Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Change the Variables, Change the Fight

You change the variables, you change the fight. Let's look at the UFC as an example. Back in the day there were only two rules - no eye gouging and no biting (and i think no kicking with shoes on. Everything else was fair game.

There was also no time limit and you moved onto the next round to fight the next winner that same day.

Both the time and multiple fights/day were huge variables to the UFC fight. It was all about stamina. The fights were measured by knock-out or tap out. Nothing else. You could be bashing the guy's head in, drawing blodd, but if for some reason he didn't tap out or wasn't knocked out, the fight never stopped. And as time went on, the guy would punch himself silly and the lactic acid would build until he couldn't punch no more.

Hence the Gracie fighter - it was perfect for this setting. He could rest in the clinch and not take that much punishment. He didn't rely on punches so he wouldn't punch himself out, nor would he be punched either. He could also move onto the next round relatively ok.

Ahh, but then they realized they weren't getting enough money and could not go nationwide, unless more rules were in place. So they added gloves, then no hitting to the back of the head, then a time limit, then rounds, then one fight per night. It allowed for more excitement, allowed for the guys to fight as hard as they could in the limited time, not having to worry as much about saving up gas for the next bout.

We saw, from this, that strikers were able to win the fights again.

Oh how the variables changed the fight.

Then as UFC grew in popularity, so did the competition. Fighters grew into their own styles, what is now called MMA...as opposed to "mixed martial arts". The fighters have become atheletes, taking it to the next level of science, training and nutrition.

And now gone are the purists - even the Gracies aren't on the card. Instead, it's this hybrid blend of thai boxing and "ground game".

It' really interesting to see how the variables change the fight. Add a cement floor. Maybe some tables? How about The element of open space to fight, or no space to fight? How about the psychological aspect? Remove the weight classes and see how fighters adapt to fighting someone faster, smaller, or bigger they they are (oh I forgot to mention that there used to be no weight classes). Weight classes, although may be rationalized as being safer for the fighter, remove the elemental concept of disadvantage and the ability to overcome this with technique, strategy or compensatory physical attributes.

Would be really cool to see. MMA is the measuring stick, it seems, for many martial artists. But the measuring stick is only as good as the conditions it's set in. Change the conditions, change the outcome.

Until then.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WT - The Workout

Well I had the wonderful opportunity to run last Monday's class. I had the green light from my Si-Fu weeks prior so we were able to give ample heads up to the students. There were two themes for the night:

Part 1: Physical Conditioning and the "Revelation" of Strength

Part 2: The Magnetic Zone and Introduction of the "Uncooperative Partner"

Part 1 introduces the concepts of physical fitness into the WT curriculum. Standard warm up exercises included stretching, pushups (standard and explosive), situps and core training, and cardiovascular (jumping jacks, burpees, squats). In conventional martial arts, much emphasis is placed on physical conditioniong (anywhere between 30-60 minutes in a 1.5-2hr class session). In our school, however, the entire 3 hours is devoted to the Wing Tsun/Self-defense aspect. Physical conditioning is expected to be trained outside of class, if desired.

We then went onto various pad hitting. I wanted the students to hit the pads hard while maintaining the best form possible and minimizing risk of injury. Here, my point was simply to expose them to the automatic use of strength when hitting through a target. It exposes how tense one can get, how the stance goes away, how it becomes sloppy, how the fist slips off the target, how the body may bounce back, etc. Pad hitting (much like the wooden dummy) becomes the teacher and exposes areas for improvement.

Part 2 reviewed the concept of the "magnetic zone". This concept defines when the WT fighter must close the gap, getting to his opponents as quickly, as safely and as offensively as possible. As always, I encourage multiple partner switching as the magnetic zone would differ for each partner.

We then introduced the concept of the un-cooperative partner. In conventional martial arts and in wing chun, the partner is fairly cooperative. Even when the attacker throws a hard or fast attack, there's a mutual allowance for the partner to "do his drill". Considering that for 99% of us, being thrown a completely resisting opponent is a bit much of a jump in difficulty, why not bridge this gap a little bit?

We broke it down and let the partner resist in certain ways to see how the WT fighter would react. For example, when the partner covered up, would the WT fighter keep punching the arms or look for other targets? would he freeze as well and not know what to do? Would he break distance or would he close distance? etc.

Overall it was a good night. Flew by like that.

Until then.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are you fit for kung fu?

My Si-Fu has given me the opportunity to run class Monday night. It will deviate from the normal format of chi-sao, self-defense application and take a more fitness slant: creating a fitness foundation for the students, making them sweat and get those muscles moving on a cardiovascular level.

The goal here is simply to provide the class an intense workout with a WT perspective. In formats like these, you don't neccessarily learn a lot of new techniques or cool moves, but it focuses on the one or two things you can do and turns it up a notch.

I've done similar classes before and it's a blend of WT with workouts i've had to do in previous kung fu and karate classes, as well as some things I've picked up on own fitness journey.

With all the many technical details involved in wing tsun, chi-sao, drills, etc., sometimes it's hard to work up a sweat. Well guess what folks, it's sweatin' time.

Until then.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Step 1

Wing Tsun and other kung fu styles, for that matter, when placed in a free-fight situation looks incredibly “static” or “stiff” in nature. Probably because it is. What do I mean by static? Well, beyond the fancy hand positions and low, one-legged stances, there’s just something so “un-Mohammed Ali”…it’s like they fight in postures..while the typical western boxer does not fight in posture and instead fights freely, naturally…as if they do what they want to do. While, the kung fu fighter, on the other hand seems restricted or bound to the hand positions, the body positions, of their teacher’s word.

“Head up, back straight, punches down the centre-line, weight on the back leg!”.

All inducive of a static fighter, don’t you think?

While for western boxing…

“Chin down, shoulders rolled, put your weight into it!”

They are like polar opposites!

How did we go from that…to that!? We are all human at the end of the day. We are all bound by the biological and physical natures of this world, and yet the fighting schemes are so different. You’d think we’d all converge to a certain way of moving the body…the best way…in order to fight, that capitalizes on the advantages of the human body and minimizes the disadvantages.

This is probably why many go running to the muay thai, boxing, MMA style of fighting. It’s natural, intuitive and mobile. While the wing chun fighter pictured in your mind is this guy trying to hop on one leg and rabbit punch you to death.

But guess what? The styles do converge…eventually. The problem is that most people don’t get that far to see that being the case. Wing tsun should be applied on a mobile sense, adding weight to the punch, become natural and smooth. It doesn’t even look like wing tsun anymore (..whatever it’s supposed to look like).

Many are stuck in the realm of chi-sao. Can’t blame them. There’s lots to explore there and it’s a lot of fun. But that’s just one side of the dice. And when they only see one side, they only play one side. But it makes sense. The realm of chi-sao favours the game of punches down the centre-line, keeping the back straight, and with rather “dead” legs. It’s meant to teach one stage of fighting, expand on certain ideas. But eventually, we have to take what we need to get out of chi-sao and toss it into the fighting context. There, things must adjust to the new variables. The stance has to be mobile, punches better be powerful to KNOCK OUT the opponent (not tap the guy on the chest), the whole body has to be able to move towards the opponent, evade attacks, take advantage of openings – I’m not even talking about “trapping” (egh..i hate that word.).

If you can’t get in, how can you even think of applying your “crazy chi-sao skills”. The chi-sao realm sucks us wing tsun practitioners in and we forget that in order to even THINK about using any of your cool chi-sao moves (if at all), you need to know how to bridge (aka, getting to your opponent).

It’s like an art in itself. Not as fun as chi-sao though. But it’s step 1.

Until then.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ideal vs Actual Fighting

There are two camps out there. One camp feels that their wing chun/tsun will shine when it's needed - it will reflect what they learn and train during their chi-sao sessions. They will be able to escape grabs, trap and hit the opponent.

The other camp, however, feels differently. They feel that although wing chun is a good foundation, what is taught in chi-sao isn't expressed much when under the context of a real fight/full contact match. You can see much of this on Youtube where the wing chun guy gets taken to the ground and is then helpless for the remainder of the bout. Or...getting knocked out by a right cross (Whatever happened to the "shortest distance between two points is a straight line?").

In my own experience and training, for myself, i would say the latter is more reflective of reality. In many of our drills, our partners keep their arms out which are vulnerable for further manipulation, but when fighting against an unwilling opponent, it's very rare that they keep their arms out and available.

It's quite possible for those that are much more skilled than me to make their wing chun work and apply "trapping" and such by the way.

I would have to say that chi-sao, sections, drills etc give us ideas, drill tactile reflexes into our arms, increase stress and develop structure and striking power from an upright, natural position. But it does not reflect the flight scenario, rather provides the foundation for a good punch.

You can see in many full contact fights, fighters rely on a handful of moves. Same is going to happen to the wing chun fighter, in my opinion. That being, the kick, step and punch. Which means your punch better have boom. Your structure better be there to provide the boom and the foundation to stay planted on the ground.

Sensitivity will help your punch get to where it needs to go and to provide tactile defense (eg. creating space, knowing when you're in trouble, taking advantage of space/distance). It will also get rid of some of the thinking ("just rush in" and let the reflexes take over).

So my response to all those youtube clips...these guys don't REALLY have boom in their punches, nor, in my opinion, have they trained simple step and punch against resisting partners.

Until then.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vids for you

Hi Gang,

just some vids i came across, thought they were interesting..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TajusIENTs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-kw1KBU2ps&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6Vy6-vvoBY

Enjoy!

Until then.

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