How Not to Get Hit

The concept of being able to submit an opponent rather than just beat him to a knock out was all the rage when mixed marital arts hit the main stream. However that does mean that getting knocked out is not a serious concern for a fighter as well. There are many defensive styles that are seen by different fighters, each offering its advantages and disadvantages.

Is There a Correct Defensive Stance?

Get a little creative with a tai chi stance

Get a little creative with a tai chi stance?

The short answer is no, there are so many styles and variations in this sport that there cannot be one “correct” way to do anything really. However, there are certainly some basics of a defensive stance that remain true throughout many different styles.

The basic idea of a good defensive stance should be obvious, protecting the vital areas, i.e. your head and ribs. The first step is to always keep your chin tucked into your chest; the quickest way to get knocked out is to catch that one clean punch to the jaw. Your hands should be kept up at all times as well, with your fists near chin level to protect it and your face from strikes. Your elbows are kept in towards your sides to protect your ribs from body strikes.

As a fighter grows and progresses he tailors his style to his own strengths and comfort. Lowering the hands provides more striking speed and uses less energy whilst giving up protection. On the other end of the spectrum, keeping your hands higher, towards your temple, gives you better defense while sacrificing some quickness.

Good Offense

Its an old adage that the best defense is a good offense, and this can apply to a mixed martial arts style as well. It will be awfully hard for your opponent to hit you if you are constantly on the offensive and he needs to worry about his own self-preservation rather than attacking.

This can be effective especially against very aggressive fighters. The idea is to take the opponent out of his comfort zone and make him fight on your terms, not his. Someone that is used to being on the offensive, and planning on being on the offensive, can get flustered with an unexpected offensive push.

Bob and Weave Baby

Another defense against striking in mixed martial arts is to avoid getting hit all together by dodging punches. Now this sounds extremely easy, and really pretty obvious, but it is a lot harder to do in real life. There are two advantages of using this style of defense, one you are not getting hit at all (in an ideal situation) and two it gives great opportunities for a  counter strike

This style of defense takes extreme athleticism and conditioning. Being able to time and dodge an opponent’s strikes takes a lot of training and experience; and a serious pair of cojones in some cases because potential knockout punches can be very close to landing. This style uses a lot more energy than blocking punches as well because of the constant movement. In addition if your conditioning is sub-par and you utilize this style, when you get tired and your timing starts to slip up it could be disastrous for you.

However this movement allows for the potential counter punch as well. After missing a punch your opponent will have one side of his body unprotected and may be slightly off balance. Using your dodging motion effectively is the key to effective counter striking. As you slip a punch you also load your body up to explode into the counter punch, hopefully ending in a clean strike.

The best example of this style of fighting can be seen in Anderson Silva. He is so good at this he makes his opponents look like fools when they try to hit him and then he can quickly land a knockout blow of his own. He uses expert timing, positioning, technique, and Badass-ness to do this so trying what he does is not recommended for the glass jawed. Here is a video of Silva explaining some technique.


The Devastating Leg Kick

Urijah Faber's leg after taking some devastating leg kicks from Jose Aldo

Urijah Faber’s leg after taking some devastating leg kicks from Jose Aldo

Getting kicked in the legs is never fun, but in a fight it can be very harmful to let it go unchecked. There are many different things that leg kicks can do, all of which are detrimental. First of all your legs are your base, without your base you will crumble, simple as that. Powerful leg kicks can knock you off balance and lead to takedowns or knockouts. 

Leg kicks don’t have to have a knockout outcome to be effective either. Leg kicks cause serious pain to and eventually, after accumulating over multiple strikes, can seriously slow down the receiver. This can mean slower movement around the ring and slower reaction speed to strikes. In addition to this your striking power and explosiveness take a blow as well, no pun intended, because these attributes all derive their power from the legs.

Now Defending against the Kick

Defending against the leg kick involves not allowing your opponent to kick your thigh while maintaining your balance to be prepared for counters or follow up strikes. One thing to take heed of is that if you lean or step into the kick it will not have nearly as much power behind it. This can also give opportunities to grab the leg for possible takedowns. 

The Basic Leg Kick defense is a simple block that protects the whole side of your body. On the side of the body where your opponent kicks,you raise your knee up. At the same time you bring your elbow, on the same side, down to your thigh. This effectively blocks off your whole side from the opponent’s kick. The leg that is planted needs to be kept bent as well, to absorb impact and keep balance while you take the kick.

The elbow can block an attempted body kick that you misread, a misplaced leg kick, etc. However if it is a well aimed leg kick, it will connect somewhere around your shin. You can keep your lower leg loose and “catch” the kick near your foot, or take the kick higher by your knee. Getting kicked right in the shin is not optimal but is not the worst thing.

There is a derivation of this defense referred to as the Knee Block defense. Instead of keeping the block compact, your leg is put more outward and your knee, or very top of the shin, is specifically used to block the strike. This protects your body less but is a more pointed defense that can hurt your opponent more and leaves more opportunities for counter strikes.

Leg Kick Counters

Countering the leg kick can be a very useful technique to keep in your arsenal. Leg kicks are usually thrown quickly, but a quicker counter strike can catch your opponent very off guard.

One very effective counter, ironically  is a counter leg kick. When using the basic leg kick defense or a knee block defense your opponent gets stuck on one leg while kicking and replacing his that leg on the ground. By kicking this leg out you can easily bring your opponent tumbling down to the ground. Also you can use a caught leg to perform a quick crumble takedown. For some specifics on these counters to the leg kick CLICK HERE.z

Striking in Combination

It is no surprise that you can’t just throw a punch randomly and expect to hit a skilled opponent. Of course those one shot knockouts have their place and can be deadly if you catch the opponent by surprise. But realistically you can’t rely on that in every fight.

Combination strikes can be used to strike much more effectively. By stringing together certain punches, and not even necessarily landing all the strikes, you can put yourself in a better position for the next hit and  connect clean. This also allows you to generate more power and be more agile in the ring and be less able to be hit by flowing from strike to strike 

Body Shot Combinations

nobody gets that open of a body shot without setting it up with a combo

Combination punches can really help to open up the body for strikes. This also helps because when striking the body you are in close and vulnerable. In addition to this, by setting up the opponent for the body shots with other punches first you can put the opponent in the worst possible position for him for the strike you are about to throw.

By throwing punches at the opponent’s head or face you can make him have to honor your strikes and block. This is the general idea behind the set up for the body strikes because it takes the opponent’s arms away from his ribs.

By striking in succession you can flow with the strikes to load up and generate more power for the final blow at the end of the combination. This can especially be seen in the overhand right combination in the video below. Not only does it put the opponent in a bad spot to strike himself or avoid a strike but it naturally swings your body into the perfect load up for a powerful body hook.

Multi-Strike Combinations

The body shot combinations shown above consisted of two strike combinations. However using many strikes in combination can serve to really keep the opponent on his heels. Although more practice and know how is also needed to know how to flow to what punch next.  Not every strike has to be a knockout punch either. In MMA even quick, less powerful, strikes can do good damage and with the volume of punches in the combination there is a good chance to get the upper hand on your opponent.

However by striking in fluid combinations like this you can generate a lot of power for your final shot. A quick strike  can stun the opponent long enough to follow up with a power strike for a knockout blow. Depending on how many strikes you decide to throw this can be a very good depiction of the saying, “the best defense is a good offense”. 

Combinations With Kicks

Striking combinations do not always have to exclusively consist of punches. Combinations that include kicks can be tremendously effective as well. Strikes to the face can get the opponents arms to block high as well and leave the opponent’s body open for quick powerful kicks. Also a kick can be used to open up a striking combination to stun the opponent before moving in for close range punches, elbows, or knees. For some examples and explanations of striking combinations including kicks CLICK HERE

Or just watch Anderson Silva perform a quick kick combination of his.

Final Word

My motto for striking combinations is “work smart not hard”. You could try and go out there and brute your way through a striking fight. However if you want to pick the opponent apart and not give him opportunities to strike back using effective striking combinations is key.

There are a lot of combinations out there to learn that are great for specific  fighters because the combinations suit a particular fighter’s style. However there is no substitute for some good old trial and error and practice in the ring. You know your own strengths and weaknesses and what combinations feel right, and with enough practice you could start to develop some combinations of your own.




What is Normal?

A superman punch can catch your opponent guessing. hopefully guessing wrong.

Unorthodox really just means straying from the norm. So in mixed martial arts striking what is considered to be an unorthodox strike. For my purposes an unorthodox strike is essentially anything that when you see the first thing that comes to mind is along the lines of, “damn didn’t see that coming.”

Striking is obviously a great way to end a fight is you have the power in your strikes to knockout the opponent. However sometimes a straight forward charge is not the best idea because your opponent is blocking/dodging your strikes or he is countering them because you are so predictable. By mixing up the pot a little bit and adding variety to your striking package you can surprise.and hopefully land strikes on your opponent

The Strikes

Sometimes your regular punch and kick combinations just wont scratch the surface of an opponent. Whether he is too quick or too defensive, throwing ineffective strikes is just a waste of energy. However maybe try mixing up your striking game by implementing some that catch your opponent so off guard that they cant dodge or defend against it.

To name a few unorthodox strikes that are seen more commonly seen (oxymoronic i know) there are things like the spinning back fist/back elbow, The superman punch, the flying knee, spinning kicks, and other moves that involve unpredictability and speed. These strikes are seen pretty often watching professional mixed martial arts and when they are landed it is easy to see a quick unexpected strike’s results on the opponent.

Why Are They So Effective

It is basic knowledge that in a fight you generally want to stay balanced and on your feet to have as much control over yourself as possible. That is why it probably isn’t smart for someone to just throw a tornado kick and expect it to be effective. To effectively strike unpredictably it looks like your out of control but in reality you are in complete control, controlled chaos. Striking like this takes practice and training not just blind luck.

There are really two main advantages given by this kind of striking. First is the fact that a lot of them increase the power of your strike. and type of spinning strike adds a bunch of rotational kinetic energy to the strike making it much more effective. This is especially the case for types of spinning kicks because the length of the leg leads to even greater speeds during rotation.

Secondly there is the element of surprise  You become much less predictable if you start spinning around instead of standing still in front of your opponent. There are ways to make your opponent give himself up for a strike as well. For example, if an opponent is being very defensive a superman punch might be the move that drops his guard for just long enough to get the punch to connect.

You tell me if this kid saw the power of this kick coming

I mean i clearly saw this flying knee coming when it happened i don’t know how this guy didn’t…

Are We Sure?

Unorthodox is a relative term. What might be abnormal for one form of competition might not be all that ridiculous to another. In karate and taekwondo many of strikes thrown probably look unorthodox to most people. However the effectiveness of an unexpected strike remains pretty consistent if it lands on the opponent, because usually you cant block what you didn’t see coming. But practicing and knowing when to throw an unorthodox strike can be a useful weapon in your arsenal.


The Deadly Uppercut

Kimbo Slice knows how to land the uppercut do you?

In boxing or mixed martial arts the uppercut is a very strong and quick punch that can be thrown. It is a very short range attack and relies on more upward movement of the body rather than rotational. This is a great punch for shorter stockier fighters who seek to come inside the reach of an opponent and then strike him. It is also a lethal strike if used as a well timed counter when your opponent’s chin is open.

There are two variations to this punch, the rear and lead uppercut. As with most other strikes the rear variation is slower and more powerful while the lead is quicker but sacrifices power. Also unlike a hook or a cross there is really no rotational power but instead the force is generated by the quads, core muscles in the back, and shoulder muscles thrusting the striking hand upwards.

This video demonstrates mostly the lead uppercut but CLICK HERE to see how to better utilize the rear uppercut

Knockout Power

That video is a perfect example of what they tell you not to do when throwing an uppercut, drop your blocking arm and wind up slowly, but he go away with it so I have to give that to him. However this video also points towards the knockout power of the uppercut. It is a strike designed to be a quick decider in a fight.

The fact that the uppercut delivers the explosive power of your legs and back is why it carries the knockout power that it does. Also the angle of the strike is a factor in this. The upwards angle is perfect for striking the jaw which is the money zone for knockouts. Also if the opponent is guarding his face a lot because he cant handle your punches you could sneak an uppercut through his guard and catch his jaw.

When Can You Strike

Throwing errant uppercuts is not a very good idea. You need to be in pretty close proximity to the opponent to hit him with one. On the flip side this means your well within his striking range as well, and that is why timing is very important.

Having your opponent up against the cage in a mixed martial arts fight or the ropes in a boxing fight are good times to throw an uppercut. In this position your opponent cannot back away to dodge so you can work a very close quarters striking game and utilize the uppercut. Also as previously mentioned you can, if your lucky, sneak an uppercut through someones guard when they’re unprepared.

Also the uppercut can be used as a counter strike. The link earlier in the post goes into using the rear hook as a counter strike and combo strike. When the opponent strikes he naturally moves closer to you. Or if the opponent tries to duck underneath your strikes he puts his face in an ideal spot to be tagged with an uppercut. The rear uppercut is especially useful in this situation because if executed properly the counter gives you the time you need for the slower more powerful strike; hopefully knocking out your opponent in the process.

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.

This Is Sparta

There is no better example of a well timed teep kick than by King Leonidas in the movie 300.

Although he looked cool doing it, it is of course not a very good technical representation of the strike. The teep kick, or thrust kick is a surprisingly versatile strike to add to your arsenal. It is also a good kick for powerful fighters with shorter stockier legs who aren’t going to be throwing any ridiculous kung fu kicking combos. A teep kick also has variations which make it an offensive as well as a defensive strike.

A more traditional kick involves a lot of hip rotation and rotational speed to generate power. A teep kick however is very different and involves a more of a straight shot style. The power is generated from the quad of the kicking foot as well as thrusting the whole body forward towards the opponent through the hips. This puts the force of the whole body into the kick. There are three main variations of the teep kick as well which are all very similar. Those along with the basics of the teep kick are explained in this video

Lead Teep Kick

A lead teep kick is generally a very defensive strike. It can be executed quickly and with a good amount of power. It is generally used to keep thee opponent away from you when he moves in close. Almost like a jab but in kicking form. This can also be used as a quick body shot to wear down the opponent.

Rear Teep Kick

What a left jab is to a lead teep kick a straight right is to rear teep kick. This strike can generate more power than a lead teep making it a more effective offensive weapon. Staying on the balls of your feet and leaning into the opponent is especially important for this strike. The greter transfer of weight in the rear teep kick is what leads to the increase in power.

This strike can be extremely powerful but is kind of slow and is a pointed strike that could be easily dodged by a quick moving opponent on his toes. Also this strike can be a very powerful body strike if it connects with the right spot on the body. Directly under the ribs in the center of the torse there is a spot called the solar plexus. This is a nerve center that controls breathing and such. If struck with enough force it causes muscle spasms which interrupt breathing temporarily.

Lean Teep Kick

A leaning teep kick is a longer range strike but similar in usage to a lead teep kick.  It is a quick strike which can be performed with either the lead or rear foot, the lead being quicker and the rear being more powerful. The strike is good for keeping an opponent at a good distance from you if he has a long reach or kickboxing skills.

Also because you natrualy lean back durring this kick it takes you out of punching range. This gives the opportunity for a quick counterstrike to the body. However the right technique is needed because if you are not effectively out of the oppoenents punching range the engagement could end bad for you.

Dont Miss

A teep kick is not an all powerful move, it can be blocked and it can be countered. The video below shows examples of counters to the teep kick. An opponent that is prepared for it can lean into you so the kick does not gain as much power and slide off the kick or hold the foot. Imagine an overhand right  following up a failed teep kick attempt that renders you defenseless.