Scrambling through the world of MMA, BJJ and grappling

Tough stuff: the good, the bad and the ugly by Gina Hopkins

by Ben ~ posted March 23rd, 2015


So I want to tell you about a week or 10 days which was really tough, hopefully you have read why I am doing this in the previous blog.  So I thought I would give an insight into the real struggle which disabled athletes can face, perseverance.

This particular week, pain kicked in with vengeance, but still I managed some achievements.  These weeks are draining, really, really heartbreakingly draining.  I often ask myself why I do this, why I put myself through this.  The truth is that I don’t know anything else and I ride on the waves of successes, it’s emotionally draining.  Nevertheless, when you hit a goal which you thought was ‘optimistic’ you ride that wave and hold onto that emotion. It’s survival.

What prompted me to write a more despondent blog?  Well, as I mentioned this week has been painful and because of the great questions and response I had from the readers, I wondered, what do people secretly think of me and my training?  Especially those who don’t know me…..I wonder… I’m obviously disabled (no hiding that fact!), I’m obviously in pain and struggling to keep up with some fitness classes, this week in spite of my best efforts and I had to leave the same class early twice in a row.  What would you think of me leaving twice?

Automatically, I would ask myself if this was the right type of exercise for the person, were there any injury risks, why that person would keep coming back when they knew they couldn’t do the class. No doubt these would be some of the logical questions that you would also ask yourself.  Here inlays the problem, I am subject to the same time constraints, I am subject to the same family obligations, I am subject  to the same (if not more) fatigue, as well as the same (if not more) susceptibility to the health considerations such as colds and flu, as everyone else.  Therefore my time is precious, I don’t have time to work out at my leisure or all day doing more ‘suitable’ low impact work outs.

Furthermore, it is exactly these things which people like myself sometimes struggle to do, which I need to do. [trust me; MSc [almost], BSc hons, Btec ND, vocational qualification list as long as my arm and 19 years’ experience].  As with any athlete you need to weigh up the cost of pushing boundaries and working on weaknesses with what is safe and causes the less risk of injury.However, I need to stress my CV system more than the able bodied population, because I need to control my weight and prevent further illness and injury.  I’m putting myself through this pain for the good of my overall health…. I’m tired just typing this!

Needless to say, this escalated into a teary moment in front of a team mate, I’m not ashamed to say I have my moments where I think, “Why me?”, “What did I do?, no really, what did I do?!”  He knew something was up when I walked in (I love that), so he asked me what I had been up to and began praising my efforts.  He then began offering alternatives, which was also a lovely genuine gesture from a friend, unfortunately this is what prompted the break down… if I don’t know to get around my own pain, how is anyone else supposed too?

After I pulled myself together to train for a further hour (of a usual two), I came home  to sit on my drive and cry. I cried my heart out most of the way home and sat on my drive for 15 – 20 mins just breaking my heart.  This was a tough few days, I knew it would end, not every day would be as bad as this and that’s what I needed to hear.

I pulled it together as I knew I had a S&C session the next morning and  I knew what was coming, I was ready and vengeful for it, 1RM’s! With the week I had I was ready to pound everything I had into this bit of iron, I set a rather optimistic goal based on my pre foot and back injury.  I made that 2 x body weight squat, I DID IT, I MET MY GOAL that made the whole week worth it.

No one could strip me of that feeling, no amount of pain could diminish that!

G’still has strength!

Saturday, I tentatively returned to ‘that’ class, knowing what I had achieved the previous day, I was sceptical if I could see the class out or whether not to go at all.  The latter not really being in my nature, I went. I managed the whole class with some considerable pain but not enough to prevent me participating for more than a few moments at a time.  Again, I achieved.

After that particular class a lady I always say hello to came to talk to me properly, commenting on how well I keep up etc.  I wonder if she would have said that or had the preconception that I couldn’t if she had known the previous. Probably not… nevertheless, I appreciated the gesture.

I genuinely don’t know what goes through the mind of people who see me working out.  To be honest, I care little, but what I do care passionately about is how you portray your thoughts to other people, especially people like me.  Rather than shying away from the unusual (you all know you do!), why don’t you sit next to them and offer a competitive word of encouragement, offer your experience (as my friend and teammate did, yes it may end in tears but you tried!), or just offer your words of encouragement as the lady did.  There is a person and a story behind the disability, highs as well as lows. The population to which I belong, needs the gym (probably) more than you, it’s probably harder but the achievements are so, so much sweeter.

Sunday, boy I woke up in pain, actually I was awake with pain but who’s counting.  So I woke up, swallowed my pain killers and decided the pain would ease once I got to the gym.  This was really quite severe pain, and got to a gym full of hangovers… even the squat success had my patience wearing thin.  But do you know what, I stuck it out and had a good rolling session. I felt good, again, and everyone else went home to die!

It hurts but it’s worth it.

It always ends on a high….

If you are able to offer any support in helping me attend the tournament as the only female UK fighter it would be gratefully appreciated, by sharing and/or donating.

To find out more about Dystonia:

[VIDEO] English Open 2015 Highlight

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted March 23rd, 2015

I remember, in the old Fightlinker days, Ryan and Jake christened England the land of “No jutsu”.

Things are changing, dammit! Check out this highlight reel of the recent English No Gi Open.

Dan Strauss in beast mode.



[VIDEO] Vice Japan – Hip Hop vs Punk Fights w/ Enson Inoue

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted March 18th, 2015

Check this craziness out.

Legend Enson Inoue hosts a new show from Vice Japan, which basically pits two amateur fighters from some kind of music scene against each other.

I haven’t watched it yet, just the first minute, but there’s a lot of hilarious posturing already and I know it’s going to end with someone getting their teeth knocked out.






How specific does your grappling jiujitsu MMA strength training need to be?

by William Wayland ~ posted March 9th, 2015

Sick Threads Bro

The issue of specificity in training is one that seems to bother many practitioners, obviously I want to train in a fashion that will improve my sport, be it MMA, BJJ or other combat sports.

Loaded sports type drills (like weighted punching, barbell open guard playing) seem like the obvious solution to the specificity problem, but it is probable that by doing so the athlete will unconsciously develop compensatory movements in his/her technique in adjusting to the new weight or develop poor movement, other risks include injury from doing these types of things. The other swing is towards functional type training that doesn’t really do much to improve the following;

  • Force absorption and production
  • Power production and rapid force development.
  • Injury prevention.

In the video below I go over some of the basics of why we do S&C and how training should be informed by your training age and strength levels.

Although specificity is important when designing a training plan, most programs will include exercises of a general nature (e.g. power clean, squat, deadlift). These exercises may not relate too closely to the movement of any athletic event but they do give balanced development and provide a terrific strength base upon which more specific exercise programming can be built. My golfers squat, my MMA fighters squat when they start out, however when they peak for sport their end game training looks very different.

Further Reading

Is Sports Specific Strength Training a Myth in this post Mike Boyle talks about general specific being guided by what athletes shouldn’t do instead of the “best exercises for x sport” like many others.

If functional training interests you here is an easy guide on how to become one

Using weighted baseball bat doesn’t increase swing speed.

Weighted Golf Club Myth

Original Specificest Strength and Conditioning Video.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

Doping and why the fence sitting attitude to drugs doesn’t cut it

by William Wayland ~ posted February 11th, 2015

Huge debate has opened up across forums everywhere in the light of recent failed doping tests in the UFC. I’ve seen advocates, anti-dopers and even marijuana advocates weigh in on the debate, it seems everyone has an opinion. First admission must be that we have a drug problem in MMA, where our athletes perception of what they can achieve in the gym is skewed by unnatural athletes they admire, the top guys with rigorous training schedules who proceed to tell everyone they are natural. Go to a local MMA show and you’ll see plenty of amateur and semi pro’s who are all on the “juice” but when the precedence for the top organisation is ambivalence and failure be decisive what do you expect the trickle down to be?

Recent scandals with GOAT Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Hector Lombard, respect is rapidly lost for fighters and their host organisation. I often wonder what effect this has on other athletes and the apparently normalisation of doping in MMA. The UFC’s fence sitting is seriously at risk of tarnishing their product and endangering athlete safety especially when their is apparent lying and covering up. Its something I discuss with the fighters I train with a lot.

GSP himself has come out stating “I am not interested to compete if the sport is not clean, that is one of my major concerns.” It’s important that athletes at the top of the sport make such statements.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it hard to relate to pro doping coaches and athletes and their are plenty of them, at that moment you decided to dope our personal experience of training has diverged. Worse yet if you continue to base your athletes training or training/nutrition based opinion off doped experiences then I just cannot take you seriously. You are deceiving people and potentially encouraging athletes to engage in that behaviour too. We know all too well doped athletes who have competed well past their prime, the TRT that was rampant for a long time allowed, the like of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson to stay in a sport they probably should quit far earlier.

People in my position as a strength coach know the difference in training stress that can be applied if someone natural vs doping, but often the athlete doesn’t and those who write their own programs and schedules will often try to mimic their heroes to potentially disastrous effect. When there are studies showing that steroid use made non exercisers stronger and gain lean mass without effort (7lbs in one study), plus growing evidence of permanent epigenetic change post use, meaning some positive change will stay with you even after coming off. It becomes hard to buy the “hardwork” required nonsense of those who do dope or are fence sitting on the issue, we all work hard! It’s what natural or not ‘successful’ athletes do!

Why anti doping? Why not just legalize it all?

To quote Ross Tucker for the excellent“As for the complete legalization of doping, that is a post or a series all of its own.  What I will say is that I’m not fond of the idea of watching sport when the result may be determined pharmacologically.  The problem is that drugs don’t affect people the same way.  Just as some people respond well to sleeping tablets, or pain killers, the effect of doping on performance is likely to be highly variable.  Now, if a drug improves performance by 0 to 5%, and the natural/physiological differences between athletes is 1 to 2%, then you have a situation where a drug can make a bigger difference than the normal differences between athletes.  It would be much like Formula 1 Motorsport, where the difference between cars is larger than the difference between driver ability.  The result is that the best (human, anyway) is often undiscernable. Then there is the matter of those who don’t wish to dope.  “

Lets face it most people don’t understand steroid usage for performance especially when contrasted to sports like athletics where the impacts of doping are obvious resulting in faster times and greater jumps or bodybuilding where the result is extreme hypertrophy. Sure doping won’t effect skill set, but it allows you to get through those 2 or 3 a day training schedules. You may say ‘its their body they can do what I want’ if you are an influencer just be aware of the ripple effect you have, the same goes with those who just say “everything should be allowed”. But in the case of sport like the UFC it is fighter safety of both the doping and opponents of doped athletes that are at risk. And that is the Key point the way we train in MMA and the way we approach drugs needs an enormous culture shift or this will keep happening. I am in favour of 2 or 4 year bans, enough for an athlete to really consider the risk of their doping activities. Some have called for lifetime bans this is probably too much as it takes an athletes livelihood away from them.

To Quote Vernon GambettaNo shades of gray regarding drugs, you cannot walk the line. You either are on the side of drugs or opposed to it. For me there is no place for performance-enhancing drugs in sport or anything that remotely resembles them.”

At the end of the day we want a sport that is clean, fair and safe. Being pro drugs or ambivalent about them is being pro rule breaking and you would let someone who was blatantly soccer kicking, head-butting and eye gouging get away with it.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

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Fighting for all – Grapplers Heart by Gina Hopkins

by Ben ~ posted February 4th, 2015

I want to play too!

Being a female in male dominated sports is one thing. Being disabled but  participating in a sport which is dominated by able bodied people is even more difficult. But being a disabled female in combat sports is just pure fun, if you have the mentality to take the challenges on the chin.

Every time someone new joins a class that I do, or if I try a new class, I can feel the eyes on me. Everyone thinking “Is she in the right class? Is she allowed to do this?” and“Is it safe and acceptable to strike, take-down, roll with, choke or submit a disabled chick?”.

I have Dystonia and my name is Gina. Introducing myself that way around is usually best, it answers the relevant questions first. Dystonia is considered a rare condition. I’ve lived with it for 19 years so it’s very familiar to me!  Technically, Dystonia is a neuromuscular condition. In reality, my muscles don’t do what I tell them to do, my posture sucks as a result and my speech is just as messed up. Luckily, I have rarely been so tied up that I can’t tap if I need too, although it’s sometimes amusing when I have to try and say “tap”….

Joking aside, it’s a painful, very uncomfortable and debilitating condition. There are lots of complexities which come with the package, such as the poor coordination, poor agility, fatigue, injury susceptibility, adapting techniques, etc. Far from the preconceptions that people have, my condition helps me in lots of way to participate in the sport. People worry about hurting my neck (due to cervical Dystonia, also known as Torticollis) but actually my neck is incredibly flexible and strong, as anyone knows who has ‘tried’ (admirably hard) to neck crank or choke me out.

I understand the concerns people have about sparring or rolling with me. It’s natural, no-one intentionally wants to injure anyone, but I want to play too!  It’s great for my condition, it helps me with my fitness, it helps me control my pain (believe it or not!), it’s good social contact, it gives me a release and more importantly it’s empowering.

The recent publicity of Robert Consulmagno has reinforced my resolve to promote combat sports as a healthy outlet. There may not be the practical resolve, as of yet, to help disabled people into the more underfunded or non-Olympic or Paralympic sports, but now is an exciting time to be a disabled female athlete, more so than ever before, with such campaigns as InvictusGames, This Girl Can, Why Not People and particularly with the success of the Paralympic campaign. Which is why I was incredibly excited to hear of the Grapplers Heart Tournament.

Being in the sport industry as a Masters Sports Science student at a prestigious university, I saw this competition about 18 months ago and signed up as I was feeling particularly optimistic after narrowly avoiding having my spine fused after an injury in 2010, I was feeling good and starting my long awaited MSc. My sporting background is in kickboxing and power lifting, and I also coached Rugby. My disability (not to mention my stature at 5ft 1!) made rugby a bit too hard to play. I thought my days of competing were over, getting over the peak age for physiological adaptations. So, already contemplating going back to MMA, which had been intermittent because of my back injury, I went back full of excitement. Then, I had what I thought was minor surgery. It was said to be so minor that I had both feet operated on at the same time. Wow, that backfired, something I haven’t recovered from and I don’t think I ever will. I have no toe movement, sounds quite insignificant right? Try standing on one leg, walking over uneven ground, pivoting to kick, pulling your toes up to kick, using your feet to enable you to stack someone up, to push off to take down, or to spin to transition on the floor. I thought I was ready for the scrap heap again. I thought Grapplers Heart was out of my reach. A skint student, injured, disabled and female – great combination to sell to try to get support to get to the competition! If that low point has taught me anything, it’s that there are some genuinely good hearted and supportive people out there. These people helped carry me through this dark time and I went tentatively back to MMA, aware I couldn’t kick, pivot or take impact through my feet. The guys were amazing and really helped me build up my confidence to do what I could, I will never be amazing at takedowns, I doubt I’ll ever be able to throw people with a dodgy back and feet (and the rest!) but that’s OK, we can’t be good at everything.You’ll still be going down one way or the other and when you do, it’s my game – I can’t deny I do love throwing elbows, punches and knees, on the floor its ground and pound time.

When I mentioned Grapplers Heart to Jake O’Hagan of Impact Gym, he jumped on the idea and has been amazing in supporting my training, as have Scramble and loads of people, too many to mention, seriously, so many people are backing me in so many ways. The support has been immense, so much so that I feel I am not just competing to make a point for female disabled fighters but I’m representing a lot of people and I’m going to add some real competition into the tournament.We currently only have 3 women in the whole tournament. With a possible documentary promotion following a few of the UK fighters out, myself included, I have a platform to achieve something.

What do I want to achieve from this?  If one woman sees me in the gym with the guys sparring and rolling and doesn’t just think “I’d like to try that”, but actually gives it a try. If a disabled person sees this and thinks “maybe I could do that”, and gives it a go. Then I will achieved something.

Whether it’s pure BJJ, grappling, MMA, or any other combat sport, all sports can be inclusive. It shouldn’t be intimidating although inherently it is, it’s not for everyone but I have so much confidence from knowing although in plain clothes, I may look vulnerable….what an ill guided preconception that is. It gives me a little sense of pride, a little smugness, to know behind what you think of me I am stronger than you, I am fitter in many ways than you (okay, I can’t out run you but I have the latter), I can hold my own, I am stronger than most people I meet will ever be. It gives me pride to face my problems head on and still pursue life and sports.

There is now a grappling tournament for disabled and injured people.That fills me with pride and I will do everything I can, both personally and professionally, to push disability sports and to empower people.The Grapplers Heart Tournament is the first disabled only tournament in a combat sport. Long overdue for everyone who has tried to integrate themselves into able-bodied competition, now is the time to jump on this opportunity.  If we can have support and push this tournament the potential is mind blowing.  The concept of a MMA tournament which is fully inclusive is the sort of thing I hope to see in my lifetime, it’s exciting! Grapplers Heart is a really good start and thanks to Dr. Jon Gilber of for initiating this concept and giving people like myself a platform to fulfill my competitive instinct.

I hope this has challenged some perceptions and next time you see a person with physical difficulties, you’ll wonder what they do and not what they can’t do. Just look at the Paralympic success of 2012. I hope you’ll follow this tournament on the below details, maybe sign up yourself, follow the updates via this blog and get behind this momentum of bringing martial arts forward.

If you are able to offer any support in helping me attend the tournament as the only female UK fighter it would be gratefully appreciated, by sharing and/or donating.

To find out more about Dystonia:



One of the best deadlift variations you aren’t doing

by William Wayland ~ posted January 30th, 2015

What you need to know

  • The snatch grip deadlift is a quality, low back friendly alternative to the conventional deadlift.
  • Provides more ROM and time under tension than a standard squat or deadlift
  • Excellent stimulator of posterior chain due to Increased ROM and tension
  • Uses all the back muscles for building that yolk that can help with injury proofing

Why Snatch Grip deadlift.

Both Dan John and Charles Polquin have referred to snatch grip deadlift with much esteem. To quote Dan John he uses this a few other exercises to promote “”Armor Building”, I maintain that quality fighters need to deal with contact, snatch grip deadlifts, Zercher squats, biceps curls (especially with a thick bar), and bench presses. That protocol will answer the call better than anything else.”

Snatch-grip deadlifts are similar to standard deadlifts except that the grip is much wider, how wide? I usually regard anything wider than the out smooth rings on the bar, longer armed lifters will be closer to the collars shorter armed lifters nearer to the smooth ring. Olympic lifting purists may moan about grip width but Im after increased ROM and time under tension, not building a better snatch. Upper back and grip development I find come real fast when performed diligently. In most cases, lifters will need to use straps to maintain grip with heavier snatch-grip Deadlifts. The wide grip places the traps and lats under constant tension.

Posterior chain development and improved hip and back extension are another posistive, I have written in the past how grapplers are often chronically over flexed. The wider grip forces you into a lower position, almost into a full squat. This lower position also changes the position of your torso, thus requiring more of the emphasis on the entire back, hamstrings, and glutes forcing good extension.

Word of warning how ever those with poor mobility should probably skip this deadlift variation.

Personally I am a big fan of this in combination with heavy front squats as the two compliment each other well placing larger emphasis on posterior and anterior chains respectively. For programming purposes usually the Snatch Grip Deadlift sits about around 70-80% of  Conventional. However we rarely do less then three reps.


This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook

[VIDEO] Scrambler Kenichi Itoh vs Masakazu Imanari!

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted January 20th, 2015

This is an exciting match! Announced for the next Grandslam, a relatively new Japanese MMA event.

Scrambler and brown belt no gi world champion Kenichi Itoh takes on Japanese leglock legend, Masakazu Imanari.

Grandslam 2: February 8th at Differ Ariake


Some hilarious early Scramble ads…

by Matt - Scramble ~ posted January 16th, 2015

Check out these ads we made during our early years of business. This is what it’s like when there’s no one to tell you what to do. (click for full size!)

Should we do more ads like this?



Alactic Sprint Conditioning

by William Wayland ~ posted January 15th, 2015

Scrambler, do you like to sprint?

Ability to produce high power outputs, repeatedly, whilst maintaining low amounts of fatigue especially during rest (stalling and holding periods) in grappling/MMA matches is crucial to good performance.

MMA and BJJ conditioning often takes the form of simulated rounds, doing non-specific exercises in order to build what is perceived to be match specific fitness. Think athletes doing 30s sprawls, followed by 30s swings followed 30s tire flips and so on. This however amount to nothing more than 5 minute grind. Just ask the athletes and they’ll tell you it’s far more frenetic than that. This grinding approach is thankfully losing ground. Shorter sprint intervals with longer periods of rest are starting to receive the attention it deserves.

Alactic sprinting merely a 100% effort where the body is able to use its ATP and phosphocreatine store without drawing on oxygen to deal with metabolite build up. If we can increase our capacity for this type of work we can recover faster between each sprint.

Alactic Power: Maximum output in one endeavor, trained by full recovery alactic drills, like sprint jump explosive throw…

Alactic Capacity:  same drills, but with shorter rest periods (dictated by the sport so in this case MMA and BJJ)

Going back to our physiology text books we know that power and capacity of the main energy systems looks like this.

  • Anaerobic-alactic power — < 8 seconds
  • Anaerobic-alactic capacity — up to 20 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic power — 20 to 30 seconds
  • Anaerobic-lactic capacity — up to 90 seconds
  • Aerobic power — 90 sec to 2 min
  • Aerobic capacity — > 3 min

We want to work largely on Alactic power and Alactic capacity. I find this in conjunction with work capacity from sparring and training works extremely well for building conditioning for the rigours of grappling and MMA.

While there are numerous options when it comes to planning sprint intervals here is what I usually use. I like the use of battle ropes, sprints and sled pushing as the main means, sometimes you have to get creative depending on your equipment options. Special mention goes to watt bikes and rowers where you can track power in watts and track for drop offs over time if you are not taking enough rest between bouts.

Alactic Power Sprints

-       <8s : 2min+ rest for 6-8 reps

-       1-2 times per session @ 90-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after heavy lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

Alactic Capacity Sprints:

-       10-15s : 60-90s- rest for 6-8 reps (possibly even shorter when peaking)

-       1 times per session @ 85-95% of max speed / effort

-       1-2 times p/week usually after moderate lifting sessions

-       Sprints, prowler/ sled pushing, agility, explosive jumps

After these types of sprints you shouldn’t be on the floor sucking air it probably means you’ve pushed too hard for too long or not had enough rest between sprints.

This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook