Form over Function – Saifa Kata

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One of the Goju kata’s, Saifa, translated as tear and destroy is partly about creating a whipping motion into your strikes. I first came across the notion that this concept was apparent in saifa when watching Higoanna Sensei’s Goju Kata video made in the 70’s I think. The videos came in a horrendously expensive set, which provided performance and bunkai to all Goju kata. My copy wasn’t expensive and wasn’t original.

In fact, the final movement provides a template for the whipping punch described in a previous post, the hip-shoulder-arm action. Unfortunately this section of the kata is often performed in a manner that negates the whipping action completely, and so disregards the good bit! In this clip a world champion fails to exhibit this action in his kata. Although he’s very precise in his movements, nice form!


Oddly enough this whipping action is omitted in this peculiar version of saifa, and from this more regular one, and is still missing here, this guy gets a little closer to it, but none of these clips come close to doing the whipping action any justice.

Eventually, here’s a clip of the video as I remember it, and lo and behold there’s a whipping action at the end, in the final movement. Not quite as whippy as I’d do it nowadays, but its there if you look carefully. At the time I loved this video, the music was fantastic too but sadly missing from the clip.


The disappointing thing in all of this is the fact that so much is lost; it took some significant reverse engineering on my part to ‘rediscover’ it. I was always puzzled somewhat by the ‘whip like motion’ comment at the start of the clip. To be fair, we did train some whipping actions, from other sections of the kata, but it was never extrapolated to punching.

It is a great shame that by emphasising the value of a ‘pretty kata’ performance over one illustrating something of value so much is lost. Perhaps, a little more untidy in execution than those that put their kata performances on you tube, the whipping action in the final section of the kata is analogous to that used successfully by Mike Zambidis et al . It may be that I have interpreted this section of the kata incorrectly, but then it’s my interpretation and so to me, at the very least, it’s valid. I may be incorrect in some people’s opinion, but that doesn’t really matter.

Originally posted 2009-04-05 08:07:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Freeze, Fight, Flight and Martial Arts Training #2

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The first freeze-fight-flight post described the physiological events triggered when threat or danger is perceived by humans. This post continues with the theme that the response is an essential part of evolutionary survival. We can think of the stress response as being responsible for surviving external threat, while the immune system counters internal threat.

 Freeze, Fight, Flight and Martial Arts Training #2

All charges against Omari Roberts dropped

In both cases the objective is to protect the system from threat by rearranging resources as appropriate. While an internal threat may trigger a withdrawal response when not feeling well, the external threat of a predator spied in the distance may evoke a freeze response, as movement is easier to detect in peripheral vision. Whatever, the desired outcome is survival of the system.

In terms of self-defence the stress response plays a key role. If attacked it renders us better prepared to respond as intended by evolution, with enhanced strength, speed or power. Undoubtedly, for Omari Roberts, returning home for lunch only to find burglars in his mums house, the stress response kicked in, he fought for his life and managed to survive. He went with nature.

In society there can be a mismatch between the drive for survival and the Law, which only allows the rather ambiguous reasonable force. If Roberts had worried about the consequences of overstepping reasonable force he may not have survived the attack. As it was one of the bad guys died in the struggle and eventually, Roberts was arrested and charged with murder and assault. The case was withdrawn before the trial commenced.

ground n pound Freeze, Fight, Flight and Martial Arts Training #2

Ground and Pound

In another recent case Munir Hussein and his brother ended up chasing and beating a burglar who had held the family hostage while ransacking their house. Clearly, evolution does not account for reasonable force, just survival. In anyone’s book the severe beating the brothers gave the burglar was NOT self-defence, nor simply survival for that matter. In this instance going with nature led to prison for Hussein as he went too primitive for societies liking, well the Judiciary ‘s liking anyway.

It seems that the whole thing can fall apart when a situation does not work out quite in line with evolution. If a person finds him/herself in a threatening situation it may not be appropriate to fight in the first instance, there are occasions whereby doing so would land the person in court, see above. Flight, although not always possible, would hopefully result in survival. This option might well achieve survival at the expense of the ego which is a small price to pay.  The consequences of an inappropriate freeze response could be much worse. There’s an almost limitless list of situations that could trigger an suboptimal freeze, fight or flight response, not least faulty appraisal of a dangerous or threatening situation or tactics from an experienced, ruthless attacker to name two.

Previous experience of surviving situations that cause the stress response to kick in is to the external survival system what surviving illness is to the internal survival (immune) system. For example, an experienced police officer is more likely to successfully deal with a violent confrontation than a receptionist, while a fireman is likely to deal with a fire disaster better than a librarian. If similar useful life experience has not been gleaned it is essential for a martial artist to build the equivalent into their training. Otherwise years of training could be rendered useless by the incompatibility of evolutions survival system with the foibles of modern society. The consequences of this could be dire.

Originally posted 2010-05-09 01:32:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mushin #2

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mushin2 Mushin #2


In a previous post I postulated that the preferential level of physiological arousal required for MMA or a fight is similar to the concept of mushin in Japanese Martial Arts, rather than a raging state. The following quote is from a short piece on developing mushin through makiwara training

Makiwara training also develops mushin, which literally means “no mind”. If you only concentrate on the pad in front of you, your sense of awareness is limited to the board alone. The moment you make impact the mind, the spirit, and the body must join together and then instantly relax, again allowing the spirit to absorb whatever is going on around you. This total physical/spiritual contraction and then relaxation is essential to develop the ability to defend yourself against multiple opponents. Commit just as fully to the completion of the technique as you commit to the execution. The mind should be the same throughout and only with mushin can this be accomplished.

I don’t know the person who wrote the above quote, and as such I have no idea as to the training advocated by the club/association he represents. I am fairly certain though that this approach to mushin is on the esoteric side and not really set up for defence against multiple opponents at all. It all sounds a bit airy fairy to me.

At Primal Steve Morris would get us into a heightened state of physiological arousal, by performing drills intended to set the CNS (Central Nervous System) to a high level of motor unit recruitment so we could strike with increased power. That sentence doesn’t do the drills justice, it’s very difficult to get the feeling over in the written word. He wrote on his blog about how the sprinter Ben Johnson would do heavy squats prior to running the 100m, in order to prepare the CNS for full explosive power.

(You can read what Steve Morris says about this here, here and here.)

It sounds counterintuitive, as you’d think the squatting would fatigue the muscles. Its an approach that works and enables you to get more than you think you can get. I first described the one drill on the old Shikon forum and will try again in a later post. But it’s not just the drill, it’s a case of using the drill to reach a level of intense power, an impression of which can then be “memorized” and repeated. This impression is then surpassed and a new impression “memorized”. The main outcome of the drill was very powerful strikes, but also along with the impression of power was the impression of the heightened arousal required to enable the expression of the power in the strike. Hopefully, that makes sense, you could even think of it as a mushin like coming together of the mind, spirit and body, because all of that happens. The mind is clear, you’re just observing whats happening, the spirit is high, you’re highly aroused, the CNS is set to fire at a high rate and the body fires off the shot. It’s a release, a big big release.

So while you could fit that description of mushin to what we did, it’s a giant leap, and there’s no actual indication in that description of the amplitude of arousal required, which is high, although not raging. In the previous mushin post I suggested that people may be inclined to develop a kata performance mushin, which seems to be more in line with the description above, and kata mushin is not whats needed for MMA or a fight.

Originally posted 2009-04-17 08:00:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Speed 2 – Timing, part one

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At the beginning of the Speed 1 post, I alluded to the illusion of speed, brought to mind by a post on Marks Training. One  attribute that great fighters have, or used to have, is excellent timing, which makes a fighter extremely fast, or at least appear so. Certainly, if your opponent has superior timing he/she is on you in a flash and you end up on the receiving end.

Roy Jones Jnr was/is a great boxer, and his timing was/is great. Being a bit of a showman he’d mess around a lot but his timing, combined with his natural speed, not only got him out of trouble but tended to put the other bloke in a spot of bother. Here’s a highlight clip which illustrates this nicely.
When watching this sort of clip its easy to get caught up in the fighters speed or his larking around. But if you watch closely, you will notice that he always seems to know when to hit and has time to do so. He even uses the dancing/showmanship to put the other fighter off guard and lure him in. Moreover, he uses the silly movements as a plyometric action to load the shot that follows.

He times his actions off the other fighters movements, or jumps in between his opponents movements and then overwhelms them with his strikes, or strikes and moves out (Steve Morris refers to this as syncopation; inserting a beat between two beats). Jones doesn’t stop either, so that he is always somewhere his opponent can’t hit him, or at least can’t get to hit him enough to cause any real damage.

Jones was/is very good at inserting his movements into the interval of time of his opponents, whatever that movement maybe, he uses the whole repertoire. He syncopates on the other fighters actions with whatever movement or strike he desires.

The clip clearly illustrates exceptional timing on the part of RJJnr, or put another way, it illustrates the insertion his efforts into the interval of time between the strikes of his opponent. The second part of this post will attempt to describe a Morris Method drill designed to develop timing and exploitation of the interval of time.

Originally posted 2009-08-05 15:50:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Koscheck vs St. Pierre the video!

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I was unable to find a video for the Koscheck vs St. Pierre post but since then I have managed to find one (thanks Tommo). Hopefully this will stay active for the duration. So here it is in almost 40 minutes of full glory, Bruce Buffer is probably worth listening to, he puts in a good performance as well! Continue reading

Originally posted 2010-12-16 13:42:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Stephen Lawrence Case: Justice? Self Defence?

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I can clearly remember the outrage around the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, in 1993, and subsequent attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Today I heard the testimony of Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks on radio five live. It was read out by the court reporter as yet another trial has just begun this week. The wikipedia account of the death of Stephen Lawrence gives a clear synopsis of events surrounding the case to date. It’s a terrible state of affairs that the case has taken so mnay years to get to the stage where evidence from eye witnesses has been heard by the jury, but that is not the point of the post.

Stephen Lawrence 240209b 300x163 The Stephen Lawrence Case: Justice? Self Defence?

Putting aside the outrage of the murder and the killers still not being taken to account there are two issues concerning this case that are pertinent to self defence. Firstly, if ever there is a case for awareness and avoidance being an essential part of self defence this was it, I’m not certain Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks could have avoided the trouble that night but it remains a possibility if they had a greater knowledge of these aspects of self defence training. Secondly, I found the testimony of Brooks as recounted on the radio extremely upsetting and noticed a number of emotions raging through me, ranging from disgust, despair, sympathy to revenge and hate toward the perpetrators. This is pretty natural but reminded me that the job of the Judiciary is to keep to the letter of the Law and to not be swayed by emotive responses. This is critical but far from perfect. Continue reading

Originally posted 2011-11-17 16:26:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Was that Sanbon Kumite in the Marius Zaromskis video?

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My mate sent me this Marius Zaromskis video on Facebook (ta Tommo), it shows the Dream welterweight final between Zaromskis and Jason High. I was watching the clip thinking ‘classic match up between kickboxer and wrestler’ but then BOOM was that sanbon kumite I just saw? I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve not seen it.

Marius Zaromskis vs Jason High

What a great KO; round kick set up with two feint punches and followed immediately with a, probably unneeded, short hook. In the slo-mo replay it looks like sanbon kumite; gyaku suki – gyaku suki – mawashi geri (reverse punch, reverse punch, roundhouse kick). Well a kind of two step version of that combination, which is quite probably used in the more adventurous versions of sanbon kumite.

At first glance it could be said that this combination was taken straight from the dojo and used in the ring. Sure the combination is at least reminiscent and the footwork is similar. However, the long stances of the stepping ippon and sanbon kumite drills that I dislike so much are far removed from the long steps Zaromskis uses to make ground on his opponent. Comparing this video with the grisly effort from the ‘Marks, Set, Go‘ post I originally used to illustrate sanbon kumite, it is clear that you could train for as long as you like in the standard sanbon manner and you would struggle to pull off the same knockout.

The karate drill involves starting from a position that requires an adjustment to move from as you are flat-footed, with weight back, this gives the opponent a chance to get away. Zaromskis, however, is set to move, makes up the ground with two punches with the kick sailing over High’s dropped guard. Sure the wrestlers lack of discipline in keeping his guard up helped Zaromskis but he fired this combination off explosively because his fighting posture is set to easily allow forward movement and fire strikes and kicks explosively. The karate drill does not allow this.

In UFC98 Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans to take the light heavyweight title. The knockout involved punches that were quite different to those of standard karate, but his victory was hailed as a victory for karate, at least by some, and it has to be said it was a great win by Machida. On two occasions in the second round Machida used sanbon kumite style stepping to attack Evans, the first time as a counter, the second to make up ground when he had Evans in trouble.

The first time he used it he got in with some quick strikes but as soon as Evans was able to get his feet back under him he was able to retaliate, this can be seen at 10:05 of the video in the link above (3.28 left of round 2 on the UFC clock). Machida’s karate stance, which keeps his head out of trouble and weight back, does not allow the momentum to be transferred into the target in the same way that Zaromskis’s fighting posture does. Zaromskis explodes out of the blocks while Machida is held back somewhat.

If Machida were to truly explode out of the blocks with punches,  it would look more like how Vitor Belfort knocked out Wanderlei Silva a few years ago or with a kick or something like the KO in the Marius Zaromskis video. If sanbon kumite were able to prepare you to explode on someone as in these clips it would have definite value, however, in the standard format it doesn’t come close. Apologies for the awful sound effects, I suggest the mute option!

Originally posted 2010-11-30 01:27:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Form Police in Martial Arts

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 Form Police in Martial Arts

Form Police

In a recent post on his blog Ross Enamait complains about Form Police in regards to criticisms on the performance of someone lifting 300lb in single arm dumbbell raises. His point is that sometimes you need to go for broke and form is not important at that moment. If you read what he says you’ll see that he puts forward a very decent argument, there are also some interesting comments.

Further, Form Police grievances in the traditional martial arts camp, where form is paramount, run along similar lines. The assumption is that aesthetics are important and that we should strive for perfect technique. Students will be corrected to the nth degree; a hand adjusted here, a stance corrected there even just by a few centimetres. This ensures tidy technique performed in tidy lines working in unison to produce a nice tidy all-kicking, all-punching dojo. If you spend any time on Karate Underground Forum, you will notice this view popping up over and over again.

Emphasis on aesthetics, or form, as Ross says is fine if you’re being judged on it in a competition, but when you’re performing the aforementioned lift, it’s not a huge issue. There may be very good reasons to prioritise over form in lifting and marital arts, for that matter. I once interviewed a friend of mine, a bodybuilder, for a module at University. He was telling me about how he prepared for a lift, a big lift. It was ALL about the lift, shutting down the senses and going for it. He would even do just one repetition; this was to prove to himself he could lift that PR in a given lift. This was an important psychological success, which outweighed (excuse the pun) concerns about form. Of course, he didn’t want to lift dangerously, so form didn’t go completely out of the window.

In martial arts, attention to form is important to a degree, of course. We want to avoid injury while producing as much power as possible. So rather than concentrating on perfecting the form of the kick and ending up with something akin to this, which while showing great balance and looking very pretty it will not get you knockout power like this or even this. So in this instance, at the very least, the Form Police would, by insisting on aesthetics, ensure we had a sub-optimal kick if we ever need to “go for broke”. That’s the trouble with emphasising form over function, the goalposts are moved in a sub-optimal direction.

Originally posted 2009-03-15 09:00:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(In)complete Control 1 – Chaos

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 (In)complete Control 1   Chaos

Control - side kick held in position

In Karate, and other traditional martial arts, control, in terms of controlling the level of impact, is considered a desirable attribute. Some consider control to assist accuracy, which can be attained through careful attention to form. Control is considered to relate to skillful execution of technique and of course there is skill involved in being able to execute a side kick and hold it in place an inch from your partners face, in a Jean–Claude Van Damme stylee. All very pretty, dramatic and skillful, controlled and aesthetically pleasing, but is there a downside?

Well, in my humble opinion there is and its potentially a very serious downside. If the training emphasis is on controlled strikes the question is whether or not the control can be switched off if required. It is not automatic, that’s for sure. I remember the first time I had someone train with us who’d never hit a pad. He was a big bloke, 6ft 4, with long legs. I had him do front kicks on a shield and was very surprised at the power generated. Rather at the lack of power generated, continually hitting the air had ensured he had great control but close to zero impact.

Control in sparring is oft cited as essential for safety reasons, but ‘pulling punches’ so that contact is minimal is a sub-optimal approach. One reason is that the timing is altered, so that fast light strikes can ‘score’. It’s far from realistic, much better to use safety equipment and allow heavy contact, this assures the timing remains intact and so is closer to the unruliness of a real fight. Good 16oz boxing gloves offer great protection, head guards have drawbacks as this blog post discusses.

Steve Morris advocates creating something choatic saying “One minute of aggressive resolve in a milling session is worth hours of light sparring, pushing hands, dojo kumite, etc.” Once we err toward reality and away from points the less aestheticly pleasing the performance and by definition a reduced emphasis on control/form. It’s essential to train to be effective in a self-defence situation otherwise we are compromising our ability to defend ourselves; this can lead to an inflated confidence in ability and subsequently tricky situations in a fight.

 (In)complete Control 1   Chaos

Chaos - Bar Brawl

That is not to say that control/form is completely unimportant. It would be daft to completely ignore form as some emphasis is required to train for optimal power production etc., the striking action needs to be performed optimally. Also some control is required in order to allow heavy Ground and Pound training, for example, within safe limits. It’s no good dropping control completely to the detriment of safety; after all we need to be capable of turning up for tomorrows training session.  It’s not simply a question of all or nothing, there are degrees of emphasis.

My main gripe with emphasis on form and control is that this can detract from training that is transferable to the chaos of a fight. To prepare for choas we need some chaos training,  emphasising control and form to the nth degree detracts from this.

Originally posted 2009-03-27 08:12:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Boxing Fight News: Antonio Maragito vs Pacquiao and the Battle of Britain – Harrison Haye

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Freddie Roach talks about Antonio Margarito vs Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is always worth listening to, not only because he is a great trainer but also because he says it like it is. In this interview (see below) he talks about Saturday’s fight for the vacant WBC junior middleweight between Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito. Pacquiao is fighting at 150 pounds, yet another step up in weight but you have to fancy him due to his speed, power and movement. Unsurprisingly, Roach agree’s, saying fihgts are won on skill not size and Pacquiao has too much for Margarito.

There’s an amusing bit in the interview when talking about Tyson, Roach explains how he came to watch Pacquiao train one particular time.

It’s funny because Mike came to Manny’s last workout before his last fight. He was watching Pacquiao workout and he said, “Freddie, you should slow him down—he’s got a fight coming in a couple of days”. I said, “Mike, this is slow”.

Also Roach talks about Amir Khan’s fight in December with Marcos Maidana, attempting to defend his WBA junior welterweight title, future opponents and a potential match up with Floyd Mayweather, if he continues to duck Pacquiao. Amusing given the shenanigans surrounding the greatest fight ever, which may end up being the greatest ever fight not to happen!

It’s a pretty decent interview and the On the Ropes internet radio looks pretty good too.

On the Ropes Interview with Freddie Roach on Blog Talk Radio
Listen to internet radio with On The Ropes on Blog Talk Radio
INFORMATION – To listen to the whole interview with Freddie Roach, press play, wait for the buffering to finish and click on the player’s progress bar until you find 100 minutes and 50 seconds where the interview starts. Alternatively you can read the transcribed version of the Freddie Roach interview

Harrison Haye Saturday night in Manchester

Most people were irritated with Haye when he ducked the Klitschkos to defend his WBA Heavyweight title, of course Haye says he didn’t avoid anyone. Against Audrey he should have no trouble at all. He may be arrogant but Harrison is delusional. He has put in a lot of disappointing performances over the years and only just managed to win his only title of note, after the Olympic gold of course, with a Final round knockout of Michael Sprott when behind on points in April this year. This title win enabled this World title shot tomorrow night.


Of course, Haye was delighted to take Harrison on, it’s a no brainer for him in terms of the payday. The biggest home grown fight for a long time in the UK means huge interest and massive money all round. The war of words has stoked up interest and it will be well watched in the UK. I will be watching it in 3D, no less, in the pub at my mates birthday party, which will be interesting. With Harrison being so slow there’ll be no worries about dodging his virtual 3D punches, although it may be a little tricky with Haye!

Harrison has the size and could pull out a big shot to finish Haye, but given the size of the monster Haye beat to win the title in the first place, he won’t be too bothered by the size difference. And some size difference it is, Haye has weighed in at three stone lighter than Audrey, who, in my opinion, will have to hope that God is indeed in his corner!

Originally posted 2010-11-12 22:16:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter