My workout: ‘Mixed martial arts is a lot like chess’

Richard Newman, 50, on what it takes to be a mixed martial arts fighter

I have been a policeman for 25 years and a detective for 15. A few years ago, a friend of mine who practised mixed martial arts (MMA) asked if I wanted to do a couple of rounds with him, to help him prepare for an upcoming fight. He battered me. But in our conversation afterwards, he explained how hed analysed me and picked out my weaknesses, and I realised just how much there was to this sport.

MMA takes elements from a multitude of martial arts from greco-roman wrestling through to judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Thai boxing and wrestling and combines them to produce the purest form of combat sport there is. In a competitive bout, the winner is decided either by the judges decision at the end of three rounds of up to five minutes each; by knockout; or by tap-out, where you get your opponent in a position like a stranglehold until they tap the mat.

For the uninitiated, MMA can look like two guys inside a cage where contests typically take place going hell for leather. In reality its a lot more chess-like. You always have to be thinking two or three moves ahead.

You dont have to compete. You can use classes as a way to learn self defence, or just to get fit. Its physically exhausting. You can go to a Boxercise class and get sweaty, but the pads dont hit back. When the person who youre practising with is fighting back, it keeps you switched on, so you work harder. Its invigorating.

I was sparring in the gym the other day and someone landed a kick across the top of my head. I fell like a stone to the floor. The coach was rolling about laughing. When I asked him why, he pointed out that the guy whod just hit me was on bail for assaulting a police officer. Thats the camaraderie. Youve got men and women of every background, nationality and occupation in our gym, and theres huge respect among everyone.

My weekend workout

Years practising? Five.

Any injuries? Black eyes, a few cracked ribs.

Favourite recovery meal? Two bananas, yoghurt, milk and protein shake all whizzed up.

Five ways to get started: MMA

1 MMA is a combat sport, so its vital that you seek out a credible coach who will run sessions in a safe, structured way. Contact the UK MMA Federation ( to find an affiliated gym near you.

2 Youll never be forced to compete or spar if you dont want to, and theres no shame in avoiding that side of the sport.

3 MMA is not just for big burly men it has become increasingly popular in recent years among women. MMA gyms are often typified by their inclusive, welcoming and social atmospheres.

4 Counter-intuitively for a sport based around fighting, MMA training is great for injury prevention. Its combination of twisting and turning motions along with dynamic, explosive movements will improve aerobic fitness and all-round strength.

5 Try not to eat within the two hours before a session. Even if youre not sparring, classes involve short, sharp bursts of high intensity fitness training. If your body is still digesting, youll feel sick and wont be able to make the most of your workout.

Essential kit

Adidas MMA gloves, 29.99, Blitz Semi Contact Head Guard, 35.99, Opro Platinum Gen 3 mouthguard, 24.99,

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