More on your marks

Lyoto Machida has taken the MMA world by storm. He has brought something a bit different to the table, his fighting style incorporates his Shotokan and specifically sport karate background, which along with his other martial arts training has helped him fight his way to the UFC Light Heavyweight Title.

He has had the karate forums buzzing due to the success of one of their own. For non-karate background MMA fighters he has proved a tricky customer, his illusive counter attack style is unusual in the UFC and has helped him to some great victories. While successful does Machida’s style support the use of ‘traditional’ stance training, such as sanbon kumite or the like? I’d argue against this assumption. If you refer to earlier posts (e.g. Marks, get set, GO!) I contend that this training begins from a position that fails to support positional movement, something akin to the sprinter preparing for a blocks start in response to the ‘get set’ order, when he/she should be set!

However this view is not held by everyone, Dan Djurdjevic, from ‘The Way of the Least Resistanceargues that

stances are points of transition; they are snapshots in a continuum of movement. Yes, they are often held statically in training for the sake of conditioning. But this is an exercise only…….. The traditional martial artist will flow through these postures in a dynamic way, never pausing. A camera taking stills will however be able to pick out individual points where the stance “was held” – however fleetingly.

This all sounds very good, and is clearly a huge improvement on the sanbon type training. Dynamically flowing through the postures never stopping, sounds much more like it. He includes some examples of Machida delivering punches to Evans from their fight at UFC98 and concludes that similar movements are apparent in many martial arts because “the human body can only be put into a limited number of functional postures”. Absolutely, I concur completely. All of this seems to negate the stiff sanbon type of training, as there is no flowing evident with these drills hardly being dynamic.

machida-vs-evans-zkdSo if the stances are merely snapshots within movements why bother with the exercises to hold them or bother to practice them out of context of the entire movement? Dan expands saying

Virtually every traditional stance is just a lower, harder to hold, more “formal” manifestation of a move you will make in sparring

One example being the forward stance which “is just a boxer’s stance elongated with the back knee straightened” but which can be lunged into, similar to the first few steps of a sprinter out of the blocks (from another post). I would pretty much have to agree with all of this, other than the need to take the movements out of context and practise them ‘formally’. DD suggests the reason involves “kinaesthetic awareness” and “muscle-specific exercise”

The kinaethetics of any movement are gleaned sub-consciously as you practice that movement, while a contextually accurate movement is muscle-specific; as you learn you get a feeling for the movement rather than accurate knowledge of “a framework of known points in time and space”.

There is simply no need to practice separate parts of a movement out of context. By isolating parts of the movement the whole is compromised, and in terms of the sprinters starting position the movement is initiated from a sub-optimal position, i.e. sanbon kumite involves moving from lunge position to lunge position in a rather stilted way. If isolation of parts is necessary perhaps it would be better to practice the starting steps of a sprint!

Rather than practicing the sub-optimal stepping in stance, it would be better to practice lunging forward to punch on a heavy bag. For example, this KO with (lunge) step could be practiced on the heavy bag or the similar, very famous Marciano KO of Walcott. This practice could include the entire movement, thereby allowing the body to glean the kinaesthetics not only of the lunge step/stance but also of the shoulder and hip rotation, opposite side retraction and the diagonal action of the body using the serape muscles. There needs to be some bending of the bow……

5 thoughts on “More on your marks

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  3. I went to a seminar one time where the instructor said your footwork used when punching should be similar to a lion when attacking. Your legs must be bent to use your hips properly and to help generate more power. He wasn’t a Kung Fu stylist, but it was a nice insight to get more out of your punches while lunging. Good post.

  4. HI Pat, thanks for the comment. Sometimes a simple analogy such as that can really help you get the feeling for a ‘concept’. Nice one.

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