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Martial Arts

The Balancing Act

I used to be able to balance on my head like this…

Short of perhaps Curling at the Winter Olympics, every sport requires a good sense of balance. This is especially crucial in contact sports where you need to stay balanced even when engaged with an opponent to succeed. Balance is essentially the foundation that any aspect of a skill or technique is based upon. Without balance you would not be able to effectively strike, counter, or defend against attacks and take downs, essentially rendering you useless.

Keys To Balance

Balance stems from having strong core muscles. However a major factor in having good balance is having a good stance. Different martial arts focus on different stances that provide different benefits to the fighter. There are some concepts that are pretty general to stay balanced though. Bent knees, wide stance, and a centered straight torso are starting points for having a balanced stance.

There are also martial arts that very specifically go into teaching about different stances. Different stances change your center of gravity and your ability to move and react effectively. Muay Thai teaches different stances but has a focus on keeping weight forward to facilitate muay thai’s devastating offensive striking. While at the same time Karate stances tend to have their weight back more with a wider stance. This is because karate stances provide a more defensive approach which requires a steady base from which to counter from.

The Physics of Balance

Balance is really a matter of physics. An object with a lower center of gravity is generally more stable than one with a higher center of gravity. This is where the concept of keeping your knees bent comes from; that and you can’t really move around stiff legged. Anyone that has played football should have also heard the phrase, “Low man wins.” When it comes to takedowns, by coming in low you can your opponent off balance, because his center of gravity is higher than yours. Then since his legs aren’t under his center of gravity they can be easily kicked out or thrown out of the way to complete the takedown.

Being able to manipulate your center of gravity is key to keeping your balance in any situation. To manipulate your center of gravity you need strong core muscles to shift your upper body and keep your base firm. By keeping your center of gravity between your base (your torso in between your legs) you can maintain a pretty good center of balance. Also a strong core prevents outside forces from knocking either your torso outside your base or your legs from under your torso, but strong legs help with that too.

Whats The Secret

You could sit in a squatting position with a very low center of gravity and sold base and almost never get knocked over; but i also challenge you to win a fight from that position. Being light of your feet and moving around and punching and kicking while keeping your balance is the key to being effective. Whats difficult about developing balance is that there are so many tiny muscles that need to be strengthened in order to become great at balancing. It is easy to talk and read about how to keep your balance more effectively but to really learn to do it. Practice makes Perfect.

For some simple exercises  to build balance click hereI don’t think anyone has more time to practice and train than a monk. Therefor, the secrets of balancing can best be seen in a personal favorite of mine, the shaolin martial art of Drunken Fist.

Kicking Ass in Mixed Martial Arts

Barboza knocks out Etim with a hell of a kick

The legs are the most powerful striking tool on your body. In terms of power striking with the feet, shins, and knees trump fists, forearms and elbows pretty much every time. However using your legs takes a little more finesse because more balance and flexibility is needed to kick effectively. This is especially the case in mixed martial arts where someone can easily take you to the ground if your off balance, such as when you have one leg on the ground when kicking.

Kicking in Traditional Martial Arts

Many traditional martial arts involve kicking techniques. Each brings a separate aspect of using the legs as weapons to the table

Taekwondo Teaches many types of kicks. The focusing point of taekwondo striking is based around the balanced stances so if mastered this provides a solid base from which to attack the opponent with the legs. Also taekwondo incorporates spinning kicks and kicking combos into the technique which are more unpredictable and more powerful in a fight.

Muay Thai teaches very straightforward and powerful kicking techniques. It also works well with using the fists because it is a kickboxing martial art. This makes it very popular with many mixed martial artists. The roundhouse kick, front kick, and the knee strikes are probably muay thai’s most commonly seen techniques. A roundhouse kick is a powerful body, or even leg, strike that uses the rotational power of the whole body. A front kick is a more deffensive kick to the opponent’s core. Muay thai knee striking is known to be a deadly weapon in a fighters arsenal. There are no pads worn on he knees can quickly decide a mixed martial arts fight.

For some basics on muay thai kicking techniques click here

Karate is also a martial art that puts strong focus on kicking technique. The karate technique focuses on a quick moving stance with fluid movements. This allows for very quick kicking opportunities which are unpredictable and can be powerful with the right technique. Like taekwondo, karate also puts a lot of emphasis on balance but also flexibility. This flexibility allows for all parts of the opponents body as well as all parts of the foot/leg to be used as weapons.

This is a video of Bill “Superfoot” Wallace who was the Professional Karate Association’s middleweight belt holder.

Kicking in Mixed Martial Arts

Something that holds true in any venue of fighting competition is to not kick with the top of the foot. There are many little bones in the foot that can easily break. However striking with the shin provides a solid striking tool that is much less likely to break. A karate technique is to strike with the heel which can give a very tough surface to strike with.

Leg kicks can be a very useful weapon in a mixed martial arts fight. Its a tactical move to wear down the enemy’s base. Kicks to the body can also wear down an opponent by attacking his ribs, or with a well placed front kick, or teap kick, the solar plexus to stun the opponent.

Flexibility is really the key to kicking effectively. With more flexibility you can achieve more power from roundhouse type kicks by getting more rotation. However flexibility also gives your kicking knockout ability as well. If you can easily kick at the level of an opponent’s head/face then that gives you a powerful knockout strike to add to your arsenal.

Should You Get Your Kids into Martial Arts

These kids definitely chose to practice at a martial arts school

Every parent seems to look for sports to get their children interested in because it definitely leaves lasting impressions on you competing in sports as a kid. So why not try getting them interested in a kids martial arts school. The traditional martial arts like judo, taekwondo, karate, aikido, jiu jitsu, etc. all instill the same basic values and discipline. And this school does not have to comprise of sending your child off under the tutelage of some Mr. Miyagi   Martial arts are a great activity to get kids into even at a young age.

Attitude Adjustment

Most parents would love to set their kids straightened out, either through some at home punishment or perhaps even military school. However getting kids involved in martial arts classes at an early age can teach them a great deal of self discipline and self control. This comes from the very structured learning environment of a martial arts school. The sensei’s commands and teaching style teach children to listen to and respect authority figures as well

Children with ADD and ADHD can also benefit from practicing the martial arts. Many parents are reluctant to give their children pills that they don’t need and this could be a good alternative. The structured environment and the mind and body discipline taught by these types of martial arts can be very beneficial in helping focus and concentration.

Keeping Kids Healthy and Safe

One big issue lately has been the rise in obesity in Americans. Diet is one way of controlling this issue but excessive is essential to keep in shape as well. Adult martial arts classes are more fitness oriented, usually because it is more competition oriented as well. Children’s martial arts classes help them develop their muscles at a steady pace and doesn’t overwork them either.

Also Kids tend to be clumsy, they’re kids its what they’re good at. Getting them started of in martial arts as a child can teach them balance and help develop the muscles used for it. Also simple things like learning how to fall properly and reacting instead of shying away can help avoid injuries in everyday activities.

Self-esteem is also very important for a child to have. The individual attention and friendly competition between peers can help a child gain his/her self-esteem. In addition to this, The children are always taught discipline and self-control first and foremost in the martial arts. This self discipline helps children learn to keep their emotions in check and become more humble and more altruistic.

Self-Defense

Another important aspect of children taking mixed martial arts classes is the self-defense learned. This might only be of menial importance at really young ages and only come in handy durring school yard shenanigans. However if he/she likes it and wants to stick with it until they’re older they can learn some practical self defense techniques. Even the general knowledge of the martial art from childhood combined with a grown body can help a lot.

For a local children’s martial arts school in Rhode Island Click HERE

Wrestling

An Olympic Wrestler performing a throw on his opponent

Almost everybody knows about the sport of wrestling whether they competed themselves in high school or college or they watch events on television. What people don’t know is that wrestling is one of the oldest sports being practiced in various forms around the world for thousands of years. One of the most prominent examples of ancient wrestling was performed at the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece, though this was a much more brutal form of competition.

Today different forms of amateur wrestling competitions are held across the world and the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Style (FILA) regulates most of these competitions. For a wealth of information and news on amateur wrestling styles and rules visit FILA’s home site here

Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are some of the most popular versions of this sport practiced and are the only types of wrestling in the modern Olympic Games Along with these very widespread wrestling styles there are other international wrestling disciplines such as combat grappling, pankration, and oil wrestling are all practiced as well. There are also folk-wrestling styles which are classified by their native influences and do not have international ties. American collegiate wrestling is considered a folk-wrestling style but is similar to freestyle wrestling.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

This wrestling discipline has a very unique characteristic that separates it from other styles, there is no grabbing of the opponent below the waist or using the legs offense or deffense. In addition to this there is also an emphasis on throws and slams in this discipline while pinning the opponent is a secondary concern once they are slammed to the ground. This style is very explosive and power oriented because of the fact that you cant grab the legs or use them on the opponent, which makes it a very fun sport to watch and participate in.

Here is a video of Alexander Karelin who is considered one of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers of all time

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfDDXpjFtP0

Freestyle Wrestling

Freestyle wrestling is probably the most widespread type of wrestling practiced. The main goal of this style of wrestling is to throw the opponent to the ground and pin him. Because there are no restrictions on grabbing the opponent below the waist, along with the implementation of many techniques from other martial arts disciplines, freestyle wrestling is considered the most complete style of wrestling. It requires more finesse, strength, and quickness than the Greco-Roman style of wrestling.

American Collegiate Wrestling

American Collegiate wrestling is very similar to freestyle wrestling, however there are a few fine points which separate the two styles. The differences come from the folk-wrestling influence of the american collegiate wrestling. These differences include a focus on pining and controlling the opponent instead of throwing and slamming him along with differences in scoring and starting positions.

Other Wrestling Styles

Beach wrestling, grappling, Pankration and mixed martial arts are also styles of wrestling that FILA oversees around the world. Beach wrestling is a type of wrestling adopted by FILA in 2004 which takes place in a sandy arena and its participants try to throw their opponents to their back or out of the ring. Grappling tournaments are practiced as well and are separated from more traditional wrestling styles because of their emphasis on submissions over pinning the opponent.

Pankration has its roots in the ancient Olympic wrestling games. This is essentially an ancient form of mixed martial arts which combined strikes, wrestling, and submissions and lacking in rules. While the modern form of amateur pankration is a much more civilized sport, with safety actually being a concern, it is still a very powerful style of fighting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFalVVlgZ8Q

The Martial Art of Taekwondo

Taekwondo do is a korean martial art that was developed around the 1940s and 1950s after World War II and durring the Korean War. It has its roots in traditional korean martial arts that were practiced in ancient korea by warriors training for combat. It was developed as a modern day combat training and gained popularity in the 1960s when the International Taekwondo Federation was established. It was recently added into the Olympic Games in the 2000 olympics as well.

Basic Concepts

Taekwondo is a striking oriented martial art which is known for its kicking techniques under the presumption that the leg is the strongest weapon on the body. It also puts emphasis on speed, precision, and balance durring striking rather than pure strength.

Also having its roots in traditional asian martial arts Taekwondo practices relaxation and mediation along with breathing techniques to maintain balance and focus. Also there is a focus on mental discipline, a sense of justice, and self-confidence which are all meant to provide mental training along with the physical, conquering mind and body.

Stances

Stances are the foundation of this martial art and provide its users with a versatile striking arsenal.  There are numerous stances which can be used each with its own advantages and disadvantages allowing for different kinds of strikes or blocks. A variety of stances are practiced by a taekwondo student allowing him to be comfortable striking from anywhere. For a list of various stances click here.

Punches or Hand Strikes

Taekwondo teaches a variety of hand striking techniques, some more oriented towards regular punching and some more irregular and precise strikes. A very powerful knockout punch taught in this martial art is the spinning back fist. Although they are banned in  lot of taekwondo competitions they are legal in mixed martial arts and have been used in the highest level of competition as a strong, unexpected knockout blow.

There are also specialized strikes like the knife fist which is a karate chop like strike, the fingertips are used fo pressure point strikes, and open palm strikes are taught too. There are also the more powerful eagle strike which is an upward wrist strike to the bottom of the jaw and the tiger claw which is generally a neck strike.

Kicking Techniques

Kicking techniques taught in taekwondo are extremely well known for their combined speed and power At first the basic kicks are taught then spins and combinations are learned from there. These kicks become extremely fast and precise in the hands of an expert taekwondo user. Simply explaining these kicks wouldnt do them justice but this video should be able to do a better job

Breaking Things

A taekwondo practitioner uses a hand strike to crack a brick.

As a martial art taekwondo also focuses on the art of breaking inanimate objects to demonstrate the strength, accuracy, and speed of their striking techniques. The objects broken depend on the technique being implied to break them but include boards, ice, bats, and bricks. There are also speed breaking or power breaking for practicing different techniques. This practice of breaking objects is necessary because practicing full power strikes like these could easily injure an opponent in any fighting situation. Therefor this practice proves to be necessary as well as demonstrative of this martial art’s power.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A martial art that has gained much more notoriety in the past years is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This martial art focusses on taking an opponent to the ground and attacking him using joint locks and choke holds. It was started in the early 20th century by a Japanese man who imigrated to brazil and pioneered as its own martial art by his early disciples.

BJJ has its roots in judo because of the Japanese master’s own roots. However it was developed further and into its own martial art from the early user’s competing and learning as they went along. BJJ also incorporates moves from other martial arts that are effective as well. In addition to its relative youth compared to other long standing tradition martial arts, BJJ differs from traditional martial arts by being a sport and a way to simply improve fitness rather than just a systern of fighting.

Uniform

Brazilian jiu jitsu traditional gi

The traditional practitioners of BJJ wear a gi made of heavy cotton. This gi gives the opportunity to provide paces to grasp and opponent and a tool to choke him out with. The belt is used to secure the gi and signify rank similar to many traditional japanese martial arts. In recent times no-gi BJJ has become more popular, especially with those competing in mixed martial arts and those just seeking the exercise, where just fighting shorts and possibly a shirt are worn.

Fighting Style

The main advantage of BJJ lies int he fact that a smaller opponent, with the correct technique, can defeat even larger opponents. This also takes into account that a larger opponent will generally seek to  use striking to take down an opponent and will not focus on his ground game as much. Also when grappling a larger opponents strength can be negated by an experienced grappler. This is achieved by using leverage and getting in positions where the mechanical advantage is such that no amount of strength can break through the experienced grappler’s advances.

The way BJJ seeks to end a fight is through joint-locks and chokeholds. Joint-locks focusing on bending body parts the way they shouldn’t be to cause pain and, if used for real self defense situations, broken bones or torn connecting tissue. And of course chokeholds used to knock out your opponent through lack of oxygen or blood to the brain.

For a whole bunch of basic BJJ techniques click here

Ground Supperiority

BJJ almost exclusively focusses on fighting on the ground. This is much different from other fighting styles which either exclusively  focus on striking from a stand up position or split time between a ground game and a takedown game. This almost exclusive ground training gives a BJJ fighter a great opportunity to train himself to become a dominating force on the ground.

A great BJJ user will be comfortable in any situation you place them in on the ground. Realistically though he will simply work his way to a position he wants to be in and finish you off from there, or at the first mistake you make before he gets there. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a platform in recent years to form a dominating ground game and control a fight, hopefully leading one’s self ending up in the winner’s chair but even a loss can be used to better one’s self.

MIxed Martial Arts for a Real Warrior

An instructor at Quantico demonstrating a disarming technique

Mixed martial arts can go beyond the realm of fighting in the ring. The marine corps has developed their own system of mixed martial arts, marine core martial arts program (MCMAP), to combat enemy forces in close quarter combat. This particular martial art covers many aspects of engagement because a marine has to be prepared for every type of situation possible.

One aspect of this fighting technique that sets it apart form others used in traditional MMA is the use of weapons and lethal force. This is because on the battlefield or in a real situation there are no rules and everything must be acounted for. However this fighting style teaches many non-lethal techniques in addition to the last resort lethal ones.

History

The MCMAP was implemented in the year 2000 by General James L. Jones the commandant of the marine corps. Being a Vietnam veteran he was inspired by the way South Korean marines were all black belts in tae kwon do. Therefor now all marines are required to earn a tan belt in the MCMAP.

Also in today’s modern warfare setting some marines are not engaged in direct combat. However the marines pride themselves on the fact that every member is a trained killer. The MCMAP is one way the marines keep every member in prime condition for combat, physically as well as mentally.

Training and Belt System

The training regiment for a marine in the MCMAP is, not surprisingly, extremely intense. The marines train with a monk like zeal; performing drills and tasks that would seam impossible to the average person, and then starting their training on technique. This type of training is for the soldiers benefit though because in real warfare one needs to be able to perform these fighting techniques in any condition.

This martial art also has its own system of belts. Every marine has to earn the most basic tan belt. However they are able and encouraged to keep training to earn gray, green, brown, and then black belts as well. There has been an entire MCMAP handbook written describing all fo the techniques of the art.

Non-Lethal Training

Of course the MCMAP focuses on real life situations for a warrior, but every engagement does not mean a lethal outcome. This martial art includes many types of chokes and locks that can be used to restrain  an adversary as well as basic and advanced striking techniques. These tactics are taught, and encouraged to be used in today’s military engagements especially, because who the enemy is is no longer an obvious decision to make.

Another aspect of the MCMAP that is stressed is the mental discipline. This includes teamwork drills and drills designed to break the warriors down. In addition to this though there is required reading to teach the marine about the past warrior cultures and spirit in the hope they will understand and embody this spirit themselves.

Lethal Martial Art

The MCMAP does also focus on many techniques that can be used in real war scenarios. The MCMAP teaches techniques for quickly and effectively incapacitating an enemy. These techniques include everything from knife fighting to bayonet training to eye gouging and pressure point attacks, because all if fair in love and war.

A Marine trained in the MCMAP is ready for any situation. The advanced techniques taught include disarming an enemy of a gun or knife. Once disarmed an enemy can be dealt with by using precise striking techniques or, more realistically, by knife or bayonet strikes. Of course this is their last resort, a rifle being their main way of delivering punishment. However it is a necessary part of the training of the elite fighting force known as the United States Marine Corps.