The Essence of an Athlete: How Ido Portal Helps Conor McGregor

Recently we saw a spate of Facebook re-posts from UFC fighter Conor McGregor who trained with Ido Portal. These posts have drawn attention to freedom of movement as a workout. The post linked above contains an important line for those who “do not have the basic level of joint health, then don’t just run out and start doing all of these”.This point cannot be glossed over.

Joint diseases affect our ability to recognize external and internal forces from the ground, the wind, an opponent, or our own indolence. Our ability to absorb anything that comes up in wrestling, grappling, fighting situations, or any situation with a direct opponent is measured as performance in sport.

The essence of an athlete is the ability to process internal and external sensory stimuli (inputs) into coarse or fine patterns (outputs).

The essence of an athlete is the ability to process input stimuli into output patterns.

Bad exercise isn’t bad coaching

When a person moves poorly (i.e., the output as a pattern is bad), it is often attributed to how the movement was coached. It’s like coaching injects something to improve the way the central nervous system works to create movement.

However, if an athlete’s joints and tissues don’t have the competence to assume the correct positions, it doesn’t matter what a trainer says. This is also known as the joint-by-joint approach. A joint that is prone to stiffness can lose motion before the target is achieved. This means that another joint has to give up some of its stability in order to move further.

What Ido Portal is so good at is maintaining joint health that allows it to take positions and use movement skills. His approach offers many possibilities for processing the central and peripheral nervous system.

How can we move better?

In the new movement that is movement, improvement is rarely about better coaching. There are three esteemed coaches from whom I have drawn this insight.

  • Bill Sweetenham is an Australian swim coach who has trained gold medalists in several Olympic Games. Like Ido Portal, he seems to know how to train athletes to move well and often. At the beginning of 2014 I presented myself together with him on a road show “Higher, Stronger, Faster” in Northern Australia. In one of his lectures he said: “An athlete who trains doesn’t listen to you. “
  • ? Frans Bosch, an Olympic jump and sprint coach for the Netherlands, professor of motor learning, running coach for Wales Rugby Union, advisory trainer for the English Institute of Sport and global instructor in running biomechanics, said something similar: “An athlete’s body is literally not going to pay attention to what you say.”
  • Well-known strength trainer and physical therapist Gray Cook similarly quipped when he said: “Do not train change, initiate change.”

So how can we move better? Fortunately, improvement starts with a healthier set of peripheral inputs – things any amateur athlete, coach, and clinician can improve upon with the use of foam rollers, massage sticks, trigger point devices, stretches, or professional therapy.

Improvement starts with a healthier set of peripheral inputs.

Any effort to regain mobility improves the ability to discern subtle and less subtle movements. Once athletes regain this movement, pointers to improve skills due to the increased sensory input become more effective.

Once athletes have regained their mobility, cues to improve skills due to the increased sensory input become more effective.

How Ido Portal is helping Conor McGregor

Ido Portal and Conor McGregor both look like they have excellent mobility in key areas (Ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders). This means that they benefit from exercising in free motion and in natural surroundings.

Following this sequence results in an improved willingness to display fine and gross motor patterns.

Conor McGregor first demonstrates the value of mobility, followed by the implicit cues that natural freeform movement offers. Following this sequence results in an improved willingness to display fine and gross motor patterns – in other words, the patterns that land at the right time or dodge a blow.

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Photo courtesy of Andrius Petrucenia on Flickr (Original Version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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