Tag Archives: floyd mayweather jr.

The Jab vs. The Straight Lead of JKD

By Al Alvir

Having just read The Straight Lead by Teri Tom, I was compelled to write about “The Boxing Jab.”  The straight lead works as a more powerful jab than the boxing jab, and it indeed has more reach than the classic boxing jab.  The problem is that the straight lead serves no additional function from a ‘regular jab’ than to make up for its lack of power in the wrist (as the straight lead’s form is to not turn the wrist) with explosive hip rotation.  JKD people tend to overstate the effectiveness of hip rotation in the jab, simultaneously underestimating the effectiveness of shifting weight and the dynamics of not rotating the hip with the jab.

The boxing jab serves as a tool for measuring distance and for setting-up an opponent.  The boxing jab, too, has numerous contact spots (aka pop spots, meaning the point of snap (this is discussed in other articles on Shootafairone.com), as a fighter has the luxury to jab shooting his hip with various torques.  This is a bad habit, however, for an educated fighter, because he is giving away positioning and taking his 2 farther from his opponent.  Also, when a fighter shoots his hip for a jab, it’s wasted energy, as it complicates such a simple weapon.  If a fighter can be successful throwing a straight lead, I promise that it will only be situational and will not happen against a person with better attributes.  I, myself, used to train the straight lead and was effective with it when it was effective (I meant to state it that way), but I found that I was way out of position for intelligent onslaught after missing.  But as I always say, “test it.”

It’s just a jab, either way.  It’s likely not going to knock-out anyone worthy of fighting.  The reason jabs are so important and effective is that jabs can be thrown rapidly and at repetition without unwise commitment.

The biggest problem of JKD’s straight lead teachings is that the teachers often aren’t schooled, or simply don’t teach, the progression of functionality; in other words, they skip the education on all the functions of that lead hand.  One example is keeping that lead hand up as insurance for 2’s coming from the same stance (same lead).  Simply put, JKD men often complicate the functions of the lead hand.  This complication, or over-complication, coupled with trapping and kicking and groundwork, makes it a ridiculous testament to its absurdity.  I mean, a damn book on a single punch was written for an amalgam of students the world over who are at opposing ends of JKD practice, and from which the majority of the pool is no good.  My friend, Bryan Lamont, is a JKD coach – one of the few good ones – who criticizes the poor JKD concept guys as well as acknowledges that most traditional JKD guys as sloppy and “all over the place.”  He remains loyal to JKD, yet I see him stray as I think any good JKD man should.

The straight lead mumbo jumbo and the detailed stance to the deferential treatment of Bruce Lee’s “writings” are all akin to hero-worship and go against what I believe were Bruce Lee’s teachings which were to keep things simple and direct.  The Straight Lead, as every single JKD book I’ve ever come across, is all about teaching style cookie-cut to a whole flock.  When Tom “scientifically” talks about stance, she undermines the effectiveness of infinite stances.  Boxing coaching – like baseball batting coaching or any proven sport – is broken down into the most fundamentally simple functions, allowing for the individual to evolve from that foundation in a very personal way.  Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to Roy Jones Jr. to Floyd Mayweather Jr. got their styles from that foundation.  In JKD, Bruce Lee made a horrible mistake, as he himself prophesized, by setting specific “rules” or a “way” on style by detailing “his style.”  (*Aside:  Teaching such a linear stance will handicap some people from evolving and finding their own styles, as it is a more difficult way to learn how to shoot hips, weaving, slipping, offense, and moving in angles. This may be better explained in a different article, but I digress…)

Now, I am not against the straight lead, as it is called here.  Great boxers do it all the time.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. does it, but many boxing men call it an “up-jab.”  It’s a sneaky way to fit the punch between a opponent’s guard, and to find him from a greater distance.  Many boxers practice it as a sort of uppercut with the palm up and the punch rising under the chin from jab distance.  I always dismiss that stuff as signature stuff not to be taught on a greater scale.  Furthermore, it is important to know the most basic way of jabbing effectively before progressing into jabbing from different body angles, shooting the hips, and throwing the jab away from the face (aka “Lead hand no man’s land”).  Turning the fist and not the hips will provide for the best distance finder and the most practical use of energy.

Even if a well-schooled fighter throws a straight lead, he will not throw the straight lead from a high guard.  And well-schooled fighters sometimes have to have a high guard.  He may have to jab down and without turning his fist, he cannot produce the snap behind the shoulder; the vertical fist would have to be thrown with all the triceps muscle.  On a smaller note, a jab covers a little less area with the vertical fist and doesn’t cut someone as easily – this common boxer contention, however, is not the major reason turning the fist is better.  Additionally, a Floyd Mayweather Jr. shell stance is the best proven stance to throw the straight lead, but it’s important for fighters to get that chin behind that shoulder.  Mike Tyson did his version of the straight lead, but his speed advantage and his size made it necessary at times to turn his hip so explosively.  Punching up also naturally protects a fighter on that side, as the shoulder blocks the chin.

JKD practitioners such as Teri Tom discuss science behind punching, as I have in some earlier articles, and she and I are on par with the science.  Bruce Lee said “several inches and snap,” and I say “2-4 inches and snap,” but the difference is arbitrary.  But Tom discusses the Impulse-Theorem and retraction, to which I contend the reason turning the fist is better (again, see my other articles on the science of punching).  Take the hip out of the equation, and anyone will see a little more pop with the turning of the fist.

The Straight Lead is a great conversation starter, but it’s filled with misleading information and points that are amiss.  If Tom knows what she is talking about, the semantics can be challenged.  The cookie-cutter science may seem to simplify, but that’s a fallacy.  There is nothing simpler than custom skills and honest, uber-personal evolution while maintaining what this book complicates:  basics.

After all, it is just a jab.

I can hear it already… Straight Lead zombies swearing that it is much more elaborate than that.

Is Mayweather Mittwork All Show?

By Al Alvir

There is a new phenomenon in the boxing world.  Like Muhammad Ali followers who fluttered like butterflies and Mike Tyson wanna-be’s who imitated his substance like aluminum for iron, it seems that everywhere there’s a new garage opening for a gym, one of its trainers believes he could duplicate the success of Roger Mayweather with some flashy  mittwork.  Some believe so without a semblance of understanding of his fighter or for mittwork in itself.  

Focus mitts were incorporated into boxing many decades ago and more – so there are different theories on its origination.  Boxing trainers use focus mitt work (aka padwork or mittwork), to give dynamic practice for fighters to work on the things that happen while fighting.  It gives a live body to train in front of.  It continues to be used today for warming-up a fighter, working on movement, and fine-tuning skills.  The problem is the focus of the mittwork; what is a trainer trying to achieve? Boxing trainers are increasingly adopting a cookie-cutter approach to teaching skills.  Today, padwork is more for warming up guys or showing-off than for fine-tuning skill-sets.  People love the way the Mayweathers do padwork perhaps because it looks so intricate.  Other trainers stick to fads like towel slipping and tube punching – useful in some ways and some much less than others – but should not replace good ol’fashioned mittwork – the kind that is almost like sparring.  And we don’t replace sparring, right?

The repetitive and fast action of the Mayweather style of mittwork indeed helps reflexes, short punches, and making things second nature, but bad habits may develop from it, too.  There are plenty of young non-Mayweathers who don’t have the pedigree or time to become good in spite of paddy-cake padwork.  They aren’t sitting on punches, turning their hips, or learning how to improvise within the fundamentals.  There is no doubt that Roger, Jeff, Floyd Sr., and Floyd Jr. were each tremendous talents who exhibited those skills, but I think the chipmunk quick mittwork we see for two seconds clips on tv had less to do with it than the amalgam of everything else.  Evidence suggests that they spent years touching up on the how’s and why’s before they became known for what many experienced eyes would, and do, call nonsense.  But far too many boxing trainers are selling it to kids without the substance.

The biggest benefit of Mayweather mittwork is that it teaches fighters the way to react in a fight and that “touching” (not trying to throw punches too hard) is essential to good boxing.  It’s arguable that the rhythm of punching is more important than sitting on punches because “touching” happens the majority of the time.  But if trainers can agree that a fighter must learn the fundamentals first – where to stand, angles, all the defenses, how to adjust – they could agree that many fighters are wasting time reacting and being fast over learning the essentials.  Also, trainers may agree that they need to learn their fighters and the fighters need to learn themselves.  Form and technique are paramount.  Trainers know this intuitively, but many of them allow their fighters to tap the mitts dropping their hands, not turning over punches, not extending their jabs, and fouling up distance and being naively vulnerable.

Mayweather mittwork, as some people would call “paddy-cake-paddy-work,” is almost completely choreographed.  And good feeds (the holding of the pads) should mimic the head, body, and real shots coming back.  The feeder should clearly differentiate what is the target and what is a punch, because in a fight the head doesn’t regularly come to your fists.  With Mayweather mittwork, the trainer does almost as much work as the puncher does.  Of course, trainers are supposed to meet the punch with the mitts to provide feel, distance, and resistance to the puncher, but the Mayweathers and their copycats do it too much.  Also, like the speedbag, mittwork can be too routine, the combinations and the feed has to be random that fighters have to go “freestyle”.  It should always be challenging.  So the fighter shouldn’t always know what to expect and shouldn’t always do the same things off of his defense.  And for many fighters, especially beginners, speed becomes rushing, and that kind of speed sacrifices form just as much as punching too hard.
Evidence suggests that the sales-pitch of mittwork has been lucrative, but can cost in the skills department.   One white-collar boxer showed me a tape in which he was hitting the pads, and he did it like a prodigy.  He said he tried boxing ONLY because his coach (who remained anonymous) held pads like Mayweather and he was sold.  He told me, however, that he couldn’t transfer any of that choreography into the ring because he never learned real defense, “how it feels to take a knockout heavy punch on the gloves.” 

I don’t condemn this philosophy completely, as I do believe that the Mayweather “speed-pads,” as some people call it, is the best cookie cutter mold for approaching offense and defense.  The basics of Mayweather mittwork come down to a few basics (for those of you who have no clue to the mystical sleight of hand they see before them):

  • Catch a left hook, come back with a left hook
  • Weave a right hook
  • Shoulder roll a right hand, come back with a right hand
  • Roll (pull back) or catch a jab, come back with a right hand
  • Catch a left to body, come back with a right uppercut
  • Catch a right to the body, come back with a left uppercut
  • Pivots to stay in front of feeder

There are variations on these basics (e.g. you can weave a left hook, too) and various combinations that come off of it, but the trainer calls out the defense and lets you know what’s coming after the combinations are each rehearsed.  All trainers do this to some extent, but some of the best feeders I’ve seen have done it with as little rehearsing as possible.  Once a fighter has done Mayweather mittwork a bunch of times, he may be able to do it with his eyes closed like Floyd Mayweather Jr.  That is my contention to it.  But it is also evidence supporting that it builds muscle memory.

One big suggestion is the use of the body shield, so fighters can sit on shots and get hit at the same time they’re going downstairs.  The body shield helps you find angles instead of being right in front of the feeder who is supposed to act as the opponent rather than a partner.  This mimicking of a real fighting helps, too.  Any ad hoc hypothesis that my idea makes doing other non-fight work-outs pointless ignores the issue:  train target areas, but make it as close to real fighting as possible without sacrificing the intention.  Fighters benefit greatly when a trainer throws punches back with some realistic intent and randomness.  Fighters benefit from trying different moves. 

Ultimately, the Mayweather mittwork can be effective when it supplements the myriad of conventional boxing training, but don’t sell it long.

PS. If a fighter isn’t training to throw kidney shots, is there absolutely any reason for the behind the back mitt feed?

Clinching To Be Banned In Boxing?

Counter Clinching, Hit-&-Holding

Fighters learn early in their boxing education to clinch – to take a break from action or to escape danger.  When I was 14 years old at the PAL, one trainer implored me, “If it’s getting tough, tie ‘im up.”  As fighters get more experienced, they use holding as a tool to abet poor training or inferior skills.  The best fighters, unfortunately, use holding to halt opponents’ onslaughts and as a strategy, too.  Clinching is simply a part of boxing.  It, however, shouldn’t be. 

Why don’t the boxing powers, the Athletic Commissions or whoever, undo this boring tactic and outlaw the use of strategic holding?  Tactical fighters are ruining fights with this “counter-clinching.”  Bernard Hopkins, one boxer who I used to support, wards off fighters, not with covering up, moving, or out-punching, but by hitting then holding.  He opens up with a two or three punch combination and, whether he scores or not, he rushes in and hugs.  If Hopkins’s opponents “get off first,” Bernard fends off only for a moment then clinches.  Repeat, that’s the strategy.  Too many world class boxers are trying to master this non-skill procedure.  Hit, score, and instead of defending a counter, you counter his “would be counter” with a clinch. It is basically avoiding a counter by stopping the action.  Lame, isn’t it?

I haven’t deemed Ricky Hatton “decent” since he fought Juan Urango.  The public was enthralled with Hatton’s non-stop workmanship, but he started learning how to counter-clinch.  He counter-clinched so much that he did it as a lead (opposite of counter).  It was a strategy essentially countering the oppositions’ intentions to fight.  Urango was hardly beaten, as neither fighter was able to throw hands.  Urango was edged in scoring, due to his inability to counter Hatton’s lead clinching; every time Urango engaged, Hatton would hold.  Arguably, Luis Collazo beat Hatton, mainly because he was faster in between the boring clinches.  Collazo proved to be the better, more skilled fighter, but the judges were ultimately duped by what seemed to be Hatton pressing the fight.  Hatton’s clinching style seemed to have been fooling everyone until Floyd Mayweather, Jr. warned everyone that Hatton would hold him.  Against Mayweather, however, Hatton didn’t use any lubed-up strategy of counter-clinching; he was just trying to tie-up, immobilize, and punch.  It was a show of force to some people, but he was simply inferior and couldn’t catch Mayweather.  It was as if Hatton knew in his gut by round 4, “my style is a sham and Floyd knows it.”  His phony onslaught was almost laughable.  I am reluctant to call any fighter a coward, but to a tangible extent of conscience, I have to consider counter-clinching as a blueprint lacking in “fighting spirit.”  It’s the cautious fighter’s lazy, skill-less way out of sticking and moving.  Boxing fans don’t seem to consider that it could be just as yellow as running.

Clinching should only be incidental, but as a part of strategy, points should be taken off.  If a fighter is hurt, it’s an acceptable survival tactic.  As a game-plan, it’s unfair and just too hard to beat when applied with any sustained deployment.  It’s a “fear” tactic, literally, not to cause fear but to exercise it.  Like a cat and mouse fight in which there is an aggressor and a retreater, trying to avoid being hit by the use of holding is similar to running.  Like the runner (note that I do not mean a boxer-style fighter, I refer to e.g. Andre Dirrell vs. Curtis Stevens), the clincher will always achieve exactly what he’s trying to achieve first, avoiding boxing.  It would then be up to the aggressor to overcome, but he will have to work harder than his opponent in a fight in order to achieve his goal of exchanging and boxing – offense and defense – from the inside.  Considering everything being equal, the aggressor will always be at an unfair disadvantage (a fair disadvantage or advantage would be attributes such as size, speed, strength, etc.) against holders and runners.  It’s like a race with different starting points – two guys begin disengaged in combat, and one guy tries to catch up to engage while the other is racing to maintain his lead.  It is common knowledge that it takes two people to tango, two people to make a competitive fight, but it only takes one fighter to stink-up a joint.  If you have ever matched against a fighter who was unwilling to try inflicting damage on you, you may know how difficult it is to do the inflicting.

The all time master of the hit-and-hold was Muhammad Ali although he was a joy to watch.  His beautiful footwork and teasing jabs and quick power shots would fill the room with awe.  But the Ali after his three year hiatus was a showy holder.  Even in the thriller in Manila it was apparent.  Frazier would struggle to get on the inside, his ideal punching range, and Ali would cuff him behind the neck until the referee broke it up.  Against Chuvalo, same story.  Even against Evangelista, the same thing.  Nobody complained about it. The ref took no points away. Yet, cuffing behind the neck is a wrestling move pure and simple. Of course, Ali still produced great fights even post Cassius Clay, but he also chose his times to deploy counter-clinching.  The downside of banning holding all-in-all is that, perhaps, some potentially great fights would end quick, by uncompetitive knockouts or disqualifications.  I, however, believe it would bring other greater fights into fruition.

Counter-clinching has been around since the bare-knuckle game.  The Marquess of Queensberry Rules, gloved fighting, came into effect for one reason:  to add more violence and to hinder the wrestling.  Some people called it dirty boxing, but it was more like a dirty, boring hug-fest.  It sounds mythological when you hear that fighters went 70 rounds, but hugging and falling battle does not an epic make.  When we study, perhaps, the most exciting fighter ever, Mike Tyson, we may find his most lackluster bouts were due to opponents counter-clinching.  From an unable James Smith to an impelled Evander Holyfield, this wrestling style took away from the level playing field, or canvas.  I wanted to see toe to toe action, Holyfield with Tyson, Hopkins with Trinidad, Hatton with Mayweather.  Of course, some of those fights were memorable and masterpieces in their own right.  But they could have been better no matter the outcome.  I understand the science of boxing better than the next boxing pundit and pun-ditz, but I also believe in its rules a little more.  Holding is boring, unfair, and illegal in boxing.  With the right enforcement, it could have changed the course of boxing history.  When will it change boxing’s future?