3 Effective Ways to Drastically Improve Your Fighting Skills

3 Effective Ways to Drastically Improve Your Fighting Skills

By Allan Blackett

Everyone wants to advance and jump into fighting at a level higher than their current one. We want to get good at fighting quickly, thus often rushing the process.

Let's first be realistic though—you're not going to go from zero to hero in just a few months. Improving your fighting ability will always require hard work and lots of patience. You can train hard with max effort all the time, but you can also train smart.

Let's talk about the smart ways.


Everything in any given discipline relies on having a solid fundamental base. The greatest fighters in history all relied on their most basic skills to put together the most amazing performances in the ring.

This means you as a developing fighter must make an effort to consistently practice and drill the fundamentals repeatedly over your fighter career.

Through consistent practice, the body stores information on frequently repeated motions, which then becomes instinct. This allows you to execute strikes automatically without thought or plan, and also allows you to move and fight more efficiently.

Once you firmly grasp the fundamentals of offense and defense and it has been hardwired into your instincts, your techniques and combinations will become faster and more natural. With minimal mistakes, you can seamlessly flow through complex maneuvers, showcasing the true essence of your fighting ability. (edited)

Even if you are experienced, it never hurts to go over the basics so you don’t get sloppy. Identify technical errors and flaws in your maneuvers, and strive to correct them.

Which brings me to my second point:


This is something I’ve been doing a lot throughout the years of my martial art journey; Identifying my weaknesses and working to improve on them every time at the gym. Start with 2-3 weaknesses at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things you have to work on. For example, if you find yourself having a hard time checking kicks, with a sparring partner, ask him/her to mostly throw kicks at you, and work on checking kicks.

You may notice that you are too predictable when you throw your strikes, which leads to you getting countered often. If this is the case, for the next sparring session, focus on making yourself more unpredictable by throwing more feints or mix up your strikes (high/low). This will help make you less predictable for counters.

You get the idea.

Develop awareness for where your weaknesses lie and work on them over and over again until they no longer become an area where your opponent cannot exploit. If you work on your weaknesses enough, they may just become your strength.


One of the methods that I use that drastically improved my fighting skills is by studying fighters.
Going back to point #2 on addressing your weaknesses with regards to getting counter attacked, watching fighters like Israel Adesanya can give you ideas on how to improve. You may notice how Israel utilizes a lot of fakes and feints mixing up his strikes, always trying to make his offense less predictable, thus reducing the potential of him getting easily countered. You can examine how he does this, practice this at home, or at the gym, and apply it in your next sparring session.

This is just one example. You may watch a fight and really like the way a particular fighter throws combinations that you would love to add to your game. Open your repertoire of techniques by looking at new fighters and learn from them.Experiment, try things out, have fun with it. Use what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and develop a unique style for yourself.

“Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee.

To close things off, I strongly believe that the most important thing about training isn't where you train or who you train with; it's how you train. While some might say that good fighters come from the best, most prestigious gyms, I really believe that all truly great fighters come from within, from their own hard work and dedication to their craft.

Hopefully, this helps.

By Allan Blackett
Fighter, Personal Trainer, Student of the Game


The warm-up process before your fight

The warm-up process before your fight

The following is a template Coach Marlon uses for his competitive youth team.  We call it the 5 bout rule to getting warm for your competition match.

5 bouts before your bout

Get up and start start "dynamic" warm up. This is where you get up and start moving your body. No need to shadowbox here, just get up, walk around, arm circles, criss-cross your arms & hug yourself, tap your face, open jaw etc. You want to just get the blood going but take it easy.

4 bouts before your bout

Get your heart rate up by skipping or any body weight cardio exercises like mountain climbers, squats, jumping jacks etc. 

3 bouts before your bout

Shadowbox and fight visualization. This is not the time to strategize a new game plan or overthink anything. We use this time to visualize how we want to fight, practice your bread and butter combos, visualize your defensive move, your counters, your attacks.  Let your mind relax.

2 bouts before your bout 

Gear up and get ready for pad work with the coach/cornerman.  Warm-up with haste.  You never know, there might be consecutive knockouts in those matches before you and you might be up fighting earlier than anticipated.

1 bout before your bout

Finish putting gear on, have a sip of water and walk to the staging area. If the coach needs to say something to you, this is where we may have a final pep talk.

Feel free to adjust, add, and make it yours.  Give yourself some margin of safety with time so you don’t get caught going onto stage cold!

Hope that helps.


The music and hype is not real

The music and hype is not real

Nervousness kicking in for your big day of competition?  As a promoter, my job is to hype up our upcoming event, Project Mayhem.  I want people to think that this will be the biggest and most badass event.  Posters, highlight videos, and different marketing tools will be used to build excitement in order to sell tickets.  At the event, I’ll have the production team employ music, smoke, and maybe even fire to further entertain the audience and amplify the spectacle.


That is not my job as a coach.  As a coach, I want you (the student, the developing athlete, the competitor), to see what a competition event truly is.  Take away the lights, cameras, hype, drama, music, and all the other theatrics; what you are left with are two athletes doing what they already do every training session, and that is to fight.  Everything else is just unnecessary noise and distraction.  

The promoter will try to sell to the viewer and athletes that this will be the end all be all event.  As a competitor participating in the event, you must try to look beyond all of that and see it for what it really is, two athletes fighting while accompanied by a referee, judges, and cornermen.  Simple.


I remember way back in my 4th muay thai fight when I let the lights and the intensity of the event get to me.  The event was hosted by my home club, TKO Fighting Arts and it took place at Elements Nightclub.  Big fancy spot lights directed at the ring, loud music, and an even louder hometown cheering your name - I let it all get to me.  I went out guns blazing and gassed in the 3rd round.  I was lucky enough to pull through with a victory but boy was I tired.  Moral of the story?  Embrace all the action, soak in the surroundings, and have fun with it but remember to keep everything in perspective.  Train the way you fight, fight the way you train. 

Don’t make it out to be more than it ought to be.

Two fighters, a ref, judges, and cornermen - F@&# everything else.

This post was inspired by John Danaher's insight.


Rituals to deal with anxiety from competition and sparring

Rituals to deal with anxiety from competition and sparring

What makes competition and sparring so scary?  Let me tell you, it’s the unknown.  Anxiety stems from the lack of control and anticipation over the situation and the outcome. So what should you do?!  Control what you can, and embrace what you cannot.  Pre-fight rituals (or pre-spar rituals) is one tactic that I use to help me calm my nerves before going into competition.

A pre-fight ritual is a set series of tasks/activities that you do each time before entering the stage to perform.  


Rituals work because amidst all the unknown associated with competition, rituals have the ability to ground you with the power of familiarity and therefore put the element of control in your own hands.  Familiarity is built by the consistent reenactment of these rituals over time so take the time to practice and get acquainted with them.


Before every BJJ competition I go through a very specific set of rituals.  I usually arrive 1.5 hours before my bracket.  45 min before my 1st match, I like to leave the competition area and find a quiet spot somewhere away from the action.  I put on my headset, play some calming instrumental music and close my eyes for 25 minutes.  I focus on deep breaths and empty my mind.  At times, I even doze off.  I wake up to the sound of the alarm with 25 minutes to go; I start putting on  finger tape.  The process of wrapping my fingers is extremely important for my psyche.  I do not rush the process.  I stay in the moment with each wrap and soak in all my feelings.  Once all my fingers are taped, I get up and start my warm-up routine, which consist of a few sets of mouth clenches, jumping jacks, and burpees.   I head toward the mats 10 minutes before go time.

What happens in a fight is unpredictable and chaotic, so I try not to make too many predictions nor do I try to control the outcome. I try only to control what I can, and that’s the pre-fight rituals which I do my very best to replicate the same each time.  This puts me back in the driver’s seat.     


The set of rituals you chose should be specific to you.  Get creative and create your own routine.  Rituals can be done 30 minutes, 2 hours, or even a day before performance.  Just remember that you should try to keep the process as similar as possible each time you do it.

Ideas for Rituals:

  • Listening to music (should be the same every time)
  • Meditating
  • Calling a friend, or loved one
  • Taking a nap
  • Taking a series of deep breaths
  • Going for a walk
  • Eating a muffin
  • Watching the same TV show or movie 

Now go take what’s yours.

-Coach Bao



Awareness and starting with small goals

Awareness and starting with small goals

Sometimes you are going along a pathway, and you keep going even if it seems like that way is no longer right for you. Sometimes you feel that you have traveled too far to turn back so you settle on the journey you are on currently. A powerful tool is the ability to assess your current position. Assessment has a high pay-off if you commit to do it and do it well; that’s because it requires a self-awareness and honesty that part of the journey towards anything is stopping to ask yourself if you are going in the right direction.  Sometimes that requires the courage to reassess and admit that the direction you are going in isn’t really what you want. 

Some questions to ask yourself about where you are going: 

  • Do you still want it? 
  • What is the result you are searching for?
  • How do you want to feel? 

While these questions seem relatively simple, they require you to look hard at how things are going. It will be surprisingly more difficult than you expect because most of us are unaware of our blind spots. If you think you don’t have one, ask a trusted friend. They are far more likely to notice negative patterns in your behaviour than you are because sometimes it is the very decisions we are making to keep us “safe” that are holding us back from reaching our dreams, or at the very least our current goals. 

Paying attention to the things you do not want to pay attention to requires a willingness to shine a light on the things in your life that trigger you the most. Lasting transformation means being an objective witness on the parts of yourself that you hide from the most. While generally the most painful, they are usually the biggest catalysts for change. 

Once you have gone through the difficult process of assessing where you are. Remember the most important thing: do not beat yourself up! We have all heard the cliched quote, “the truth will set you free.” Well, that’s an incomplete quote. The real quote is, “the truth will set you free, but it will shatter your illusions first.” Being honest with yourself is an incredibly hard and brave thing to do.  

A link to a free workbook on how to deal with triggers when they come up.

Part of making lasting change is to make small promises to yourself and keep them. Small promises are the things you know without a doubt you can do. As you keep these small promises, you build confidence and trust in yourself. It is easy to rush into things and throw ourselves into big lofty goals. Instead of making goals like I want to go to the gym, eat better, or you know throw a perfect swing kick every time (I’m so guilty! ), start small. Make one small promise to yourself daily and keep it. You will be surprised at how likely you are to commit to your bigger goals once you show yourself how you can commit to the smaller ones. 

Link to habit tracker.

Set a reminder on your phone.

Write it somewhere where you can see it.

Don’t forget to celebrate yourself when you do it.

So, what is one small promise you will be making to yourself today?




Samantha Mogulko 

When not spending time with my family, you’ll find me on the Muay Thai or Yoga mat, or with my nose in a book. While my day is spent in corporate retail, I am a certified Reiki practitioner and tarot card reader. Life is about the mind, body, and spirit and I spend time strengthening that connection.