Wayguk Fighter – Training like a Korean


Photo by Brent Fryia

Training in Korea has taken a bit of getting used to. Growing up in organized sports I’ve become very used to showing up to practice, having a hard, structured training session and going home. The Koreans that I train with do things a lot differently. It’s not that there are not structured classes, because there are, but most of the top dogs jump in and out of the classes at their leisure. Maybe they only want to do the technique part of the class one day and sparring the next. No problem, that’s what they do. For the most part, it is the younger and less experienced fighters and jiu jitsu players who come for a whole class and then leave. The big difference is that while the studs at the club might only train for part of the class a lot of them are there all night. Even some of the younger kids show up right after school and do not leave until midnight.

A typical training night for some of the guys at the club might be to show up and throw the gi on to warm up and do some technique with the class. They might go into sparring with the class or they might not. If they don’t, they’ll likely head over to the ring and do some skipping and light conditioning for a while. Then it’s probably break time. Someone will probably come in with some kind of food to share and a bunch of guys will sit cross legged in a circle on the gym floor eating dinner. After dinner, a few of the guys will probably work on some specific techniques or do some situational sparring. This will usually lead into live sparring from all positions. Depending on the day there may be a break between these two parts of practice to watch some fight video or just to relax a little bit. Sometimes the sparring will be short and intense or sometimes it will be a less than maximum effort grind-fest that lasts 45 minutes.

Photo by Brent Fryia

There’s also the “ghost” team members. These guys are usually older and have a decent amount of experience. You might not see them for a month and then all of a sudden they show up (usually a couple of weeks before a tournament) and train for 14 straight days, 4 hours a day at very high intensity. They put in as much mat time in two weeks as most people do in a little over a month. When the tournament is over, they usually disappear again for a month.

Speaking of tournaments, the preparation for tournaments here is pretty much the opposite of what I am used to at home. I have always been of the mind that by the time a tournament or fight is a week away all of the hard work should be done and there is not much left you can do that will help you. It’s too late to make significant changes to your game and any conditioning or strength training done during this time will not pay dividends until after the competition. The only thing you can do is make some small technical adjustments, iron out a few rough spots and let your body heal to be ready to go when it really counts. None of that happens here.

One week out from a big jiu jitsu tournament and the sparring is really ramping up. Team death matches and no time limit, submission only, winner-stays-in tournaments are the name of the game right now. It seems a little crazy to me, but it’s hard to argue with the success this team has and in jiu jitsu tournaments. Then again, yesterday I walked in to the club to find one of the better fighters nursing a back injury from the day before and another icing a tweaked knee from the nights sparring. Maybe not the best way to do things two days before the National Open.

When I first came to Daegu MMA, it often looked to me like a lot of the guys there spent a lot of time just sitting around, not doing much. I wondered how these guys could get so good this way. Maybe they had worked their asses off for years and then started coasting at a certain point? The more I hung around I realized that in four or five hours of this kind of training all of these guys were doing just as much hard work as an average fighter in a hard two hour workout, they were just spreading that work over a greater period of time. And for the most part, when they were not working hard they were still doing something related to MMA or Jiu Jitsu. Even when they were eating dinner they were constantly watching videos or teammates sparring. I think there’s a lot to be said for learning through osmosis when it comes to MMA. Simply being in that kind of environment for an extended period of time exposes you to things that you might otherwise miss when you are 100% focused on your own training. I have started to think of training like this as a kind of “slow burn” training.

I hope that I am able to leave Daegu MMA with a slightly better understanding of peaking and tapering as my contribution to club and as a thanks for everything they’ve done for me. At the same time, I’ve come to appreciate a method of training that is very different from my own and hope I can find a way to work the “slow burn” training into my own routine somehow.

Brent Fryia contributes to Top MMA News and also writes for MMAtlas.

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