Boxing Entertainment General Fitness Martial Arts Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Tae Kwon Do Technique

MMA Defined

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about martial arts and it occurred to me that the term MMA is confusing to many people. Parents continue to put their kids into Tae Kwon Do and Karate schools in large numbers while many MMA schools have fewer students and have to diversify to stay in business. And, there is still the occasional debate pitting MMA versus Traditional Martial Arts.

I personally started with Tae Kwon Do over 30 years ago. I love martial arts and therefore I love Tae Kwon Do, but I learned (the hard way, which is sometimes the best way) that if you study just one discipline you are cheating yourself and not learning everything you will need going forward.

So, what is MMA? MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. To some this means the UFC, because the UFC has spent millions of dollars spreading their business to every corner of the world. This also means MMA is tightly associated with (sometimes brutal) cage fights. But MMA is much more than this.

MMA has been around for a long time–long before the epic 1993 contest that put the Gracie name on the map . Anytime a martial arts practitioner used techniques from more than one style, they were doing MMA. MMA includes striking (Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Wing Chun, etc.), grappling (Wrestling, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, etc.) and ground fighting (Wrestling, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, ground and pound, etc.), but the most important part of MMA is transitioning smoothly between and amongst these three areas and many styles.

So, that means that time you got in a fight and boxed with your opponent who then took you down and you choked him until he quit, you were doing MMA. The first person to have international fame using MMA was Bruce Lee. Although his striking was amazing, Lee was aware that he had to know more than just striking to win on the street. This is why Lee trained with people like Gene LaBell, and Lee was able to show some of what he knew about ground fighting in his movies.

One of my goals with this blog and my book is to help people to be more open minded about martial arts and fitness. For people to argue about MMA vs Traditional, or MMA vs Boxing, etc. is really a waste of time; MMA is traditional martial arts and MMA is boxing. MMA is learning Tae Kwon Do and Karate, but also learning grappling and ground fighting.

I cover this and much more in my book, Martial Arts For Everyone. Thanks and best of luck with your training.

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Timing and Accuracy

My gym has a pro boxing coach, and I was watching the other day as he held focus mitts and trained a fighter. I was also recently at a martial arts school and watched a Tae Kwon Do instructor hold focus paddles for a student as she did various kicks. I was compelled to ask myself, do focus pads help you or hinder you?

Clearly you train with pads, mitts and bags to improve accuracy and timing. When your opponent presents a target to you by moving and/or striking, accuracy and timing help you to react with the correct technique at the right time to the right place. If a boxing trainer presents the focus mitt by only staying stationary and holding it up, that is not likely to help you. If the trainer moves and simulates a punch that will actually hit you if you don’t move (for example a Hook that you have to duck and counter), this is better.

But, either way, the timing is different from a real opponent because the trainer must retract and/or place the mitt for you to hit it. This is slower than what happens in the course of a real fight and may adversely affect your reaction time. One fix I have seen is to start with the first pad in place and quickly move the second pad into place, but this is still too slow.

This brings me to accuracy; Is it helpful to have a person stand in front of you and hold striking pads away from his body for you to hit? Muscle memory is important and is learned from hours of drills and practice. It stands to reason that if you practice hitting a pad held away from a person instead of hitting the person, this may adversely affect your muscle memory and therefore your accuracy in the ring in the long run. It is better to get high quality protective gear and heavier, padded gloves and spend more time with sparring partners so the timing you develop is based on a more realistic opponent.

With Tae Kwon Do the same issues are there, but the kicking drills accentuate another bad aspect of using focus pads; the recovery phase. It may look good to have someone hold pads for you as you expertly do two or more kicks (which helps you to be more comfortable with combinations) but what you do after the combo is important. If you land awkwardly or you have to move or step to get into your fighting stance to face your opponent, you are setting up bad habits. If you pause or drop your guard after your combo, you are setting up bad habits. A similar thing happens when a boxing trainer steps away to reset and the fighter drops his guard.

I also noticed that some of the drills lure your focus to certain techniques and neglect the Muay Thai and Wrestling techniques (specifically leg kicks and takedowns) that can be done to you during your attack. This may be okay if you are only going to compete in boxing but is not helpful in Mixed Martial Arts. It is better to spend as much time as you can in the most realistic scenario as possible.

Do in training what you intend to do in War.

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Tae Kwon Do VS Muay Thai

I started martial arts training in 1984 at a Tae Kwon Do school in Virginia. Between 1987 and 2001, I trained at 9 other TKD schools from NC to LA to TX.

The other day while practicing fight scenes for the Lao Warrior movie, I was reminded of my first day training Muay Thai in 2002. I kept getting kicked in my knees and quads because I wasn’t used to checking leg kicks.

Then, just as I started to get into the habit of raising my leg to check, we started working on clinching and throwing knees. If you are not used to someone grabbing your neck, pulling you down and slinging you around while they land knees, it can be frustrating.

While I am glad that I studied TKD in the 80’s, the martial arts of today are on a different level. When you train with someone who does Jiu Jitsu every morning and Muay Thai every evening, plus has judo and wrestling skills (i.e. an MMA fighter), you are humbly reminded that you spend most of your time every week filling prescriptions.

My base will always be TKD, so I can still throw kicks with the best of them, but I certainly have found the motivation to get back to work on my Muay Thai and staying well-rounded. I look forward to showing what I learned in the upcoming movie Lao Warrior (2014) as well as in the second edition of Focusing Martial Arts Power. Thanks and see you in the gym.

Defense Martial Arts Tae Kwon Do

More about my fighting experience

Although I have competed in Taekwondo tournaments over the years (record 8 wins, 3 losses with 5 gold medals), my real fighting experience starts in 1987, the first time someone pulled a knife on me. When he opened it up (remember, this is the 80’s, so people carried buck knives) I remember the effect seeing that blade had on me. I went into survival mode, grabbed him by the wrist and throat and slammed him onto a car so hard that the knife went flying. He then slid off the car onto the pavement. Thankfully, that was the end of that conflict.

In 1988 I joined the US Army at age 17. I think most people know by now when you throw a bunch of young guys together from different backgrounds, and force them to live in a confined area (no, this wasn’t TUF and we weren’t in a nice mansion in Vegas) there are going to be problems. Added to this, the stress level was intentionally kept high by the Drill Sergeants most of the time mixed with sleep deprivation and general hazing.

In this environment there were a lot of fights, I remember one day a guy from 4th platoon was trying to bully me so I smacked him. At the time he did nothing about it. Later that day when I was in a line unloading a truck, someone suddenly hit me in the head from behind. I spun around and there was my friend from 4th platoon on the ground. Without even thinking about it, I had punched him in the face.

In 1990, when I was in Fort Hood, we had the night off and headed downtown to a bar. Two of my friends left the bar and ran into trouble. When the rest of us (about 7 guys) went looking for them, we found them facing 3 or 4 members of a gang. When the gang members saw us, they made some sort of sign and about 20 other gang members were suddenly on us. Despite the odds, we were winning this fight badly when suddenly someone yelled, “I’ve been stabbed.”

We were up against several people with knives and pipes. Two of my buddies got stabbed and one got his nose broken. I managed to make it out safely by staying calm and watching my back while watching the backs of 3 of my friends. After the stabbings, the gang vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

In 1995 I was hanging out with friends at a bar and making general conversation with a group of people. Suddenly a guy from the group said he had been looking for me for over a year (over a girl–stupid–and for the record, if you want to “look” for someone, it doesn’t take a year). He was drunk and I wasn’t, so I tried to talk him out of fighting. Eventually, his shenanigans (love Super Troopers) got him thrown out of the bar.

Then his friend comes over to me and starts telling me it’s a fair fight, and I am just scared, etc. Again, I tried to tell him that I would just hurt his friend and it was not worth it to me to go to jail (I was actually on probation at the time for assaulting a police officer–but that misunderstanding is an entire other story).

Eventually, I reached my limit so I headed to the door where the bouncer did not want to let me go outside because he knew there would be a fight. I used a Jedi mind trick on him, and he opened the door for me. Once outside, my opponent, an Army Ranger who had about 40 pounds on me and was about 4 inches taller, charged me and went for the take down. Unfortunately for him he walked into a right jab (I have twemendous power in my wight hand). Since his guard was down, he only had his nose to stop the punch. I won’t bore you with the rest of the fight (there wasn’t much), but basically his friend from the bar (Mr. Fair Fight) jumped me from behind and I elbowed him in the head. He wanted no part of me after the elbow, so I headed back inside the bar.

From my years of training and experience I have learned the difference between a pro fighter, a semi-pro, an amateur, someone with training and the average person. As with most sports, the difference between average and pro is like going up against a super hero; you will lose badly. I have trained or fought with the whole gamut and I have seen many differences within each of the five types that I list above. As with what I do every day at the pharmacy, my goal is to help people and I hope that I can provide something useful to everyone with this blog, even the pros. Thanks.