Category Archives: Epic Martial Arts Academy

Ground Work: Martial Success Through Failure

After years of karate and very little in the way of ground fighting at all, I started learning this side of things in earnest at Primal. It was a struggle, everyone always seemed better than be and it was so much hard work. Really hard, I seemed to always be gasping and I would ache for days afterwards. Something like the video below, a lamb to the slaughter!

Being an optimistic sorta bloke I’d find little rays of hope within the experience, such as managing a reversal or by lasting on top for a little longer .  I would always glean a certain success within overall the failure, despite being dominated time after time.


However, whilst I did have the little glimmers of hope they always seemed to be about defence. I would go into a defensive ‘frame of mind’ and despite protestations about having to attack and not just defending, I really couldn’t do it. I was always one step, or more likely two or three, behind the other bloke and was so abosorbed in defending that I just couldn’t see the attacking wood for the defensive trees.

The first time I started to get a sense that success was possible was when we were doing a drill where you had 20 seconds to submit the other bloke with a nominated technique. It didn’t matter what submission you chose you just had to get it on in the time frame. Now on this occasion I didn’t actually get the sub on but I came pretty close. Importantly, this was against someone who I always had trouble with. But this time I was faring much better and it was down to the ‘urgency’ created by the time limit.

Now this epiphany didn’t translate into immediate success all round. Far from it but it gave me an insight into what was needed to do better. This glimmer of success was reinforced by one of the lads at Primal. I was talking about how, when rolling with someone else I just couldn’t shift him, he was always on top, his weight pressing on me. He’d just sit on me until I moved and then attack the space my movement created.  The Primal bloke just said “I know what you mean, it’s difficult but just keep going” and that was it, however, within that short sentence there is plenty to work with.

“Just keep going” can mean a lot of different things but in this instance it meant keep exploding, pushing, pulling, moving, twisting and whatever you need to do with urgency and just keep at it. I think of it as being like a Staffordshire bull terrier or similar, attacking. A bit like the dog barking, which I’ve written about previously but specifically moving in the manner of the dog attacking. Difficult to describe but if you enact the impression of a dog  attacking you can make a bit of room to turn into the other bloke or whatever. No literal interpretations, biting limbs is not allowed!


It’s quite hard work but reveals further rays of hope.

What this means is that I can cope better with some of the blokes I train with, I am not Matt Hughes or anything. However, it seems like I am enforcing a defence mode on some of those lesser able than myself, which is an interesting twist. Point is I had to put up with a lot of failure to get to where I am with the groundwork and while there is a long way to go it’s encouraging. There is hope.

Originally posted 2010-09-07 08:05:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

kata kick Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Static karate stance

The importance allotted to historical tradition by karate, and similar arts, results in something similar to the historical weapons used in battle re-enactments such as those of the sealed knot, i.e. sub-optimal in modern times. This post shows how karate’s emphasis on form over function results in a ‘flat’ inactive ‘fighting’ stance which is in stark contrast to the activated, primed posture of the Muay Thai stance.

The irony is that while traditional karate generally favours historically accurate technique, form, it fails to do so accurately. Karate progressed from the secret training in the back gardens of Okinawan masters to the universities of Japan where training methods were altered. In a nation preparing for war there was an emphasis for militaristic precision in technique.

mt stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Dynamic Muay Thai stance

Over time performance of the kata, which supposedly contain the essence of the karate fighting systems, was (and is) emphasised over the useful elements of the movements. The outcome is an emphasis of form over function and a perfection of that form. This is clearly a drifting of purpose from the martial to the art, with effectiveness being compromised for the sake of form.

In contrast the progression of Muay Thai technique reflects the requirements of the contest; damage your opponent or get damaged! These requirements ensure that essential elements, or function, are retained, at least potentially, rather than superseded by the need for perfect form.

Activated Muay Thai Stance

An example of this contrast, form v. function, can be seen in karate stances and Muay Thai fighting postures. While karate stances undoubtedly provide a solid base from which to fire off strikes they tend to hamper rather than support movement, while Muay Thai fighting stances deliver on both counts.

In addition, any decent Muay Thai fighter is activated in his fighting stance whereas the karate fighter in his traditional stance is not. This difference can be thought of as the difference between being ‘on your toes’ and ‘on your heels’. One is actively engaging the muscles while the other is rather flat footed.

cycling good poor Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Pedalling foot position

The traditional karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are like cycling with the saddle too low and the centre of your feet pressing into the pedals. To optimally transfer the force generated from the whole of the lower limb the saddle should be high enough to allow the leg and foot to extend with the ball of the foot pressing into the pedal. Try this on a bike and you will notice the difference immediately.

Humans tend to stand ‘lazily’ with body weight supported by bones rather than anti-gravity muscles. By standing back on the heels with the legs straight the thighs are soft and inactive, analogous to waiting at the bus stop. However, if the bus is in and you need to get on, you shift your body weight, bend the legs and activate the leg muscles to move.

Karate v MT stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Karate Stance v Muay Thai stance

Karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are not active in nature, like you’re waiting for the bus, while Muay Thai fighting stances are active and similar to getting on the bus. The anti gravity muscles in the legs are firm, ‘sprung’ and ready to produce force, as a runners would be at the start of a race, ready for the gun.

The structure of the Muay Thai stance is set up with the muscles activated, or spring loaded and primed for action,  while traditional Karate stances are somewhat flat-footed and static in comparison. This observation is clearly illustrated in the picture from the UFC fight between Machida and Shogun

Originally posted 2010-10-02 00:18:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch

Following the recent one inch punch post I found a short documentary on the wing chung approach, which, of course, was Bruce Lee’s approach at least initially. I know very little about Wing Chung so I found it an interesting seven minutes or so.


Interestingly, the one bloke in the video said that on it’s own it offers little value, other than a great party trick of course. The value comes in applying the one inch punch movement. He said when you learn it you discover “invaluable lessons”.

If you manage to learn how to one inch punch successfully, that’s all well and good. The value comes in applying the same power movement in other ways. If you can do so in one context you must be able to do so in another.

Furthermore, it surely opens the door to further discoveries regarding the generation and application of short range power, without having to rely on “centering the chi” or whatever. One bloke in the video intimates using the one inch punch from a combat perspective, firing it from a blocking move without pulling the arm back first. Another mentions the importance of getting the mass into the target. Some sensible stuff here.

 Bruce Lees One Inch Punch

Lee's one inch punch

Right at the end of the video the last bloke to speak says that the one inch punch “keeps opening doors”. That’s the take home point, referred to above, learn it and apply it!

When we look at getting power over a short range we try to take what we know to work and condense it. So to get the mass into a short range strike you can use the same, or almost the same, body movement that powers a longer range punch to power a shorter movement. Add the explosive finish and you’ve got something to work with.

That would be one approach that may prove successful or may not depending on the context. Of course, if you manage to develop a new short range power generation movement, it only has value if it can be applied in a fight. If not it’s just a party trick.

Originally posted 2010-05-07 13:39:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

UFC Fight Night 24: 10th Planet Ju Jitsu with the Korean Zombie

For a while I had a bit of an obsession with the Twister and I do mean the one made famous by Eddie Bravo of 10th Planet Ju jitsu rather than the party game! When we were set the submission challenge at Primal there was a lot of twister stuff going on. I always had trouble with it but it did inspire me to work my way up to the 100 required. It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of but forces the other person to tap out if caught in it. The spine is locked and twisted with the head section of the spine (cervical spine) turning in the opposite direction to the hip section (lumbar spine). It’s a pretty tough place to be.

I’m not sure I have ever fully understood this move and haven’t thought about it for some time, until someone was discussing the UFC Fight Night 24 (thanks Rams). The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, managed to finish his contest with Leonard Garcia by Twister. It’s a great fight the highlights of which can be seen online but only on forums, it seems. It’s even mentioned on the Eddie Bravo wiki page! If you go to the second ‘box’ on the mmafv forum page you can watch the full fight. The twister finish itself is up on Youtube and is below.


You have to say he sets it up very neatly moving from a failed attempt at RNC from back control. The other bloke’s ground game is a lot less sophisticated, enabling the Korean Zombie the opportunity to pull it off. Joe Rogan certainly seemed to enjoy it!

Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu

Bravo bases his entire 10th Planet ‘top game’ around this spectacular move. I’ve watched a peculiar video where Bravo narrates you through many BJJ fights where he continually attempts and generally gets the Twister. The clips are great but the entire video has an odd feel about it as Bravo is pretending to have a luxurious ‘crib’ and presents the clips from there….. I think you need to see it to appreciate the oddness. In a similar vein of oddness Bravo presents a breakdown of the Twister as done by the Korean Zombie and shows how to get past various defensive efforts. It’s pretty good.


And more coverage of him twisting in competition, a real time illustration of some of the previous breakdown


To keep up to date with all things Eddie you could subscribe to his Youtube channel or get his book Mastering the Twister: Jiu-Jitsu for Mixed Martial Arts Competition UFC Fight Night 24: 10th Planet Ju Jitsu with the Korean Zombie. It’s great, although I found it a bit difficult to follow initially. However, in conjunction with these videos it’s getting a lot easier, to follow at least. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the Zombie and more of the Twister in MMA!

Originally posted 2011-03-31 02:01:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Speed 2 – Timing, part two

 Speed 2   Timing, part two


Part one used a highlight clip of Roy Jones Jnr’s exceptional timing as a kind of definition of what timing in fighting is.

At Primal, Morris develops methods for learning the timing skill RJJ exhibits in the clip, which has several components.  This post will describe one drill which helps develop timing, that is the ability to see the opponents’ strikes/kicks/shoots etc coming and get your response in before it arrives. In essence it’s a drill to learn cues by attending to them with peripheral vision. As such a person should avoid staring at the shoulder during a jab feed, with central vision, or tunneling as Steve calls it. Rather the trick is to look at the eyes/face and to let the peripheral vision, which is set up to respond to movement, do its job.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the drill is NOT a fight. It’s easy to get drawn into a bit of competitive ‘argy bargy’, but the idea is to strip the fight down to a level where all anxiety of being hit is removed so that both participants can get to grips with learning the cues preceding their opponents strikes. That is, in order to be able to beat your opponent to the punch, you have to see his/her shot coming. To facilitate this ability, your training partner is required to feed you a cue, on Sunday we started off with a jab, which is thrown in a biomechanically correct manner but the strike is not finished, Steve described it as hitting skin deep. The drill should be considered a flow drill.

The feeder provides a jab which can be exaggerated to ensure that the cue is obvious. The receiver then works off the jab, evading, covering, covering and striking, making angles etc. , the idea is to experiment to see what you can work into the ‘interval of time’, it can be anything. Because the drill is ‘slow’ it’s easy to become floppy or sloppy as the receiver, it’s essential that you do not. You need to stay alert and sharp, and reflect this in your responses to the feed. It’s quite a subtle thing, but brings the drill alive.

 Speed 2   Timing, part two


The feeder can then start experimenting with how the jab is fed, and use other feeds to develop the drill, including kicks. Any kind of strike can be fed, so that the cue preceding it can be learned, as long as the basic rules are applied; slow exaggerated feed, skin deep power, correct biomechanics, alert responses, flowing

action, peripheral vision. It’s a method that begins to give the participants an appreciation of the interval of time.

The drill can then progress across all the ranges of the fight, so that hand fighting, clinching, throws etc. can all be included. As the range closes the cues become rather more kinaesthetic than visual, but the premise is consistent. It is up to the fighters to go through their repertoire of their abilities so that nothing is excluded. For the sake of continuity of the flow drill, rather than performing a throw every time it’s useful to do a ‘touch drill’ within the main drill and only complete the

throw occasionally. That means that the position for the throw or takedown is assumed and the required body part is ‘captured’ or simply touched as appropriate, it saves getting up all the time.

Once a chance to have a go at the various distances has been achieved, the whole thing is put back together, so the feeder feeds anything and the receiver responds as appropriate. At this stage it is then possible to increase the volume somewhat to begin testing the cue responses under a little more pressure. This part must still be regulated as it should not become a fight thereby preventing any anxiety of being hit and/or tunnel vision creeping in. Steve gets us to do this in short duration bursts, something along the lines of; flow-flow-flow-volume up, flow-flow-flow-volume up, etc.

It’s a great drill which brings results.

Originally posted 2009-08-07 08:00:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


 BODYPOWER Expo 2009

Due to a senior moment I attended both days of the Body Power show on the weekend of 9th and 10th May. I only wanted to see Dan fight in the amateur MMA show on the Sunday, but got the day completely wrong! So I had plenty of time to see the stalls and take in the huge bodybuilders in flip flops, smothered in gravy browning.

There were a few demonstrations which were ok if you are new to martial arts; the UTC training demo’s were decent enough. There were a lot of stalls selling expensive equipment and supplements and the opportunity to meet famous bodybuilders and strongmen. Of course, there was the chance to have a go at the Dragon Challenge, in simple terms how many curls and shoulder presses can you do with 20kg dumbbells. I bet it hurts, but it’s a bit samey.

All great if it floats your boat, but I only wanted to see Dan from Primal in his first fight, which wasn’t until Sunday? There were tournaments at four or five weight classes and the standard was pretty good to be fair. It was a ‘grapple and strike’ set up with no head shots allowed, which meant the advantage  favoured the grappler. Dan is not a specialist grappler but did well enough to finish in third spot winning a decision against a grappler to get there.

He did very well as the general grappler tactic was to shoot in on a leg kick with no regard for head shots as they weren’t allowed. Unsurprisingly, first place spots were dominated by grapplers, although one of the UTC stand-up specialist fighters got first place due to excellent escapes and movement.

Dan kept busy and regained his feet enough to get the well deserved decision from UFC referee Mark Goddard. He seemed to like action rather than control and Dan provided this, overall he can be pleased that he did very well in a contest that didn’t play to his strengths at all. Well done Dan!

The show is set up more for the bodybuilder than the martial artist but the tournament was good.

Originally posted 2009-06-30 10:15:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Indoor bike

 Indoor bike

Tunturi Home Cycle 3 Super

I was given an indoor bike a while ago. It’s not exactly modern, in fact it’s probably 20 years old. The picture is from the user manual and is so cheesy I love it, if only I had a nice white track suit!

There is a speedometer and a pretty hopeless timer, it is similar to the old fashioned kitchen timers, complete with bell!While it is not fit for a regular spinning class it is fine for my purposes.

I downloaded a few spinning workouts, which  are definitely challenging, but they are long and the music is awful, so I don’t bother with these any more. My preferred workout on the thing involves the tabata protocol, 8 sprints of 20 seconds with 10 second rest between sprints. I precede this with two minutes of warm up, then follow the first tabata with a second, after another 2 minute rest. The second tabata is followed by 2 minutes warm down and that’s it. So in all it’s 2 minutes warm-up, 4 minutes tabata, 2 minutes active rest, 4 minutes tabata and 2 minutes cool down, 14 minutes in all. A quick little workout that really does test you.

Obviously, with the tabata protocol it’s up to the performer to really push for all out effort, cheating is easy but pointless. Flat out is the key, and this old machine is fine for that.

The point is that you can fit in quick useful workouts at home using inexpensive equipment. I was given this bike and I am sure there are plenty available at ‘freecycle‘ or similar. The price of gym membership or lack of spare time do not have to be a barrier!

Originally posted 2009-08-30 19:21:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Power Punching with the Waist

Increasing Punching Power by Opening and Closing

aliforeman 300x222 Power Punching with the WaistThe waist area is packed with muscle and potentially will add substantially to your power punching. In karate Senseis often tell you to use your hips but they should really be interested in the waist. After all the hip is no more than a joint between leg and pelvis. There is a lot of muscle working across and around this joint which can contribute to the power and force produced in a punch if it is applied correctly. And that’s probably what those Senseis actually mean though.

Opening and Closing separates the actions within the whipping punch sequence

When performing a whipping punch a defined sequence is performed; the snapping action at the waist causes the hip to snap toward the target quickly followed by the shoulder and then the arm. At the waist, this action involves a stretch, opening it up, and then a contraction causing it to close again. This opening and closing process is a critical part of the whipping punch and is apparent across other joints too. When learning this punch the most difficult part, or one of them, was ‘leaving the shoulder behind’. Differentiating between the hip and shoulder actions within the sequence is key, doing so will produce the desired whipping action and hugely improve power. Opening and then closing actions at a joint precipitate the next opening and closing actions in the sequence….


Years of punching in stance had negated this opening and closing action, certainly at the waist. Emphasising pushing the hip and shoulder through, towards the target, left my punches, well frankly substandard. Differentiating the hip and shoulder action was the first step in improving this part of delivering a punch. It took a fair bit of practice but I got it eventually. Pulling back the shoulder to produce a stretch across the pecs, opening the area, causes the shoulder action to follow the hip creating the sequential feel to the whipping action.

Improving Power Punching requires tension!

If the shoulder is just opened and the muscle is not activated, power potential will not be achieved. The muscle stretched must be done so under tension. It’s awkward even typing that word as the general association when using it is of a stiff puncher relying on arm muscles to produce power by pushing the punch. The feeling of stretching under tension is a little like the following:

pacquiao knockout punch vs hatton 300x240 Power Punching with the WaistImagine someone is pushing against your arm, you stand still and resist but the arm is pushed backward stretching the pec under tension as it is resisting the push. If it wasn’t under tension the arm would just shoot back and you would follow. Probably not the best analogy but it gives you an idea. The opening and closing actions must be performed under tension to optimise your power punching. Of course you have no-one providing the resistance so you need to produce your own tension.

This process can be repeated at the waist by opening and closing it under tension. The action is not as obvious here but it is possible. The opening action involves stretching open the thighs, a kind of drawing back of the rear hip, if punching with the rear hand. This produces a stretch, which can be done under tension, this produces the potential for power. This must then be transferred toward the target by the hip closing rapidly. The front and rear hips perform different actions, one forward the other back to open and stretch the waist.

The interesting thing is that this opening and closing action is present in saifa kata and although I was told to perform this action in the kata it was not emphasised in regular training. It’s a great pity. I always enjoyed that part of the kata, it felt good because it felt like I was power punching!

Originally posted 2011-03-17 15:08:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

On your marks 3

A comment on the last post, made by John of Massachusetts, indicated that the clip of the elite level Shotokan fighters did show fast Shotokan techniques delivered from traditional stances, that’s the gist anyway. I chose the clip precisely because of the high standard of the fighters. While these fighters are able to deliver fast punches and kicks, the stance they adopt, fudo dachi I think,  fails to support fast positional movement. In order to successfully make ground quickly they need to adjust the starting position before they move.  If you observe the video carefully you will notice this adjustment.


This adjustment, particularly from the bounce, rapidly shifts the fighter through the equivalent of the get set and go phases of the sprint start. Bouncing up and down in the starting posture does not provide the correct lower leg angle to propel the fighter forward with plyometric action at the ankle curtailed.Does that make sense?

If we return to the sprint start analogy, the get set phase positions the sprinter to explode out of the blocks, the bouncing stance does not position the karateka to explode, an adjustment is required. The sanbon kumite of the original grisly clip provides even less opportunity for explosive movement as the plyometric action is completely absent. To illustrate what I mean follow this link to an article analyzing the blocks start of Usain Bolt, notice how the angle at the ankle of the right foot changes as he begins the movement, it goes back before moving forward. This is the plyometric action or the stretch shortening cycle, which greatly increases power. The starting position in the blocks completely supports this; forward posture and lower leg angle.

The Karate fighters in the clip tend to move from a position that is not set up to support explosive movement, of course the blocks position is impossible to attain but nevertheless the fighting stances they adopt have limited forward posture and usually have a less than ideal lower leg angle. This results in them having to make an adjustment before they can explode out of the blocks, as it were. It’s the equivalent of not being in the blocks properly when the gun goes.

zkd comp On your marks 3Despite this drawback the bouncing is clearly more dynamic than the stiff movement of sanbon kumite although the starting stance is not too different to that used in sanbon. Note the centralised weight, supporting stability rather than mobility.

 On your marks 3

To achieve the equivalent of the starting blocks position the fighting posture needs to support rapid positional movement, with the weight forward and a lower leg angle supportive of a plyometric action similar to that in the Usain Bolt link. Clearly, that would be better than adopting a posture that requires a big adjustment before rapid movement can be achieved.

While the fighters in the clip above start in a sub-optimal position they still move quickly, this is achieved through a lot of feinting and minute positional adjustment to draw the opponent into making a half movement against which they can time their strike. While the rules of the tournament are far removed from street fighting there is still plenty of skill on show. The timing and distancing is very good and this is what Machida has successfully taken to MMA, but thats another post.

Originally posted 2009-11-06 15:00:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Function over Form – the round kick

 Function over Form   the round kick

Thai Round Kick

In the previous article I related the (hypothetical) Form Police apparent in the Physical Conditioning world, as reported by Ross Enamait, with those in the martial arts world. These Form Police are firmly removed from the lateral thinking stratum being entrenched and engrossed in literal translation of martial arts related topics, kata for example. While the literal-lateral distinction isn’t strictly dichotomous, it’s probably best thought of as a sliding scale of  fixed to open thinking,  literal thinking places limitations on potential progression. There now follows an example of the distinction.

If we consider the round(house) kick, a martial arts stalwart technique,  we can witness the drawback of literal thinking. If the desired outcome of the kick is to produce sufficient power to cause damage or even a KO, as efficiently as possible, by definition the emphasis has to lean toward function rather than form. We want to produce a powerful effective kick and as such are not too concerned with aesthetics.

Consider the following two clips, broadly separated into opposite extremes of the (hypothetical) form-function (or literal-lateral) continuum, one from TKD the other from Steve Morris

Morris goes into a fair bit of detail of how to perform the kick but the emphasis is clearly not on form but rather on how to get ‘total body movement’. The TKD clip, however does seem to have a greater emphasis on form, look at the lines etc added to help the viewer, note the precise instructions, which go into fine detail. Force equals mass times acceleration, acceleration can be achieved in both version of the kick, but the Morris version allows greater mass to be included in the equation, as the whole body (i.e. the mass) is involved not only in the production of the kick but also after contact (if you watch the entire clip, there are one or two instances where he ‘gently’ kicks someone).

 Function over Form   the round kick

Mawashi Geri

It’s clear to me which is the more effective kick, admittedly I have no personal experience of the TKD kick but lots regarding the very similar karate mawashi geri*, certainly similar regarding teaching protocols, while I have felt the Morris version. The Morris kick is far more effective, as he says you get more for your money.

If you look at the two pictures of round kicks included in this post, it’s obvious that the thai kick is transferring momentum, and so force, into the target, while the mawashi geri is merely being placed. You get what you train and the mawashi geri trained in the manner of the photo is aesthetically pleasing, it looks nice but is less efficient than the thai kick.

I’m not saying that a spinning, jumping reverse TKD tornado kick hasn’t got the capability of producing sufficient power to cause KO, there’s evidence of that on you tube. Rather I question whether it is the most efficient/effective method of producing the power required to achieve a KO from a high kick or cause damage efficiently in a low kick.

In fact, ‘perfect’ form results in minimal loss of balance and so minimal transfer of force, clearly an inefficient method of producing power sufficient for a KO. In contrast, by emphasising total body involvement Morris concentrates on outcome, i.e. power, rather than form, indeed his kicks look rather untidy. If unconvinced I’d suggest experiencing one or two of his kicks at quarter power, it’s a pretty surefire convincer.

An alternative and less painful option is to consider which of the kicks outlined in the clips above is more similar to those used to get KO’s in MMA/K1. Look for more or less body involvement as Mirko Cro Cop, famous for his kicking power, dishes out lots of KO kicks.


*the interested reader can watch a Shotokan video on the round kick

Originally posted 2009-03-17 08:09:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter