HMMR Podcast Episode 271: Tackling and grappling (with Ollie Richardson)

Contact sports often look towards grappling sports for help in preparing athletes for contact. While there is much to be learned from grappling, there are also key differences as well. This is true when taking ideas from any sport to another, and a lesson Ollie Richardson learned first hand working in elite rugby and MMA. On this week’s podcast he shares his system for contact preparation, how it came about, and how to best adapt ideas from other sports.

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Notes and quotes

Ollie Richardson is the head of high performance at Rugby New York. Previously he has worked in rugby union and rugby league for clubs like the Huddersfield Giants, Kubota Spears, Queensland Reds, and Leicester Tigers. He also has extensive experience help prepare top MMA fighters such as Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, Andre Winner, Dean Amasinger, and Jim Wallhead.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 6:00 – Background and the current state of rugby in America.
  • 8:30 – Experiences working across different continents and cultures.
  • 10:00 – The influence of Dean Benton and John Pryor: “You can’t make a naturally 90-kilogram guy play at 100-kilos and expect him to perform athletically. But you can try to amplify his strengths and bring up his weaknesses. He is in the squad for a reason, so let him show that reason rather than trying to develop something else.”
  • 13:30 – Having space to experiment and getting beyond a conservative mindset: “The number 1 rule is do no harm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with new things.”
  • 19:45 – Minimum is the new optimum.
  • 25:30 – Learning from grappling and understanding the differences as well: “Rugby isn’t judo. The tackle is not judo, it’s not wrestling, it’s not MMA. It’s a tackle. These can be good preparation methods, but the transfer of skill is limited in my mind.” “What you really learn from grappling is the difference between having mechanical strength and power, and being able to apply that strength and power in an efficient manner. It’s easy to get dominated by guys you are way stronger than.”
  • 32:00 – Tackling and the environment: “Tackling success is correlated to your perception of the environment. Can you understand what is going on around you and make the right call? This element isn’t there is most grappling work. The timing and space is completely different.”
  • 33:00 – The philosophy and progressions of his contact prep system: “The system I developed prepares your body to do more tackling. The way we are going to get better at tackling is to tackle. We develop a tolerance to collision that allows us to get more reps.”
  • 38:15 – Timing of progressions and pre-season planning: “It seems common sense, but you can’t just train in the gym and then start contact and expect everything to be all right.”
  • 42:00 – Lessons from rugby for MMA training and MMA training culture: “The main thing I brought to MMA wasn’t the strength side, it was the organization side and how to organize a training week. Their idea of periodization was to train every day as many times as possible until you got ill, then that’s your offload.”
  • 45:00 – Survival of the fittest and self-selection.
  • 49:15 – Trends and watching the pendulum swing: “I’ve said to our CEO that we don’t want to be on the cutting edge of sports technology. It costs a fortune. Wait until some rich sports play around with it, see what hangs around after the fad is gone, and we’ll go with that.”

To hear more on these topics, listen to the full episode above. Also be sure to subscribe to our podcast and review it on iTunes.

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