Tag Archives: Kickboxing

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 10 • Yin ☯ Yang of Burden vs. Privilege

Exercising is hard. Different sports introduce their own challenges and levels of difficulty while balancing strength and conditioning. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is unique in that the whole body needs to be developed from head to toe. MMA not only requires physical strength but also aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

I tell a new student at the beginning of their first workout:

“One of two things will happen at the end of this workout.
You will say to yourself;
‘That was incredibly hard, and I never want to do that again”, or;
“That was incredibly hard but for some reason, I want to do that again'”.

Over the years I’ve found that very few students say the latter. I believe it’s due to the secretion of dopamine from exercise that brings a feeling of fulfillment, rather than suffering. Training at Ferus Fitness Fight Club is quite unique compared to other clubs in Prague. Attention is given to focusing on strength, conditioning, and fighting basics. Proper technique is taught from day-one to minimize bad habits that are hard to break. Students need a foundation from which to build their skills.

In today’s internet age, patience and time are in short supply.

Today’s millennials have a tough time learning the basics because it takes a lot of patience and time. Younger generations typically see exercise as a chore – a duty requested by parents, teachers, or coaches. They don’t realize they are investing in their well-being. In contrast, teachers have a difficult task to convert burden into joy. Competition plays a strong role in a student’s fulfillment because winning brings a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Pain from training is masked by the theater of competition. But it also causes some students to bypass training altogether, solely in favor of the competitive adrenaline. If that happens, their longevity is shortlived by others willing to invest the time to hone their skills.

When you’re a child, exercise is a burden.
When you’re an adult, training is a privilege.

As we get older, time seems to shorten. Work, family, and obligations take time and energy. Allocating resources to exercise is challenging. I often hear, “I don’t have time to exercise”. When I hear this, then I ask, “What is your entertainment? Do you watch television, for example?” Are the hours spent on various forms of entertainment the best allocation of time? One person’s entertainment is another person’s waste of time. One could argue that any form of entertainment is a waste of time. Any uni-directional flow of information is passive, whereby learning is interactive. Exercise, reading, and training are bi-directional interactions. Certainly, there needs to be a balance, and finding it may be difficult. Awareness and recognition are the first steps in the journey of finding this balance.

There are no shortcuts to getting in shape. “No Pain, No Gain” may be old school, but shortcuts are typically scams or don’t return the outrageous results advertised. Sure, we should train smart. But no matter how you cut it, there will always be pain.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 9 • Yin ☯ Yang of Threes

3 weeks without food
3 days without water
3 minutes without air
3 seconds without blood

I often quote these rules as a preamble to teaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) moves. The first two are not particularly relevant to an MMA lesson. The main focus is on the last two whereby its context lies in the effectiveness of BJJ chokes.

When performing a choke, if the esophagus is cut-off then an opponent has up to three minutes of air before they pass out. These are generalizations, and in heightened stress and panic, then blackout may occur earlier. A fighter’s pain threshold also plays a big role. But if the choke cuts off the carotid artery of the opponent, then blood to the brain is severed and the opponent will blackout in as little as three seconds.

Important Note:
This is particularly dangerous to practice, because it may result in an unintentional fatality. Such techniques should only be practiced with an experienced BJJ instructor.

Fighting is about survival. Tactics and strategies in fighting can translate to business meetings, contract disputes, or competitive sports. No matter the value of a business deal, negotiations always comes down to people. Understanding your opponent’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses are essential in gaining the upper hand. But just as important is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses in these same situations.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 8 • Yin ☯ Yang of Fear vs. Confidence

Aside from technique, one of the most difficult aspects to combat is overcoming fear. Fear is incredibly debilitating because it limits the student from achieving their maximum potential. A lot of positives can be derived from the human survival instinct, but in combat sports, the following reactions create weaknesses:

Fear in a combat situation results in:
Closing eyes,
Holding breath,
and Tensing muscles.

Recognizing these three manifestations is the first step in mitigating them:

  • A fighter’s instinctive reaction to an attack is to close their eyes. But this means they can’t see where the attack is originating. When their eyes are open, at a minimum they have a better chance of reacting to an attack and protecting themselves. The most damage typically occurs when an attack is unexpected.
  • Students also have a bad habit of holding their breath at the intersection of an attack. This has a compounding effect if the student also holds their breath when they are attacking. This occurs because the body is instinctively reacting to a physically stressful situation. But the result is debilitating. I tell students that they will exhaust themselves four times faster by holding their breath because muscles are being deprived of oxygen. By remaining calm, breathing can be controlled, and a steady flow of oxygen can be maintained throughout a match.
  • The third problem is what I call the “balloon effect”. This happens when a student tenses their muscles and holds their breath when getting hit. By freezing their body the student is unable to react to an opponent’s attack, nor execute an effective counter-attack. Tensing is also painful because the body is forced to absorb the force of the punch into surrounding muscles, organs, and bones. Fighters need to learn to breathe out when they get hit. This helps by releasing some of the attack’s energy.

The fighter who blinks less sees more.

Proper technique requires confidence. This means opened eyes to see and react to all the nuances of an opponent. Controlled breathing is needed, both when being attacked and when attacking. Finally, fighters are most effective when they are relaxed. This doesn’t mean being relaxed 100% of the time. Rather to tense muscles only when called for – such as in the last milliseconds of an explosive attack.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 7 • Yin ☯ Yang of Perception vs. Reality

Fighting is a balance of reality versus perception. A fighter’s reality evolves around their skills, experience, and mental strength – often called a fighter’s “heart”. Where does perception play a role?

It’s often said that “fights are lost before they begin”. This is because the fighter’s perception of the opponent overshadows the reality of their fighting abilities. For example, a fighter may have a muscular frame but may have never fought in their life. If a fighter is intimidated by such an opponent they won’t perform at their full potential.

Students typically misinterpret the “size” of an attack as being much larger than its reality. For example, they try to avoid a fist by slipping or ducking, with a movement that far exceeds the dimensions of the attack. For example, they treat a 10cm fist as 50cm so their countermeasure wastes a lot of energy to avoid a perceived 50cm attack.

Why is this happening? This extravagant countermeasure comes down to fear. The student is fearful of the attack, thus takes unnecessary measures to avoid it. The focus in class is to teach students to first be aware of their own fear, and then to suppress it. If they are successful then their technique is reduced to the most basic movements.

Minimizing movement is part of a fighter’s portfolio.
The efficient output of energy results in faster countermeasures.

Fighting is about confidence.  An inexperienced fighter may be manipulated by their opponent into believing they are weaker or less skilled. Confidence brings out the best in the fighter’s skills. In contrast, insecurity suppresses a fighter’s skill. An opponent may use psychological tactics by trying to inflate their opponent’s fear, to win a fight, even before it begins.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Sometimes an unassuming opponent is an experienced fighter.

A similar dynamic of perception and reality plays out in training. Students sparring with their trainer will initially be intimidated by their instructor. But sometimes the reverse happens, where the trainer may take it easy on the student. Suddenly the student feels the two are more closely matched. The reality is that the trainer may be fighting at 20% their potential but the student is fighting at 80%. I call this scenario “a false sense of dominance” when a teacher spars with teaching in mind, but the student is fighting to win.

Trainers should never view their students as opponents.
Students should never view their trainers as rivals.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 6 • Yin ☯ Yang of Slow vs. Fast

Students initially associate light sparring to mean “slow-motion”, and hard sparring to mean “fast”. But that’s should not be the case. Slow motion striking is not effective, because it’s not reflective of a real combat situation. Student’s need to learn “fast-and-light” sparring. This means learning how to “pull punches” – a technique where speed can be at an optimal level but before connecting to the opponent, the attack is dissipated (or attenuated) at the last millisecond. With this approach, realistic reactionary measures can be practiced, without hurting your opponent.

Fighting has the rhythm of dancing,
yet requires the absence of rhythm.

Students also make the mistake of taking turns when sparring, meaning that when one attacks the other defends – then they switch. Rhythm is an asset and a threat. A sparring match has a tendency takes on a predictive ping-pong of attack/defend and defend/attack. But this is also not realistic. Taking turns is a form of rhythm that a good fighter will seek to break. A good fighter will break the rhythm of an opponent to confuse them. In contrast, a fighter is at a big disadvantage if they don’t understand the rhythm of their opponent.

Often the best opportunity to counter-attack is when an opponent is attacking. This is an “attack when being attacked” approach, and is effective because at the moment they are attacking, the opponent is most exposed. For instance, a left jab from an opponent means their left side of their head is no longer being protected. Only their right hand is available to block a counter-attack. When a fighter is committing to an attack, it leaves them vulnerable. With the right timing and anticipation, the exposed side of the opponent can be exploited.

When facing an opponent with a strong guard (i.e. their head is well protected with a stable stance), fakes and faints can be used to create openings. This causes the opponent to defend, move or strike, which creates new opportunities and vulnerabilities.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 5 • Yin ☯ Yang of Empty vs. Full Cups

Entering a new dojo or training facility requires humility and respect. Maybe the instructor is young or small in stature – don’t judge a book by its cover. You are a guest in their gym. Respecting a new gym requires courage and confidence. You are admitting to everyone that you don’t know something, but are willing to spend the time and effort to listen and learn.

Learning is about checking your ego at the door.
What kind of student are you?

There are three types of students:

  • Empty-Cups • These are students who have the complete courage to enter a new facility and learn a new craft. They want to learn new techniques and new degrees of freedom. They ware willing to have the instructor fill their cup with knowledge and experience. These students are the easiest to teach because they absorb information like a sponge. Techniques they learn are not only be adopted for that session but will be treated as their personal “laws” to be adopted as part of their training repertoire  – from that point onward.
  • Full-Cups • At the opposite end of the spectrum are students who enter a new gym with big egos, or their personality is overshadowed by insecurity. They don’t have the courage or willingness to lower their guard and learn something new. Their cup may be full from another discipline or gym. So what is their motivation? Maybe they want to “fight-out” their daily frustrations on unsuspecting students, or prove their toughness in a new gym. Maybe they have low self-esteem and don’t have the confidence to lower their guard and admit they don’t know something. These students are the most challenging to teach because the artificial barriers they have created must be broken down first before teaching can begin.
  • Cups-with-Holes • These are students who listen to the instructor for a brief moment and forget or discount what you told them, once you leave. They don’t have the patience or interest to adopt a new technique for longer than the teacher is giving them attention. They treat the instructor’s guidance as temporary. This may be due to a lack of respect for the gym or instructor. Other times it may be due to not realizing that what they are being told is “law” that needs to be adopted from that day forward.

The best students are Empty-Cups – it is enough to tell them once, and the instructor’s mission is accomplished.

As an instructor, I try to understand the type of student standing across from me. If they are a Full-Cup student, my time is ill spent. If they are a Cup-with-Holes then I try to explain that what I am teaching is not temporary – it’s “law”. They should adopt that law from that point onward – at least until something better comes along. Cup-with-Holes students require a lot of patience because they need to be told repetitively what is correct before they finally realize the importance of what you are teaching them.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 4 • Yin ☯ Yang of Technique vs. Instinct

As discussed in last week’s post, combat training is about learning new degrees of freedom – adding new maneuvers or techniques that have never been tried before. But how to learn a new move well enough that it becomes natural or instinctive? Enter the 100-1000-10000 rule:
  • Mechanics If you do a technique 100 times you will understand its mechanics. Your brain will comprehend how to do it correctly, and why the movement is valuable.
  • Natural When you do a technique 1000 times it will become natural. This threshold is passed when the movement feels right in sparring. The movement becomes part of your combat portfolio.
  • Instinctive Once you do a maneuver 10000 times then it enters your subconscious. The movement can now be executed without thinking about it.

The 100-1000-10000 rule is fundamental to combat sports
and applies to the highest levels of professional fighting.

It’s important to clarify that these movements must be done correctly for it to successfully traverse the 100-1000-10000 evolution. Counting doesn’t begin until the technique is done correctly. Doing a maneuver incorrectly leads to bad habits that are hard to break.

If fighting requires surprise and spontaneity, why practice repetition? A fighter needs repetition in order for a new technique to enter the subconscious. Once that is achieved a fighter no longer needs to think of the technique because it’s apart of them. It’s as close to “instinctive behavior” as possibly achievable.

Instinctive maneuvers are the end-game because the moment a fighter “thinks” of performing an attack, defense, or anything in between – then telegraphing occurs and time is lost. An experienced fighter can exploit this delay. Reactionary measures in times of stress, emotion and chaos are worsened, if not completely lost. Practicing a move mitigates this weakness because the “thinking” component is removed from the fighting equation and the movement becomes instant.

Techniques are abandoned in the midst of chaos
and requires confidence and experience
to regain composure.

Repetition is a challenge for students, and especially taxing on millennials. In a one hour session, even 50 reps challenge the patience of students. Reaching 1000 requires grit, endurance, and resources that fall amongst the most dedicated. Striving for 10000 is reserved for the elite among us.

To finish off, it’s worth mentioning that the 100-1000-10000 rule can be easily applied to other disciplines – e.g. dancing, learning a musical instrument, software development to name a few examples, and can be a representation of time (100-1000-10000 hours) with the same effect.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 3 • Yin ☯ Yang of Fighting Styles

Each martial art has a set of pre-defined techniques. These are typically defined by the founder as a collection of traditional moves. In progressive styles, these techniques evolve over time.

I like to refer to a fighter’s portfolio of movements as “degrees of freedom“. New degrees of freedom adds to a student’s portfolio. For example, a boxer has two basic striking tools: their fists. Although limited in this regard, their degrees of freedom is vast. I’ll explain this in a moment. A kickboxer, on the other hand, is restricted to four striking tools: both fists and both feet. In Muay Thai, there are eight attack vectors – since elbows and knees are added. Kickboxers have twice as many striking tools as boxers, and Muay Thai practitioners have double yet again. In street fighting there are no limits – strikes may come from headbutts, foot stomps, and other nasty attacks. But degrees of freedom extend beyond a style’s striking tools.

Every combat sport can be broken down to a granular level of attack vectors, defensive moves, and maneuvers. Let’s say that a kickboxer has 100 degrees of freedom, meaning that they have 100 ways of moving, defending, and attacking. A boxer, on the other hand, may have 500 degrees of freedom. How is this possible when they have only two attack vectors? It’s because boxers learn to “dance”. They are experts in slipping, bobbing, weaving – in and out of range. A kickboxer learns how to play with distance, but doesn’t learn the intricacies of phone-booth fighting at such a granular level, compared to a boxer. For example, a Karate Ka learns forward, backward, and side to side movement, but doesn’t learn the hook (punch), nor do they learn to slip. Where a Karateka learns to block, a boxer prefers to slip because they consider blocking a waste of motion and adds delay to their counter-strike. For this reason, many martial artists facing boxers are confronted with movements completely foreign to them. For every maneuver, a boxer may know five to ten more. This gives the boxer much more latitude in how they dance in and out of their opponent’s range.

Each technique adds new degrees of freedom
to a fighter’s portfolio.

A boxer is well versed in “phone booth” fighting. In this close range, they are most powerful. But against a kickboxer, a boxer has challenges of their own, since they need to watch for foot attacks. In a confrontation, the kickboxer wants to maintain distance, while the boxer wants to slip into phone booth range. A boxer knows that in close range the kickboxer has few degrees of freedom, and this is a weakness they want to exploit. A good boxer can confuse their opponent to the extent they have no idea what to expect, and when or where the next attack will occur. They can “hypnotize” their opponent with movement. Understanding your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is an essential part of combat sports.

In classic martial arts, tradition overrules transformation.

A traditional martial art may significantly restrict a student’s degree of freedom, effectively creating a glass ceiling. They are only “allowed” to learn a set of moves, specific to that style. Traditional approach says, “in our club, we do techniques this way, so you need to learn our way”. In this sense, tradition overrules progressiveness. Modern martial arts, such as MMA don’t restrict learning, dispelling the notion that there is a right or wrong way to a given technique. MMA assesses a technique on the merits of its effectiveness as compared to techniques that preceded it. Each technique is challenged in real combat. Progressive martial arts works on the premise that, “currently this is the best techniques until someone comes up with a better one”.

About the Author

Graphic - Martial Arts, Fighting Science (smaller)

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 2 • Yin ☯ Yang of Speed vs. Timing

In combat sports, it is often stated:

“Timing beats Speed”

In combat training, good technique is often confused with speed. To understand good fighting technique it’s important to divide speed into three parts:

  • 1. Reaction time (how fast the body reacts to an attack)
  • 2. The execution (or the time a technique begins till it ends), and
  • 3. The pure speed that a fighter’s muscles and physique possess to execute an attack.

All students begin by learning how to minimize their reaction time to attacking and defending, by not wasting movements. Learning good techniques addresses 1. and 2. above and can take a dedicated fighter years to master. Advanced stages of fighting techniques entail “timing”:

  • Learn to read your opponent: Their movements, the techniques they use, the style they use. Do they telegraph their movements? Meaning, a little foot shuffle before kicking? Do they twitch before punching? Do they hold their breath before exerting energy? Do they load up on their punching, otherwise known as “cocking the gun”?Telegraphing can take on many forms – listening to the opponent’s breathing, watching them tense their muscles, observing needless movement before executing a strike. All of these signals giveaway an attack. Keep a poker face, and don’t give away your next move. The ability of a fighter to “explode” into an attack with minimal movement, no telegraphing, makes them faster.
  • Learn to anticipate the movements of your opponent: Which movements or attacks do they consistently repeat? How can you exploit those repetitive movements? Repetition is good in training, but not good in sparring. In fighting, repetition leads to well-versed opponents using an opponent’s repetition to their disadvantage.

Does good technique make a fighter faster? To a certain extent – Yes. But speed is about reaction time and getting a fist or foot from their home position (in guard position), to the attack position (fully extended and connecting with the target). This is the third aspect mentioned above, and age, talent and athleticism play key roles.

I teach students to attack with explosiveness and surprise, as if they are catching a fly. Catching flies requires relaxing, exhaling, and then reacting without thinking. The fastest fighters learn to move without thinking because they have practiced the move thousands of times. When a fighter needs to think of their next move, their reaction time for their brain to tell their fist or foot to move will take time – especially in front of an experienced fighter who has the experience and muscle memory to execute the same move.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 1 • Yin ☯ Yang of Technique vs. Power

In combat sports, it is often stated:

“9 times out of 10, Technique beats Power”

This statement is poignant from a few perspectives. First of all, the conspicuous avoidance of a perfect score. Any good fighter can be knocked out by an average fighter. We’re not perfect beings. Through life, we may strive for perfection, but we also need to be practical.

That leaves us with 90% of the time when technique wins.  That there are few caveats to mention. For instance, a powerful opponent may know a few good techniques. This needs to be a consideration in an altercation. They may not have fighting experience, but we can’t underestimate any opponent and assume they have “no” experience. Misunderestimating an opponent is one of the top reasons why fights are lost. Another aspect that mitigates this statement is when the size of an opponent overshadows in weight and muscle. A 150kg Goliath has a sizeable advantage over a 70kg David, and a winning strategy of the smaller opponent will require a balance of several factors: strengths & weaknesses, speed, vs. agility, and confidence vs. psychology. We will explore these factors and many others, throughout this “Fighting Science” series.

One practicality is that most humans have the same head size and weight.  Most human heads weight around 4.5kg regardless of how heavy they are. Why is this important?  Mainly because knockouts in combat are typically from punching laterally to the chin of the opponent. An accurate hook to the chin can bring down most fighters, regardless of their stature. Through nearly 20 years of watching UFC fights, I would estimate that 80% of all head knockouts are from a hook to the chin. I was unable to find exact statistics online, but if anyone has these details, please leave a comment below.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.