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Showing posts from May, 2013

The science of "blocking" roundhouse kicks: Part 1

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Here are a couple of questions that were recently posed on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forums by "Kframe".  I thought it would be useful to post them here along with my answers:
"Ok, now here is a great question with regards to the round kick and movement.  We all know that moving up the circle past the apex will cause the round kick to lose a lot of power. How far does that movement have to be fore it starts losing power? How much power does it lose in the first few inches past the apex?" A roundhouse kick loses force exponentially the moment it passes the apex.  How much is lost in a few inches?  It isn't easy to say definitively, but I'll give it a go in a minute (I'd need my brother to do some more precise calculations).

Let's just say that even a few inches and I think you'll have lost more than the kick was worth.  That's exactly why the Muay Thai defences below involve body shifting sideways (ie. "taisabaki" or "tensh…

The roundhouse kick and traditional martial arts

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The roundhouse kick - made infamous by Chuck Norris - is a martial arts staple.  You see it in practically every movie.  It occurs in every round in every MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing, Chinese san shou and kyokushinkai "knockdown" karate fight, just as it occurs in non-contact sport karate.

And it is also seen being practised in countless dojos/guans/kwoons/studios/gyms across the world.

Yet some will be surprised to note that it isn't exactly a "traditional" technique at all.  For one thing:
It does not occur in any traditional kata/xing/pattern/form predating the 60s. Now I don't believe it was because folks back then "lacked the technology".  I'm sure the roundhouse kick probably existed in all ancient fighting systems. After all, its most basic incarnation is the simple kick to the thigh with the instep - the "soccer kick". It is easy to learn and easy to land. It is arguably the most natural kick we have.

But there is, I think, a …

Persistent myths #2: You can't kick with the ball of the foot in shoes

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Here's another myth that I keep seeing around the traps:
"Ball of the foot kicking was invented for barefoot training in the dojo.  It doesn't work anywhere else." It's one of those myths that is particularly popular among younger, less-experienced martial artists, possibly because it seems so plausible.

After all, if I'm having trouble learning the ball of foot kick, there must be a reason, mustn't there?  It can't be because I'm just a beginner and I'm still "unco".  It must be because they're asking me to do something that is:
unnatural; andonly useful in some artificial, formal Okinawan/Japanese setting. It can't be any use to me in typical street shoes.  It must be impossible, just like they say.  Right?
Wrong. Years and years of training on gashuku (outdoor training camps, where we typically wear the stiffest hiking boots and kick hard things like trees, never mind shields and bags) have never suggested to me that there …

Sound bite - or resource?

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Okay, so in recent times I've written some pretty long articles.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to start splitting some of them up (at least, where they deal with discreet issues permitting such a split). [For example, you'll notice I just split up the very long "There are no blocks" article, creating the new article "There are no blocks in MMA?".]

This brings me to the whole issue of "length".  What length should a blog post be?

I suppose the answer to that depends on what you think a blog should be about.

I incline to the general view that people read blogs (of the technical sort mine is!) principally for two reasons:
to gain information they do not already have; orbecause it puts into words that which they already think but haven't fully analysed or been able to rationalise or explain to others. One thing is for sure: people don't generally read blogs to change their minds - and bloggers shouldn't realistically entertain the n…

There are no blocks in MMA?

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[This article is split from my earlier one "There are no blocks".]

 The knockout punch

"I don't care about your stupid articles.  You don't see blocks in MMA, so that proves they don't work.  Checkmate!"

If I only had a dollar for every time I heard that statement...

For many, this is the "knockout punch" in the "blocks don't work" argument. But there are many false assumptions inherent in this statement, which I will now proceed to analyse:

No blocks in MMA?  So what?

Okay, let's assume there are no "blocks" in MMA.  Why would this be conclusive evidence that they "don't work" in civilian defence?

I'll take it point by point:
Fighters in an MMA cage are in there with the express aim of beating an opponent.  It is their only goal to land blows or submit - ie. to "hurt".  They don't get points for walking (or running!) away.  They're going to "take it to their opponents" even…

Giving away the big secrets

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I find it odd that so many martial artists I speak to will say to me that they can't reveal "x" or "y" because they are "sworn to secrecy" by their master(s) concerning the information in question.

As far as I can tell, my teacher Chen Yun Ching has always shown me everything he could in the time available.  He has held nothing back.  And he has issued no caveats on me passing on his knowledge either.1

The same applies to my first primary teacher, Bob Davies.
For the most part none of my teachers have kept "secrets" - even if certain (profound) information known to them is hardly known to some others.  They have given me their knowledge without restriction and without fettering my own capacity to pass it on.

It is in this spirit that I wish to share details of what I regard as very important knowledge.

It is knowledge to which I've alluded in the past, namely the internal (specifically xingyiquan) method of timing a hand technique to…

Persistent myths #1: Blocks are isolated movements

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I'm going to start a series of short pieces dealing with what I consider to be "persistent myths" in the martial arts: myths that won't go away despite contrary logic and a plethora of available information.

Since I've been talking about blocks a lot lately, I'm going to start with this one:
Traditional blocks are designed to be executed in isolation. Erm... No, they're not.  Why would anyone think so?

People might not say this so clearly, but it is often necessarily implicit in their argument.  As Rashaud noted in the comments to my last article:
"What's interesting, I think, is that most people look at "blocking" as a static thing.  That all of you've done is "parry" or "deflect" an incoming strike. From that line of thinking, most would therefore consider the formal block overkill, or unworkable." Presumably the impression among these people is that all you do is "block" (ie. stop or redirect) an …