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Rule #1: Always Talk About Fight Club

 

Ever since I was a kid in the 1980’s I’ve embraced martial arts. The decade prior was known for Kung Fu theater and hooked a broad range of fans on Bruce Lee with the likes of connoisseurs like Portland’s own Dan Halstead who owns and operates the wonderful Hollywood Theater. In the 80’s though, Martial Arts truly exploded thanks to source material  like the Karate Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and countless more. It seemed like the runaway train Bruce Lee ignited in Enter The Dragon was going to last forever.

And then it didn’t. Something even more magical happened for the first time: The UFC. In the start of my childhood unbeknownst to me a movement had begun. In Torrence California one of Helio Gracie’s sons (of Gracie Jiu Jitsu fame) had begun to teach small nonexistent classes. By 1988 Rickson Gracie, who was undefeated around the world in over 150 matches, was teaching from his garage and begging people to come and train. Literally, him and his friends Pedro Sauer and Luis Heredia would plead with the mail man to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time. Nobody wanted to do it, rolling around on the floor wrestling into human pretzels and calling it chess? No thanks.

Bruce Lee (left) and Dan Inosanto (right)

Rule #2 “Adapt what is useful, reject was is useless, and add what is specifically your own” – Bruce Lee

In the UFC, pioneered by the Gracie family, there was something old world about pitting style against style. Prior to that people like Chuck Norris, Ed Parker, and Bruce Lee were committed to an ideology that martial arts doesn’t mix without sparring. This ran contrary to the countless martial art schools around town with non-contact “aura” sparring and lightning bolts embroidered on their pants. The UFC established and cemented the core ideas of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) were valid. A blend of standup based on Boxing and Kickboxing along with a high degree of grappling skill would create the most formidable opponents. Keep in mind that back in the fledgling days of the octagon there were far less rules, eye gouges, hits to the groin, kneeing a downed opponent, were all legal. The time limits for the matches could be as long as an hour with NO ROUNDS! It became quickly evident that movie like Kung Fu sequences were out, there’d be no successful Shaolin this-or-that on display. Personally I don’t think these systems are useless, there’s value in it somewhere, but over time they’ve walked away from their combative roots. Today we could see techniques from these methods return. They have to be able to be delivered from a kickboxing structure or a grappling posture.  With more than a century of documentation, and as we’ll talk about next, it’s the training method behind these arts that gives them their credence.

Rule #3 “Keep it playful” -Rener Gracie

It’s what Bruce Lee proposed, and what the Gracie’s accomplished: Everything has to be vetted through rigors testing. Built in to Boxing, Kickboxing (its’ many forms), JKD, and Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a constant pressure testing that occurs in sparring. Among them is a similar approach of regular sparring. After many people were disillusioned by the Rex Kwon Do’s of the world, wanting to bring home the UFC, another misnomer cropped it’s ugly head. I can’t decide if I like it more or less than non-contact sparring, but one of the fallacies of sparring these days is that it has to be a 100% all out death match.

It certainly bodes well that someone is willing to spar, but frankly full contact every day doesn’t do much except for toughen you up slightly and then it starts to chip away at your health. If you think of the top athletes in these sports like Paquiao, Mayweather, Bukaw (Thai Boxing), Damien Maia (UFC) or Kron Gracie they aren’t going into the gym and killing each other every day. There’s little to no value in this, just as there isn’t any in non-contact sparring. Like Rener Gracie said, keep it playful. Most of the time the intensity of our sparring only has to be hard enough to move our opponents balance. When boxing this means that your knuckles will make contact through the padding, and could displace the position of your partners head, but not cause a knock out or accumulate damage.

Rickson Gracie, Dan Inosanto, Jean Jaques Machado are all great at keeping it playful and all champions

If you want to train for longevity this is the best way to accomplish it. You need to have a sparring regimen that promotes playfulness and the ability to show up every day and mix it up. When you’re going full contact you get hurt, have to sit on the sidelines while you recover, and most importantly you don’t bring NEW concepts to your game because your fighting all out all the time. Anyone in Jiu Jitsu knows this, if you go 100% you can’t work on new techniques, only what you have right now in the fight. It’s good to test those limits, but it should be a rarity. In an 8-12 week training camp we’ll do hard full contact sparring a couple times and no later than 2 weeks prior to the event. That way if any injuries are sustained the fighter can recover before the day of the bout.

Tips on Sparring Smart and Training for Life:

Here’s a few things to start you off right and continue sparring throughout your journey

  1. BE a good partner
  2. FIND good partners
  3. Try to remain calm, breath in through your nose and out your mouth
  4. Look to refine technique, what are you doing in relation to the class exercises?
  5. Give yourself homework; one month improve your jab, next your defense, and on and on.
  6. Spar just hard enough to influence the balance of your partner
  7. Leave your ego at the door
  8. Don’t be a jerk
  9. Don’t spazz out
  10. Don’t coach people on their technique unless you’re their coach

 

Seriously, no really, leave your EGO at the door

It’s a big enough issue that I have to address it in more than one bullet point. Check your EGO, and there’s several types so you may not be aware of your own tendencies. First we’ll get the obvious out of the way, don’t try to flaunt what a badass you are with everyone. That’s a surefire way to alienate yourself from the school and put a target on your back. There is ALWAYS someone more skilled than you around the corner and if they see you beat the break pads off the 14 year old kid and brag about it they will end your days early. Plus, have some human decency. Most people aren’t like that, the EGO just pops up in different ways here and there. The biggest detriment being the “I’ve got to win” syndrome. You might also know it as “well I know I just started but I’ve got to be good right?” Nope. When you’re pride steps in the way and you feel like you’ve got to win you can slip into category 1 jerk right away. Even WORSE than that is you’ll start to rationalize and avoid sparring altogether because the ego just can’t take it.

There’s no other way around it, some call it paying your dues, I call it the price of progress. Remember we’re training in a playful manner if we have good partners. You’re not going to hurt me, bloody my nose, or bust my ribs, all that’s going to happen is I’ll have a little leather introduced to my face or maybe I say uncle on the BJJ mat. All those experiences are learning opportunities and once you realize there’s no consequence and nothing bad really happens you can embrace learning and growth.

This is the number one reason I see people spazz out and coach each other too. The spazz is looking for that one advantage to try and turn the tide, let’s go for a finger lock! (or some other cheap move) because they’re trying to over ride the fact their ego is telling them a big loss is incoming. If you’re out there every day sparring just remember you’re going to improve. This process will get easier all the time. Soon it’ll be one of your favorite activities in the gym and you’ll look forward to playing with your classmates in a competitive manner.

Lastly, the coaches-coach A.K.A Professor White Belt. Don’t over due any criticisms or critique during sparring unless you’re actually the Coach for that class. One it can come off as a know-it-all attitude and limit your sparring partners. You’re there to learn first and foremost, not be the greatest free advice coach in the world.  Learning should always be your primary goal.

On any given day a purple belt might beat a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. A white belt might dust a purple belt because they have a background in collegiate wrestling. Someone more athletic than you comes along, more awkward, whatever the case we have to respect the person across from us. I have seen people instruct others AFTER they have lost to them in sparring, “oh hey, you know you’re doing great but you could really beat me EVEN BETTER if you did…..” Sadly that’s the mark of the ego rearing its’ head again to try and save some sort of face from a situation with no consequences.

It can be easy to start a bad habit, and all it does is limit your own ability to learn and grow. Keep it playful and spar whenever you can with an easy going attitude and you’ll see remarkable gains. If you haven’t done any sparring, consider why your current school doesn’t have that as an activity? Maybe you’ve just been putting it off while developing foundations and that’s good too. When it’s time to jump in take it slow and find a great partner with a ton of experience. Let them know if you’re a little nervous and ask for some tips. They’ll be thrilled to help you because they went through the same process.

And remember, if a nerdy near sighted kid with asthma can get good at all this stuff, anybody can do it with the right training methods and the right amount of determination.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Professor Joe

 

 

There’s many styles and methods of Martial Arts, and among those you have diversion on what’s the best of the best. All Muay Thai and BJJ may look the same for example, but to a trained eye the differences in strategy, technique, and quality can be astounding. Experts can look at a method they haven’t personally studied and find the similarities in their own form of self defense.

Kickboxing is a loose term for all methods of combat and sport that use the hands and feet at a minimum. Muay Thai for instance utilizes the elbow, knee, and clinch to create an effective arsenal that can be used in the street or in the ring. Using all the tools available to the practitioner Muay Thai became known as the art of 8 limbs denoting its versatility.

(from left to right: Dan Inosanto of JKD, a devastating Muay Thai knee, Salem Assli an expert Savate instructor known around the world)

Muay Thai

Muay Thai isn’t alone in its effectiveness, although it has come into fashion lately as a work horse art. It’s a phenomenal workout and gets the job done in a short amount of time while offering some depth and strategy. Muay Thai is the most popular modern vehicle for MMA, and often emulated and copied by gyms that have no formal Muay Thai training. Classically Muay Thai is known for its power, as most matches are 3 rounds in total, giving a well conditioned fighter a chance to go all out from bell to bell. As these styles continue to evolve we’ve seen Muay Thai make a shift to a sub style called “Muay Thai Femur.” A Femur stylist is known as a technician, think of someone like Saenchai with great footwork, head movement and utilizing all the tools of the game. This is currently the exception as Muay Thai is very straight line it’s assault and what it does, it does extremely well.

Kickboxing in JKD

At River City Warriors in Tigard we encourage all of our Jeet Kune Do (JKD) students under the Inosanto branch to take at least two years of Muay Thai to have a solid foundation in that structure. JKD also encompasses kickboxing styles as the legendary Dan Inosanto and his teacher Bruce Lee studied many forms of kickboxing. Inosanto would go on from the mid 1970’s until present day and participate in countless hours of dedicated training in Savate, Muay Thai, Cambodian and Western Kickboxing. These methods have been further integrated into the modern JKD program. Bruce Lee in fact coined his own style of Kickboxing before JKD was developed called “Lee Jun Fan” which is his Chinese name.

Savate

Savate is a French method of kickboxing dating back to the 1600’s. Much like Muay Thai it can be traced to war time and the use of weaponry as a craft merchant sailors used defend their ships. The high kicks were easy to pull off because they’d grip the deck rail to throw the leg at their adversaries! Eventually this style made its way back home and was adopted by both the upper and lower classes at the time. The high society version revolved around the use of a cane, literally called Combat De Canne, which was used to settle civil disputes without the use of a sword. Savate hit it’s last wave of popularity in the 80’s and 90’s when America was tuning into to Kickboxing on ESPN. While it’s not in a slump by any means today it isn’t widely televised and most practitioners have to compete under Thai or kickboxing rules in order to find a match. Savate adds an interesting dynamic in that fighters traditionally wear shoes with a sole during the match. They use the footwear for pinpoint accuracy and also to add power to what would be a lighter kick when thrown barefoot. It’s characterized by the use of finesse and footwork to develop an elusive and highly mobile practitioner.

Only one human body:

It has been said by Dan Inosanto that Bruce Lee used his front leg in a Savate style and his rear leg had the power of Muay Thai. This is still emphasized in a quality JKD school like RCW. There is a deep kickboxing component within Jeet Kune Do and given enough time the students develop a balance blend of balance, speed, agility, and power. I still recommend all my JKD students who have an interest to cultivate these methods individually which is why we offer a full Kickboxing and Muay Thai program. Over the years the one’s who’ve decided to jump in to the Muay Thai class have had quicker access to the foundations and generally do better in sparring. JKD has a lot to cover on it’s own as we use the shoe from Savate, but also incorporate street relevant movements into the training: the eye gouge, hitting to the groin, hitting to the throat, etc.

By far the most important thing, is picking a style of kickboxing that you like best and seeking out quality. We finally come to the key commonalities among all of these styles that I want to illustrate. As a point of origin these methods all have one thing in common, they weren’t intended for pure sport AND they came from weaponry. Muay Thai originated with clashes between Myanmar and other neighboring nations. They have a host of weaponry including long swords and wooden forearm shield called Mae Sok. We already discussed Savate had the cane and came from a fencing influence. Western Boxing is also attributed to such a pedigree, originally practiced with a sword and shield, James Figg is credited as the father of modern boxing. Eventually the weapon gave way to sport and Figg became Britain’s first champ in the early 1700’s.

That’s right. At one time, all these mixed martial art styles had weaponry in common. Have they come too far, or is there something that can be gleaned from this today? 

Kickboxing today is a piece of the puzzle:

Absolutely! If you’re going to take your training beyond its limits, kickboxing provides one of the most sure ways to have a solid base across arts. It’s a direct link to almost any other system because of it’s origins with the weaponry and how it functions in every range. Watching the UFC lately? It’s pretty rare that someone will just shoot in for a takedown, but they’ll use a setup and come in behind a jab, a knee, a leg kick, etc. Into classical styles like Wing Chun? A lot of people in Wing Chun find it hard to close the distance, blend it with a kickboxing style and you’ll find it’s much easier. At RCW we offer a Kali class, which explores all manner of handheld tools including the knife, sword, and stick. The movements from kickboxing and boxing are always found in knife fighting as well from the stance and footwork to the guard positions as well. In closing, if you want to add a commonality to all of your other training, kickboxing is the way to do it. As MMA continues to evolve we won’t see as many “Muay Thai” fighters, but a fusion of well rounded techniques hand picked from all these styles.

If you’re looking for the highest quality in JKD, kickboxing, or Muay Thai, and you live in the Portland area we can help you discover yourself on this journey right here at RCW. For more information and to sign up for our FREE trial —> click here <—

 

All the best,

Guro Joe