“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

Exceed the Teacher, pt II (Lesson from Bouie Fisher)

This article is a nod to one of the late, little-known masters of the fighting arts:  Bouie Fisher. It is also part II to this article–but will ride the topic of fight strategy. I am still putting the article under “Teaching Philosophy”, because the thrust behind my reason for writing this article is to share my view on the journey from fighter to  fight philosopher to teacher, despite the lessons in strategy we will present here.

And pour yourself a pot of coffee or tea:  this will be a long one.

First, for those who are unfamiliar with Bouie Fisher, he is the trainer of Hasim Rahman and more famously, boxing master Bernard Hopkins. These two men are perfect examples of the saying to “exceed the teacher”. Fisher was a good amateur who did not turn pro (or perhaps he did not fight long as a pro). He had eight children with his wife, and the life of a fighter is not financially stable enough for many men to be able to gamble their family’s standard of living on it. I wasn’t there, but I suspect (like many fighters) his wife probably told him to get a job. Either way, Fisher became a trainer and after 20 – 30 years of doing so–retired from boxing. He had a fighting philosophy that was unique, but no champion to prove its worth–or perhaps no student to fully develop those theories into proven methods.

Maybe I should jump in here to say something about that.

Any teacher can come up with a theory about fighting and technique. We do it all the time. We all have students to teach those theories to. But not every student will be suited to completely learn, develop, master, test, and prove those theories. The teacher must either be that fighter himself, or get someone to be that ultimate student. This is the dilemma of striking out on your own and forming your own style. Most teachers, unfortunately, become stuck at the theory level. Meaning, they form the theory and simply start teaching it–skipping all the stages of development. Sometimes it’s due to ignorance. Sometimes it’s due to laziness. Many times it is due to their desire not to have those theories tested, and possibly proven wrong. Ego has kept many teachers’ methods from being fully developed. Fear is the other head of that oppressive monster. Teachers have the dual challenge of devising a superior fighting style as well as finding the appropriate student to carry that technique forward. Many teachers just don’t want to have a champion who is known to be better than themselves. Few teachers, however, are driven to have a student who not only proves his method is superior–not only to exceed his own skills–he is willing to sit in the background and allow his student to rise all the way to the top, even if onlookers fail to give the master credit for the students’ success. One of the things I can tell you about the difference between boxing teachers and martial arts teachers:  Boxing teachers flaunt their students’ successes as for their pride. Martial art teachers promote themselves. Look at the websites. Master so and so will tell you all about his accomplishments, but don’t tell you crap about his students. Boxing teachers tell you almost nothing about themselves, instead choosing to boost up their pupils. A martial arts teachers’ resume is padded with his own accomplishments, while boxing teachers’ resumes contain nothing but students. Think about it. The big lesson from Bouie Fisher was that he was extremely proud of his fighters, and pushed harder and harder for his students to be known as the best in the business. Despite that his prized student was the pound for pound best fighter in the world for years–Fisher was relatively unknown, silent during interviews, and satisfied. Talk about selfless commitment to the role of a teacher…

And let’s keep in mind two things. First, Fisher did not have a lot of fighting experience. He had fights, yes. But he had to cut his fighting career short, so what experience he was able to accomplish, he used as a base for his theories about fighting. His system was mostly untested, by professional fight standards. Secondly, his method represented an older school of fighting. As fighting became more mobile and based on points, rounds became shorter, and the fighting rules were more concerned with safety–many of his methods were being considered outdated. But worse–they were considered inferior to the new methods, which were becoming known for efficiency and less prone to being countered. When he retired the first time in the 80s, Fisher joined the ranks of boxing trainers whose methods were obsolete. Then someone suggested he took a look at an up-and-coming lightweight named Bernard Hopkins.

Bernard had lost his first fight, and was entering the fight game at an age most would deem too old to start a career in boxing. But he was hard-working and disciplined, and these two factors made him a good prospect for tutelage. Those of you who are teachers know exactly what I’m talking about; we all encounter physically talented, but lazy students. You can bring out hard work ethic in a student, but it isn’t easy. When you find a student who is both hungry for knowledge but also naturally hard working, baby you just hit the jackpot. Who among us wouldn’t love to have a gym full of these guys?

I’m going to stop now, because if you’re a fight fan, you know the rest. B-Hop is known as one of the craftiest, old-school fighters in the game. He had lost a few times, but no opponent had ever made him look like a fool in the ring. If you get in the ring with this man, he will beat your ass. You might beat him on the scorecards, but he will leave you lumpy at the end of the night. He is proof–at 48 years old–that old-school boxing is alive and well, and relevant. Not just that, he also proof that a man pushing 50 can still defeat the young men half his age with superior tactics. Fisher’s system was not fully tested and proven, but with the right student as well as the desire to allow his student to surpass himself in skill and reputation–the master is able to see that system become a well-established school of fighting in the community. I predict that old school boxing methods will make a return to the fight game. I am personally not a fan of the flashy style of boxing so popular today.

And let’s take a look at Bouie’s fighting style, shall we?

  • The goal of the fight plan isn’t to rack up points, but to punish and beat your opponent into submission
  • Every technique must hurt and wear down the opponent
  • You keep moving so that opponent’s can only catch you with glancing blows, but
  • You stop only to fire on the opponent
  • Attacks must be delivered from a position where the opponent has trouble seeing the attack as well as
  • Being out of range of a possible counter
  • Keep the feet near the opponent, but keep the angle of your torso away from his line of fire
  • Kill the body with body shots
  • And deliver those body shots from a position that protects you from counter
  • Apply constant pressure on the opponent, anytime he is not punching you should make him eat punches
  • If a split second passes at the end of the opponent’s attack and he is withing range, make him pay for it
  • As soon as your combination attack is complete–move away.
  • Defeat your opponent by keeping him out of balance emotionally and psychologically
  • Rather than move back and forth, move side-to-side
  • Attack your opponent when he attempts to change positions
  • Punch outside of rhythm. In other words punch before stopping your feet (which 99% of fighters do), so your attack will come while you move
  • Block with your elbows and shoulders, not with footwork (compare this to the Ali shuffle/Roy Jones Jr dancing)–it keeps you in range to fire back
  • Within 2 – 3 seconds, shots should be delivered to both head and lower body
  • Attack the hip and the front of the shoulders. It keeps the opponent from being able to punch as well as move his feet. This is an “investment” that will pay off later

There is more to the strategy, but I think this is plenty for you to take in.  I would like to encourage you to check out some old fights and see for yourself how these theories look in application. You may want to add them to your own arsenal. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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4 Responses to “Exceed the Teacher, pt II (Lesson from Bouie Fisher)”

  1. This is very helpful. Point number 1 is my favorite. The list is easy to read but it will take longer than my lifetime for me to learn all of them. No matter. At least, I know what to aim for. Thank you, thank you!

  2. This is beautiful. Thank you for remembering the humble genius of my grandfather.

  3. I have read so many of your articles however this one was really nice, thank you!


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