I have been looking at a note for me to respond to Kris Williams, who lives in Bakersfield, CA, and practices Muay Thai, Eskrima (DP? I forgot), Kenpo and some other styles. We met in a Starbuck’s, and ended up playing Eskrima in the parking lot, before moving to discussing my articles and empty hand. He is a reader, by the way.
While talking about his views on the FMA, he admits that he has not dedicated as much time as he’d like to the Filipino arts. He says it’s a time issue, but I suggested that perhaps he just doesn’t have access to full-time, non-mainstream teachers–as is the case with most FMA people. One of his main interests are the Filipino empty handed art. Somehow, Kris believes that Filipino empty hand must begin with a “gunting”, mimic the knife, and involve the take down, limb destruction and drills. Like I said, he needs access to non-mainstream FMA, as 99% of the FMA here in this country is made up of the same stuff.
(“Same stuff” = mainstream.)
He mentions, as most FMA people I’ve met, that he does not practice body-punching because it is not “street-worthy”. My opinion of techniques being considered street “unworthy” are most likely the fault of the one teaching and training the art… not due to the merits of the technique itself. Martial artists will often discount something that they cannot do well as “not practical” because they can’t make it work. I’ll give you an example. Do you believe that a spinning hook kick to the jaw will knock someone unconscious? Do you believe that the spin hook kick can be delivered fast enough that an opponent can’t stop it? Do you believe that the spin kick–in the hands (or feet) of an expert–can be delivered fast enough that a grappler can’t stop it?
Stop the presses! I think I just heard the sounds of doubt. And I can guarantee you that 100% of those who feel this way have never fought an Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do fighter. The only time a martial artist speaks in absolutes (“this won’t work, that won’t work”) without prefacing it with a reference to personal experience I know for a fact that this person is not speaking from experience. Stuff you did as a 16 year old McDojo student (or when you were 22 living in the dorms) are irrelevant. If you’re an expert, only your experience with other experts matters.
Here’s my point. A fighter who develops a skill to the point that it hurts–it injures, in fact–can pull anything off, given that he understands what he is doing and if he knows how to use what he knows against what the other man knows. That said, body punching is very relevant to modern self-defense as well as traditional in the real FMA empty hands. And I’m speaking as one who does the FMA you can’t find in a mainstream art, seminar, or video. The truth about body punching is that it hurts, even when punching without a glove, it can injure, and if the fighter knows what he is doing–no amount of conditioning will protect you from it. Like the MMA guy who say Olympic style TKD is useless–you reveal yourself to not know what you’re talking about.
RMA guys (realistic martial arts) and SSDBMA (Street self defense based martial arts) guys included. I challenge any man claiming that body punching is useless on the street to a match, I will have you on the floor within minutes. That’s just silly and too much theory. Sounds good on blogs and in articles only.
There is a place for body punishment, and I’m not referring to the ring. Not every fist fight has to be life or death. And you don’t always have to give your opponent a bone-crushing injury. Why, just last week I was picking up a friend who was moving when his cousin came out to argue with him over a television we had packed away. Before I knew it, these two were squared off in the middle of the street, ready to slug it out. It doesn’t matter who swung first–this is his cousin, a little marijuana and alcohol was involved, some testosterone (i.e., women) face injuries and broken bones are not an option. Perfect place for a body punch. (Instead, they got a lesson in conflict resolution from yours truly) My friend clearly did not want to fight. But his cousin was the aggressor and he needed to defend himself. They made up a day later, but might not have if my friend put him in the hospital.
That said, I would like to share some tips on the art of body punching. I hope you try them the next time you train and spar.
- Know what to hit. Do I simply hit the belly? Should I aim for the liver or spleen? Or the bladder? What type of punch should I use to get the kind of injury I want?
- Understand power mechanics. There is a little more to it than simply punching harder. If you weren’t formally trained in power mechanics, find someone who can teach it to you. Or take $45 and spend an hour with me at my gym.
- Use all your punches for your body-punching arsenal. I mean it: Your jab, your cross, your straight punch, your hook, your uppercut. They all have a place, and they are all necessary to set up another attack.
- Your feet must be wide at impact. Don’t forget to bend your knees. Open your feet wide as you hit, lower your center of gravity and balance, and most of all–your base. You do NOT want to be caught leaning over to hit a low target.
- Speaking of which ^^^, protect your head. Another reason to lower your stance. When you are upright and you attack low, your high targets are exposed–leaving you vulnerable to attack. Lower yourself so your weapons can be close to your head to protect you.
- Protect your head, part II. By stepping offline. It is best to find your head outside of your opponent’s front shoulder when attacking low, than to be to the inside. When you go inside, you must deal with his back hand. When you are on the outside, you control the action; your opponent must follow you. This makes it harder to find your head.
- Use a zig-zag motion. One of the biggest mistakes FMA fighters make is to practice only back and forth and triangle motion. You must step left and right, and be good enough to change directions without losing balance. As in the last rule, your opponent will follow you if you lead. If you take two or three steps in the same direction, he knows how to find you. If you alternate directions at random, your opponent will throw his attacks away, giving you plenty of opportunity to attack. So when he punches left, you have already gone back to his right, leaving all those ribs and goodies exposed. Like a kid in a candy store!
- When you throw, start from Texas. Bodies don’t move as quickly as the head. The natural reaction for a streetfighter when you initiate a punch is to turn the head and blink (trust me). Just that little motion alone will make you miss a head punch. You can’t move a chest that easily. Yet it takes more power to cause damage when you hit the body. Take advantage of the extra time–and need for more destruction–by torquing your body all the way when you throw that body shot. Treat him like a beef carcass when you attack those ribs. Make hamburger inside his shirt. He won’t want to fight much longer, believe me.
- Watch out for elbows. Should be self-explanatory. But punching an elbow is a painful mistake. You can, however, take advantage of a fighter looking to block with his elbows by doubling up and attacking high. It only takes a fraction of a second to stay there long enough to go upstairs.
- Don’t forget to “combinate”. Body punches need not be single attacks. Throw two, three or more, and really punish your guy. As the kids would say: Ouch, that sucks. One of Mike Tyson’s most devastating attacks was a double hook to the body, and when the opponent drops his arm to either wince or block–come up the middle with an uppercut or a left straight down the middle.
There is a lot more to this story, but I want you to work on this and we’ll discuss it again. Let me offer this training tip. Have a partner stand before you with a rib protector and a pair of gloves (or a kicking shield). The partner should attack you at will, and you step offline, blocking or simply slipping. Before his hand returns from the attack, you should have landed at least two blows to the body. Now make sure your partner really attacks you or you’ll be wasting your time. The goal is to learn to use the body punch counter-offensively. Now do it 500 times. Then we’ll move on to the next skill.
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