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.
David Nelson training
I love it when I watch a fight and see someone using techniques I learned in Tae Kwon Do (TKD). TKD was my first martial art and I studied it for about 16 years before branching out, so I will always have a great appreciation. One of my favorite techniques (from TKD) is “checking.” The definition of checking is using a feint or movement that makes your opponent react. If your check is successful, your opponent will think you are attacking and you can see what he does. This allows you to assess his skill level, speed and his preferences for evading and/or countering.
At the level of MMA seen in the UFC, checking has a very valuable role. A fight between two experienced professionals who have trained hard and are relaxed (they have gotten past first time ring anxiety) becomes a very serious chess game. These pros usually have a strategy that was put together based on watching fight footage and compiling data on their opponent. They look for weaknesses; the way the fighter evades, how aggressive he is, etc.
But, in order to know what you should do, you need to assess the person you are fighting that day. They may have changed during their training camp; added new footwork, techniques, and sometimes styles. You also need to discover what your opponent’s strategy is for the fight. Did he notice something in your game that he intends to take advantage of? Will he keep it standing or go straight for a take down? Does he want to put you against the fence and work from the clinch?
The way to answer these questions is to “check” your opponent. If you do a kick feint and he shoots in, you know he hopes to take the fight to the ground (possibly because of your great striking/kicking game). If you do a punch combo feint and he evades you know he likely wants to keep it standing up (possibly he thinks his striking is better or his ground game is worse than yours). In order for your check to work, it has to be convincing. If it is not, your opponent will not react and you learn nothing.
Spend some time looking in a mirror and work on your feints. Also use stepping, switching or footwork to simulate an attack until you are happy with the way it looks, and start using it on your training partners. See if you can get a reaction from your opponent. The most fun thing is when you get so good with your “checking” that you make people do the counter you want them to do so you can do the counter to that. When you reach that point, you are doing it right. Good luck.