Generating power in muay Thai

Here’s an interesting video. It covers generating power in muay Thai, at least, one of the ways:

Sylvie is a fellow Patreon creator and has a lot of great content for you if you do muay Thai. She trains with some of the all-time greats and makes videos of the sessions. I liked this one a lot as it covers a topic I’ve spent a lot of time working on: power generation.

There is a myth in martial arts: the human body can only move in so many ways.

This is then used to talk about the similarities between different techniques and styles. But it violates Randy’s Law which says that the differences are just as important. When it comes to generating power, this applies in spades.

Muay Thai has some very specific methods, but they are inherent to the art and its rules/limitations. It’s one of the reasons you see precious few Thai fighters transition successfully to MMA: the power generation has a few serious flaws for the different rules and allowed techniques.

But when it comes to stand-up fighting, you don’t know what it is like for a Thai fighter to punch or kick you until you experience it. Their striking has a different feel when compared to other styles and combat sports. Not better or worse, just different and you need to feel it to understand what I mean.

Anyway, I wanted to share this video because it shows in detail how you should train for power generation: methodical and with patience.

It is not about quickly doing it and then trying to apply it when you spar or fight: you have to ingrain the technique so you almost can’t do it wrong, no matter what. Too many young fighters ignore this phase of training and then don’t understand why they get beat up by guys who look like they aren’t even trying. So I suggest you take the time to watch the full video and see how you can apply everything in it for your own training.

 

One thing Chatchai shows her is to hold back the shoulder before letting it rotate in a punch. This is a physical phenomenon called the stretch-shortening cycle. In short, you stretch a muscle/tendon before contracting it. This makes it contract harder and generates more power.

Try this:

  • Do a vertical jump by bending your knees quickly and immediately jumping as high as you can. Note the height.
  • Do the same thing, except this time you pause three seconds with your knees bent. Then you jump. Note the height and compare with the first jump.

Your second jump will suck because the stored elastic energy can’t be used then and the muscle fibers won’t contract as well. When you quickly go from bending to straightening your legs, you jump high without much effort. The same happens with the muay Thai punches she’s being shown.

The upside of this method is an instant gain in power if you do it right.

The downside is that it is difficult to do when you are tired or have taken damage. It also risks long-term damage to the shoulder joint. Given my shoulder problems, I don’t use it often anymore, but you can make it work for you.

Another thing he mentions is using the full rotation of the body, including the lower half, to develop power in the cross punch. He also mentions alignment of the arm with the shoulder joint. This is sometimes referred to as “hitting with structure”. It means you “connect” your entire body to the punch instead of it being arm-dominant. As a result, you don’t depend as much on acceleration to create an impact and relatively “slow” punches still have a lot of power.

I cover that (and also the weight transfers he mentions) in detail in my Power/Control video, along with a lot more. Look at the drill with the barbell in my neck at about 40 seconds in the trailer, as well as the staff training afterward. These train the ability to use kinetic chains correctly and to their maximum potential. They also teach how to separate weight transfers from rotations and how to combine them. You need both to be an effective fighter, in muay Thai and in other arts.

The way the drill is structured, you first move in largesse to get the details right. Gradually, the drill changes to smaller mechanics and finally it turns into techniques. By that time, if you trained correctly, you have great body mechanics and have lots of power in every move you make.

Sylvie has lots of videos and instructional material. I no longer train much in muay Thai, but if you do, I very much recommend checking out everything she offers.

Joe Rogan and the narrow focus of MMA

A while ago, somebody forwarded a video to Joe Rogan and he shared it on his social media. In it was a friend of mine, Bobbe, doing a drill in which he works his way around a training partner via several half-kneeling positions. I immediately understood what the drill was about as I’ve seen plenty of similar drills before.
Turns out a whole lot of people hadn’t. And they saw it fit to ridicule Bobbe to no end.
The video went viral thanks to Joe and to this day, Bobbe gets shit over it. Hence me writing this article.

If you go through the comments, aside of the insults, the criticisms boil down to:

  • The partner is just standing there.
  • This isn’t realistic, nobody fights like that.
  • The arm movements Bobbe does aren’t effective.

I’ll address all these points, but first something else.
I Like Joe Rogan. I like his stand-up comedy, his podcast and often like his UFC commentary. However, to the best of my knowledge, the bulk of his training is in Tae Kwon Do and Ju Jitsu. Apparently, he’s done some muay Thai/Kickboxing training as well, but I’ve only rarely heard him talk about it.
We’ll get back to that.

 

Some thoughts

MMA has become the dominant combat sport in modern societies around the world, but in particular in the US. As a result, MMA is used as the gold standard: “if it doesn’t work in the cage, it doesn’t work”. Such a statement betrays a staggering amount of ignorance or even stupidity. The first can be helped and is nobody’s fault, the second, well, some people could do worse than not talking about things they don’t understand.

Here’s the thing: this dynamic is not new. Not at all.

Most Western countries were introduced to Asian martial arts with judo and jujitsu, sometimes all the way back to the 1940s and 50s. Because these are so different from Western boxing and wrestling, people latched on to them and there were plenty of matches between practitioners of those systems to figure out which style was better.

Fast forward to the 60s and 70s and Karate came along. Suddenly, it was seen as more effective than the previous arts, because it focused more on striking. A few years later in the 70s, Bruce Lee introduced Chinese martial arts to the public. Because he was such a charismatic presence on the screen and his physicality, Chinese martial arts challenged the status quo regarding which martial art was best when it comes to fighting. And so on it went until we are now in 2018.

The dynamic is this: anytime a new martial art shows up, people wonder if it is good enough to take on the ones that are already established. This results in conflicts, mixed fights and one art/style/system eventually becomes dominant in the minds of the general population as it gains popularity. Today, MMA is dominant and everything is compared to it.

Unfortunately, that comparison offers a false equivalency. MMA is not self-defense, nor is it a traditional martial art. These are all separate things, though they overlap in some regards.

MMA has a very narrow focus: it is a combat sport (and a violent one at that) focused on empty-hand dueling. It excels at that and being an MMA coach myself, I have nothing but praise for it as a sport. But it is not the only filter through which you should view fighting and violence. Many things that matter in the cage don’t matter in the street and vice versa.

Now some enthusiasts get upset when I say this and dismiss it out of hand. I find that a bizarre way of reasoning. I’ve already written extensively about using Mixed Martial Arts for Self-Defense, so I won’t repeat it all here. In short: in the Octagon, there are no multiple opponents, you are never attacked by surprise, your opponent is never much heavier or stronger than you, there are no weapons involved, and much, much more.

In self-defense, all these factors are of critical importance. They have a huge influence on how you train and fight. Here are some more, but compared to traditional martial arts:

In many Japanese martial arts, there are techniques to stop somebody from drawing a sword and to beat him before he completes the draw. If you can stop the guy from getting his weapon out, it is useless to him and you can beat him as he tries to go for it. This has zero relevance in the cage. There are no weapons there, so if you see somebody doing a Japanese form with that technique, it’ll look stupid to you. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t look stupid to practitioners of combatives and law enforcement. They know that stopping a thug or attacker form getting his knife or firearm out is one of the best ways to not get killed. So that traditional technique still has relevance today, but not in the MMA paradigm.

A lot of low stances and traditional footwork looks ridiculous and is not usable in an MMA fight. That’s because it was developed and perfected to be used in a South-East Asian jungle during monsoon season: using typical MMA footwork and techniques in that unstable and slippery environment means you fall flat on your ass in no time and the guy you’re facing will crawl all over you, cutting you up along the way, until he is close enough to slit your throat. Again, irrelevant in the cage, but outside of it…

There are loads more examples, but I’ll leave it at that. My point stands:

MMA as a sport has a narrow focus and it doesn’t encompass all there is to fighting, not by a long shot.

So with that out of the way, here are some thoughts on the whole incident.

 

Drills? Why do that?

The key point so many of the commenters whined about was how Bobbe’s drill was useless. This means two things: they don’t know the goal of the drill or they think drills are useless.

Let’s look at the second first, what about drills?

In every single competitive sport, practitioners use drills. There are all kinds of drills and they teach all sorts of things, but, they are designed to focus on one (or several) aspect(s) of the sport and improve the skills needed there. For example:

Apply the same faulty logic here: “No football player runs like that!” So this drill is useless, right? So we must now ridicule these players, right?

It is a fundamental error of reasoning when people dismiss drills as useless simply because they don’t know or understand them.

Then there’s the goal of Bobbe’s drill.

As mentioned, I’ve seen loads of drills like this in Silat and they all tend to teach specific things:

  • Getting used to working near an opponent.
  • Learning all the different positions you may find yourself in.
  • Learning how to transition from one position to the next.
  • Learning which angles of attack are available and which aren’t.
  • Attacking targets without having to look for them.
  • Etc.

These drills are usually taught with an immobile partner at first, to make it easier to learn all these things. In more advanced versions of the drill, there is more movement, a back and forth and even resistance from the partner.

So the example in Bobbe’s video is just a basic drill and the method of training shown is pretty standard for traditional martial arts as well. MMA enthusiasts said this is useless for training to fight in the cage. Yeah, about that:

Every single criticism leveled against Bobbe’s video can be thrown at Firas Zahabi.  Every. Single. One.
The partner is just standing there.

Nobody fights like that.

His techniques aren’t effective.

So following the same logic, Firas is full of shit and knows nothing about MMA, right? Oh wait

The disappointing thing about the BJJ crowd’s negative comments and ridicule is that they should know better: they do compliant-partner drills all the time:

Using the same logic from the commentators, Emily Kwok must be full of shit, know nothing about BJJ and her drill is useless, right? Oh wait

Something else:

Did you notice in the previous examples how Emily and Firas did their drills in a relaxed, flowing manner instead of going fast and hard? Kind of like how Bobbe went relaxed and flowing? Do you have any doubt that Firas and Emily are able to go fast and hard with their techniques should they choose to?

If not, why on earth would you think Bobbe is unable to go much, much faster than in that drill?

Double-standard much?

On a final note: If you can imagine Bobbe going much faster, imagine him doing that drill at speed but with a knife in his hand or with a palm razor (see picture in the Update below.) You’re having difficulty picturing that? Here, let me help you a bit:

 

Conclusion

People mistake the intensity of MMA as an accurate way of measuring the validity of any given martial art. These kinds of “that wouldn’t work in the Octagon” comments are stupid and juvenile. They’re juvenile because they make as much sense as arguing over which one is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? They’re stupid because they compare apples to rubber bands; there’s no point. Do you see tennis fans saying Federer could beat all the best badminton players? Do you see Nascar fans claiming their champions could easily win Formula One races? Same thing: there’s no point. Different sport, different context, different environment, and so on. Such dogmatic comparisons are useless.

MMA is not the only filter through which you can see fighting and neither is BJJ the only one through which you can see ground work. There is a wide range of martial arts out there and they all have something to offer that doesn’t work in the Octagon, but is most certainly useful outside of that narrow context.

I’ll leave you with this:

To to get a black belt in his system, my Kuntao teacher, the late Bob Orlando, made you do a project. You had to list all the different martial arts in the world. List every single one you could find and explain how they were connected to each other. With that list, you could see that his style was only a very, very small part of all the knowledge that is out there in this field.
This teaches humility and makes the newly minted black belt understand just how little he actually knows compared to how much there is to learn.

It also drives home the point that it is unwise to talk about other martial arts because you don’t train in them. If you don’t understand why another system does the things they do, there is no upside in criticizing them as speaking in ignorance is stupid and arrogant.

How much better would the world be if a whole lot more people did just that before they spout bile or ridicule on a video they don’t understand the first thing about?

 

Update:

Bobbe explained the purpose of the drill in a response on social media. He kindly allowed me to share it here:

I’m not going to defend this video, but I will try to explain it.

I am primarily a South East Asian practitioner, with a passion for knives, close range and sensitivity. I’m an in-fighter, and I fully believe/condone trickery, deception and wetwork in application. So before I teach anything, this is the stance I come from.

This is a piece of a drill which focuses on sensitivity from a kneeling position, and circling a body without LOOKING at it, feeling where you are, and working different joints, limbs and body parts against levers and pressure. Some have mentioned the knee cranks and destructions in the drill, yes, those are there as well.

Let me say, about this drill: It’s called “Puteran” (meaning; “Turning”) in Mande Muda Pencak Silat, and before I explain it, let me tell you what it’s NOT:

1: Defense against an incoming attack.

2: A speed drill against a stationary opponent.

3: Things you can do if you *happen* to be kneeling in front of an opponent.

4: A Kata

5: A homoerotic knee-dance

Having said that – there are over a dozen variations of this drill, including with the opponent moving in various directions, adding attacks, counters and stealing the line. What you’re seeing here is step one – nothing more. I used my student’s incoming punch as a reference point to start from, because I like to begin that way. It can easily be trained with a person just standing there, not attacking at all, the attack isn’t the point.

This is not a “dead drill” – there are several directions to both arrive at this point, and to go to from here as well. What you are seeing is a piece of an interactive method from a system that emphasizes unique angles and unusual entries.

There are lots of versions where BOTH people are moving, attacking and countering simultaneously, in a free-flow style with no choreography. This little snippet was filmed after class, where I was teaching a beginning student how to achieve this. This is simply the baby steps.

Puteran addresses several things at once: Position AROUND the body, at various angles and levels (you only see level one here) both facing and with your back turned, as well as side-to-side sensitivity, foot placement at close range, and what’s known in silat as “Badan Dasar” – “Body Basics” when interacting with an opponent.

Some have mentioned what would happen if a blade was in my hand – yes, this drill also has bladed variations, but the most important lessons are in the first level: How many arts address leg attacks and moving from low, seated or kneeling positions *fluidly*? Further, you don’t “have” to kneel, doing this drill, try it standing up and just maneuvering yourself around a person.

I am a *touch* surprised at the reaction from the BJJ crowd – they do, like, several variations of this, for the EXACT same reasons! The biggest argument I’ve ever heard when confronted with this is something like “Yeah, but…we don’t wear a SARUNG!”

Okay, what-evs.

Examine the drills and forms of any classical martial art, and you’ll find that they often reflect the direction that the art itself is pointing you towards. For example, “Sink-Root-Punch” could qualify many Karate systems in a nutshell, and the forms and drills certainly reflect this. Pencak Silat is flow-based, it advocates moving and attacking off-line, obliquely, in a way that the opponent doesn’t see coming.

To accomplish this, you must actually train such lines to be common technique. Watch the last few turns, I don’t even touch my opponent, I’m just moving my body in a circle around his. This is something many other arts do standing up.

I don’t keep a plethora of drills in my repertoire anymore. I believe that the only way to achieve a modicum of skill is to cross hands, roll, flow and spar. To that end, the drills I retain and teach are what I call “blanket” drills – they can be used and modified to reflect multiple principles, so the student doesn’t spend years memorizing choreography over developing actual skill, or confusing recital with ability. This drill opens the door for flow when both people do it together, and can be done standing up, squatting, or kneeling – so it fits my criteria of necessity, but again, it’s one ingredient in the recipe of Harimau (tiger) Pencak Silat.

If your art or method doesn’t address low-line fighting from a kneeling or seated position, this drill will look strange to you. If this is the first time low-line attacks have ever crossed your path, you will probably be dismissive of the drill. There are precious few “systems” I’ve seen that even address the legs, outside of “stance” or “to kick with”. Similarly, if your art or method doesn’t address realistic knife attacks or defense…how can you expect to understand the sheer weight of consequence and responsibility that comes with even the simplest of training?

I’m including a clip of my late teacher demonstrating a few applications straight out of this drill – maybe that will do a better job than I can. You can also see some smaller variations of the drill.

Lastly – take one of these palm-razors that I frequently carry, and do the drill. Let me know if it opens your eyes.

Bobbe Edmonds Palm Razor

Palm Razor

I would like to thank Marc MacYoung for his patience with me, and generosity in allowing me to respond on his page.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my hand to the Seattle TSA, and let them know I’m available for pat-down seminars in your area.

Lastly, I wish to offer a free pat-down to any Asian or Latina cheerleaders who are ignorant of this country’s customs and laws, and/or need a Green Card. Please apply at the black 1978 Chevy van parked at the Target superstore in Renton, WA.

Wear uniform.

 

My new book: The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

And here it is! My new book, The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts, is available as of right now. If you want to read all the details on what it’s about, read this blog post.

The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts

You can get the book in paperback and electronic version at Amazon and the other retailers in this list here below.

Available:

Coming soon:

  • Inktera

There are two bonuses that come with this book:

  • The first 100 buyers who send me a message via my Facebook Page can get access to a private Facebook group. In that group, I will give additional information to help you use the information in the book: pictures, additional techniques, instructional videos, video analysis of MMA fights in which the leg kick is used, you can ask questions and much more. This is first come, first served, so best not delay if you are interested in this.

Also, you will keep your access to the group once I finish posting all the content there. Important: you obviously need a Facebook account to be eligible for this and I will ask proof of purchase via email.

  • There is a resources page to which I repeatedly refer to in the book. You can find it here. There you can find additional information, some videos and links to the gear I recommend for your training. This page is free for all to enjoy.

 

It took much longer than I wanted to write this book, but it’s finally here. I hope you enjoy it and can use the information to improve your own skills.

 

I have one small favor to ask:

Please leave a review on Amazon. Just give your honest opinion, what you liked, didn’t like, etc. It doesn’t even have the be a long review, just a few lines is already better than nothing.

Reviews make a huge difference in improving sales of a book. I would greatly appreciate it you woudl take the time to write one. Thank you.

 

Finally, I’ve already started writing the next book: Boxing for Self-Defense. If all goes well, it will be released in December near the holiday season. If you want to be notified when it does, sign up here. No spam, just an email when there’s a new product.

 

Thank you for your support.

The overlooked part of effective techniques

Last week I was reading an interesting article (if a bit dry) about deceleration of movements in sports. You can read it here, I think it’s worth it. One of the points it made is that little attention is given to studying deceleration. I agree. Compared to acceleration training, the attention deceleration receives is almost minimal. I always found that strange, as I learned many years ago that it is a hallmark of combat sports and martial arts, but it’s routinely overlooked. I’ll explain in a bit but first a quote from the article:

High levels of eccentric strength are required in tandem with appropriate training of deceleration technique specific to sporting performance, while the demands of the sport situation determine the critical distance, direction, and time that the deceleration must occur.

In other words, you need a specific kind of strength (eccentric) instead of the one you use for acceleration (concentric) while at the same time adjusting on the fly to changing conditions.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s a good rule of thumb. It is particularly true in martial arts and self-defense. Here’s why:

overlooked part of effective techniques power and control

Power is nothing without control…

One of the ways sports are classified is into specific types of movement: cyclic or acyclic (also acyclic combined but we won’t cover that now.)

Cyclic means a repetitive movement pattern like swimming, running or cycling. In those sports, you pretty much do the same movement all the time. The only main difference is if you do it with endurance as a goal (run as far as you can) or with speed (run as fast as you can.) I know this is also an oversimplification, but bear with me.

Acyclic means several different movement patterns are necessary. Examples are team sports such as basketball or volleyball, but also fencing, tennis and boxing. In all these sports, you perform a variety of techniques/movements and go from one technique to another. Acyclic sports typically require good technique, speed and power.

 

Whenever you fight, in the street or in competition, you perform acyclic movements. You punch, then you kick, then you move then you grapple, then you punch again, etc. It always changes. What’s more, these changes happen because your opponent does the same as you. You have to adjust whatever you’re doing to his movements. That leads to only one conclusion if you follow this reasoning: [Read more…]

The effectiveness of traditional Chinese martial arts

The effectiveness of traditional Chinese martial arts has been questioned a lot, ever since it rose to prominence in the 1970’s when Bruce Lee splashed onto the big screen. We’ve come a long way since then and martial arts/self-defense today are not what they were back then. Many techniques and training methods that were the norm back then are nowadays discarded and considered ineffective. In a larger sense, this is true for many other martial arts and fighting systems as well.

Some teachers have taken it upon themselves to dig into those traditional arts and bring out their value in today’s environment. One of them is Iain Abernathy, who I met a while ago and is a great guy. He teaches a practical approach to Karate. On his website, there was a discussion about teaching traditional Chinese martial arts (in particular forms) in a practical way. You can read up about it here. Iain said some kind words about me (thanks Iain!) so I decided to write this blog post and share some thoughts.

As always, this is nothing but my personal opinion. It isn’t gospel, so feel free to discard it.

 

The current state of traditional Chinese martial arts

As mentioned in the forum discussion, karate gets a lot of bad press for not being effective in a “real fight” and one of the commenters claimed that this isn’t a big issue in Chinese arts. I beg to differ. There is loads and loads of crap out there (there is a lot of good too, but I’m going to focus on the bad in this article.) There are way too many people who really shouldn’t be teaching at all, because they both haven’t done the time to own their art and/or don’t understand it. That may be because their teachers didn’t understand it enough to pass it along correctly or perhaps information got lost along the way, I don’t know. Regardless, I’ve seen more practitioners doing ineffective traditional Chinese martial arts than effective ones.

This seems to be a particular problem in Western countries. You can often see schools teaching what they consider is a traditional style, but without the things that make it effective. Meaning, the things that were originally included in that style before it came to the West. An understanding of the purpose and methodology of practicing forms is a big part of that. Some of the explanations regarding forms and the practical applications they’re supposed to teach you see those teachers demonstrate are nothing more than best guesses or complete falsehoods to avoid exposing their lack of knowledge.

To be clear: maintaining the effectiveness of traditional Chinese martial arts is not just a problem in the West. It is now very hard to find good teachers of traditional styles in China. Young people don’t really feel like going through that kind of harsh training any more, so those teachers have trouble finding students. As a result, those arts are dying out.

All in all, given the number of practitioners out there, I’d say the percentage of them having the “real thing” is pretty low. This isn’t necessarily their fault, but it still leaves them coming up short.

effectiveness of traditional Chinese Martial arts - Shaolin

Me, in Shaolin in 1991

 What happened?

A lot of factors came together to create the current situation and I’ll only touch on some of them here below: [Read more…]