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Don't show me you can hit hard, let me feel it and never have the chance to see it

I came up with this today as I was holding, lots of folks like to pose as if to demonstrate that they are hitting hard. Don't worry your opponent or coach will know from the impact, you don't have to show them. Today I worked on some clinching concepts:
  1. "Garage Door" or cover lift
    With this use the cover with a partial duck, to pick up the punch and then wing the elbow up, to work into the clinch on the outside of the arms.
  2. Cover check
    As you cover, extend the opposite hand to catch the cover side neck, followed immediately by a knee
  3. Flurry clinch
    To often we separate striking from clinching, I think this is an error, if we want to set up a shot, we would tap or misdirect, why not do the same but with punches, really fast and hard ones, too. Thus throw five "shots" (in the striking not the wrestling sense) but only three punches, e.g. jab-cross-lead hook-rear clinch neck-lead clinch neck
I also did some FUN (frigging unholy nastiness) with some Tabata rounds, I included:
  • Striking Spider-man
  • Medicine Ball Push-ups
  • Cover Push-ups
  • Pistol Squats
  • 3 push-up alternating with climbers
  • Alternating one leg on the ball squats
  • High Knees
  • Happy Feet


Yesterday we had a balmy winter day and did some training following our run to the Hill with intervals of sprints, shadowboxing, and push-ups. We then worked kicking and knee combinations alternatively on the pads to finish our warm-up. We then did two sets of 2 x 2 minute rounds on the focus mitts of:
  1. Head/Body Reactions
    We used high and side cover to enter in to cross-lead hook-cross, in addition we used the lead and rear body cover enter into lead uppercut-cross-lead hook and rear uppercut-lead hook-cross, respectively.
  2. 3-Parry-3-Side Cover-Reverse 3
    Jab-Cross-Lead Hook-Parry (Cross)-Cross-Lead Hook-Cross-Side Cover (Lead Hook)-Lead Hook-Cross-Lead Hook
On reaction drills it is especially important to not to celebrate, admire your handiwork, or run out of gas at the end of your combination. All fight exchanges have a beginning, a middle, and an end. On a provoked reaction or action reaction, when your done, be sure that your disposition of the situation is enough. When I train someone on pads and they complete their combination, if they look expectantly at me with puppy dog eyes begging for praise they get swatted...hard. The time to relax is when your are well back out of range and can then watch your opponent fall down.
We switched to the thai pads and did two sets of 2 x 2 minute rounds of:
  1. 2-Kick Follow-ups
    We covered two variations here:
    • Jab-Cross-Lead Kick-Cross
      It is very important to shield (i.e. pre-cover) when entering for the punch, the impulse to generate kick power drops the hands away from the head, so when closing for the final punch, be sure to protect yourself from an intercepting punch.
    • Jab-Cross-Lead Kick-Lead Knee
      Use the kick to punish and then re-cock and throw the knee.
  2. 1-Kick Follow-ups
    We covered two variations here, note that these combinations are a good way to train the flow into the Superman fake, since they basically do that but include rather than fake the rear kick.
    • Jab-Rear Kick-Rear Knee
    • Jab-Rear Kick-Cross-Rear Hook-Cross
      It is especially important here to reacquire your original lead so that you can go right back into the your punching combination.

At the end of our practice, I did some fast boxing timing with one of my students. This was probably a bad idea, as he came out whipping really fast, tight combinations at me. I haven't purely boxed in months, so the first thing I thought about was kicking him and then realizing that I shouldn't, as I registered the shouldn't part he pasted me. OK. So as we exchanged again I thought about clinching, nope can't do that either, before getting swatted again. After several exchanges each time getting the worse of it, I invoked senior privilege and bowed out (that and I was hacking up a lung...yeah that's the ticket). Joe, my student, started boxing about a year ago and has been competing and training in this almost exclusively for the past six months. I've been training guys for mixed-martial arts and been sparring more in that line. Given a set of rules, boxing, I was spending a large amount of processing time, remembering what I could and couldn't do, time that I couldn't give up to someone as fast as Joe. And as each time he was getting the better of it, I was scrambling to some up with something.
This is both the boon and ban of rules. Rules can refine skills to incredibly high levels. No one would argue with punching superiority of a boxer, the elbow-knee clinch dominance of the thai fighter, the takedown skills of a wrestler, and the submission skills of a sport jiu-jitsu expert. By playing within in the context of given rules, these combat athletes have refined their tools to be the best for those rules. However, they are also purely functional within those rules. Mixed-martial artist like to point out then that they are the superior fighters as mixed-martial arts incorporates "everything". This is a fallacy on two levels, (1) to refine skills in one area it is better to return to the source, I'd rather learn to box from a boxing coach and then have an MMA coach integrate that into a MMA game and (2) MMA has its own rules that gamemanship can exploit, not everything is legal and depending on the mechanics of the fight can favor certain elements of a fighters style. Here's another example:
Another problem with rules is the unreality they impose on any "live" situation from a match in ring or self-defense fight for your life. In training we often impose rules on sparring, self-defense scenarios, or drills. This is done to protect ourselves and often to emphasize an attribute to technical point. To paraphrase Tony Blauer, All training is fake, just try to train the most realistic fake stuff possible. Thus when someone drills combination X, followed by combination Y and their willing partner moves the right way, the desired result Z, they form a rule in their head. When I do this, this happens, however when dealing with an unwilling opponent and then X + Y suddenly doesn't equal Z. Rules then are a necessary evil, understand where they conflict with reality and why they do so, find ways to train around this unreality, but recognize that the rulebook isn't always what you think it is.


Channelling the ancients and realizing they aren't always right today

The sombrada middle range flow pattern (using the right hand to wield the stick). The entire pattern is given in a continuous loop from the perspective of both partner A and B. Numbering in red is from the offensive perspective, while numbering in yellow is the mirror image, that is how those lines of attack appear to the defender. Download written version (PDF).
Small workout today in Bugeishako starting with thai pad warm-up:
  1. Kick for kick
  2. Deep knee-head knee (same side)
  3. Curve knee-deep knee (same side)
Next we worked on some boxing combinations:
  1. 3-High Cover 3 (J-C-LH-cover-C-LH-C)
  2. Reverse 3-Side Cover Reverse 3 (J-LH-C-cover-LH-C-LH)
    The reverse 3 combination is good versus someone with the opposite lead, i.e. orthodox vs. unorthodox because it sets up the outside angle off their weaker side.
  3. J-C-Side body cover-Rear uppercut-LH-Side cover-Lead shovel hook-Bob and weave rear hook-rear ripping hook
    Be sure to pivot and reacquire your target after the ripping hook, either to continue attacking or exit with long distance shots.
  4. J-Body C-LU-Overhand-LH
    Remember to change levels and throw the cross straight, almost as if taking a shot (well you are but not in the wrestling sense). Although the shortest distance between two points is a line it is sometimes safer to change levels and then through, mostly because you are harder to hit and can protect yourself better. For the uppercut make sure you travel cleanly up the "channel" between the guard and to the chin.
When striking look for the channels created by a persons guard, as you fire straight down the centerline the outside or circular strikes open up, e.g. hooks, overhands, and kicks. As you throw "bombs" the center line or "channel" widens, so switch back. Low shots open up the high line and vice versa. As the guard composed of the hands and arms drift away from the body more shots open, angling of the arms away from the body opens the floating ribs, chin, and top of the head to curvilinear shots. The hands drifting away from the face creates "chaff" of low density, its distracting but powering through it and looking for straight and curved channels to the head has high yield. Think of an electron, the lower energy electrons are "nearer" (classically not quantum mechanically) than the high energy electrons. You want to use minimum energy on defense and keep the guard close to the body.
We also covered some basic ground work, some slightly different things that I like to do:
Guard checking to stand-up
Frame hard and quick, insert this same side knee and push, place the opposite foot in the hip, free your knee leg to push/kick to the chest or face, post back on the opposite side and lever yourself to the upright position.
Sameside straight arm lock from guard
From the guard, cover the looping G n' P cross. Reach across with the other arm, catch at the elbow and pull. Loop your cover arm around their arm. Slide out to this side, top foot in the hip, knee on the shoulder, bottom foot on the hip knee pinching the trapped arm's shoulder. Scoop just proximal to their elbow, over your bowed body.
Sameside straight arm lock from side mount
Your opponent tries to bench you, transfer to knee on the stomach, and pop their arm outward, catching it between the crook of your neck and shoulder on the side inferior to them. Scoop the arm, proximal to the elbow, joint for the lock.

Remember that fighting is not a complete enough science to harbor universal truths. While there have been a series of excellent approximations of combat laws, they do not always stand the test of time nor the rigors of interpretation and transmission. Teaching and training based on repeatable results is unfortunately not as appealing or as easy as taking things on faith. Questioning the mechanics and the concepts of ones art is a difficult thing to do, especially in the increasing commercialization of martial arts, if the results come back negative that can place one in the red. Also if you continue to question, you can never rest, removing the goal and continuing the journey is the true path to combat enlightenment.



For JKD we worked on intercepting either by first avoiding the wild swing or striking right off the cocked posture of a haymaker. Using this "inflicted pain" we entered with the straight blast, secured the neck, and delivered our headbutt, knees, and elbows. We then isolated the trapping range and worked on lop sao pok sao. There are a few simple keys to this, for the lop put pressure at the elbow to reopen the high line, then use the pok to trap both hands. Always advance to increase the forward pressure.
For BJJ we reviewed the half-guard position from Saturday and added one from the whizzer position. Use your free hand to grab the wrist or sleeve. Now drive your elbow to the mat and roll your opponent over the trapped (whizzer) arm.
And here are some fun KOs:


Half-Spear, Forearm Check, Etc.

Often in fight sports, especially MMA that half-spear, forearm check, and the same technique with various names comes into play. Essentially its the reflexive reaction that occurs when someone rushes you and your put your forearm between them and you. This often checks their motion, but you will have to do something with it. Here are some suggestions:
Side thai clinch
Half step away and over/underhook the near arm, control the neck with the checking hand. Do a quarter pivot to break their posture (Combat Chiropractor) and deliver two knees to the head/body. Either throw them to the ground or throw them away off balance and follow with a combination.
Thai clinch
Trace the checking hand over the neck and then secure the neck/head with the other hand. Deliver a knee flurry and look for disposition, i.e. another knee flurry, takedown, or throw to strikes.
Over under or double under position
Pummel the check hand under to the far armpit, simultaneously doing the same with the free hand trying to secure double unders. Look for short knees and punches to takedown.
Brian and I ran to the Hill, sprinted up the Hill ten times (well he sprinted I lumbered), and did an incentive jog back (where you do push-ups every minute, sort of speeds you up). I held 3 x 5 minute rounds for him, concentrating the first round on striking combinations and reaction, the second on the ground engagement holding from the open guard position and using sprawl/fall/follow, and lastly holding a round using the three half-spear/forearm check transitions.

JKD & BJJ Position really is everything

Case in point King Leonidas and 300 of his spartans fought and held against the vastly outnumbering legions of Xerxes. In the context of fight sports positioning makes the unmovable sweepable, the untouchable strikable, and the undefeatable beatable. This especially true in the half-guard position. Originally the half-guard was the result of your opponent attempting to pass your guard. This was a place you ended up in, not one you fought from. However as sport jiu-jitsu has evolved the half-guard has evolved as a offensive position of its own, notably by such jiu-jitsu players such as Roberto "Gordo" Correa and Eddie Bravo (see "Jiu-jitsu Unleashed" (Eddie Bravo)).
In BJJ we worked three sweeps from the half-guard. The primary key to playing the half-guard is to remain oblique to the mat, that is, up on one side (shoulder and hip) never flat on your back. Also the hooking leg (bottom side) should drop the toes to the mat as a better hook.
  1. Half-guard ankle pick
    Using your top-side knee and forearm, frame at the hip and neck. Pummel the frame inside to an underhook as you simultaneously extend the the top leg, dive your head to their far knee. This flattens your opponent, allowing them to fall into the "black hole" caused by the removal of the frame and the repositioning of your body. Reach your bottom side hand through and catch the far foot from underneath, slide your underhook arm down and pass the trapped foot to this hand. Bring your bottom elbow in to your body and then slide it to post, transition out and unhook your leg, then redrive into your opponent rolling them to the mat. Incidently you can pass the guard in a very similar fashion of passing and trapping the foot.
  2. Taking the back
    You attempt the half-guard ankle pick described above, but your opponent sprawls out. Reverse your position and use the underhook to shuck forward and attack the back with a Marcelo Garcia "seat belt" grip. Climb to the back and secure hooks.
  3. Whizzer counter sweep
    In this scenario your opponent blocks the above attempt at taking the back by putting in a whizzer, essentially overhooking your underhook. They want to drive your forward with this pressure, you will defend by posting out, creating a strong frame. Now pinch your upper arm down on the whizzer, punch their knee with your posting hand, and dive your head to their far knee. If they have strong (realistic) forward pressure they will literally roll them selves forward into th spot where you used to be.
This can be easily drilled by switching between the taking the back and the whizzer counter sweep while having the top player switch between defending with whizzer and posting against the sweep.
During the JKD portion of practice we worked on advancing and retreating while using the downward and upward figure 8 patterns. Talk about positioning, a mistake earns you a crack on the hand or noggin'.


Frostbite and adversity builds champions

Yesterday our university martial arts gym closed for the winter break. That leaves us with our reserve training facility, the Bugeishako (Combat Garage), which is climatologically fine in late spring, summer, and fall. In winter the mat is frozen to a concrete like consistency and your breath steams, the walls serve to slow the winter winds and that's about it. Thus I present here empiric evidence that frostbite and adversity builds champions, the first is Rocky IV
The second is Fedor Emelyanenko


Ugly like good cuts go to the bone

The face only a mother could love.

This evening we worked on activity level needed to fight. A fighter must be emotionally and physically in action, in training and in combat. Intensity does not mean going apepoop, that's anger not the fierce joy that proper training and fighting bring. We started by intensifying out shadowboxing, extending our strikes, remaining in motion, and visualizing the violent dance between ourselves and an opponent. We further warmed up with continual movement and then thai clinch spin/bear hug lift and turn.
Our thai pad rounds were 4 x 3 minutes and a 6 minute conditioning round:
  1. Activity Round
    In this round the fighter stays at long range closing to throw a combination. They can then at their holders command reopen the range or close throwing a continuous barrage of lead hook-rear uppercut-lead uppercut-rear hook or knees. The goal here is to work on mobility, and an active combat stance whether moving to extend the range or using the continual flurry of the up close fighting.
  2. Long Chain Combinations
    Jab-Kick into Kicking Combination #2 or #4 Reaction (High, Side, Leg Cover, Sprawl, or Fall) followed by 3, Thai (into kicking combinations #2 or #4), Knee, etc.
    Jab-Cross-Kick into Kicking Combination #1 or #3 Reaction (High, Side, Leg Cover, Sprawl, or Fall) followed by 3, Thai (into kicking combinations #2 or #4), Knee, etc.
    Our objective here is that when we train 3-4 strike combinations we often throw a lot fewer punches in the heat of battle, thus by creating longer chains we will perhaps increase the magnitude of fight combinations.
  3. Spider-Man Striking Drill
    Using the sprawl, fall, or follow the fighter engages the ground and starts the Spider-Man Drill (lifting one foot or hand and replacing it with a hand or foot) after each transition they must throw a punch or kick to the thai pads. Obviously this means throwing some awkward punches, however just as the Spider-Man drill teaches ground transition, this teaches ground transition with striking.
  4. MMA Knee Combo
    Jab-Cross-Holder reacts w/ cross-Pull to the cross side hip as you throw a flying knee with this side knee-thai clinch-3 alternating knees-holder pummels in one arm-thai side clinch-3 knees from the far knee-pull to the mat-knee on stomach-3 punches
  5. Conditioning Ladder #2>
    30 sec intervals of push-ups (or cover push-ups) continuous 4 count (lead kick-cross-lead hook-rear kick-lead hook-cross-repeats) in a ladder 1-2-4-8-16-32-1 minute of shuttle-32-16-8-4-2-1-30 second of pitterpat sprawls
We briefly reviewed the angling pendulum. We worked alternating kicks and shots off the corkscrew set-up.
Lastly we worked some self-defense using the SPEAR methodology to engage a primary attack and then allowing that attack to evolve into second and even third attacks. We worked this s l o w l y trying to realistically emulate a real fight and the what happens if at each stage we engage in more or less desirable action.