I met Robert Baranda during the Catch Wrestling-Dumog Experiment organized by Daniel “Mumbakki” Foronda on March 22, 2014 at the Elorde Gym in Mandaluyong City. I was impressed by Coach Robert’s grappling prowess and depth of knowledge particularly his insights on how a wrestler can exploit the body’s biomechanical reflex to his advantage in a fight. In an interview with FIGHT Times, Coach Robert shares his thoughts on how wrestling can complete the education of a martial artist.
FIGHT Times: Can you tell us about yourself and the origin of the Dungeon mixed martial arts (MMA) group?
Robert Baranda: My name is Robert Baranda and I have been a part of Submission Dungeon since its inception in 1998. Now, we just call the group Dungeon. The Dungeon is a brotherhood, meaning we don’t accept walk-in members, you can’t just walk in and join, you have to be referred by a fellow member. The Dungeon is headed by Daniel “Mumbakki” Foronda he is currently teaching the Russian Special Forces techniques in mortal combat. One would think that with all Special Forces’ experience in combat that they would know everything when it comes to fighting but apparently they have a lot to learn from our master. In his absence I will (with a lot of effort and without a chance of equaling his knowledge and mastery of the arts) be in charge of the Dungeon.
FT: In your opinion, how can wrestling training complete the education of a martial artist?
RB: Wrestling has been the basis of our training to be exact Catch wrestling. We believe that wrestling is an inevitable part of any martial art because some form of wrestling will always be at play. A very good example would be boxing. One would think that boxing is a pure striking art/sport, but it has an element of wrestling which is the clinch, although the referee will break you up, it is still a part of the game. No matter how good one martial artist is he will still tangle with his opponent at some point. Learning wrestling will really complete anybody‘s game. That is why wrestling is a big part of MMA.
FT: Is wrestling primarily a big man’s game? Given all things are equal, can a small wrestler beat a big wrestler?
RB: Given everything equal, can a smaller wrestler win over a big wrestler? Probably not, that’s the reason behind the weight divisions in wrestling. Size and weight will always play a role in any combat sport unless the smaller fighter is a more superior wrestler, but then things are not equal. Another reason wrestlers try to cut weight so much so they can get an edge, they’ll weigh in at a much lighter but dehydrated weight and compete 10 to15 pounds heavier giving them a slight advantage. Doing this is a double edge blade because they’re giving up strength and cardiovascular endurance for the extra weight.
FT: What is your approach to teaching wrestling and how does it differ compared to other grappling arts?
RB: Our basic approach in training and teaching is based on our game plan, which is pressure fighting. Wrestling is a system wherein you do not give your opponent an inch so you can set up your next move. The specific moves we specialize on are moves that understand and take advantage of the body’s natural biomechanics and we find a way to interrupt the natural flow and you get the takedown, advantage position, control or submission. In screening our fighters what is more important to me is what I call combat/battle acumen—the fighter’s natural ability and desire for combat.
FT: Wrestlers are considered to be among the best-conditioned athletes; can you expound on the role of conditioning in wrestling training?
RB: Wrestlers are considered one of the most conditioned athletes because of the nature of the sport. In wrestling you have five minutes to win or survive the match either way you will be working at full throttle the whole time. There is no cruising or pacing, in wrestling there is only one pace and that is all out balls-to-the-wall pace. This little fact alone entails you have to push your body beyond its anaerobic limitation. In any activity our body can only sustain its submaximal performance (anaerobic state) for 90 seconds. At 90 seconds, our body uses carbohydrates as its main source of fuel and the byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism is lactic acid, which is the burning sensation you feel on the muscles you are working on. That is why most people will be forced to stop at this point, but wrestlers are trained to go beyond pain and fatigue. Another reason wrestlers are always in great shape is the fact that the sport itself requires them to train in unusual positions involving muscles you don’t usually use in other sport. In wrestling you will be doing a lot of bear crawl, crab walks and other animal drills that will really challenge muscles you didn’t even know was there.
FT: Can an individual who trains exclusively in wrestling be effective in a street-fighting situation where multiple opponents and weapons are involved?
RB: Traditional wrestling like freestyle wrestling (involves takedowns that allow you to grab the legs) or Greco-Roman wrestling (strictly upper body holds for takedowns) won’t be as effective in dealing with multiple attackers because its objective is to pin one opponent at a time but the kind of wrestling we do is Catch Wrestling which involves all of the disciplines mentioned above with one addition which is submission holds. In Catch Wrestling, we can end a fight in one submission and move on to the next attacker. When we say submission in Catch Wrestling, we’re not just aiming to dislocate a joint, we aim to break bone. Choking is out of the question in a multiple attacker situation because it would take quite a while to end one attacker with that move. A violent takedown will also do the trick like a high crotch lift or a sidewalk slam—is a game ender in the street. This is only done if you have to use it in self-defense. Although Catch Wrestling is not designed for this scenario, I can see the possibilities.
FT: What advice can you give to martial artists who want to add wrestling to their training?
RB: My advice to those martial artists who want to incorporate wrestling to their game aside from learning the fundamental is to change your mindset and incorporate the pressure game. This is when wrestling is at its best.