Thoughts on Canelo vs. Mayweather (Expose Your Students)

Canelo Mayweather

There is a teaching principle that many teachers are unaware of, that I would like to share.

Often, many teachers are not actually trained as instructors or teachers. Rather, they are simply taught the art and very little attention is given to actually teaching the future instructor or teacher how to teach. This is one of the aspects of the martial arts that I believe is missing, that can weaken a style’s proponents within one or two generations. It is the reason for the saying–that I will argue against, but actually agree with–that one needs teaching skill rather than fighting skill to become a good teacher.

Let me jump in to make a few points that I will not explain today so that we could stay focused on the main idea of the article:

  • Although one does actually need teaching skill to pass on an art–the presence of teaching skill does not negate the imperative need for the instructor to have fighting skill (or have had fighting skill in his past),
  • While it is possibly true that a good fighter will yield mediocre or poor students, strictly imitation and adopting the fighter’s training habits will most likely produce a good fighter–although not necessarily that student’s potential,
  • The teacher-to-be and instructor-to-be must be a student of the craft, as well as a student of the art of teaching, in order to be effective in their own way, and
  • You may notice that I distinguish between “teacher” and “instructor”. That is because there is a difference. And I will not expound on this difference today, however.

Back to the article… Teachers must also have the right philosophy towards the art of teaching if he and his students (or her and her students) are to be successful. And that philosophy was not present in the preparing of Saul Alvarez (aka “Canelo”) for his fight with Floyd Mayweather.

It’s simple, and if you are a reader of this blog or a student of my martial arts philosophy, you have heard me say this:  Teachers must not fear allowing their fighters to take a whipping. Teachers must also ensure that their fighters gain their own experiences, even if they are painful lessons. In the case of Alvarez Canelo, he is a well-trained fighter to fight other fighters. However, he was not taught to deal with the type of style that Mayweather uses. No amount of bag work, running, pushups, shadowboxing, sparring, or anything else textbook gymwork would have prepared him for this fight.

You must understand that fighting is not an exact science. When a man shows you how to stop a jab, he is only showing you how to stop one type of jab. There are many variations to everything you can do in a fight, and there are many substyles to every type of fighting. This is why I dislike the “How to Fight Tae Kwon Do/Muay Tai/Boxing/Jujitsu” seminars martial artists love to put on. That’s like buying a book entitled “How to Cook American Food”; American cuisine is made up of many regions, many cultures, and there are many variations to each one of those. In the art of boxing, there is a “textbook” style of boxing–but one style’s “textbook boxing” will vary from another. A good example is to look at what is done in Mexican gyms versus Black gyms from the East Coast. While to the novice, it’s all boxing. Yet the styles will vary greatly from one style of fighting to the other, and you cannot ignore the individual flavors, nuances and habits–strengths and weakness–of them.

Simply put, Canelo fought a different style of boxing than one he was used to, and they throw him in with not just a fighter who uses that style… He fought the best that style of fighting had to offer. It was foolish. Alvarez is a good fighter. But he is like a pro golfer who is thrown onto the basketball court and asked to play one-on-one with Kobe Bryant.

Okay, maybe that was extreme. Hopefully, you get my point.

Mayweather isn’t doesn’t have the fastest hands. He is not the strongest man in the ring. He is not a devastating puncher. He isn’t the smartest. But Mayweather is a master of a style his father and uncle perfected, and is unique in that few understand this style well enough to beat him. Canelo did not lose because he wasn’t good enough. He lost because he fought a strange style and couldn’t figure out how to counter and attack the fighter using that style.

As a teacher, you may not understand every style your fighters will encounter. And this is where teachers must humble themselves and bring someone in who knows. Or go out and learn more about that style so you can bring the results of that research to the students in your gym. Just do NOT theorize what could be done and then throw your guys in the ring and hope it worked. You are the expert, you’re just not the expert of everything. Understand that, and you will have success.

Finally, adopt your fighters’ losses as your own, and do not allow them to feel like they lost. Fighters are simply an extension of your knowledge and experience, and if a fighter trained hard, was in top shape, and did exactly what you told them to do–the team failed. Find out what needs to be done to improve his or her success and then make it happen.

For too many teachers, they refuse to accept that they don’t know everything, and force their students to do only what the teacher knows how to do, and repeat the outcome… Over, and over, and over again. Learn what you can, or bring someone in who can teach them. The Master’s personal art should evolve throughout his youth, throughout his teaching career, throughout his life. It never changes until he passes on.

Even when you believe your fighters are the best in the business. There will always be a higher peak to climb, a better fighter to conquer.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Reaching In Eskrima

I’d like to offer some practical, universal advice about the practice and application of martial arts. Any stylist can benefit from this because, like I said, this is a universal principle. It is also a principle–as practical as it is–is violated by much of the martial arts community, even masters and grandmasters.

One of my students who teaches now was giving me a run down of a tournament he had attended, and how the fighters who seemed tough did not do well. We’ve all seen them. They warm up in their warm-up gear, looking very intimidating and powerful and aggressive. Then when they step out on the floor, they must rely on breaking the rules, extra-aggressive behavior, and hitting harder than necessary to win their fight (or not).

You may also see them in the ring, pounding the hell out of a punching bag or landing explosive shots on focus mitts. They are fit, they are muscular, they are quick. But not effective.

I can tell by the way a man throws a punch or wields his stick if he was raised on a diet of fighting and fight-training, or drills and hitting targets. There is a huge difference, folks.

When practicing, we often stand too close to our partners (and we look at them as partners rather than opponents–but a topic for another article) or the punching bag when we are firing. If we are hitting focus mitts and shields, we will stand too close to the target and focus too much on power. Opponents, however, do not stand still. They will not allow you to stand close to them either. And they hit back. When you train, you ignore those facts or you are simply unaware of them. We all know that opponents move and hit back. But unless you are undergoing stress and attack while training, you will forget that fact and believe that fighting is just like this. Your footwork becomes too flat-footed and sure;  fighters all know that fighting an opponent who is equally skilled will ensure that your footwork is always unstable. Your guard will weaken, and you will strike out of memory or plan–instead of target and movement-triggered attacks, as a fight would be.

When you train with a man who learned and trained as you did, he will not challenge you. Instead, he will simply hold the target so that you can hit it. He may resist a little so that your strikes will “stick”, but he will not make things difficult for you. And when you spar, you will both stand at a similar distance from each other, and give each other false confidence about what an opponent will do.

In Eskrima, teachers overemphasize drilling, and this fact alone leads to this kind of movement (or lack thereof) and the poor translation of classroom-to sparring-to street. The result is a martial artist who has just as much difficulty finding his opponent as well as escaping one.

When you train your Eskrima, you must reach your strikes to find an opponent (or target) who is more often than not, not there. Walking in a circle while tapping the Sinawali out will not suffice. You must chase, you must seek, and you must destroy–all while keeping your head, your forearms and your legs out of range of the opponents’ attack. You must be able to find his head, neck, hand, collarbones and shins while guarding your own. And I am speaking about both drills and sparring.

Let me say something about the drill, as well.

I know I dump on drills often, but I am not fully opposed to them. However, the drill is far too simplified or far too overcomplicated to be of any use to a serious fighter, the way 99% of you do them. Drills must have several things (among them, “reaching”) to be effective tools in training in the gym:

  • the participants should be “opponents”, not “partners”. fighting is win/lose, not a cooperative activity. opponents help their “partners” learn by giving them a lost or win, and the lesson that comes with each. your drill should result in a victor as well as a loser
  • strikes should not meet between the opponents. if the sticks meet halfway between you and the partner, it was a waste. there is an exception–if one moves away and blocks the strike from the new position, the sticks will meet between the opponents
  • instead of meeting between the opponents, the sticks should meet at one of the opponents. meaning, you cannot have both men striking. one is striking, one is blocking. <—- and that is why the sticks meet, not because you both struck the same dead space between you. or worse–because you were aiming for each other’s stick
  • the drill should ensure that one man’s stick is stopping the other’s stick from hitting him. anything less, and you are wasting valuable training time
  • if you have a set of drills that are memorized choreography (which I honestly dislike), the set of drills is not complete unless you have a stage where the partners have no idea which drill he will end up doing. fighters don’t say to each other “Hey Mike, let’s do XYZ drill.” You should start off with XYZ drill and switch to EFG drill without cueing Mike
  • back to where the sticks should meet, they should meet right next to a place on the participant that will break or bleed if the block is missed. Eskrima with no element of danger is like practicing shooting with water guns
  • speaking of water guns, those of you who teach defense against firearms should consider training against a water gun, and make the student take at least one step to reach it. if you can get the gun without getting your shirt wet, you may have a chance avoiding a bullet
  • in the drill, the goal of the defender should be to escape the strike with his feet and head as well as by utilizing a block. make your opponent catch you

I am going to end it here. When you train your Eskrima or whatever art you do, make sure you have the element of reaching to hit targets rather than striking easy-to-reach target. You will find your fighting skill improve greatly in a short amount of time. And as always, if any man reading this blog happens to be in Sacramento and would like to get a demonstration, try out my theories or test them, or learn more about what I’ve presented here–please send me an email (and bring $35, half the amount of a private lesson), and I will gladly show/prove this theory in person.

Thanks for visiting my blog.