YouTube Coaching; Why I’m Jeff Chan's fan boy.
A few years back, I would have likely flat out denied using YouTube as a coaching resource. Afterall, regurgitating online tutorial content to students doesn’t exactly lend credibility to a coach. Before the age of YouTube, finding techniques and activities to incorporate into practice required a greater effort. Perhaps, scrolling through magazines and VHS tapes, or even more laboriously spending years mastering the nuances of techniques to demonstrate and break down. What a pain in the ass! Nowadays, a quick gander at your phone can offer countless techniques and details to try out in practice. I expect very few coaches will even admit to using YouTube to find technical concepts or beef up a curriculum. I am not one of them, I unashamedly use it.
Obviously, we want our coaches to be technically competent and knowledgeable. Coaching, after all, is the transfer of information. Where that information comes from, so long as it’s useful and delivered effectively, is irrelevant. Here the value of a coach's expertize matters in recognizing what is practical and worthwhile. However, regardless of experience, there is not a coach in the world that knows every detail of every technique. That’s why YouTube has changed the game. As an example, I googled ‘armbar tutorial video’ and got 36,000 results. Collectively these clips offer every conceivable detail to every type of armbar technique. There are no secrets now! (Technically).
So, from a technical perspective, I am a big fan of YouTube. It really is a fantastic resource for showing what to practice. Where it falls terribly short, however, is showing us how to practice! Step in Jeff Chan.
Anyone who does watch MMA tutorials on Youtube is likely familiar with two of the most popular MMA coaching channels: Fight Tips with Shane Fazen and MMA Shredded with Jeff Chan. Fazen’s channel has really blown up in recent years with over 2.5 million subscribers.
I do admire how Fazen has grown his fanbase and I have enjoyed seeing the evolution of the channel. Only last week, he had Firas Zahabi on as a guest coach, which was a hell of a guest to snag. He has certainly come a long way from the fresh-faced kid seen here. He stuck in, kept at it, and has helped share and spread the good word of Mixed Martial Arts across the interweb. Kudos!
I’m not exactly sure when Jeff Chan’s MMAshredded popped up in my suggestions list. But it was immediately apparent to me that he gets it. Chan understands the difference between learning techniques and learning skills. And his method, in my opinion, is terrific. He block-drills a move, combo, or technique a few times to get the concept down. Then immediately implements it into open play sparring, often over several sessions and days with different sparring partners. His sparring clips don’t appear to be heavily edited to protect his ego, either. On the contrary, he includes his failed efforts and identifies his successes and errors during the live work.
Chan recently signed with ONE, and I am not the least bit surprised how quickly he has leveled up. His recent sparring videos have also been against much higher caliber fighters, and he is not afraid to show himself being on either side of these exchanges. Whether this volume of sparring is appropriate for everyone is debatable, but for someone like Chan or any young fighter determined to acquire fighting skills rapidly, this method and balance of technique and skill-based training is fantastic. In a nutshell, Chan IMO really demonstrates ‘how’ to practice for skill development.
I’m not shitting on Fazen’s technical knowledge or ability; it may indeed be better than Chan’s. I only compare them as a means of highlighting the pros and cons of technique-driving development and skill-based development. I believe the problem with primarily practicing technique is that it is difficult to know whether you can make it work in an authentic environment. This is where criticism of YouTube coaching is warranted. What might look and feel good to practice can be a complete waste of time come game day.
It also leads to some useless training and questionable technical drills. I searched ‘noodles’ within both channels and found several pool-noodle drills on Fight Tips (I was immediately triggered!). The only noodles I found on MMA shredded were from a delicious looking Thai Noodles recipe. Likewise, you won’t find tennis balls, laser pointers, or other training gimmicks (All which violate the principles of specific skill acquisition) on Chan’s channel. His format is consistent. Briefly practice a technique, then make it skill by working into sparring and live exchanges.
Having all the tools in the box is useless if you can’t use them when it matters. Learning the movements themselves is relatively simple. As I have said before, with enough time, I could probably have my Granny shoulder rolling and countering off a jab, cross. She’s 90! Performing a ‘technique’ is easy given enough repetition. The hard part is pulling that shit off live in a real fight (skill).
Lastly, beware of using subscriber numbers as a metric for content quality. While high subscription numbers are terrific for the channel owners, the monetization of views incentivizes quantity over quality. I feel this is when the bullshit and nonsense starts to creep in. I do hope Chan's format does not suffer as a result of this pressure for more content. (He presently has 185,000 subscribers, a fraction of Fazen's).
Best of continued success to both Fazen and Chan. Like many of us in this sport, they clearly have different competitive aspirations. For those who are serious about becoming a skilled fighter and intend to use YouTube as a supporting resource. Then Chan is a man to follow.
At Primal MKE we primarily focus on skill development. Whether it be grappling, striking or MMA, we prioritize live chaotic partner work to add skills to our game. For more info on our curriculum and philosophies, come try a class or check us out online.