Originally created as a response at Karate Forums to posts in the thread: American Kickboxers don’t learn Sweeps?, when my response reached over 2000 words I decided to rework it as a blog-post. Credit to the User, Prototype, for creating the topic on the forums, and for the statements which inspired this post. The opening post of the thread:

Prototype: A user here claimed that above the waist american style kickboxers back in the day were at a disadvantage against pure boxers due to the rules prohibiting sweeps, but from my understanding, american kickboxer don’t learn sweeps and other traditional martial arts stuff.

So let’s set the record straight. THe ones who were surely at a disadvantage rules-wise was boxers..who had to face kicks.. Yet they dominated enough to have the rule set changed to 8 kick minimun per round

My initial argument was that most early American Kick-Boxers came from a Competitive Kumite back-ground, which in 1960s/70s America, meant a format where sweeping and throwing were allowed. Although, any boxer entering into American Kick-Boxing at the time would be at a disadvantage in not having a kick offence, I would argue that several elements make this a moot-point:

1. High Kicks to the head and body, are readily avoided with head-movement and body swaying; something boxers are skilled with. Thus, they would have entered the American Kick-Boxing ring with a defence against high kicks.

2. Clinch fighting was forbidden as it is in Boxing; thus, so were sweeps, and throws. Boxers did not need to learn to fight in the clinch.

3. With the clinch eliminated, and range control, still isolated to the use of head-movement, body swaying, and foot-work; high kicks were moot as a weapon, except as one of opportunity.

The rules, in my mind, make American Kick-Boxing just Boxing with high-kicks. Therefore, boxing is a cornerstone skill necessary for success in American Kick-Boxing. You can evade high-kicks with the same body movement you defend against punches with. This can even be seen in contemporary Muay Thai, and other kick-boxing bouts. Thus, boxing skill became, and is, the pre-dominant skill over a more rounded kick-boxing acumen with regards to American Kick-Boxing. As such I assert that with regards to success in American kick-boxing; the better a competitor is at boxing, the more success they will have.

To demonstrate this argument, I will use the example of Joe Lewis as I did in the thread. Joe Lewis trained with former boxing champion Joe Orbillo, notably after Lewis had retired from point-fighting, and was also a regular training partner of Bruce Lee; whom, whatever one’s opinion of his actual fighting skill, was a pioneer of strength and conditioning training in martial arts, even if you credit him with nothing else. As such, Joe Lewis was ahead of the curve regarding actual fighting knowledge, compared to a lot of other veterans of Professional Karate who came from a point-fighting back-ground only.  Joe Lewis was also a natural athlete; he earned his Shodan in 7 months, and won his first karate championship (Point-Fighting) with only 22 months of training under his belt. This combination of boxing knowledge, natural athleticism, and effective conditioning for full-contact meant that Lewis dominated during the first years of American Kick-Boxing. Simply because he was a better boxer than his opponents, not a good boxer, by his own admission, but better than his competitors. Lewis was also conditioned to take a hit as well as deliver one, which was alien to his rivals coming from a point-fighting back-ground. However, once the knowledge of the competition caught up; Joe Lewis crashed out from his top place in the pecking order. He lost two consecutive fights before entering what would prove to be a temporary retirement in 1975; and during his comeback effort, from 82 to 83, went 4-2 and failed to recapture the Professional Karate Association US Heavyweight Championship.

The above Joe Lewis versus Tom Hall fight is a good example of how far Lewis’ early advantage slipped away. Hall was the better boxer, in that he showed head movement, and had better close in boxing, and it earned him the decision victory. Still not good boxing by any professional or Olympic standard, but at least solid at an amateur level. To paraphrase a statement from Lewis himself, when he was the dominant PKA Heavyweight Champion, when asked whether he intended to try professional boxing; Lewis claimed he was far from proficient enough, he just had a better boxing acumen than his early kick-boxing opponents. However, even in those early days, from 1975 onward, the Kick-Boxers developed boxing skills precisely because of Lewis’ pioneering approach, and the realisation that to fight in boxing gloves one needed to know how to box. Thus, despite dominating from 1970-75, Lewis’ boxing skill advantage seemed to disappear overnight in 1975 as his competitors had time to catch up. Also, despite a brave showing in his 82-83 return, Lewis did not evolve enough in the intervening years to remain a champion level fighter. In some ways Lewis was the Ken Shamrock of his day, and American Kick-Boxing. Lewis was a strong, and surprisingly fast, heavyweight; with a knowledge base ahead of the other players, which meant he dominated while he was pioneering the sport. However, once his knowledge advantage disappeared, an inability to evolve further meant he could not remain competitive.  Like Shamrock and Vale-Tudo/Free-Fighting; from 93-96, Shamrock was top of the pile because he had an amateur wrestling back-ground, knew catch-wrestling, and had some skill in Muay Thai. When Shamrock returned in 2000, it was no longer enough to know submission fighting or how to strike; Brazilian Jujitsu, Amateur Wrestling, and Muay Thai were the knowledge base of modern MMA fighters, and one had to be good at them to be competitive, not simply have knowledge of them. Similarly, the American kick-boxing of the early 70s simply required one to know how to fight in boxing gloves to dominate; from 75 onward one had to have boxing skill to be competitive.

So, ultimately; in kick-boxing, you must have boxing acumen, but most especially in American Kick-Boxing. The rest of the article; I will be addressing a couple of statements I consider interesting.

Prototype: If Bob Sapp beats arguably the greatest Kickboxer of all time – Ernesto Hoost to a bloody pulp with wild swinging punching, I can only imagine what Mike Tyson would do to Hoost.

A general rule thumb is that if you take two competitors who are equally strong; the more skilled one will be the victor. If you take two equally skilled competitors; the stronger one wins. At the professional level; a competitor is conditioned to a competitive level. Plus, no one becomes a professional through luck; you either have the skill to be a professional or you do not. Exempting elite competitors, on the professional level there is a third part to the general rule of thumb above; if you take two competitors who are equally strong and skilled, then the one with the stylistic disadvantage loses. Even in boxing there are styles of course; and to give an example of stylistic disadvantage, you can look to Ali versus Foreman. Foreman was one of the heaviest hitters in the game, and tough too, but his unsophisticated Slugger style meant he was unable to bring these advantages to bear against the Out-Fighting tactics of the Ali. Ali was one of the greatest of all time; but I would not place him far above Foreman (At his best) in terms of skill and strength. After all; Foreman won Gold at the Olympics, and walked past Norton and Frazier, both of whom had wins over Ali at the height of his career, and both fought Foreman when they were active contenders. Foreman’s slugger style just gave him an innate disadvantage against Ali’s out-fighting and strategy.

Anyway; to swing this back to the statement on Sapp and Hoost. I would argue that Hoost’s weakness was always aggressive fighters. This can be seen in his early career, where he gave away losses to several fighters he would defeat later. Once he hit his stride circa 2000; his weakness became aggressive big men. He never solved the puzzle of Bob Sapp or Semmy Schilt; both fighters above and just under the 300-lb mark respectively, but defeated aggressive fighters who caused him trouble earlier in his career, with Jerome Le Banner being an obvious example. Comparatively speaking; Sapp went onto suffer losses to Ray Sefo, and Peter Aerts, after his fights with Hoost. Two fighters Hoost would fight, and defeat, after his disasters against Sapp. To be honest; I have always been suspicious of Sapp versus Hoost 2. Hoost knocked Sapp down in the first round, and the KO was declared while Hoost was still standing. Sapp was too injured to continue in the tournament, but Hoost was still in good enough shape, despite the KO ruling, to take Sapp’s place and go on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix 2002. I give Sapp the fluke of their first meeting, but I do believe Sapp was being protected during their second bout.

Regarding Mike Tyson; his weakness was tall, out-fighters/boxer-punchers, whom he could not intimidate. This was first demonstrated by Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas, then shown again with the Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis losses. Now; it must be mentioned that Holyfield beat Douglas, and Holyfield was beaten by Lewis, so it was a very select group that fought at the level of Tyson in his prime; in that their greatest challengers were each other.

Now; Prototype was not suggesting a hypothetical Tyson and Hoost match up. However, it made me think, and in theory a Hoost versus Tyson fight in their primes could have been interesting. Tyson weighed around the 218 lb mark on average, and Hoost at just a bit less at 215 lb. However, Tyson came in at 5’10 to Hoost’s 6’2.4, and gave away a reach advantage like the one Tyson suffered against Holyfield. However, Tyson often fought at a reach disadvantage, so it is hard to say how this would impact such a fictional set up.

Both were knock-out artists: 88% of Tyson’s victories were by knock out, and 62% of Hoost’s victories were by knock-out. Hoost did fight significantly more than Tyson, by a multiple of 2.086, to give it a number.  Even if we use an equation to give Tyson a fictional career of 121 fights like Hoost, if we accept the knock-out rate as consistent, then Tyson still has a better fictional knock-out rate of 75%. Thus, Tyson unarguably has the edge in knock-out power in a fictional match-up. I would also give Tyson the strength advantage with his giving away at least 4 inches in height, yet coming in just slightly heavier than Hoost.

If we look at their mutual strengths the fight does remain interesting. Tyson was short for a heavyweight, and not particularly fast on his feet, although he had a good dash. However, he was very good at cutting the corners and slicing the angles to corner his opponents, and thus mitigated the disadvantage of his height through good ring control and having excellent foot-work. Tyson also employed the peek-a-boo defence, and through his career demonstrate an exceptional defence, which again, helped him mitigate his height disadvantage. Tyson also had incredible hand-speed, and could throw powerful combinations, making him incredibly dangerous once he got inside an opponent’s reach.

Hoost, on the other hand, made use of distance control through his low kicks to be the dominant kick-boxer he was. Hoost also had very good hands, reflective of his Dutch Kick-Boxing heritage, where emphasis is made on punching over elbows and knees. He was, and is, very good at setting up low kicks with his punching offensive. He also scored as many victories with his hands as he did his kicks. Similarly; Hoost’s defence was very much bread and butter Dutch Kick-Boxing; utilising a lot of footwork to get in and out and to create angles. Indeed; Hoost is probably the archetypal example of a Dutch Kick-Boxer who made the style work on the world stage.

I think what makes it an interesting fictional bout is that both are each other’s nemesis in a way. Tyson was a legendarily aggressive fighter, which is the sort Hoost struggled with the most. Hoost is an example of an out-fighting kick-boxer, who uses foot work, and low kick combinations to control distance to set up knock-out blows. At the mid-range, both were excellent combination workers, and my primary question would be whether Tyson’s pee-a-boo defence would have adapted well to Hoost’s powerful kicking offense. Similarly; would Tyson’s use of angles have been better than Hoost’s and allowed him to turn it into a boxing match.

As with a lot of fictional bouts involving Tyson; I think I would say it depends on that magic fourth round. If Tyson could successfully bull-rush Hoost in the opening rounds; then it would be Tyson’s win. However, if Hoost, and I think he would have a good chance of doing so, could use his out-fighting skills to draw Tyson beyond the fourth round, all the while working the legs, then I believe Hoost would be the victor. It would also depend on the rule set; American and International rules allow for up to 12 rounds, which would tax both fighters. Muay Thai and Oriental rules allow a maximum of five rounds which Tyson, even with his famed stamina issue, could probably fight comfortably within. American and International rules not allowing clinch fighting, or knee strikes, would restrict Hoost’s arsenal, but he was more known for his punching and kicks. Muay Thai and Oriental would give Hoost the most freedom, but I think Tyson’s infamous dirty boxing and explosive power, and probable weight and strength advantage, could see him safely through clinch fighting. Really could not call it, but I am inclined to give Tyson the edge in theory, just because he was more dominant at his prime. Though, Hoost and Tyson both had slip ups in their primes; Sapp and Douglas respectively. However; as discussed below, Boxers do not do well outside of the Boxing ring, even when they have been dominant Boxers.

 

Prototype: A shame we didn’t have more fresh elite boxing blood in K1 to see how the kickboxers would parry their punching expertise.

I think it important to concede that, unfortunately, a lot of boxing talents brought into K-1 were past their prime. However, some had a pedigree, and had achieved something in the world of Boxing. Below are a few examples:

Francois Botha (IBF World HW champion): Boxing: 48-11, K-1: 4-12

Shannon Briggs (WBC World HW Championship Contender): Boxing: 60-6, K-1: 1-0

Ray Mercer (WBO World HW champion): Boxing: 36-7, K-1: 0-2

Vince “Cool” Phillips (IBF world LW champion): Boxing: 48-12, K-1: 0-1

Virgil Kalakoda (WBN and IBF inter-continental LM champion): Boxing: 25-8, K-1: 10-10

Arthur Williams (IBF CW champ): Boxing: 47-17, K-1: 0-1

Eric Butterbean Esch (IBA World SHW champion): Boxing: 77-10, K-1: 3-4

Yong Soo Choi (WBA super FW champ): Boxing: 29-4, K-1: 3-1

In Jin Chi (WBC FW champ): Boxing: 31-3, K-1: 1-1

All the boxers above fought on the world, or at least on an international, stage and did well. There may have been more boxers that I am unaware of who also entered K-1 at some point, but the above are the ones I am certain of, and can find a record for. All with winning records as well, by the time they retired, so arguably very competitive boxers on the level they fought. Sadly, only two have a winning kick-boxing record, and Shannon Briggs achieved his by only fighting in K-1 once.  With that said, some did pull off shock wins; Botha being the best example from the list above. Boxers have not done well in cross-over efforts. Issue is; K-1 usually brought them in for their freak show fights, and as mentioned before past their prime. The K-1 management also and often fed them to a kick-boxer they wanted to promote. Thus, it is hard to judge how said boxers would have done if they had been in their prime. However; they have also fared poorly in attempts to enter the world of Mixed Martial Arts, and earlier Mixed Rules/Inter-Style contests.

There is the case of  Mike Bernardo though. Bernardo was a one of the most competitive fighters in K-1, being the 2000 K-1 World Grand Prix in Fukuoka winner, and a regular K-1 tournament runner up, who fought all the top K-1 fighters of his day at least once and had victories over them. He was also a kick-boxing champion in several other organisations. However, he was also the World Boxing Federation World Heavyweight Champion, with a boxing record of 11-1, though he was stripped of the title for inactivity. Plus, he began boxing professionally a couple of years prior to beginning his K-1 career, so one could argue he was a competitive boxer entering K-1. However, his back ground was karate and kick-boxing, and he started his competitive kick-boxing in 1990. He is an exception to the rule, but an exception which demonstrates that one could be competitive in both Kick-Boxing and Boxing. I think it rather telling that he was not an International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, or World Boxing Organization Champion, which suggests that while Bernardo fought at the top Level as a kick-boxer he could not do so as a boxer. However, he never did capture the K-1 World Grand Prix crown, unlike several of his rivals, suggesting that although he was a top fighter his fighting ability was inconsistent.

Prototype: When the K1 fighters get pressured by boxing they seem to crumble. Look human. Same thing with Lebanner against Mark Hunt. Mark Hunt is not a boxer.

I am loath to accuse someone of selective viewing, as we are all prone to it, but I would argue, especially with the example of Hunt versus Le Banner fight being used, that what has really been witnessed is an example of fight psychology. Mark Hunt was, and is known, as the Super Samoan expressly because of how hard he hits, and the punishment he could take. Hunt caught Le Banner with a hard punch, that Le Banner did not see coming. As anyone who has been in the ring can tell you; it’s the hard punch you do not see coming that puts you down, not the hardest punch you take during the fight. Shaken by a hard punch, Le Banner then failed to continue to put up an effective defence; he was effectively out of the fight the moment the upper cut connected, and the hook followed, in the last minute of the second round. Hunt’s offensive after that was just finishing the job.

In broader terms; it is also important to note that the go to defence in Kick-Boxing is more regularly to cover up, than necessarily use a lot of head movement or foot-work. Unlike boxing, where one might attempt to duck, and swerve out of being cornered, because of the danger of a low kick or high kick being thrown after any punch combination or as soon as one tries to move. There are a few examples where moving into a kick led to a knock-down or even a knock out, because someone has moved into a low kick and been bowled over, or basically moved their head into the path of a kick. This is not to say head-movement is not used in defence, or parrying but that they are not used in the exact same manner as classical pugilism. Similarly, kick-exchanges, and clinch fighting, can often lead to collisions far more often than boxing, and where as a clinch leads to a break in boxing, in K-1 and kick-boxing formats where knees and clinch-fighting is allowed; it can often be wiser to cover up and try to work for space, than attempt a boxing exchange.

With all the above said; I would state that Boxing and Kick-Boxing are very different sports despite sharing the similarity of being stand-up, combat sports where boxing gloves are used. Boxing is an essential skill to possess in Kick-Boxing, but it is not the lone skill, and without a knowledge of how kicking effects distance control, and defence tactics , boxing alone will fall short in the more varied arena of kick-boxing.

(My views from when Phil Brooks (CM Punk) was signed; Mixed Martial Farce)

UFC 203 has come and gone; with results that are good and bad for the sport, and competitors. One particular fight, and the one the title alludes to, was Mickey Gall’s expected defeat of Phil Brooks (Better known as CM Punk) in a one sided competition, which show cased Gall’s superior grappling abilities, and cage experience, and Brooks’ lack of cage experience and training.

In short; Gall succeeded in easily taking Brooks down with a double leg take down as Brooks moved forward, with no apparent attempt to sprawl made. Once on the ground; Brooks made the mistake of attempting to exchange punches from the bottom position, rather than attempting to keep Gall close, and attempting to sweep. As the fight progressed, and Gall took Brooks’ back, Brooks then made the mistake of straightening himself out, in an attempt to regain his footing, which to a skilled submission competitor like Gall is essentially an invitation to lock in the rear naked choke. However, let it be said; Gall’s take down was text-book and showed excellent control of the legs, he took advantage very quickly of Brooks’ failure to gain control from the bottom position, and he actively worked for and earned that back position. Sadly; all that this means is that Gall did as expected of him as a Brazillian Jujutsu brown belt; with significantly more cage experience, a much greater amount of training under his belt, and with his professional debut behind him.

Strangely; this means that Phil Brooks, rather than Mickey Gall, may in the long run benefit more from this result. Many have argued that Gall was not worthy of his place on this card, and perhaps not worthy of a place in the UFC. This argument lies on the premise that none of Gall’s amateur opponents have gone onto have records of note. Woodmy Jean is 0-3, and Marvin Nino is breaking even at 3-3 but has not managed this through a winning streak suggesting inconsistent cage abilities. His first professional opponent was in the form of Ron Templeton; who went 2-2 as an amateur, and is 0-1 as a professional. Gall’s second foe as a professional was Mike Jackson; called a part-time fighter by the MMA press, and a fighter who has registered no victories as an amateur or professional. Brooks was Gall’s third professional foe, and far from a fair opponent; Brooks had no amateur background whatsoever, and was making his professional debut. Arguably; Gall’s only fair professional opponent was his debut opponent, Templeton; who was himself debuting as a professional but had as many victories as an amateur as Gall, and had two more fights under his belt than Gall thus came into the fight with more cage experience.

gall

The Winner?

Thus; Gall, in his UFC fights has essentially fought cans. His victories over Jackson and now Brooks were expected, and these victories have done nothing to cement his place in the UFC. They have done nothing to prove whether he can compete at the highest levels; whether he can become a contender. What this means is that Gall must win his next fight; against a proven, and tested, fighter that critics and fans alike agree deserves to be in the UFC. Another win again a can does nothing for Gall, where as a loss will most probably send him back to the minor leagues or to the amateurs, because no one can make the argument that Brooks gave him competition. His professional wins thus far, will not rack up against a bad loss.

Similarly; Brooks must also win his next fight, if he does get another chance to fight in the UFC. Meaning this fight has done nothing for either fighter; Gall must win against a solid opponent to prove he deserves to be in the UFC, and Brooks needs a win to show he can actually compete successfully in MMA. Now, Dana White is unlikely to let Gall go if Gall is winning; but if they are against cans, and unfair set-ups, all it would take is one decisive or upset loss for Gall to be told to get packing. Similarly; Brooks might salvage a career from another loss if he goes the distance, and can force a split decision but it is unlikely. A 37 year old man going 0-2, without an amateur record suggesting he has promise; has no real future in the UFC. Both men need convincing wins to stay in the UFC at this point; if Brooks is even given another chance.

Over all; this has done as all side-shows do, put those involved in tentative positions. Yes, it has got Gall name recognition, but any one in the know, is well aware that this win means very little. Brooks being defeated says nothing about Brooks; his loss was expected. Thus we have two fighters who have achieved nothing, career wise, from fighting, and must now arguably win their next fights if they are to have careers.

Now, Brooks does have more options if he does not get another fight in the UFC, or if he does and it does not go as needed. He could try Bellator; where he would be used as a draw, and could expect Kimbo Slice quality protection; he will be given cans in hopes they can wring a winning record out of him. Otherwise, he could try his hands in Japan under the auspices of Inoki; who again would protect him and provide fairer competition, and in the realm of Inoki-ism Brooks would be far more palatable to Japan’s MMA pundits and fan base. Comparatively, as mentioned before, Gall has little hopes in the event of a loss; he could return to the minor leagues, or amateur competition, and try and rebuild momentum, however, some fighters after a bad loss are never the same.

If both of them do lose, and get released, then they might find a gravy train in Bellator; they might be given the opportunity for a Gall versus Brooks rematch, or a series of matches. It could potentially draw, but not without some building up of them both through warm-up matches, and set-ups to make them both look good. Sadly; this would be significant gamification, and any one with an eye for it, and the energy to do research, would recognise it. Though the matches would not be ” works” there would predictably  be some degree of engineering going on in the match ups. It will come down to whether Gall and Brooks want to be competitors, who fight for themselves or whether they want to be draws that fight for their wallets. To his credit, Brooks is fighting because he wants to, and Gall is young and aspires to greatness in the sport. I cannot see them taking this route.

punk

Done with showmanship?

Moving onto what Brooks should consider doing if he hopes to become a competitor, there are a few strategies he could attempt. I personally would advise the following three:

  1. Become obsessed with his Brazilian jujutsu, with the aim to earn rank in it, and develop his technical base to a competitive level. He needs to be able to finish blue-belts consistently, and to be able to threaten black-belts. Brooks made many mistakes in his ground game, which with more BJJ training he may have avoided.
  1. Compete in semi-contact kick-boxing, and submission contests as an amateur. Get experience against strikers in their own realm, and against top level submission artists. As an older individual, who needs to really increase his mat experience; competing in these forms of competition will get him that experience, without risking as much injury and because of the lower intensity he could compete more often. However, he should also eventually step into the amateur cage, as the above competitions will eventually have limited gains associated with them when it comes to MMA.
  1. Find out his body fat ratio, and whether he can realistically reduce his fat levels, or whether he is already lean. The reality is he is a heavy Welterweight, coming in at the top level of that bracket, suggesting he is lean and has to cut weight. He might find more success trying to build muscle mass, and fighting as a moderately light middleweight. However, it is harder to keep muscle mass as one ages, thus this might not be an ideal strategy. Overall, he needs to find his “natural” fighting weight; where in the muscle is easy enough to maintain, but the weight control is not so excessive as to run risks.

 

Saying this we can now broaden this advice and analysis to ourselves, and others;

  1. If we aim to compete we should have a solid technical basis; we should be at a level where we can finish those less experienced than us consistently and regularly, and be able to threaten those with more experience than us. If one is doing a single style, this suggests you have reached competency in that skill range. Competency is what wins matches, and in self-defence keeps one safe.
  1. Competition is competition, and will have returns and gains to offer; it is better to avoid injury, and be able to compete regularly, and get experience, then not to compete at all. However, eventually one has to take the plunge and compete in what one really wants to compete in, and at appropriate intensity. The risk of injury is eventually unavoidable, but it should not be flirted with regularly for the sake of it.
  1. Work out your body-fat ratio, and how your body weight is made up. It will give you a better idea about whether you should be building muscle mass or seeking to lose body fat, to be competitive in your natural weight bracket. Now, I would argue that if you cannot squat or bench your own body weight, or the peak weight of your intended bracket, then you need to build muscle mass rather than cut weight. Strength is the cornerstone of how a fight between skilled fighters will go.

 

We can also expand the situation Brooks and Gall are now in to how promoters should view fighters. Yes, as a promoter you are running a business, and need to make the match ups, and events that draw in money; however, fighters are part of your business. One has to keep in mind their future; they will not stay with you if you do not protect their career prospects, or at least respect the fact this is a career for them. A promoter needs to aim to make fights meaningful, and where a winner earns better prospects; not a catch 22.

Disclaimer: My competitive career has consisted of Point-fighting, Kick-Boxing, and Shoot-fighting. I have never competed in Mixed Martial Arts, I never intend to, and so I do not claim to be an expert on the sport. For an actual technical deconstruction of the fight see the following: http://fightland.vice.com/blog/how-holly-holm-killed-queen-ronda-rousey

I do not agree with everything in the above article, and I believe it suffers from the hyperbole most analyses can, but on the whole it is the best breakdown I have seen. The following link also somewhat sums up the lessons that Holm’s coaches used to form her strategy: http://fightland.vice.com/blog/killing-the-queen-ronda-rousey


 

I am not a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, and I have some pretty strong opinions on whether professional combat sports constitute sports or sanctioned acts of violence. However, on Saturday 14th, the otherwise dominant Rhonda Rousey was defeated in an upset by Holly Holm at UFC 193. Much talk has been made of Holm putting on a boxing clinic against Rousey, while seemingly ignoring the times Holm did find herself in danger, or that it was a competitive match lasting into the latter half of the second round. If one does look at the statistics of that match, then Holm was in the lead through out the bout, but I am not here to discuss that.

I am here to discuss the broader issues that come with being a professional fighter in the modern world; I would like to discuss something I have dubbed the Tyson effect (not to be confused with the Tyson Zone). Wherein a dominant fighter is somehow brought down, and leaves the rest of us confounded; even those of us whom recognised said fighters weaknesses, but just did not quite believe there existed the person to take advantage of the opportunities those weaknesses present. The namesake sake of the effect is one Mike Tyson (Too obvious?) whom went from a very dominant fighter and champion, to a competitive fighter but seemingly unable to recapture the magic. He is not alone in this happening to him; MMA has already had its share of such characters, and before that so did the world of boxing. Tyson had a number of advantages and weaknesses, which I consider the matrixes of the Tyson effect:

 

Advantage: Intimidation.

Psychologically, due to his ability to finish a fight in the first round through his speed and power, Tyson became feared and his opponents often tried to avoid going toe-to-toe with him. In most cases all this did was lead to him stalking them and forcing them to take the hits; 41% of his fights ended in the first round because of this. His opponents had lost to mistakes in their own strategies caused by fear; all Tyson had to do after that was land the finishing blow.

 

Advantage: Highly-Honed Tactic.

When one thinks of the peak-a-boo stance, in-fighting, and the dominant finishers in modern boxing; the discussion inevitably involves Mike Tyson. It was an approach that served him well; being on the short side for his weight division, without a strong defence Tyson could have easily suffered the fate of simply being out-punched by virtue of a difference in reach each match, and forced beyond the fourth round; the round after which his stamina and poise seemed to disappear. However, the peak-a-boo stance allowed him to punch with power from behind a tight defence, stalk his opponents, and mitigate any advantages in reach, and get in close to where his superior speed and power would win the day. Tyson was a master of this strategy, and few fighters ever had the skills to cause it to unwind.

 

Weakness: Psychology.

Psychologically, Tyson was not the most resilient of fighters. He came to rely on his ability to intimidate his foes, and struggled against any opponent who did not fear him. Indeed; his four legitimate losses could be attributed to the fact his opponents did not fear him, he could not unnerve them enough to cause unforced errors, and because of this Tyson’s own weaknesses (his lack of reach and stamina) could be exploited by a clam and collected fighter willing to wait him out and exchange punches even against Tyson’s defence.

 

Weakness: Over-exposure.

I shall not get into the celebrity side of Tyson’s struggles; rather his exposure in the ring as a fighter, and a champion. It is a weakness all professional fighters struggle from in the modern age where, with the benefit of digital technology, all of their fights are likely to be recorded on some level. As almost a one-trick pony in the ring, and a highly popular fighter with many of his fights recorded, Tyson became very easy to analyse over time and this fed into his earliest defeats against fighters who did not fear him but also had enough know-how of Tyson’s approach that they knew how to pick it apart before even exchanging a single punch with him.

 

Therefore; a fighter experiencing the Tyson effect will have the advantage of their reputation, and having a way of fighting that they practice at an elite and almost inhuman level. Yet; they will also rely on this psychological edge, and eventually their opponents’ know-how will catch up with their once impeccable approach to fighting. I think this can be applied to many instances in history; Ken Norten and Muhammad Ali, Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling, Fedor Emelianenko and Fabrício Werdum, Chris Weidman and Antonio Silva,  and so on and so forth. All the defending champions in those matches had an intimidating reputation, and by that time a well known strategy and approach to, and character when, fighting. I would argue that Rhonda Rousey, beyond any lack in her striking skills, has been a victim of this effect when it came time to fight Holly Holm:

 

Advantage: Intimidation.

Rhonda Rousey is an intimidating foe for almost any fighter. It has also worked very well for her; every fighter has known not to get into Rousey’s clinch because it is the bread and butter of Judo and the essence of Rousey’s dominant strategy. However, every other fighter than Holm has feared the clinch, rather than avoiding it, they have lashed out at Rousey in an attempt to avoid the dreaded clinch. Holm did not fear Rousey, though respects her formidability, and stayed level headed through the fight and avoided the clinch with clever boxing tactics but when the clinch came she fought against it instead of running away from it. This was a huge hole in Rousey’s game and when it came time to fight; Holm was not afraid and Rousey did not know how to deal with that.

 

Advantage: Highly-Honed Tactic.

The clinch, the hip throw, and the arm bar. Those are the three magic ingredients of Rousey’s fight plan. She has been unparalleled in achieving this; she would eat punches to gain the clinch if need be, she would go for the hip throw against opponents who showed no defensive acumen because of the sheer difference in skill level, and no matter the angle she caught the arm at she could get the opponent to tap. However, as mentioned with the intimidation factor, when she faced Holm; Rousey’s efforts were calmly countered with out-fighting and impeccable foot-work; and when it did come to the clinch, Holm fought back and instead of risking a ground fight simply survived Rousey, until the time was right to break out. As well as the strategy had  worked, against someone with the right tools to beat it, it becomes an Achilles heel as it was obvious there was no plan-b by the way round 2 played out.

An example of Rousey's now infamous hip-throw.

An example of Rousey’s now infamous hip-throw.

Weakness: Psychology.

Rousey is a trash talker, and before the fight has even begun has had some of the most high-profile verbal exchanges against her opponents. Every fight has turned personal, and stayed personal in the ring. This has worked in the past against equally emotional opponents, and foes who were intimidated by Rousey’s clinch fighting. Against the ever respectful Holm, this did not work; Holm kept her calm outside and inside the cage. She kept her head in the moment, and on what she needed to do to beat Rousey. Rousey wound herself up emotionally; not getting the expected response out of Holm affected her and this shows in much of her attitude up to the fight. Rousey wanted to beat Holm, and tellingly it was perhaps her determination to keep going forward to engage Holm that lost her the fight. By trying to aggressively engage Holm, Rousey just allowed herself to receive perfectly lined up left straights. Against Holm, whom recognised the importance of the bout but otherwise treated it as a day in the office; it was like the ever common bull to the matador analogy.

Against an opponent that comes in swinging; Holm has never struggled to connect with her left.

Against an opponent that comes in swinging; Holm has never struggled to connect with her left.

Weakness: Over-exposure.

Everyone who knows of Rousey knows she is a Judoka and an Olympic level Judo Player at that. They also know she has won nine of her fights via arm-bar, mostly after a successful take down with a hip throw during a clinch. As a popular fighter, it is also almost impossible never to have seen her fight, and there is a rich body of video footage of her fighting. As mentioned constantly by Holm’s coaching team since Holm’s victory; the issue of fighting Rousey was a maths problem to them. As pointed out in how Rousey has used one highly successful strategy until now, bar one knockout, it becomes very easy to pull apart with in-depth analysis, especially when that analysis has been given to a fighter with the right tools to pull off a counter strategy.

 

Now, none of this takes away from Rhonda Rousey’s accomplishments. She remains an elite MMA player despite this loss, and also remains one of the best in the world. Perhaps a better comparison than Tyson might be that of Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling. Schmeling wished Joe Lewis luck in the fight, and otherwise treated the young man with respect; something none of Lewis’ opponents had ever done. They had made it an issue of race, and disrespected him. Schmeling did not, and this threw the young Lewis off psychologically. Also, Schmeling used video footage of Lewis to analyse his weakness; a tendency to drop his left hand after jabbing rather than pulling it back. A weakness Schmeling ruthlessly took advantage of; hitting Lewis with a right over-hand every time Lewis dropped his left hand after a jab. However, where as Lewis learnt his lesson and dominated their rematch, we have yet to see the next part of the Holm-Rousey saga; can Rousey avenge this loss as dominantly as Joe Lewis did his?


 

A final aside; I am not a fan of MMA, but I do respect the courage (though sometimes I cannot help but add “and stupidity”) needed to even step into the cage. I remember my experiences in real fights, and my competitive bouts, and even now I know I do not like fighting; I would never get into the cage. I say good luck to both Rousey and Holm; and would also say to those who are kicking Rousey while she is down to grow up and take a hard look at yourself.

Again, not an update of my own but sharing the work of a friend. If one is interested in more unusual doll designs, and aesthetics of the macabre variety then I recommend having a look.

As some might have guessed I am a Star wars fan. This is a good read for any fellow fans.

Dragon Stories

Disclaimer: This work is fanfiction and not at all cannon or sanctioned by George Lucas or Disney. I am not an avid Star Wars fan so any and all research was done ad-hoc and might not be as in-depth as might be necessary. I am writing this work because of a bet I have with a friend of mine. This is an ongoing Series.

Star Wars The Right Way

Episode One

Part One

He was pacing, and nervously checking things, everything in fact. It wasn’t his first mission, far from it in fact. Obi-Wan had been on countless missions with his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. But this was official business, this was for the Republic. This was a blockade of an entire planet. This could be potential genocide. If he failed this time, even his powerful Master could not stop the consequences. His training would be paramount, but right now the…

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The above video is of the highlights of a kumite competition, with the rather disingenuous title of karate knockouts. The video is of a non-contact variation of competition kumite, and the “knockouts” are not what one could consider definitive. They are merely blows which have been received which were harder, and more intense, than expected or trained for by the competitors and resulted in something closer to a slip than a knockout.

I would like the reader to note three things on viewing:

  1. The Music.
  2. What type of action has been selected for this highlight reel?
  3. The Title.

Ultimately, the combination of all three comes to try and sell an idea of intensity and danger regarding this style of competition. It also robs the viewer of what can be tantalising about the style of competition; the opportunity for the display of techniques, strategising to maximise one’s effectiveness within the rules, and the unique pacing this style of competition has.

If we then venture to the comment sections, our hearts of course steeled against the might of the keyboard warriors (if you wish to abandon us at this point, I understand whole heartedly, it is a cruel task I set thee), we can observe criticisms of the approach this style of competition demands as useless for “MMA”, or being unreflective of real karate (real karate being kyokushin alone for the curious). We can also find apologetics; whom point out correctly that this indeed one type of competition that is not true of all those whom practice karate, with a tone suggesting that they hope you are not associating them with the video’s content. Overall, we are welcomed with an attempt to misrepresent what we are indeed viewing. We are then further provided examples of a lack of understanding, a lack of courtesy, and a lack of courage, but most importantly; a failure to engage one’s own thoughts and act sincerely.

Karate is a cultural artefact of Okinawa; a body of martial arts borne concepts, techniques, and exercises. The original content of which contained Kata, Kihon, and Kumite, yet which did not include any form of formal, organised, competition systems. The evolution of the competition forms we see today involve the original content of karate, but are not karate in of itself. They reflect merely the direction that their proponents wish to take their karate, and their practices. They are merely an aspect of modern karate culture one may elect to partake in or not. If partaking in full contact tournaments, and then going online to claim that any one who does not is not a real karateka is something you do; it does not make you a superior karateka and a bastion of “real” karate, it makes you a keyboard warrior and somewhat unlikeable.

A real, and superior karateka, is the one who practices each day, and with a view to always improving their karate, and being sincere about their karate; whether that be in the realm of sport or not. Associating competition with what karate is just detracts from what karate can be.

P.S: If you are one of those going online and explaining the differences between forms of competition. Do not feed the trolls, and do not waste time apologising for others. Often in these videos you are watching people doing what they enjoy, and spending their time how they want. Critiquing it, or apologising for it is not helpful or honest.

I was recently sent an invitation, from an organisation I shall not disclose, to participate in a full-contact tournament, on the basis of my prior fighting career. The invite supposedly arose from my defeating of two particular individuals belonging to the organisation which sent me the invite, and made a point of informing me of the cash prizes involved.

As you may imagine, that is a very dodgy invite to receive, but it did make me carefully consider my response, which is below, as being sought out and sent such a direct invite would have taken effort and deserved the effort of a response. My response;

First, I would like to say thank you for the compliment inferred in this invitation to your competition. However, I must decline from accepting the aforementioned invitation for several reasons. As a fellow martial artist, I shall illustrate my reasoning so that you may understand my mind, and thus feel no insult.

When all is said and done, combat is a struggle against another, and the techniques of the martial arts were born from the struggles of our predecessors. As combat is a struggle, it is precisely for this reason that one learns more of himself, and more of his art, and thus the appeal of competition. However, to quote a proverb; “A martial artist exists in his opponent”, meaning that one kills or injures another, they are simply producing a reflection of their own potential fate should they pursue violence. Thus, in our struggles with others we should seek to interact in a way that preserves our human dignity.

In the competition as proposed, where money is involved, and the eyes of spectators are upon the combat, those who fail to recognise this basic principle arise. Thus, the result is that participants will leave with sentiments of resentment, anger, and other base feelings unworthy of the purity of martial arts. The essence of competition should not be to demonstrate superiority, but to provide a field with which to confront one’s self. Only if competition demonstrates the strength of those who succeed through the rules, rather than through underhanded tactics, and allows one to set strength against strength is anything learnt.

I hope this explains the depth of my feelings on the matter, and explains fully why I cannot accept this invitation.

Aside from the dubious nature of the invite, and my above reasoning; it would be impractical for me to travel to the location, it is in the United States which would be a prohibitively expensive journey, and set at an inconvenient date. Also, I am retired from competing; I have done everything in competition I hoped to achieve, and avoid it as I have a collection of conditions I do not need to have antagonised.

However, to return to what my response addresses, it might be asked what I am discussing. In my mind, competition is something to be used as a learning experience, and a means with which to further the martial arts. In the absence of the wide spread need for many of the skills we practice, the testing ground of the battlefield and more regular occurrence of personal violence that out predecessors relied upon to hone their skills having disappeared, competition represents a simulated way in which we can continue to test, and keep our skills relevant.

Yet, to do this, the competition must remain sincere, and allow all to walk away with sufficient learning. We should also consider our honour as martial artists, and our social responsibilities; is it not important that we teach our students and remind ourselves that the greatest success comes from succeeding within the scope of the rules. That true strength comes from not needing to rely on cowardice, and underhanded methods.

A prize encourages one to aim for the prize, and takes away from the focus on self; to test oneself, and in another sense, just enjoy one self. We should also be responsible in the tests we set, only life can truly test any of us, thus unduly unsafe competition is not conducive to anything aside from injury.

Such things all have a time and a place, but it’s a time I have passed, and a place I no longer want to be.

250px-SidiousVaderPromo“Always two, there are; no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”

―Yoda

In the Star Wars in-universe, there is a “Rule of Two”, a mandate stipulating that only two Sith could exist at any given time: a master, and an apprentice. Recently; with the release of the new trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, we have seen a new design of red lightsaber. A warning of the rise of a new dark side power, and a reminder of another aspect of Star Wars: the “Rule of Cool”. Many are arguing that the new cross guard is impractical, while forgetting that the lightsaber by nature is impractical. One mistake and you will lose a limb, it requires super-human qualities to wield with competency, and is being used in a universe filled with battle-droids and blasters. However, when forgetting that lightsaber practicality is a redundant topic, the new cross guard does stick out like a sore thumb.

Why do I say that? Well, first one needs to understand the advantages of a hand guard in authentic fencing:

– A hand guard defends the hand against a direct strike

– Prevents a blade sliding down to strike the hand when blades clash

– Allows one to trap an opposing blade between the guard and one’s own blade

– The guard can be used as an auxiliary weapon, to strike blows like a hammer

All fine advantages, and as we have seen in the Star Wars universe; there is a habitual loss of limbs, especially hands, though arguably none of these losses would have been preventable via a hand guard. Even Anakin’s fancy ploy against Dooku is not an example of a “slide”, the blades “clash” allowing Anakin to gain control of Dooku’s hilt with his free hand, and Anakin then brings his weapon off and curves in to cut Dooku’s hands off.

Furthermore; none of these advantages can be applied to a Lightsaber:

– A direct strike to the hands is redundant with a weapon that can strike effectively with any point of the blade. A wrist cut is not as useful as a range closing attack with such a weapon; the traditional forms of blade control we see in modern and historic fencing are not applicable.

– Lightsaber blades do not slide: Lightsabers are always shown as “clashing” or “sticking”, there is no sliding, and thus defending against a sliding blow to the hands is redundant. Also, if one looks at the cross-guard as presented, it would not have this advantage regardless.

– Darth Vader demonstrated the ability to bind a Lightsaber by its clashing quality, without the need of a guard. Furthermore, if one looks at Japanese disciplines and western saber fighting, which use Tsuba or basket guards respectively which cause blades to slide away from the hand, it is self-evident that blade binding does not require a cross-guard.

– One cannot grab the blade of a Lightsaber and thus apply the Mordstreich tactic, nor would one wish to engage in authentic Tai-atari with a weapon that can hurt you just by touching.

Simply put; none of the advantages a cross guard adds to a real sword, are then carried over to the Lightsaber. Also, the application of the cross guard to the Lightsaber in facts begins to rob the Lightsaber of its main advantage: the advantage of a Lightsaber is that is has no edge, it is an edge. The cross guard as presented forces the wielder to follow certain patterns to avoid harming him or her self, thus removing the great advantage of the Lightsaber; it’s lack of restrictions. Also, to make use of the one advantage the cross-guard presents, the ability to strike at the opponent’s hands with the smaller blades during a clash, the wielder is reduced to one effective range. As many of us now know, competency in one range compared to variety is not an advantage when there are no rules to stack the game toward favouring your advantage.

However, in saying all this: the cross guard is brilliant once one get’s past this obvious technical fault, a technical fault that do not matter in the world of fictional swords and scripted outcomes. It tells a story just by existing as it does:

– The design is non-conventional and the Lightsaber appears poorly made; the wielder is evidently unconventional, and lacking in his training.

– All fans know a lightsaber blade will stop a lightsaber blade; no one wants a chemistry lesson to explain a lightsaber design any more than any one wished for the midichlorians. A cross guard made of a solid material would require either tedious exposition, or to leave viewers mystified as to why someone would bother with a guard that can just be cut through.

Afterall, is that not what the Lightsaber has always been intended to do; tell a story? From Obi-Wan’s gifting of Anakin’s Lightsaber to Luke, to Luke losing it on Bespin as he is told the truth of Anakin’s fate; the strength of it and it’s power lies in it’s symbolic status, never in it’s practical possibilities.

So, I am a critic of the design, but to be frank, until I see the film I shan’t waste time on disliking it unless it does fall to the “Rule of Cool” and fails to tell a story. Anyway; the saber-staff, or double-bladed Lightsaber, was involved in perhaps the best duel of the whole franchise, and as a design goes it represents the most profound lack of understanding of authentic staff fighting I have seen on the screen.

P.S: I shall return to discussing martial arts in a more serious tone soon, but sometimes one needs to have a laugh about a subject. It is important not to take yourself so seriously you cannot criticise something, and it is important to not be so flippant you avoid enjoying something for what it is.

CM Punk signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and set to fight sometime in 2015. Is there anything any one can really add to the debate this point? Casual MMA fans and Professional Wrestling fans seem to be enjoying the fun of it, and everyone with an eye for fighting has raised their eye brows already.

So why am I dipping my toe in? I have not posted in a while, and this seems to be on everyone’s tongue, and as a fan of Hybrid-Wrestling with shoot-fighting experience I feel I can add something to the debate.

So let us start with what CM Punk has to bring to the cage:

– He has trained intermittently with Rener and Ryron Gracie, though his last open report on his progress was in 2012 as holding a White-belt. To be fair, he has good form, and a sound theoretical understanding given this video appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNV4t_be-EE

– Strong given his weight, as he has given convincing and entertaining works against much heavier opponents, and a relative stand out in terms of speed for his weight.

What he lacks:

– 15 years in professional wrestling takes its toll: he is not going to have the equivalent physical performance of an MMA fighter of his age and of whatever weight class he settles for.

– He is 36 and coming to the game late. With the strenuous and damaging career of pro-wrestling behind him, his physical prime is behind him, and will cause him issues.

– No combat sport background, in a world where having a striking game is mandatory, and an amateur wrestling background a significant advantage.

– His professional wrestling will have no bearing on his MMA career. Although utilising a technical style informed by the strong/shoot style of Japanese Puroresu, he does not come from the same culture which produced the likes of the Gracie Hunter Sakuraba, Funaki, and the Shamrocks. He comes from the WWE, where authentic sparring is not encouraged, nor closed door challenges against dojo crashers accepted.

What is against him:

– Time: As mentioned, he is already on the older side for getting into top level competition. He also has a fight set for 2015; a years worth of training will not make up for a life-time’s lack of competitive experience. Also, choosing, adapting, and sticking to a weight class, while also changing your training dramatically, will also make a year seem very short a time to prepare.

– Jiu-Jitsu is not enough: The majority of any competition he may face will also have grounding in Jiu-Jitsu, or at least wrestling or Judo adapted to cope with Jiu-Jitsu theory. It is a knowledge base that has thoroughly saturated the world of MMA, it is a boon that CM Punk practices it, but also a handicap as it suggests he has no novel skill set to bring to his game. I doubt his pro-wrestling will feed into anything, except to give him a familiarity with pain, and body-to-body techniques.

In summary I think we are going to see a repeat of all that was wrong with Brock  Lesner:

  1. Thrown in the deep end with too little a time to prepare.
  1. No understanding in MMA circles of the damage wrestling does to the body and how it affects your game, and ability to compete in full contact.

All luck to CM Punk; however, as the age of Hybrid-Wrestling is practically over, so too do I believe the possibilities of true cross-over success for WWE style wrestlers. However, CM Punk does make it sound as though it is a bucket-list type affair, and he wants to do it while he can. Hopefully, the UFC will groom him by finding him a fair first opponent, and allowing him to grow into a contender, if or when he proves to be one. My gut feeling though, is that, he will be used as PPV bait for casual MMA fans, and a way to compete with the WWE. A great wrestler; but right now I am hesitant to think he has the time, and brings to the floor the talents, to become a great free-fighter.

Speaking of Brock Lesner; he is a phenom in regards to his physical prowess; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17Eqvj7CrfQ&feature=youtu.be&t

He also had a dominant amateur wrestling background, trained for American football having left professional wrestling without receiving any major injuries, and spent time wrestling in the stiff, martial arts orientated world of Japanese Professional Wrestling prior to joining the UFC. He is not a good example to go to with regards to a man who can fight and perform in the ring, as he is far from the average.

That finally brings me to my point; despite cross over successes in the past, and the fact MMA is built upon the back of professional wrestling, the game has changed. Free-fighting and NHB are not what MMA is anymore, brawling does not cut it, and gone is hybrid wrestling, where wrestlers just decided to fight for real without truly changing anything except levels of compliance. MMA now has specific rules, and requires specific skill sets, and the only way to stand out is to bring forth a novel skill set, Lyoto Machida for example, be a physical phenom as Brock Lesner is, or be an elite competitor in all the relevant skill sets as Chris Weidman is.

Will CM Punk prove to be any of those things? I do not know, but I have my doubts as to whether he will prove to be. Despite his fame, he should not be given such top billing in a competitive sport where people can get seriously injured. Is the UFC really representing a sport when it allows an entertainer into it’s fold without his first proving himself? I have to say no, it is not, and that goes to show the insidiousness of Zuffa.

Martial Arts is more than putting people into seats, and if a company with principles like that is the dominant force in MMA, then the phrase “circling the drain” seems not so far away.

1226501182master_Nakayama

Nakayama; the father of modern Shōtōkan- ryū.

Recently; I relocated to a new part of Wales, and my instructor has been in Okinawa for the last three weeks. In an effort to stay in shape, and stay sharp in regards to Kumite, I ventured to a Shōtōkan- ryū club (JKA I believe) and have been training there the last three weeks. What have I learned? Not much I must say; except that most people in Wales are lovely, and willing to accommodate you if you ask politely. I am very thankful as they have allowed me to practice my Shōrin-ryū, so long as I join in where possible. However, it has affirmed something about fixed Kumite to me; it will always work as the people of the club think it works never how you believe it will work.

This club practice a form of Kumite involving stepping punches of 3-5, that are in turn blocked by either a Jodan-Uke (Head Block) or Uchi-Uke (Outer fore-arm block) before a gyaku-tsuki counter. Now, in Shōrin-ryū these two blocks are done incredibly close to the body with an emphasis on Tai-Sabaki, and gaining an inner or outer position to the opponent, and the punch is done in a more upright stance. In the exercise however, one must step back and block, which works if you use the larger Shōtōkan- ryū blocking style, but not if you deviate from this blocking method, and you must use very large steps.

The result being that if I face someone smaller than me in the exercise, it is fine as they are always reaching for the target, so my smaller blocks work. However, someone of my own size will always catch me out because the smaller block will only intercept the attack after it has built speed, requiring me to use side-movement and thus messing up the exercise. I had been fooling myself that it is merely a matter of timing, and coming to understand the ranging used in such exercises. However, it is a matter of technique; the fixed exercises of any ryū-ha are designed within the ryū-ha, and thus will only work within the framework of the ryū-ha. Deviation from the ryū-ha’s way of thinking when doing such exercises breaks the exercises. Thus; we come to the flaw in such methods: they are dead. What do I mean by dead is a good question;

  1. The approach is unreflective of actual violence; it works only in the Dojo.
  2. They do not adapt to deviations in technique and performance; whoever is best at reflecting their teacher will be best at the exercise, not the person with the best actual fighting ability.
  3. They can teach unrealistic expectations about the nature of a violent confrontation.

However, such exercises do have benefits and thus they should not be ignored;

  1. They allow the student to develop their abilities with in the Ryū-ha quicker.
  2. They introduce the student to being attacked with force.
  3. They introduce the student to lessons of distance, timing, and rhythm.

So why the post, and is there a verdict?

Why: It has been a while since I posted, and this is a thought that has stuck with me today and felt worthy of posting. It is a personal experience, but has a broader relevance to anyone thinking of cross training.

Verdict: All exercises have a point, even if it is not apparent what it is. Also, failing an exercise is not always your own fault directly, and can occur because of the nature of an exercise. When cross-training, take a broad look at what everyone is doing, and remember; their exercises work as they believe they do, not how you believe they do. Humility is a virtue.

IMG_6293_f

Always going back to suffer.