistic. Professional MMA events have people that kick well being defended against by people who are great standup strikers who are defended well by people who are skilled ground fighters. Many times I have studied a technique only to find it completely useless unless my opponent “cooperates” and reacts the way the technique “expects” the opponent to react. Trust me in professional MMA, your opponent will almost always NOT react the way you think he will.
Now, I do not waste my time on techniques that are training room floor techniques. A skill needs to work if the opponent moves in any direction or permit the technique to easily transition to another complementary technique. I like to train using one technique to set up another technique that is better than the one I was initially using.
MMA teaches that through its recognition and use of escapes and reversals of techniques. I can guarantee you that if you come up behind a guy in the jungle guarding your only way out and you apply a rear naked choke and he begins to escape you had better know how to defend against his escape. On the other hand, if you are that guard and someone approaches you from behind and secures a rear naked choke, you had better know the reversal and/or escape or you also become a fatality statistic! That’s what pro-MMA is about and you are always ONE TECHNIQUE AWAY FROM A WIN OR A LOSS.
11) Predict what MMA will be like 20 years from now.
To begin with, I would like to be there for that. In the near future, I think that we will once again open up the rules to go back to some of the techniques that we took out because of what was needed to secure the legalization of MMA. I believe head butts and knee strikes of most types will once again be permitted. I think the time limits will become longer for a round and the rest periods will become a bit shorter as the fighters become even better athletes.
In order to satisfy the human quest for more realism continues I think that the use of some weapons will be permitted, like escrima or arnis and perhaps to go along with that, a tightly controlled set of MMA “armor” for its’ participants.
How about MMA in a “Survivor” setting? No weapons just what your body can do and your sense of being an aggressor or defender? Put 6 MMA contestants on a remote desolate tropical island, prohibit mechanized, metal and the projection of a weapon – but permit primitive hand-held non-projectile weapons plus, of course, any strike, choke, kick, knee, elbow together with the realism of the environment. Use field referees with the aid of surveillance equipment to keep things legal and “safe” and that’s what I think pro MMA should become. Is that too “uncivilized?” Maybe right now it is, but the future has opened up many things that most people wouldn’t have thought would have or could have occurred in the past 10 years.
Structurally I think MMA will become more organized in that a sibilance of one or more closely aligned organizations will surface to help unite fighting events so that the public will be more knowledgeable about where and when the next event will be held and, where a particular fighter will fight next. Perhaps another sort of UFC – a United Fighting Championship! As an example, a fighter that wins a fight in California gets to fight the winner of a MMA fight held in New Orleans because these two are the two best or highest ranked – not because one promoter wants or doesn’t permit his organization’s contracted fighter to fight in the other promoter’s event.
I hope that the MMA fighter purses will continue to get bigger as the fans get even more exposed to the uniqueness of the athletes themselves. On the other hand, I hope that the fan tickets don’t get as much as say, college football or pro football is. I’d like to see more sponsorship of the fighters and fight events as is the case with NASCAR races because it will permit the MMA athletes to make a living at the sport and ticket prices to stay at reasonable levels.
I personally would like a standard fighting platform to be established and hope it wouldn’t be a ring. I’ve lost a couple of fights that my opponent has told me that they couldn’t get out of the technique I had them in if the ref hadn’t stopped the fight and stood us up, because we went underneath the rings’ ropes! A cage is fine and I’ll challenge anyone to prove that the ring is a better platform for a fan to see all of the action as opposed to a cage.
12) Describe your military experience and how its influenced your martial art training.
My military experience began innocently enough because like a lot of people during the early to mid 60’s I really didn’t know anything about world politics. I went to the US Army because I was getting drafted and couldn’t get into the Air Force because at that time with the obvious build up of Viet Nam everyone was trying to stay out of the war as a ground troop, and the Air Force actually had a 90 day waiting list of recruits! I took all the Army placement tests and chose the longest school they had hoping the war would not begin and if it did, be over before I finished the school. Nope, didn’t happen. So I found myself being prepared to go to Viet Nam anyway.
I thought, “well if I’m going to get shot at then I need to at least make some money at it.” Then I volunteered for airborne, which sent me back to AIT for infantry. After airborne and through another school in the Panama Canal Zone (Pathfinder), I applied for selection for Special Forces. I was selected and after a couple more schools and lots of more training, I ended up with my first duty station being Korea.
There I trained the Republic of Korea (ROK) Special Forces guys in how to blow up things. That became the beginning of my martial arts training because I lived with the ROK SF guys, ate with them and trained with them as well. They participated in formal Taekwondo and Hapkido training twice a day at that time and pulled me along to beat up. I’m glad they did because that training and subsequent Black Belt awards changed my life. From then on throughout my life I sought out any training I could get as I traveled the world, first in the military then traveling as a General Motors consultant then as an IBM National Sales Rep.
Once in Viet Nam, I began honing what I had learned with the ROK SF guys and throwing away anything that didn’t work substituting real world techniques. When your life and the lives of your friends depend on you doing your job, you do not want to lose that round or the fight is over and you die and some of your friends do, too. Your opponents also know this and they know that there is no matchmaker who puts you in opposition because you’re the same weight, age, height, nationality or experience. The winner often gets to keep breathing while the loser’s family gets a letter. It changed my perspective of intensity and cuts right to the chase of what is worth training for and keeping in my arsenal of skills.
13) Describe how you train members of the law enforcement community?
First, law enforcement and elite military training has to be realistic. When I first got started training these guys they were taking my training because they were made to. Their dependency on their handgun or baton was what they thought they’d always have and use. That changed when I would always ask a “volunteer” to pull his weapon and cuff me like he did in the streets. I could take away the weapon or nullify it and end up with the cuffs (sometimes putting a cuff on the officer) in about 15 seconds.
Secondly, pressure points and control tactics were being taught but in a very archaic way. Guys would show up at the training facility in gym shorts and top with sneakers. I would instruct the first time we did any group of techniques in that environment so the moves could get understood and practiced. But, to make sure the officers could use the skills I had them show up in their full duty attire. Quite a difference in trying to do some of the stuff they were use to doing when they were restricted by the actual gear that they wore to help protect them. A major difference in my training because the street isn’t the classroom!
To complete a course I teach to law enforcement or elite military, I put you in a situation where you will do EVERY TECHNIQUE I’ve taught in the course FIRST. Not in any order – I skip around and put you with different size offenders. I make you do the technique left AND right handed. Then after we’ve gone through everything you know, I put you in a street environment and secretly tell the offender to execute a particular action. How you react is how you will react in the street. Whenever we do skills with guns we say aloud BANG whenever we pull the trigger – most of the time you know if you’re shot or not that way and whether or not you need more practice before you actually get shot.
I also make sure that all our testings are done in full street gear. The only thing I can’t do is use actual loaded weapons although we do use actual weapons but without ammo. I do a lot of knife training as well because the knife is a street favorite. I hate knives – I’ve been in five actual knife fights and I’ve been cut four times and four people are dead. Very deadly and quite, so we train a lot for that situation.
14) How has your MMA experience influenced the training of those who may have to fight where there are no rules, no referee, and lots of uncertainty?
MMA really does mimic street situations in that I’ve fought guys in MMA who were trained kickers who never kicked during the fight, boxers who tried to grapple with me, grapplers who tried to standup and box with me. The point is that you never know what to expect and that is what you should expect NOTHING but surprise. Kind of like the rule about sharks biting people – there are no rules, no patterns, nothing you can count on for certain but uncertainty.
I teach several basics in street fighting in that on the street someone can strike you, kick you, use a weapon against you or try and wrestle or take you down. That’s all if I discount running over me with a vehicle or throwing something at me and perhaps, shooting at me from afar. I really can’t defend those few things other than to not get in that situation. But the other things I can defend and change the field on my opponent.
I also teach that I have four options as to what “finishing technique” I use on my opponent and it all depends on where I am and if I’m with a partner or alone. So, I teach a technique then complete the technique with four separate finishing skills. What are they? If I have to simply apprehend and move my opponent from one place to another, I’ll use a controlling technique like a ulna nerve pressure point with a secondary control point. I don’t want to hit the opponent or restrict him from moving, I want him to move and go where I want him to as I want him to.
Secondly, I have to control my opponent who is usually trying to confront me and hinder that control. The choice of what finishing skill I use depends on how long I might have to control this offender, whether or not I have a partner and the relative strength and size of my opponent. If I think I’ll have to control him for only a short while, I will place him in a ground position with me standing and controlling him. If I think it will be a while before I can get some help with my opponent, I’ll actually be on the ground with him in a dominating grappling position like an armbar, leglock or other kinds of ground control positions.
Finally, if I am placed in a obvious life and death situation where I’m positive I’m in danger of loss of my life, I’ll finish my opponent with a “incapacitating” skill. Read into that whatever you wish, but it comes down to I have no other choices but to render my opponent unable to cause me serious bodily injury. Incidentally, this is done WITHOUT the use of a weapon so I’m very careful to stress the importance of the decision making and legality of this fourth situation.
We train repetitively to insure that the officers are comfortable with the skills and techniques because his thought making process for everything else he must do in the street without assistance like a ref or rules must be un-attached and clear. His “fighting” skills must be second nature and nearly thoughtlessly executed.
15) What would you advise for officers who are motivated to train but can only spare 30-45 minutes four times a week?
That is an excellent question. First I’d have them identify situations they feel uncomfortable with, identify their own specific weaknesses. Then I’d have them train and develop a base group of a dozen or more skills and techniques that they train EVERY TRAINING SESSION. An officer will use only what he is comfortable with and he will only be comfortable with a technique he trains regularly. It’s not the best situation in the world, but it is an approach to minimal training.
16) What do you know now regarding training and martial arts that would have come in handy some time in your past?
Probably the most influential thing I can say about martial arts training is to realize that not any one system is “the” answer. The more weapons you have the better you will become. But, you have to actually know that skill or technique. It must be performed without thought in a sense of the word. When I get hit in the cage in MMA or I get oxygen deprived, I will revert to what I know second-nature and not be able to recall things I’ve been taught that hasn’t become second nature.
Secondly, physical training beyond martial arts training is nearly as key to becoming effective in martial arts as the skills and techniques themselves. What good does it do for me to know how to get into 100 kilo or side control position if I can’t get my body to get into a perpendicular position on the ground with my opponent? And, cardio is a key to being a good martial artist, because without sufficient oxygen you can’t think and making the right decision of a skill or technique is important to great martial artists.
Thirdly, recognize that you will have to sacrifice in your training. Sometimes it is only your time but often it is your family’s or friend’s time, too. It is a sacrifice of money to train. It is a sacrifice of physical being in that being tired is a good thing at the end of your workouts.
Finally, understand that you’re training is never over. A Black Belt is a ticket to start learning more about a style, and other styles. One of my favorite sayings at my 62 years old point is that, “if you aren’t learning, you’re dying.”
17) If you could change anything in the MMA world what would it be?
I’d like to change the stereotype image that the participants in MMA are drunken, brawling, unintelligent Neanderthals intent on just bashing in each others brains and rearranging our bodyparts. Some of the most sensitive and giving people I’ve ever known and have today as friends are some of the fiercest fighters in the world. But, that is in the cage during the fight. It is our business, our sport, our profession, our love.
It is not who we are though, it is what we do. How many times after a fighter is down do you see the other guy really concerned for his opponent’s health? Show good sportsmanship with the traditional hug? Why? We are men who are not afraid to show our full self, our weaknesses get exposed and our strengths get vilified, and all for a fan’s entertainment. I’d like to see more about the fighters’ life being told before a fight in the pre-fight press. See a fan really get to know something about a fighter so they can associate with the real life image of that person.
I candidly say often, “Some of my best friends in the world have hit me in the face.” I know if I ever needed anything I could ask and get it from most of these people. I can’t say that about a lot of other people I know.
Other than that, I’d like to see MMA fighters get paid more. MMA is the hardest sport in the world; requires more dedication and training than any sport; and has the least rewards of a fan-based sport. I’m not a fan of Dana White’s but Zuffa has helped promote MMA through regular television exposure – something I said for years before it happened. Now, legitimize the sport by paying the actual participants a commensurate portion of the rewards. Remember that the fighters kept the sport going when Senator John McCain nearly got it totally banned in the U.S. Without the fighters facing legal prosecution along with a few smaller promoters, there wouldn’t be 3 or 5 million dollars going into ZUFFA’s pocket today!
18) If you were in charge of hand to hand combat training of the Special Forces what would you recommend?
I’d recommend a blend of physical training and martial arts training. Training with skills that include standup and ground techniques along with specialized emphasis on stealth operations and “finishing techniques.” Training in gear and training at exhaustion. Training that includes all weapons you will face and have at your side. Since you must perform in the SF regardless of an incapacitating injury, all skills executed both left and right handed and against both left and right handed opponents.
Finally, focus on duration and strength. Meaning make every training session last at least as a MMA fight of three rounds of 5 minutes of mat time one on one with as much realism as a safe system can stand. Not only do we as a country count on these people but they have only themselves to count on.
19) Is there anything you'd like to comment on that I didn't ask?
I believe that the one thing missing with the New Breed of mixed martial artist is respect. A lot of them have come for just the skills and techniques and personally fit the traditional meaning of the RED Belt student: Physically the student knows the techniques but mentally isn't prepared to know how and when to use them!
Too many of the newer guys do not take their training serious and to make matters worse, we've developed the training to where it is just the meat now and watered it down a bit as well so nearly anyone can become an MMA "expert." Again, using traditional philosophy: Everyone has a starting position and an ending position, its in between that matters and makes the "training (or skill) work." The in-between is filled with respect for instructors, respect for others that have helped MMA get where it is, respect for decent promoters, respect for really good referees, respect for honest officials and trainers, etc.
It seems like everyday I see guys new to MMA run their mouths all day long on the internet and otherwise about MMA and fighting (as experts or media spokespeople) when it turns out that the closest they've come to fighting other than structured class training is with an XBox or Playstation!
I'd like to thank my wife, Mrs. Sally, for her constant support and my fight promotions, Dixie Throwdown. The next event is heralded as Mixed Martial Arts Fighting, Southern Style. The production company is appropriately named, "NO MERCY Productions LLC" and it is our intentions to continue to promote only the world class types of fighting events that I've been associated with as a figher, ref, or official.
We take great care of the fighters and insure the fans get their money's worth with great matchmaking and the best venues in the world. We use Dr. Lanway Ling, a UFC fight Doctor on occassion, as our fight Doctor, and Big John Dixson - arguably one of the best refs in the world as well. Everything is first class. Next one is at the Shriner's Zamora Temple (NOT a smoky bar nor a bad seat in the house), in Irondale, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham on August 18th. All ages are admitted and we expect a sellout crowd of about 2,000 fans for the second Dixie Throwdown II event. You can visit www.skiphall.com for further info.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about my love of martial arts and the challenge of fighting. And, as you know I think that age is only an excuse for our not doing things. With the exception of a couple of jobs I’ve tried to apply for in the past, there are only minimum ages for doing things and not many things that say you can’t do them if you are “over this specific age.” So, in the words of one of Tom Petty’s songs (I think it was Last Dance), “If you never slow down, you’ll never grow old.” So don’t slow down and I’ll see yall around when I’m 100 for my next interview!
Thanks Skip. I'll speak to you soon.