Jens Pulver's 5 rules for first-time MMA students

Myatt Murphy, UFC - Seeing two tough guys swinging away in the cage can inspire mere mortals, even couch potatoes, to try out some muay thai or boxing. But it's intimidating to walk into a gym filled with those tough guys and start at the beginning. But no matter who you are, if you show up with a few basics, you may just wind up in the Big Show.

By Myatt Murphy

Jens PulverSeeing two tough guys swinging away in the cage can inspire mere mortals, even couch potatoes, to start working out. But it's intimidating to walk into a gym filled with those tough guys as a beginner. But no matter who you are, if you show up with a few basics, you may just wind up in the Big Show (it worked for this guy!).

If you're looking for some up-close and personal instruction, T&D sessions at the UFC Fan Expo May 28 and 29th will give you the chance to train with stars like Jens Pulver, Frank Mir, Brandon Vera, Urijah Faber, Matt Serra, and Randy Couture.

But even if you can't make it to Vegas, you can still learn from the best. We asked Pulver -- the UFC’s very first lightweight champ and current WEC star -- what every person considering MMA training should know before they step foot in a facility. Here, his rules for starting your MMA life.

1. Come in with some kind of conditioning
The better shape you are physically coming into an MMA class or facility, the more you’ll draw out of every minute you train. “If an instructor has to worry about you running over to the puke bucket after five minutes—or you’re busy dealing with pain and fatigue every other minute, then you’re not learning,” says Pulver.

2. Make yourself as pliable as possible

You may have all the muscle in the world, but if it won't stretch very far, you’ll be sorry after just one day of training. “If you can’t even bend over to touch your shoes, or you’re not flexible enough to jump a rope and get a little bounce going, then we got problems,” says Pulver.

Start some form of overall stretching for your entire body as soon as possible, especially the areas that tend to tighten up the most: lower back, hamstrings and calves. Best part? Unlike the hard stuff, you can stretch whlie you're watching TV.

3. Don't just focus on the fight

Too many guys think technique is the key, but if all you think about are the physical moves, prepared to be KO'ed.

“Fighting is more than just punches, kicks and holds,” says Pulver, “It’s understanding the power of a good diet and drinking enough water, it’s getting enough sleep, it’s grasping the whole mental game, it’s putting in a lot of lonely hours training when you would rather be doing something else—it’s even about hanging with the right people.”

Point being: “The best instructors will teach you a lot of other things that may not seem as important to you, but they are,” says Pulver, “Treat them all with the same importance as learning to fight and you’ll be a better fighter, since they all tie together.” 

fan expo image rampage4. Do as your instructor says, not as they do
The top skill a good student brings is a willingness to listen to their instructor -- not imitate them. No matter what his expertise, a good teacher will be able to identify what will work for you given your skill level and strengths, not what worked best for him.

“The first thing I start every seminar with is ‘do as I say, not as I do’,” says Pulver, “I even started the Ultimate Fighter series with these same words. I know what works and I can provide the playbook, but it’s up to you to make it work.”

5. Don’t expect to absorb everything in one shot
A lot of guys get frustrated with themselves for not being able to master every single technique right away, especially when attending a one-time class or seminar. That can cause them to walk away from training because they think they’re hopeless. 

According to Pulver, that’s the wrong attitude. “Don’t worry if you’re not able to do everything at one time,” he says, “You just need to sit back, soak it all in, then grab the things that make sense and take those with you.” No one can master any one MMA skill right away -- much less all of them at once.

Fitness expert Myatt Murphy is the author of the best-selling books, The Body You Want in the Time You Have, Ultimate Dumbbell Guide and co-author of The Men's Health Gym Bible.

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