Learning to Punch for *Fighting*

This article is going to present some info that should be self-explanatory, but you know how we FMA people like to over-complicate things. While most FMA people I’ve met are also Bruce Lee nut-huggers, they violate his most basic tenet: a punch is just a punch, and a kick is just a kick. Ask an FMA guy, a punch is also a knife technique, is also a stick strike, is also a whip snap is also a disarm, to a trap to a sweep, to a bite to the kitchen sink. For a genre of fighting styles that love to claim simplicity and practicality, we sure have gotten flowery and un-practical lately.

Take a look at the following “typical” clip:

Never mind. I was just offered some upgrade for $59, and I’m not taking it. But here’s the clip, so just check it out and then come back. I’ll wait. Grrr…


Apparently there is a boxing style in the Philippines called Panantukan, that is supposedly derived from the knife and it sure looks like Wing Chun mixed with sloppy boxing mixed with kung fu disguised as Silat mixed with Muay Thai. The usual line up for an “FMA” seminar that supposedly has everything in it already. The only trouble is, you have to find an American, or an American-trained FMA guy to learn it. You know how we Filipinos love to hide our secrets.

We FMA people love exotic, flowery, complicated-looking stuff, and if it’s some shit we don’t know how to do–it comes off as “deadly”. (Wait, I thought we were simple, to-the-point, direct and brutal? More on that later) So rather than waste precious seminar time on developing skills, we’d rather spend it “drinking from a water hose” and trying to retain all those neat tricks and drills they demoed at the seminar. Thank God for DVD.

The sad thing is, the one thing our FMA boxers are not doing is Boxing. We are coming up with counters to jabs that are longer than a kenpo technique on meth, and somehow our fighters forget that the average puncher will punch by combination. And here’s a little piece of info for you “I-only-fight-to-the-death-not-in-sport-event-so-I-won’t-spar-for-shit” types:  The combination they throw often come so fast, one of you won’t have time to complete what you planned to do. If he throws all three punches of a three-punch combination, you won’t be able to throw your shots. If your shots make it in, he won’t get out all three of his combo. That stuff you’re showing can be proven ineffective in 3 short minutes. If any Panantukan experts make it to the Sacramento/Northern California/Bay Areas, stop by; I’d be glad to show you what I mean.

There is a very simple formula to learning to punch correctly–that is, learn to punch for FIGHTING–that is so simple and effective, if you followed it, 90% of the stuff your Guro shows you will be completely useless against you. Don’t believe me? Go into a boxing gym and pay for one day of training, which is usually about $12, and ask to spar three or four guys. I don’t even know you, and I guarantee you will get whipped three or four times. Well worth the $12 bucks.

Problem here is that we spend too much time learning neat counters and combinations and pad drills, but very little time is spent actually learning and developing the punch. The attack combinations are not well researched and tested in fighting. After all, you’re training for the street, right? Does your Guro fight in the street? The counter combinations are even worse. For safety purposes, your partner is not supposed to really try to clean your clock. So you are practicing your defenses on everything but malicious punches. There is very little cross-training into rival gyms (dare I say NONE?), so every time a guy is in front of you, he is a training partner–never an opponent. Trust me on this one; you’re not learning to punch. And you damn sure aren’t learning to stop a puncher.

But this article is not about strategy, it’s about learning to punch, and learning to punch for FIGHTING. Without further b.s. from the always loquacious (got that from my 11 year old, who looked it up after hearing the word at a spelling bee) thekuntawman, here is the formula that you need:

  1. You must learn proper form from someone who knows how to punch. Trust me on this; boxing is not so simple that what you think you’re looking at is how to punch. That’s the problem Bruce Lee made. He was a horrible boxer. And generations of JKD guys learned by imitation, of a Wing Chun guy who studied Muhammad Ali videos to learn to box. Ali violated darn near every rule of boxing. But he could get away with it because he’d boxed most of his life, he’d fought most of his life, and he had the speed, the timing, and fighting experience to pull that stuff off. The few JKD guys who broke away from the box-by-seminar mold and actually went into a gym are now learning to box, and they are leaving  the majority of the JKD/Kali world in the dust. Wing Chun is Wing Chun, and it has it’s place. Boxing is Boxing, and it has it’s place. If you’re going to try and box, then really learn to box = Is all I’m saying. Learn proper mechanics and execution, and then excel at it. Stop going along with martial artists-in-boxing-gloves. You’re only fooling the ignorant.
  2. Although it’s a punching bag, you’re supposed to move around it. You never stand in a small spot in front of the punching bag and think you’re developing punching skills for fighting. Yes, you are developing a powerful punch (that’s what the bag is for). But what is power if you cannot connect? What is power if you don’t have the footwork to land that punch? Surely, you didn’t think your opponent would stand there like he was doing a drill with you? Opponents move, bags don’t. With the bag, you move. It’s only there for you to have resistance when you hit.
  3. Focus mitts are overused in the FMA/Martial Arts-in-boxing-gloves world. Mitts, my friends, are not for accuracy–contrary to popular belief. Mitts are so that the puncher can work his combos and have (1) a connect point, (2) sound feedback when he hits that thing right, (3) a living, breathing, moving body as a reference point when he throws a punch (helping to gauge distance) and has to move while “combinating”, and (4) to have that living, breathing, moving body throw punches at him, block, slap, grab, blah blah blah. It is so you can work the same combos over and over with a semi-cooperative partner/opponent. Most people outside the boxing world either have a partner who is too close (not making him reach or step) or too far (not giving him the right distance to have an opponent at).
  4. A mirror is really needed–or a teacher who will stand directly in front of you to tell you if you’re doing it right. I’d actually prefer a mirror. I didn’t put mine up because my students weren’t focusing. But they already knew how to punch. But best believe I am ultra picky about my student’s performance. They still need a mirror while shadowboxing to connect what’s in their mind with what they see.
  5. Finally, a speed bag. The term “speed bag” is a little misleading, because it isn’t “speed” we are trying to develop on it; we are trying to develop timing and accuracy. Now, the surrealist martial artists will try and say that they aren’t punching like one would punch in a fight. That’s because you are trying to teach yourself. Go into a boxing gym, homeboy. A real boxing gym. Youtube won’t teach you what you need to know, and neither will some silly blog written by a guy who can’t spell well enough to write his own stuff. (lol) I cannot emphasize this enough.

Okay, we just passed the 1,300 mark and we still have to edit.

Let me close by saying this. Folks, this is entertainment. Some of you martial artists are more sensitive than one of my 6 ex-wives. You’re supposed to be tougher than that. I have had far more people challenge me on my views than you can imagine, even had a few try me out. Trust me, I did not get this way on poor fighting skills. And I am not talking out of the side of my neck. This is why every article on technique on this blog offers, “come over and I will prove that my theory is valid”–I can and will prove every word I say. But if you aren’t man enough to come and check it out in person, then shut up and stay in your chat rooms and dojangs and dojos and run your mouths there. You know how you like to brag that your Guro has had a whole bunch of matches under his belt? Well I’m one of them. If you’re not willing to be the next, then stop spamming me or talking behind my back–I am very easy to find. I write these articles because there is a side to the FMA that you won’t get on the mainstream, and I don’t say it, very few people will. 15 years ago, I said that Kinomutai is not a real art in the Philippines, Kali was not the “mother art”, and drill-based art is not practical. Y’all cried like a kid who just found out Santa was dead, but you’re here right? How many of you really think Kali is the mother art now, besides Leo Gaje? Or Lito Lañada really invented Kuntaw from Spanish word and a Chinese word? You know what? The truth hurts. So suck it up and take it like a man. Arguing with boxers on youtube saying that Panantukan will destroy boxing is just juvenile and dare I say it, “pussified”. It makes the FMAs look bad; all of us. Put your money where your mouth is, and do what you challenge people to do all the damned time: prove it. Go into a boxing gym, and fight a boxer. See where your hands really are. It’s the only way your empty hand skill will really develop. The truth is, your FMA Guro was NOT the champion of all the Philippines. He never fought in death matches. You don’t fight in street fights, nor do you test your art. You don’t really have confidence in your art, that’s why you still take seminars and try to learn something that will give you confidence. And you know damned well those stick/knife counters won’t work empty handed. If you fight with your FMA empty hands against a real machete-wielding attacker, he will kill you.

So take some practical advice, swallow your pride, and shut the hell up and learn. Unless you are willing to come to my gym in Sacramento and show me that I’m wrong. You’ve read about those old men who have had more matches than he can remember? Well, you’re reading words written by of them. And I’m still young enough to prove it.

And if there is anyone in the area who would like to clarification on this or anything else I present on this blog, please contact me and I’ll even go a round or two with you. Thanks for visiting my blog.