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Tuesday

HELPING OUT A FRIEND

Part Three of the Illusion of Reality series is temporarily on hold while I help out a friend.

Nathan from TDA Training has asked me to guest-post for the next couple of days while he is busy moving into his new home.

This is a great honor for me, as I really admire his site and the Convocation of Combat Arts Forum.

I promise that I'll return soon and finish the series. (Complete with some video footage from my kickboxing class)

Until then, please check out the latest post, written by yours truly, at TDATraining@blogspot.com

I'll be back soon!

Respectfully,

Rick

Sunday

THE ILLUSION OF REALITY (PT II)

In the last post, I argued that so-called reality television shows do not actually reflect reality at all. That they are contrived and staged by their producers into a program that is dramatic and somewhat interesting to watch, but has no bearing on the way people actually behave. These shows are only a poor imitation of reality.

In the same way, many martial art techniques are practiced in the dojo or gym under circumstances that make them appear effective but have little in common with the way people actually fight. We’re going to explore this problem and what causes it, before demonstrating a drill that can help make our training a bit more realistic in the next post.

(In this post, I’m only going to cover one aspect of the way martial arts practice tends to differ from actual combat. If you’d like to read more about this subject, check out a post called “The Elephant in the Room” at the Convocation of Combat Arts Forum, where you can find many more well-written responses to this problem.)

Like reality shows, martial artists have a bad habit of practicing techniques in a staged or idealized manner in order to make ourselves look good. The techniques appear to work, but only because we’ve carefully set them up for success.


STEP-SPARRING

Take the three-step or one-step sparring drill often practiced in karate and tae kwon do, for example. In these drills an attacker advances with punches or kicks toward a defender who responds by blocking and countering the attack in a predetermined sequence.

To illustrate, check out the following video taken from YouTube.com. This clip shows one-step sparring the way it is typically practiced in many traditional karate and tkd schools. (BTW. This post should not be taken as a slight against these martial artists, only against this particular type of training. I spent several years practicing a version of step-sparring very similar to this!)



In practice, the movements appear effective and useful. The attacker’s strikes are thwarted and the defender retaliates with a counter strike. The techniques are clean, neat, and aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, they do not reflect the way combat actually happens.

Upon closer examination, you can almost always see that the attackers begin too far away to realistically reach or inflict injury to the defender. This allows the defenders way too much time to react; time that they would not have during an actual assault.

The attackers only initiate one punch or kick at a time, rather than doubling or tripling up on the strikes. (Feinting techniques are never used.) The defenders only practice dealing with one strike at a time; unlike a real fight where multiple strikes are usually quickly unleashed.

Also, because the attack is out of range, there is little close range grappling or throwing practiced during the drill. When they are done, the joint locks or throws demonstrated tend to be a bit too casual. While they look easy on the mat, they do not usually anticipate the way combat actually happens.

Although I've laid out quite a bit of critcism over this drill, there's one very important positive that needs to be pointed out. Even though they are using advanced kicks and strikes, neither student is hurt during this demonstration. While the drill may not be very realistic, it is safe; and that's important.

While we want our practice to realistic, we don't want to risk being really injured.

Now,if you want to see what combat really looks like, check out the Discovery Channel sometime and watch a tiger capturing its prey. Watch one of those Wildest Police Video shows where police officers struggle against criminals who are really trying to hurt them and get away.

As those shows demonstrate, combat is brutal, messy, and ugly to watch. In application, the martial arts are no different.



ADRENALINE AND FEAR

The reality Television shows, like The Human Weapon , also fail to take factors like fear and adrenaline into account. When Jason Chambers climbs into the ring, he knows that the shows producers will not place him in any real danger. If he were to get hurt in the first episode, he wouldn’t be able to finish the series. (Of course, getting into the ring with a Thai champion would make anyone a bit nervous, but in this case it’d be more like riding a roller coaster - you’d feel an adrenaline rush without a serious possibility of being injured.)

Likewise, in the dojo or gym, we face our opponent without fear of being injured. Since we know and trust our partners (or at least we should) it’s difficult for us to experience the same physiological effects of stress during combat; such as increased heart rate, tunnel vision, stimulated breathing, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, dry mouth, sweating, and upset stomach.

THE PROBLEM

Since the step-sparring drills don’t seem to help us imitate the physical aspects of combat, nor the psychological, it appears that we need a different method of practicing our skills in the gym so that we can be ready for the street. We need something that will allow us to practice our techniques consistently and honestly without putting us at risk for injury.

This leads us to some interesting questions; “How is it possible to simulate the factors involved in real combat?” And, “Can we make our training sessions realistic without compromising safety?”

The answer, I believe is "yes." In the next post, I’ll explain a drill used by Master Instructor, Chris Thomas, to pump up the adrenaline and mimic the conditions of an actual attack, while maintaining a relatively safe environment in the gym.

Critiquing the training methods of traditional schools is always controversial and my intention is not to offend anyone, only to explore ways to improve our art. Remember, your training is your own. Don’t let me, or anyone else, tell you how you have to practice.

I hope my observations have helped you to consider your own methods and that the suggestions provided are useful. Anyone with comments regarding this post is free to leave a comment or contact me at kicksboxes@gmail.com.

As always,

Respectfully,

Rick

Wednesday

THE ILLUSION OF REALITY (PTI)

Okay, I want to start this post by recommending a new martial arts related television series. Human Weapon is a new show on the History Channel. (Finally, my favorite channel covers my favorite subject!)

Every week the show takes us to another location around the world and exposes us to a new different type of martial art. (Anyone familiar with this blog can guess that I’m obviously stoked about the premise.)



In the series first episode, the hosts, Jason Chambers and Bill Duff travel to Thailand to learn more about the sport of muay thai. On their journey, they visit Lumpinee stadium, train at Fairtex Gym (Thailand), practice breaking with the Thai military, work out with hard-core fighters at a rural gym, and even go deep into the jungle near the Burmese border to visit a camp where a traditional, combat-based version of the art, called muay thai chai, is practiced.


The first show (televised Friday) was excellent, showing much more of the art than is usually shown in the mainstream media. The history, tradition, and cultural significance of muay thai was explored, as well as some of the strategies and scientific principles behind the techniques.

I would have liked more in-depth coverage into the Thai training methods and a behind-the-scenes look at the competition in Lumpinee Stadium, but otherwise, the show was really well done.

Most impressive was the coverage of muay thai chai. I’d heard that there was a combat version muay thai that emphasized self-defense and inflicting injury over the sport version, but I’ve never seen it examined until this show. (The art’s use of elbows and impalement techniques are truly vicious.)

I do, however, have one criticism about the show. It’s not a big deal and I shouldn’t let it bother me, but on a show that I like this much, it’s like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa… it distracts and drags the rest of the show down.

For some reason, (probably ratings) the Human Weapon producers decided that they needed to add a reality element to the show.

Jason Chambers has a mixed martial arts and kickboxing background, while the other host, Bill Duff is a collegiate wrestler and professional football player. It seems the producers thought that it would be a good idea to have one of the hosts to fight an expert in the featured martial art, at the end of each episode.

The premise of the show then becomes that the hosts have to learn about the art in order to defeat the expert. Of course they only have several days to travel the country and interview a few people. There’s no possible way that they could actually become a threat to any true champion.

The whole thing comes off as contrived and phony. Even a non-martial artist can see that these guys don’t stand a chance.

For example, in the first episode, Chambers is chosen to fight a tough-as-nails, former Lumpinee muay thai champion. When the big fight finally arrives, the match turns out to be little more than a glorified, exhibition between the two.

A crowd surrounds the ring, the fighters enter with traditional flair, and there’s even an ambulance brought in for dramatic effect, but the actual fight is little more than an semi-contact, sparring match.

The scenes are heavily edited and shown in slow motion in order to give the impression that the two are really fighting, but in the end, it’s obvious that the Thai fighter has taken it very easy upon his opponent. After watching the brutality of the fights earlier in the program, you never believe that the fight is real.

This bit of fantasy really detracts from the authenticity of the rest of the show. The History Channel would have been better off doing what it does best; focusing on history, tradition, and culture. There’s enough fascinating material in the study of martial arts to keep people interested without having to resort to cheap ratings tricks. Human Weapon would tread better on the high road.

And this is the gripe I have not only with Human Weapon, but also another television favorite, The Ultimate Fighter. Both shows have bought into the reality television fad when they would actually do better simply focusing on the art and training methods of their fighters.

Let’s get something straight about reality… If two dozen people were really stranded on a deserted island, they wouldn't goof around with silly challenges or council meetings, they’d be too worried about finding something to eat.; Donald Trump would never really hire any apprentice that pulled bizarre stunts unless they were on T.V.; And (no matter how good looking he is) the Bachelor would never really have two dozen women hanging all over him unless he was the star of the show! Reality shows are NOT about reality, they’re about illusion.

Now I don’t care one way or another about Survivor, The Apprentice, or The Bachelor, but it makes me nauseous to watch these otherwise good shows based on the reality (illusionary) premise. Neither Jason Chambers or Bill Duff would ever want to enter the ring against a Thai champ. Few MMA fighters care to even see their opponent before a fight, let alone eat breakfast across from the guy. (How weird is that?! Living and training next to your future opponent?)

The reason these shows do this is to build the drama. They hope that something interesting will happen by placing people in unfamiliar circumstances. Usually, it just creates immature behavior and unnatural responses.

I understand that the ratings show that many people like this sort of spectacle, but personally I find it distracting and cheap. It also creates false expectations and misrepresentations of the combat arts. In my opinion, the arts have enough to offer without resorting to this sort of distortion.

Of course, the difference between reality and illusion in the martial arts goes a lot further than a couple of television shows, but that’s all for another post.

Until then, keep training,

Respectfully,

Rick

Friday

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN INTERNET FORUM

As I’ve mentioned before, the Internet is a great way to hook up with other martial artists. My favorite way of finding others with similar interests is to post on message boards and forums. Just in case you didn’t already know, these are places on the Internet where people can post ideas, opinions, suggestions, and questions. They are places that others are easily able to respond to the post and offer their own thoughts.

All kinds of information can be found on message boards - some of it is good, and some of it isn’t.

Naturally, there are positive and negative aspects to message boards. This is what makes them so interesting.

On the positive side, anyone can respond to a message, regardless of their rank, style, age, gender, experience, or anything else you can think of.

The Internet truly levels the playing field. In the dojo, your idea or opinion might be accepted simply because you happen to be wearing a black belt, but not so on the Internet. Appeals to authority simply don’t cut it here.

If you want to convince others that your ideas have merit, then you’ll have to persuade them with sound arguments and sensible explanations.

Of course, there are still a lot of people who try to spew out opinions and bully others with their beliefs. But, those tactics don’t go very far without some reasonable assertions to back up what your saying.

In regards to the martial arts, the Internet has become a place where we judge one another by the content of our character and not by the color of our belt. (I may have borrowed that quote from somewhere.)

On the negative side, the Internet affords people with a great deal of anonymity. Since we never really know exactly who we’re communicating with, many people are tempted to exaggerate their rank or experience.

Why go online as a lowly yellowbelt in tae kwon do, when you could so easily claim to be an Ultimate Fighter?

Talk is cheap on the Internet and even the people who have malicious opinions or flawed ideas are given equal opportunity to express them. Worse, are “trolls,” people that rummage through message boards looking for someone to pick a fight with. These people aren’t interested in discovering anything new or interesting, they just want to argue and have someone pay attention to them.

They’re kind of like the drunk who sits on the back bleachers at a ball game and yells obscenities at the umpire. They think that being a faceless voice in the crowd somehow gives them the right to say whatever they want, no matter how ridiculous.

Luckily, like the bleacher bums, trolls are usually quite harmless and eventually go away if you ignore them long enough.

So how do you maximize your Internet experience on message boards? The trick is to find a forum that has all of the positive aspects, (lots of knowledgeable contributors willing to share their ideas) and few negatives (trolls or make-believe experts.)

You want to find a forum where issues are confronted fairly and opinions are respectfully debated.

Stay away from sites that have a lot of flames; vulgar responses that attack the writer rather than the opinion he or she expresses. Trolls seem to gravitate toward places where these sort of posts are found. They find comfort in numbers, attacking others with senseless criticism and pretentious rants.

A good forum can be hard to find. You might have to look carefully through several posts in order to find the overall tone and attitudes of its participants.

There is one thing to look out for while searching for a forum. See if many of the contributors also have a blog. A blog is like a personal website or journal. It gives you an idea what the person is like. It can tell you about their interests, acquaint you with their history, and offer some of their opinions.

Posting on a forum is a lot like going to a bar, you’re probably going to meet a few interesting people, and a few jerks as well, but you won’t really know much about them.

Going to a blog is like visiting someone’s home, it tells you a lot more about them. You find out who they are and, through their links, who they associate with. Most blogs also feature pictures and videos which can also help you form an opinion of the person.

There’s a forum that I’ve been posting to quite a bit lately, called the Convocation of Combat Arts Forum. Most of its contributors also have blogs which makes it a lot easier to see where they are coming from when they post. I also notice that many of the thoughts and opinions mentioned on the boards also end up in the blogs.

There are fewer trolls because everyone seems to know each another pretty well. It’s kinda like a small community protected by a neighborhood-watch group. They don’t bother much with an unknown voice that only seems to cause trouble.

Of course there’s still plenty of opportunity for scammers to pretend that their something that they’re not or to mislead others. However, it takes a great deal of time and energy to create a bogus blog, filled with articles and pictures about false experiences than it does to leave a deceptive post on a message board.

Networking through a site such as the Convocation of Combat Arts Forum is a great way get in touch with other martial artists, and be reasonably sure that they are who they claim to be.

I hope this post has been helpful for you. I’ve noticed while writing it, that I don’t have any pictures of myself on this blog. (That’s because I’m too embarrassed to admit that I’m actually a yellowbelt in tae kwon do!) I’ll try to fix that by posting some pics soon.

Best wishes for your training,

Respectfully,

Rick




BTW; Just to clarify there’s nothing wrong with being a yellowbelt in TKD. Remember, on the Internet we’re all judged by our content, not our color. Some of the very best blogs and posts are written by people who are just beginning to learn the arts. They have a “beginners mind” which allows them to notice many things that the “experts” miss.

Tuesday

ROUFUS VS KIETSONGRIT - ROUND FOUR

Here it is. The final round of the Roufus/Kietsongrit fight.

So far, Roufus is way ahead on points and certainly has the better technique. Kietsongrit has only been able to score with a single roundhouse kick, but he’s done so consistently, punishing Roufus’s leg.

Can Roufus escape Kietsongrit's low kick assault and win the fight? It’s time for us to find out.






Okay, that’s it. The Champ, Rick Roufus is beaten by the One-Kick-Wonder. Moral of the story: never underestimate the differences between styles… they can be very dangerous.

For my commentary, there’s two things that I’d like to point out.

First of all, let me say that I have a lot of respect for Bill Wallace. There’s never been another kickboxer like him. He was a legendary fighter who helped start full contact kickboxing in America.

I’ve had the privilege of attending his seminars and can also tell you that he’s a really nice guy. With his accomplishments and history, you’d think that he'd be a bit arrogant, but actually he’s quite humble. While teaching, he jokes easily and naturally with his students. I really like the guy.

That being said, I’m not sure that “Superfoot” is the medical expert you want when you’re a professional athlete who may have just sustained a career ending injury.

I’m sure the Nevada Athletic Commission insisted that there was a fight doctor at ringside. Yet, it’s Wallace who is the one that appears to have taken charge of treating Rick Roufus’s leg injury.

Like I said, I like Wallace, but it seems real weird (almost surreal) having him in the ring taking care Rick’s leg. I guess what they say is true: “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!”

But, the strangest and most ironic thing about the whole night, comes from Rick's brother, Jeff, during the post-fight interview, while Rick is being carried out of the ring.

When John Worley asks him about the Thai fighter's kicking ability, Jeff answers by telling him:
"The Thais' are real tough fighters, I just hope that people realize that if the Thais' fight our rules, their not going to win. And we're not going to fight their rules... we can't.

We experimented tonight, but we found out that it's just not worth it - It doesn't take much talent to kick the leg. So that's how it will end up tonight."


???It doesn't take much talent to kick the legs???

This statement from the man who would later become the World Superheavyweight Muay Thai Champion and owner of one of the best Muay Thai gyms in the United States. The man who would become known for bringing many of Thailand's top fighters over to the United States to train and compete?

Yes, though obviously beaten that night, Rick and Jeff would go on to re-evaluate their fighting style and learn to embrace Muay Thai.

Rick would recover and later win the prestigious K-1 Championship. Jeff, going by the name Duke Roufus, would go on to compete against some of the best Thai fighters in the world to win the Superheavyweight championship. He would start a Muay Thai Gym in the heart of his hometown of Milwaukee and promote many successful Thai fights there.





As far as I'm concerned, the Roufus brothers exemplify what it means to be a fighter; The ability to learn from your mistakes, find what works, and make it your own. I have a great deal of respect for both of them, especially Duke.

A couple of friends have trained under Duke and all of my understanding of the style comes from them. Muay Thai, although brutal, doesn't get enough credit for being both stratigic and complex.

I'm grateful to Duke Roufus for getting past this first loss and being willing to learn something new. Today, his gym not only embraces Thai style kickboxing but also mixed martial arts competition. From a difficult night, Duke has become a pioneer in the evalution of combat sport competition.

Learning from mistakes and having the courage to change is what turns good fighters into legends. Both of the Roufus brothers have earned that honor.

I hope you've enjoyed this series.

If there's enough interest, I'll post some more fights from the "Golden Era" of Chicago kickboxing. (From Tom Letuli's, Weekend Wars)

Until then, keep training,

Respectfully,

Rick

Monday

ROUFUS VS KIETSONGRIT - ROUND THREE

If you’ve been following along over the last several posts, we’ve been covering the infamous match between American Style Kickboxing champ, Rick Roufus, and the Thai style contender, Chang Kietsongrit.

Roufus had a great first round, with two knock downs, and although Kietsongrit had a better second round, he is still obviously down on points due to a couple of fouls. (One from his corner leaving ice in the ring and another from an intentional stomp kick to a downed opponent.)

Though Roufus is ahead on points, the question on everyone’s mind is “how long can he take those brutal kicks to the legs?”

One more thing before we check out this next round. Notice the Thai crowd cheer each and every time Kietsongrit lets loose with yet another left, roundhouse. Every kick is greeted with loud approval.







Okay, yet again this round is fraught with controversy. With 1 minute left in the round, Kietsongrit throws Roufus across the ring resulting in a major, 3 point penalty.

The thing is, in Thai kickboxing, throws are perfectly legal. Furthermore, throws do not appear to have been discussed prior to the fight. As far as Kietsongrit was concerned, he’d done nothing wrong; let alone something that would earn a 3 point deduction.

Besides the low kicks, the other major difference between American Style kickboxing and Muay Thai is the “clinch.”

In American Style kickboxing, or its regular boxing counterpart, if a fighter gets into trouble, he or she can always latch on to the opponent and hold on until the referee breaks them apart. Technically this isn’t legal but you usually have to do it several times before you’d even receive a warning. In a short fight (under 4 rounds) it’s a worthwhile risk because by the time the ref takes a point, the match will probably be over.

However, in Muay Thai, clinching with your opponents brings very dangerous risks. First of all, there are always knees and elbows that you have to be aware of. The primary use of knees and elbows comes from the clinch position.

I’ve seen fights were both fighters hold each other and desperately throw knee kicks into one another for the entire round. There’s no padding over those knees and they can inflict great damage to an opponent.

Of course, if the knees and elbows weren’t enough, your opponent always has the option of throwing you to the ground as Kietsongrit did in this round.

The throw does not count as a knockdown and usually causes little harm to the opponent, so most fighters stick to elbows and knees. Still, picking yourself up off the canvas after a hard throw takes a lot of energy out of a fighter.

The bottom line here is that Kietsongrit shouldn’t have been penalized for the throw and certainly shouldn’t have lost 3 points for the foul. The referee, Tom Schlesinger, made an error.

With the two knockdowns in the first round, two fouls in the second, and the major foul in the third, Kietsongrit is automatically down by at least 7 points. With only one solid technique in his arsenal, it seems impossible for him to win on points. It looks like Kietsongrit will have to win by knock out.

If Roufus can stay on his feet, he’s sure to win.

Check back again soon and see how this fight ends! There’s still more action to come!

See you next time,

Respectfully,

Rick

Saturday

ROUFUS VS KIETSONGRIT - ROUND TWO

After a great 1st round, the Supermiddleweight begins to have trouble fending off Kietsongrit’s brutal leg attacks. Roufus is still dangerous with his hands, but he starts running more and more; away from his opponents left roundhouse kick.

As you watch this next round, notice how Roufus’s hands begin to drop as the fight continues. (Normally, this would be grave mistake. However in this match Kietsongrit doesn’t take advantage. Throughout the fight, Kietsongrit hardly throws a punch or even a right-legged kick… his only attack is his consistently hard, left roundhouse kick.)






Okay, die-hard American rules kickboxing fans are probably screaming for blood at the antics of Kietsongrit in this round.

First, there was an elbow strike that sent Roufus to the ground early in the round. In Thailand, that technique is perfectly legal and may have just been a matter of habit or fighting instinct. It’s often hard to stop your body from doing something it’s been trained to do when the rules are changed.

Kietsongrit earned a warning for that strike and did not appear to hurt Roufus. (He was already off balance and falling when the elbow/forearm pushed him down.)

However, a in the middle of the round, Roufus fell during a failed spinning back kick attempt and landed on his back. Kietsongrit countered with a stomp kick that would not be illegal in the rules of either country.

The kick did not appear to hurt Roufus, (However, he was already in pain from the low roundhouse kicks.) I believe that Kietsongrit stomped Roufus in a fit of frustration after Roufus had tried to kick him while he was down, earlier in the first round.

In the excitement of a fight, a kick boxer’s sense of reason fades and instinct takes over. The unfamiliar techniques of an opponent who is used to fighting under different rules and circumstances somehow begins to feel like cheating.

Impulsively, a fighter may resort to prohibited moves as a reflexive action against the unusual attacks. This is what I think happened to Kietsongrit. Nevertheless, he was given a foul and a one point deduction for the kick.

Even more, Roufus was given some extra time to rest and finished the round strong, with more punches, a spinning backfist and a high roundhouse to the head of Kietsongrit.

Check in again soon to see more of this fight unfold.

There's more action yet to come!

Respectfully,

Rick

Friday

ROUFUS VS KIETSONGRIT - ROUND ONE

As promised, here’s the first round of that famous fight. Roufus comes out strong and nearly takes the fight with a first round knock out. It’s only sheer determination (and a whole lot of ice that saves the Thai.)

Go ahead and check out the fight, then see if you agree with my commentary.







Wow, what a first round. It looked like Roufus had this one pretty much wrapped up. In fact, maybe one or two more hard left crosses and Kietsongrit probably wouldn’t have been able to get off of the ground. His corner did a great job of using ice to not only revive him, but also gain extra recovery time as they were told to clean up by the referee. Sure it cost them a foul but that’s a heck of a lot better than loosing by knock out.

I also really liked Roufus’s spinning techniques. He’s had a great spinning back kick that sent Chang back several times, and he mixes it up well with his spinning backfist. You never know if the strike is going upstairs or downstairs. Nice.

However, those spinning techniques come at a price. Something Roufus will soon discover in the next post.

When fighting Muay Thai style, it’s vitally important to keep you legs in a ‘neutral’ position. In other words, if you were standing on a clock face and your opponent was at the 12:00 position, both of your feet should be standing about 3:00 and 9:00 respectively.

In order to power his side kick and spinning techniques, Roufus often places his front, right foot at the 12:00 or even 11:00 position and his rear foot at the 5:00 position behind him. This sets up his kicks nicely and allows him to rush in with devastating punches, however it also leaves his right leg totally vulnerable to Kietsongrit’s low roundhouse. A couple of times Kietsongrit completely buckles the American’s front leg, causing great pain and possibly even injury.

Throughout this round Roufus is able to dance away and counter with punches, but it’s a dangerous game to be playing against a seasoned Thai fighter. (Of course, at the time, there was no way for Roufus to know this; American style kickboxing had never faced Muay Thai before.)

With about a minute to go in the round, Roufus sets up his opponent perfectly with a low, left roundhouse of his own. Kietsongrit is waiting, ready, and a bit overconfident here. He easily blocks the low kick with his shin, but is then surprised when the American shoots a strong left though his guard, sending him crashing to the canvas.

Kietsongrit recovers but is sent down a few seconds later with another hard left cross. Watch carefully though, Roufus follows the punch with a low, left roundhouse kick to the downed opponent. The kick misses, but it was still clearly illegal. Neither the referee nor the television commentators mention it.

I believe that it is this kick that provokes Kietsongrit to deliver an illegal kick of his own later in the fight. (More on that later.)

Amazingly, Kietsongrit stands once again and survives yet another spinning backfist in the corner; and, to add insult to injury, a terrific jump, spinning, back kick to the head by Roufus at the very end of the round. Again, nice.

At this point in the bout, things are looking good for Roufus, but while the Thai corner works feverishly to revive their fighter, Rick must be starting to feel a dull, painful ache in that right leg….

Tune in again soon to see how this historic fight ends.

I hope enjoy my thoughts on the match. If you don’t agree with me, you’re always welcome to give your own thoughts and opinions by e-mailing me at kicksboxes@gmail.com.

More to come soon,

Respectfully,

Rick

Thursday

A KICKBOXING TIMEWARP

AMERICAN STYLE KICKBOXING VS MUAY THAI

In the days before the Ultimate Fighting Championship, American style kickboxing was the star of full-contact martial arts competition in this country. Built by legendary fighters like Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Joe Lewis, and “Bad” Brad Hefton, the sport was largely based on standard boxing rules with kicks and spinning backfists added.

Like regular boxing before it, all strikes were required to be ‘above the belt.’ Through a long standing tradition, hits below the waist were considered to be ungentleman-like. In the 70s and 80s, kickboxing slowly gained a fairly large following of fans. At the time, people were amazed at the power and athleticism needed not only to punch, but also kick and spin for multiple rounds. From these beginnings, combat sports took their first foot-hole into American culture.

However, as exciting as American style kickboxing was, there was another, even more dynamic version being practiced on the other side of the world in Thailand.

While Americans cheered the high kicking, hard punching, and spinning techniques of their fighters, Thai audiences watched as their fighters faced one another in matches that permitted low kicks, knees, elbow strikes, and throws. The fights there were more than mere sport, displaying rituals, ceremony, traditions, and Thai culture throughout the competition.

It was only a matter of time before these two styles of kickboxing would be tried against one another.



ROUFUS VS KIETSONGRIT

One of the first televised competitions between American style kickboxing and Muay Thai took place at the Sands Hotel and Casino and broadcast on the Coors Superfight's Battle of Champions.

It was an exhibition between the then Kick World Supermiddleweight Champ, Rick Roufus (28-0 15 Kos) and Thailand’s #1 Supermiddleweight contender, Chang Pueak Kietsongrit (23-5 12 Kos)

On American television, Roufus was the obvious favorite, but no one was really sure what would happen when the two fighters finally met. The differences in rules between the two styles led to a great deal of confusion, not to mention the language barriers that made it difficult for the fighters to know exactly what was permitted.

Officially it was agreed that they would fight 3 minute rounds under a 10 point ‘must’ system. Kicks were allowed to the legs, however there would be no elbow strikes or knee kicks. However, there were more, subtle differences between the two styles that no one had thought to consider.

In some ways, what happened during this exhibition can only be described as a disaster. Yet, this fight could also be considered one of the most important matches in modern combat sport history.


THE PAST AND THE FUTURE

One thing is certain, after this match, both of the Roufus brothers would be rudely awakened and the sport of kickboxing would be forever changed.

In the following video, we’ll take you back to that night; the excitement and uncertainty as the two styles were put against one another on national television.

We’ll begin with the pre-fight interviews as the commentators Dan Walker and John Worley try to bring something totally new to their audience and struggle to make sense of it themselves. Watch along with Roufus as Kietsongrit begins the Wai Kru ritual and traditional Thai musicians begin playing.

The rest of the fight will be posted soon, along with more of my thoughts on the fight.

I hope you enjoy!

Respectfully,

Rick


Sunday

THE TOP FIVE REASONS I PREFER WORKING WITH FEMALE MARTIAL ARTISTS

Well, it’s July and once again my classes are nearly empty. It happens every year around this time. Everyone leaves for vacation, gets involved in ‘outdoor’ sports, or just plain decides to take a break. (They’ll return again in the Fall; they always do!)


The room at the community college, where we practice, is above the gymnasium and unbearably hot. Yet, I still have a half dozen or so students who ignore the heat and ‘lets take a break’ trend of the others to stick with the workout. This small group is very dedicated and works very hard. They really sweat it out in each and every session.


However, there’s one thing that is noticeably missing from the group: Men.


There are no guys in my class at all. Now I usually have more women than men throughout the year, (must be a Tae-Bo thing) but you’d think that there would be at least one or two men that would still hang around.


Now just in case you don’t already know from reading this blog, I DO NOT teach your average aerobics kickboxing class. There’s no music, no routine choreography, and no spandex. I run the class much like an actual gym, with emphasis on good form, heavy bags, focus pads, and sparring with 16oz gloves & headgear.


You’d think that this sort of class would appeal more to men than women, but time and time again it’s the girls who take the class and the girls that return every semester.
As an instructor, how do I feel about this? Well, I love teaching women.


Now I know that there are other gyms out there that don’t feel the same way as I do. (I guess they figure that if they start encouraging women to train, their locker rooms will start to smell like perfume or something.) Their loss.


I hope that I’m not stereotyping anyone here, but there are some things that I’ve noticed that show women great to work with when teaching martial arts.


Anyway, to demonstrate my point, here are the top 5 reasons why I like working out with women:


1. Women Take the Workout Seriously


Now I can’t say that men aren’t serious as well, but somehow we tend to be a little more flippant about the reasons why we train. I think it might be a society-thing, but men are somehow just expected to know how to fight and be able to defend themselves, it’s one of the things that makes us ‘manly.’


When first taught self-defense moves, men are often a little cavalier about the whole thing as if to say “yeah, I already knew all that,” even when they’re grateful for the advice.
Women, on the other hand, are serious about learning to defend themselves, they know that the odds are often stacked against them and their willing to learn as long as what your teaching them something that will work.


2. Women Ask Questions


Because women take the workout seriously, they aren’t afraid to ask questions. They want the techniques to work for them. If they don’t, they want to know how they can make them succeed.


Questions are what make the workout interesting for everyone involved. I like them because they force me to think more about what I’m teaching and the students like them because they allow me to offer more information as well as different variations for the movement.


Some men ask good questions as well, but too often it all goes back to that expectation of already knowing how to fight. If a man asks a question about a technique, then it might somehow imply that he doesn’t know how to protect himself. A lot of guys simply don’t want to take any chance on looking weak


3. Women are my ‘Target’ Audience


One of the main reasons I teach martial arts is because I believe everyone has the right to protect themselves from harm. Although we all imagine that we might one day have to confront a stranger in self defense, the statistics tell us that it will most likely be someone we know. And when it comes to acquaintance attacks, the statistics also tell us that the victim will most likely be a woman or a child. (Every 15 seconds a woman is battered somewhere - Melissa Soalt, www.dr-ruthless.com)


I enjoy teaching everyone, but if I want to be serious about helping the people most likely to be attacked, I have to focus on helping women.


4. Women Defy Expectations


A lot of women enter the class unsure of themselves. Some have never thrown a punch in anger before. Many have never tried to kick anything in their lives. Most are nervous about the class; even though they did have enough initial courage to sign up in the first place.


It usually takes a little time and work to get some of them to break out of their shell. They aren’t used to shouting as we count along with the exercises and combinations. They feel silly the first time they kick a heavy bag. Most are terrified the first time they put on a pair of gloves and actually spar.


But as they meet these challenges, I’m able to see their confidence grow. Their enthusiasm becomes contagious and everyone works out even harder. Once they get into the groove and realize that it’s okay to express themselves aggressively, woman quickly make up for lost time and give the class their full effort.


(Men have many of the same fears and doubts, but we tend to hide them because we think we shouldn’t have them in the first place. However, as men practice, their skill and confidence also increases. Still, men don’t usually begin to display much enthusiasm until after the women have already gotten into it.)


5. Women Teach Me


At 6-2 and 220lbs, I can usually force most of my techniques even if my form isn’t very good. But I realize that there are some real monsters out there. How can I be sure that my techniques will work against a 350lbs linebacker? What will I do against a bigger, stronger opponent?


One way I can prepare for that kind of situation is to practice with people who are much smaller than me and see what works for them. If a 98lbs woman is able to take me to the ground with a certain move, I can be reasonably sure that it will also work for me against the 350lbs linebacker.


Working with women, who are almost always smaller than me and usually have less upper body strength, allows me to gain a different perspective on the way the techniques should be performed. My female partners are forced to find new ways to use body mechanics, angles, and leverage to force me into a vulnerable position. The more pain I feel, the more I know the technique will work.


Having plenty of women in the classes improves the workout, expands the instruction, and even makes me a better teacher. Other gyms can use their dirty little tricks and schemes to discourage women all they want, but in the long run, they’re the ones who will suffer for it. The schools that support and inspire female martial artists will always grow stronger from their enthusiasm as they continue to improve with their contributions.


Wishing you all the best in your training,


Respectfully,


Rick

Wednesday

PODCAST ENDORSEMENT: MARTIAL ARTS EXPLORER

An ongoing theme on this blog has been "How to practice several different styles at the same time."

Most people assume that when practicing more than one style of martial arts, the specific movements of one style will interfere with the others. They think that learning a combination of techniques from a particular art will somehow confuse students when they try to incorporate those movements into other styles.

For me, this would certainly be true if all I was trying to do was practice my techniques through rote memorization. However, in the Kyusho-Jitsu Kenkyukai organization, through which I train, we are taught to look for the underlying principles of the movements, rather than at the movements themselves.

By studying the underlying principles, I am able to focus on the similarities within the various styles that I practice and discover interesting variations on the techniques presented.

I know that this all probably sounds a bit puzzling at first, and it's difficult to explain exactly what these "underlying principles" are in a short post.

But, it really shouldn't be confusing. Every style of martial arts is built upon underlying principles of body motion and strategy. The fun begins when you recognize this, then start comparing and contrasting different styles to discover what works best for you.

It is, however, easier to show you how this is done than it is to tell you.

It just so happens that there is a regular video podcast produced by another school in the Kyusho-Jitsu Kenkyukai organization that does an excellent job of doing just that. Through videos broadcast over the internet, they show how the movements in martial forms can be interpreted in different ways and present ideas on how to better devleop our understanding of the arts.

The podcast, called Martial Arts Explorer, is created by Scot Combs and features instructor Michael Kijnepier from Full Circle Martial Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. They are featured on the Podcast Network and include ipod downloads of their videos. They can also be found on YouTube.com at MAExplorer if you want to download their videos onto a PC.

The video below is from one of their podcasts. It features my instructor's son, Josh Countryman, talking about the way whole-body movement is used to improve a technique.

You can see from this video, that the principles being shown could apply to almost any martial art and nearly any technique. It doesn't matter what particular style you practice, the mechanics are the same.


In future posts, I hope to further discuss the way principles are used to uncover and interpret the movements of the forms, but for now, a good way to get started is by checking out Martial Arts Explorer. You're almost always sure to find something useful and interesting in their podcast.

I hope you find the site helpful.

As always, keep training.

Respectfully,

Rick



Monday

TRAINING WITH INTENSITY (A FEW IDEAS)

When I teach martial arts, one of the first problems I usually have with students is getting them to focus on what they are doing.

Often, we think we are focused, when really our thoughts and intentions are elsewhere.

A student will be practicing punches or kicking a heavy bag and think that they are giving it some effort, when I can see that they aren’t really focused. Their breathing is off, they aren’t exhaling, and they aren’t putting any “umph” into the technique.

Whether training for sport fighting, or training to fight for defense, it’s always important to practice your techniques exactly the way you would if you had to use them for real.

A kick boxer who gets used to dogging his workout in the gym; hitting targets with lack luster kicks and punches, not giving his full effort during drills, or sparring without a sense of intensity is likely to do the same in the ring. When he or she gets tired and takes a couple of hard shots, the body will to go into ‘autopilot’ mode for survival.

At that point, the mind is unable to think and simply reacts to the things happening around it. This is where good training comes in.

If the fighter is used to throwing strong punches and kicks during training, he or she will probably be able to automatically do the same, even under the stress of competition. However, if the training has been weak and unfocused, the fighter has little chance of suddenly getting the body to move with intensity. In fact, the mind actually tends to become confused, feel helpless, and even panic in such a situation.

Unfortunately, this makes it rather easy for an opponent to knock the unprepared fighter out.

The same goes for all martial artists, even if they do not compete.

Imagine walking down the street, concerned with the daily troubles that consume our attention every day; the gallon of milk you’ve got to buy, the argument that you had with your boss yesterday, the school assignment due next week, the surprise birthday party that you’re going to throw for your Mother…

Suddenly a mugger approaches beside you. He attacks, trying to punch you in the face, knock you to the ground, and steal you money. This person is intent on seriously hurting you during the robbery.

He woke up today, knowing that he would beat someone and take their money. He’s planned it out, thought about through, and for some reason, chosen you for his victim.

He’s ready for this.

You, on the other hand, are not. Suddenly you must stop thinking about the gallon of milk or your Mother’s Birthday and instantly begin fighting, possibly to save your life.

This major shift in thinking is something that our everyday mind is unprepared to handle. Our normal sort of conciseness is unable to make the switch from mundane thought to fighting for its life without at least a little time and preparation. Time that we simply don’t have.

Luckily for us, humans are equipped with a survival instinct that takes over during high stress times such as this. Our body gives us an immediate shot of adrenalin and our everyday conscious mind temporarily shuts down, allowing a more primitive, survival-type mind to emerge.

When your brain is in this survival mode, it doesn’t evaluate or think about things the way it normally would, instead it reacts as quickly and as forcefully as possible to get you out of trouble.

Sometimes it decides to fight and sometimes it decides to escape (flight), but its primary concern is survival.

Now here’s where our training comes in. We can actually help this survival instinct by training our bodies properly. Teaching ourselves combat moves and repeating those movements over and over, so that when we have to react under stress, we can perform those techniques correctly without thought.

But, if a student has been practicing mediocre techniques without focus, commitment, or conviction, under stress their response will pretty much be the same. On the other hand, if the student spends every training session focused on moving and hitting with sharp, strong techniques, then their primitive mind will automatically recall those movements and react effectively without thought.

This is a principle that the Samurai called “mushin,” or “no-mind;” meaning action without thought or consideration to what you are doing, simply efficient reaction.

The famous kick boxer and instructor, Benny “the Jet” Urquidez often claims “The way you train is the way you react.” If we cheat ourselves during our training, there’s a good chance that we won’t be prepared when we actually have to use our techniques.

One way I demonstrate the importance of focus and commitment to my students is to have them practice a simple drill. Try it yourself and experience the difference.

First we will do the hardest 20 push ups you’ll ever do. These are ordinary push ups with the hands spread shoulder width apart, lowering yourself to the ground and then back up until the arms are again fully extended. There’s only one difference; try to be as quiet as you possibly can. Make no noise. Be absolutely silent..

Continue to breath, but make no sound as you inhale or exhale.

Go ahead and try 20 of these. (Pretty rough huh?) Working out silently forces you to feel every moment of discomfort. The exercise seems to go slowly and there is no explosive movement to keep you going. Although you are concentrating, you are not focused.

Now, take a short rest to recover and get ready to do the easiest 20 push ups you’ll ever do. Again, we’ll do ordinary push ups, only this time, we’ll count along REAL LOUD!

GO AHEAD AND CALL OUT EACH PUSH UP COUNT AS LOUD AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN! IMAGINE THAT YOU’RE A MARINE SOLDIER IN BOOT-CAMP - AND SCREAM ALONG AS YOU PUMP OUT EACH AND EVERY COUNT… C’MON, I CAN’T HEEAAAR YOUUU!!!

Okay, you get the idea, I hope you were in a place where you could yell while doing push ups without shocking the neighborhood. If not, try it next time your someplace that you can scream like a wild banshee. (It really is a lot of fun.)

Now ask yourself, “Which set of push ups was easier?”

I’m willing to bet the first set felt like you were carrying a ton of bricks on your back, while the second felt like hardly anything at all. (At least that’s the way it always works in my class.) In fact, you probably felt more energized, awake, and ready to do more after the second set.

That’s what focused commitment should feel like. That’s what having intensity is all about. Every time you punch, kick, throw an opponent, or initiate a technique, it should feel like pumping out one of those loud push ups.

This kind of training sets up the primitive mind to react the same way. If a mugger should surprise you, your body learns to automatically explode with a committed attack before you’ve even had time to think about it.

Best of all, like the push ups, this type of intense training leaves you feeling invigorated and wanting to do more. Even after working out for a long time, you leave the gym or dojo exhausted but also exhilarated. You feel better for giving it your all, your confidence increases, your muscles work harder, your mind becomes sharper, and you go home feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

This is the type of training I try to get my students to experience during each and every workout. I hope that it has also been helpful for you as well.

Keep training.

Respectfully,

Rick