In the world of MMA everyone naturally loves a fight to reach a conclusion that doesn’t require the judges input – that means a knockout or a submission. When you first start training in MMA it’s very easy to get addicted to submissions in particular because unlike knockouts it’s possible to regularly practise them safely and so you can experience the satisfaction of doing them in a class / training environment. This means that for many new students it becomes a goal to learn as many submissions as they can as quickly as they can. The logical theory they follow is that the more submissions they know, the more likely they are to achieve one.
We would generally refer to this approach as a ‘wide and shallow’ approach. You take on a wide variety of MMA techniques in a short space of time and so there is little opportunity to learn any of them in depth. The trouble with this approach is that even though you have a vast arsenal of submissions to choose from, you can’t perform any of them compotently enough to achieve them in a properly competitive environment.
The alternative approach is to take on just a few techniques and really take the time to understand them and become highly effective with them. Of course the fear with this ‘deep and narrow’ approach is that when you only have a few submissions to go at you’ll not have a big enough arsenal to select from. So just how many submissions do we need to be effective?
In PRO MAI MMA we use 3 measures to classify the strength of a submission – complexity, risk and success rate. This allows us to make logical assessments about the relative merits of a submission. Some submissions score very highly when you measure them in this way and consequently they are highly effective and very common. Many other submissions don’t fare so well when you measure them in this way and so they make less viable options as ‘go to’ submissions.
When we look at a combination of these measures and statistics from professional MMA competition we can actually put a fairly definitive answer together to the question ‘how many submissions do you need to be effective?’. It may surprise many MMA students to learn that when you look at the evidence provided by the numbers there are just five submissions that are responsible for around 90% of all submission victories. Here are the 5 ultimate submissions that you should learn above all others
- Rear Naked Choke – 33% of all submission wins*
- Guillotine Choke – 19% of all submission wins*
- Triangle Choke – 17% of all submission wins*
- Arm Triangle Choke – 9% of all submission wins*
- Arm Bar – 7% of all submission wins*
In my opinion this is fairly firm evidence to suggest that a deep and narrow approach is the way to go, at least in the first few years of training MMA. If you develop real depth and expertise in your understanding of these submissions then your submission game is likely to include a lot of successful submissions. There may only be five submissions on this list but of course these submissions themselves may include hundreds of different combinations and set ups in order to make them effective.
I believe this is the ethos to a truly advanced submission game – don’t learn one way to do fifty different submissions, learn fifty ways to do one submission – or in this case, ten different ways to do each of the ultimate five submissions!