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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.

Toughness, Race, Insecurity and the Culture of Fighting

Opinion by Al Alvir

To state that any generalization has its exceptions and that any cluster implies “not all” is a disclaimer only for children and confounded idiots, bigots or simply the ignorant. So, I’ll just say it to satisfy any unintended readers: this is not a condemnation of any group of people but the pretend tough-guys who may be more conspicuous in some cultures than others.

There is a difference in cultures in the wide world of conflict, and even war. Many of us have been in fair fights, and many of us have been in brawls. Almost every one of us must have been in near fights, and countless more have probably witnessed people at odds.   Society inculcates people into violence, gratuitous to necessary to politicized.  Many of our morals are based around it.  It is, historically, culture in America (and beyond).  Within America, divisions are their own continents when it comes to aggressiveness and toughness. 

But what is toughness?  What makes a tough guy?  Of all notions of it, the most elemental feature should be “the unwillingness to discern threats before and upon attack.”  Basically, a true tough-guy does not size-up anyone. He treats everyone equally.  I know some generally gutsy people – men who have not turned-down a fight, command their respect, walk with dignity, and who have taken on battles they were supposed to lose.  I’ve known strong-willed guys who would probably take on difficult battles believing they could overcome.  But the toughest guys take on fights even if they were sure they would sacrifice their well-being and their dignity – they fight with nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Because the toughest guys don’t fight to save face; they fight despite probably losing face.  I’ve known guys who carried themselves like true tough guys, hardened by life’s unfortunate turns.  But I have never really found out if any of them really were tough, in the essence of the paradoxical definition.  Does anyone know someone who behaves like a tough-guy when an altercation arises?  Perhaps, I’m sure, but would he have acted in the same manner if the other guy[s] were Mike Tyson or Brock Lesnar or Shaquille O’neal (or any man with a knife or bat) in a place where no one could help, call the cops, or break it up?  One may wonder, “Do you have to be dumb to be tough?  Do you have to be crazy?”

How a person acts in a climate of dangerous men or “hired guns” is the barometer of a real fighter.  In professional combat sports, tough guys are the norm.  In the upper echelon of those combat sports, a given fighter may act the part of the tough guy who can beat anyone, usually because he has proven that he is capable of beating anyone.  And even then, history teaches us that his ego will be burst.  In society, however, to spot a true tough guy is like spotting someone with a high IQ in a retail store’s boardroom – everyone wants to act exceptionally smart, but so few probably are.  And almost all of them will never take an IQ test.  Do so-called tough guys fight?

Cultural differences may dictate what is tough.  My experience growing up in New York, a giant city, impersonal but with a perpetual climate for confrontation, taught me that there was always someone tougher, better, stronger, more ruthless and more violent – so real tough guys avoided fights, didn’t talk tough or put on shows, and spiritedly fought only because it was the “only” convenience.  In smaller towns that I’ve lived in or visited, I’ve found that big guys were typically the ones who owned the roles of tough guys.  They tended to puff their chests and readily exhibit their perceived superiority.  Of course, this is how it is everywhere to some extent, but it is more evident the farther you are from urban sprawl – fewer people, less competition.  Even in high school, a microcosm of society, it’s easy to know who the strongest is out of everyone you know, but in a big city’s largest schools you may only know a small fraction of the student body.  The irony is that the perception from both dynamics cause conflicting aesthetics when altercations arise – depending on the situation, the perceived tough guy often seems to rear his head even without a fight occurring.  So is he really tough?  All talk?  Who is a sissy? Who is not?  Those are the questions.

On an episode of Prime Time: What Would You Do on ABC (aired January 14, 2011) a group of actors posing as construction men sexually harassing another actress in the street were approached by an unbeknownst big guy who challenged them all to fight.  At first glance, a layman to fight antics would assume that this guy was the quintessential tough guy.  He was willing to take on three men for a damsel in distress.  I don’t buy it for one second.  I don’t think that so-called tough guy would have acted similarly if one of the guys were his size or of the same aesthetic toughness.  He was probably not a tough guy, as he probably assessed the situation and thought he would win or that he could intimidate the group of workers.  Also, approaching those construction men could have made an avoidable situation much worse.  He later said, “I was gonna knock them out.”  To the TV I facetiously replied, “How does he know that?”  I don’t care if that guy was a trained fighter; his approach was indulgent – he seemed to want to display his toughness.  The other three guys could have been trained too, and they could have tried to kill him if it wasn’t an experiment.  Other good Samaritans, in this similar scenario, managed to de-escalate the situation intelligently without “acting” tough.  Men tend to use intimidation and they tend to size up every situation, but the rare tough guy doesn’t necessarily size-up anything because he is either going to fight or not – “Who cares about what the guy looks like or if the environment is somewhat controlled (meaning someone may stop the fight)?” This doesn’t mean that the guy shouldn’t assess the conditions, but it should never dictate whether he will fight or not – remember, the tough guy always tries to avoid the fight, period – unless he’s the crazy type of tough guy.  Is that an oxymoron?  And the tough guy is going to fight even if he believes he has a good chance of losing; that seems to be a feature more compelling than anyone stupid enough to feel invincible.

The aesthetics of toughness are all baloney.  Football players stare-down their opponents after every play, but they almost never really fight even with the excessive protective gear.  Basketball players trash-talk and mush their faces together and almost never swing.  The rare occasion any of these athletes do fight, they fight in situations in which their hearts cannot be tested.  They won’t be lying in their own blood being soccer kicked while trying to get up.  How are any of them seen as fighters when there are numerous people around who will not allow a fight to continue?  Most seemingly tough guys would punch Mike Tyson in the middle of a basketball game if things got “heated,” but who would want to shoot a fair one (ibid) with him? Maybe he knows he is going to be bailed-out.  In the street, when fights don’t actually happen, the guy who doesn’t back down seems like the man, and the other, a coward.  But sometimes the coward becomes the tough guy if the fight actually happens and persists. More often, these fights get broken up.  In a club, for example, it’s much easier to swing on a group of guys who outnumber you knowing the altercation could not last that long.  The imminent danger is not lasting.  Not to say that you can’t get killed in seconds, but there is a definite intervention very nearby even if no one gets hurt – bouncers, friends, cops, bystanders, etc.

The overwhelming speculation, when it comes to near-fights, is that the guy who backs down is the sissy.  That is actually not necessarily the case.  Some of the toughest guys turn down fights because they are secure enough to recognize that they don’t want to go through the trouble of fighting – and if a fight is avoidable, what is the point really?  Is it to display how superior one is?  Is it to preserve some self-defense that almost never justifies fighting in itself?  Is it to prove oneself to someone else or to oneself?  Is it some other insecurity?  Or is it fun?  Whatever the cause, fighting is almost never the safest way out; contrarily, it is usually the most dangerous.  So the only reason to fight is on behalf of overwhelming indignation and the idea that you would fight the person no matter who he was, what he had in his hand[s], what he looked like, or who is around.  All too often, the big, mean-looking guy presses to want to fight, but counts on the other guy to back-down.  This is so common that it breeds a climate among men that is almost solely based on image. 

 “He looks like I could beat him” is a common sentiment in someone who is about to fight.  But it is just a lousy guess.  Even size means nothing in deciding a fight’s outcome (it’s overrated in almost every other way outside of organized competition).  But image as a whole is nonsense.  One’s psyche may help decide to fight upon countless factors of image.  But that confidence to fight is only “perceived confidence,” or lack thereof, and fluctuates from situation to situation.  This does not include organized competition.  Organized and controlled fighting is different because there is preparation, and confidence is expected to be absolute – fighters are supposed to feel like they can beat anyone put in front of them never based on image, but training.  No one, however, can ever know what to expect in a random encounter in the street.

Since no one can be fully “prepared” for uncontrolled situations, even the best trained fighters know better and choose to avoid fights.  Conversely, the typical group of people who get into fights in the street harbor biases and prejudice that can be misleading.  Socioeconomic dynamics may be the cause in the varying mentalities of fighting – bullies (perhaps more of a middle and upper class dynamic), gangs (perhaps more of a lower-working class dynamic), populations, and other social pressures.  People consider it all when they are about to get into a fight. 

The two types of farcical tough guys that seem ubiquitous are bullies and gang members (not necessarily actual gangs, but it is a reference to people who act in groups).  Neither type of person exemplifies anything of what a true fighter should be, but they are the two typical profiles of people who get into fights.  Bullies tend to use their size to dictate who they pick fights against.  Gang-types tend to fight emboldened by being with other people.  Gang-types, however, don’t necessarily “pick” their fights; they don’t size-up people, but they act because they have buffers.  In my section of Queens, a prototypical example of America with its cluster of classes and ethnicities, the pronounced bevy of black young men used to have a conviction, “White people are [sissies] who only fight if they are bigger than someone.”  White men, on the opposite end, used to share a collective view that “black and [Hispanic] people only fight when they have people with them.”  In the smaller towns that I have been acquainted with, both views were even more profound, as I’ve found in my own sociological observations on numerous occasions – whites, with resounding effect, would show to be inferior to blacks and Hispanics in conflict of equal groups and equal sizes, and when a white guy was big and menacing he would be the bully (other minorities not mentioned fall on either side of the spectrum).  It sounds so prejudicial – some may say, “isolated” – but maybe it’s all valid even cross-culturally and through adulthood.  And both notions exploit cowardice and a façade of toughness.  Whether or not any of this seems typical to you, both notions may encompass society as a whole regardless of base notions of race – a bunch of people who are really not tough, just empowered by the perception of others’ voids.  That’s not braveness.  That’s not toughness.**

Through road rage and bumping shoulders in a club, it is common for people to never fight fair fights.  Sure, one-on-ones sometimes happen, but they’re seldom fair.  One guy usually “sets it off”with a sucker punch in the middle of groups of people – again, the buffer of people standing around is comforting or a proper outlet to show-off.  The most overwhelming number of fights occur with groups against groups.  Real fair fighting doesn’t happen.  Even in America, arguably the most violent social climate in the world, people tend to be intimidated when someone wants to shoot a fair one where no one can intervene.  It’s easy to look tough in front of cops or to a man at his job who does not want to risk losing it.  It’s easy to look tough if you have more guys with you.  It’s easy to look tough if you’re bigger than the other guy.  And it’s easy to look tough if you have a gun.  The point is that looking tough and being tough are two completely different things that rouse the line of being mutually exclusive.

With that, here is one prevailing rule when it comes to fighting in the street:  the toughest don’t. (A life rarely depends on it.) 

*Remember that, though most fights end up on the ground and start on the feet (I’ve seen fights start with people kicking each other from chairs in a movie theater), almost all fights occur with 4 or more people (2 vs. 2, 2 vs. 3 and up)…. And almost every single person is a sissy deep down or right on the surface.  But all of them – in every situation and any location – can get you killed.

**The idea of culture will be explored in “The Psyche of Tap-outs, Knock-outs, Street-fights and MMA”

What Gym Owners Don’t Tell You

By Al Alvir

Gyms are businesses like anything else, and there a very few gyms that put the fighters first.  The number one truth gym owners won’t tell you is that “they don’t care if you quit as long as you keep paying.”  Gym owners actually count on people paying their dues and not attending. 

One of the most common dilemmas that owners face is price planning.  Should they let members pay monthly or pay by the package (multiple months at a time)?  The problem is that people tend to quit whatever pursuits they take up, at least when it comes to martial arts.  So gym owners want to whore their gyms as much as possible – this means taking people’s money who don’t want to be there by forcing people to buy into an idea that may not be for them.  Corrupt gyms don’t offer month to month membership. Yes, I said “corrupt,” and some of the most famous establishments operate this way.  Suppose you go into a gym looking to train for two weeks because you’re in town only for that period.  Many gyms will try to suck the most money out of you by trying to convince you to sign on for a longer time frame and they’ll let you continue once you come back into town.  Or they’ll only offer private training which costs so much more ($50 an hour minimum). Other idiots will just send you off because your two weeks are too short.  Turning anyone down from minimal time in a gym is just bad business, and it does not promote martial arts.  The inner-city boxing gyms that have had the most success – in creating fighters and even in making profit, ironically – tend to allow people to pay a low and reasonable day to day membership.  Most other places, I found, will sell you on all the benefits of being there for their minimum 3-6 month plans.  Some schools require a minimum of 1 year membership.  Supposedly, this is because they don’t want quitters to join.  So why don’t they give refunds to people who decide they don’t want to be there after one month? 

School owners may swear that they only want dedicated martial artists to join, but the corruption lies in the fact that they thrive on people who are not dedicated at all.  Owners actually count on quitters to pay the overhead.  This would be okay if schools offered month to month membership – or even less (i.e. boxing gyms) – but gyms usually try to scam you into paying for months that they don’t even expect you to be attending.  If owners claim that they make contractual pricing of multiple months because they want people to dedicate themselves to a longer amount of time, they are in denial.  An allotted membership based on the long-term is NOT the way to motivate anyone into being there.  The proof is in the numbers; membership retention and turnover are consistent among gyms of all sorts from city to city.  And the most glaring irony is that most of these martial arts gyms operate with restricted schedules that bar certain members from using the gym at other times and other classes.  How the hell does that work out?  A serious fighter usually trains for 3 to 4 hours daily, and many gyms offer one or two ‘classes’ for such a fighter only every other day.  Corollary to that, the best fighters in history had always trained on their own schedules at full time clips of 8 hours daily.  Gyms that don’t recognize this population are simply non-conducive to the serious, real martial artist who wants to be the best.

What most combat gym owners don’t recognize, and that popular sports do recognize, is that the best physical activity is done with breaks.  Football players, baseball players, basketball players, each have training camps and a terminable season and schedule.  The majority of pro-fighters don’t even attend gyms year-round; they go to 8 to10 week training camps for each fight.  Power-lifters, similarly, plan around meets for their more rigorous, “not just maintenance” routines.  “Seasons,” or camps, with significant breaks are essential to avoid burnout.  That’s just the plain truth.

My advice is to sign up with gyms that allow you the freedom to come and go as you please and pay accordingly.  The tell-tale sign of a great gym is the diversity and the strong attendance at any given time.  You’ll see people coming in at odd times just to get a few rounds on a bag or to do stomach work.  You’ll see people come in just to hang out.  You’ll see trainers stop in just to see how it’s going and to give some tips.  If you can’t find a gym like this, pay to attend clinics and training camps. (For more info, read the articles on Personalized Program Training, PPT™.) 

Another gym experience that is severely underestimated by the common martial arts gym owner is a dingy ambiance where years of abuse are visible and finishing touches are only imagined, and where a ring is its centerpiece.  People tend to consciously work harder when a gym consists of used equipment and an organized mess of devices, bags, duct tape, holes in the walls, and at least one ring that makes the sound of an retarded band of bass players when it’s crowded with fighters.  Have you ever been in a martial arts school that has no ring or cage?  It’s awkward.  It can be filled with everything but a ring or cage, and it will still be depressingly empty.  Everyone wants a ring.  The late Al Gavin once said that if you can’t afford a ring [or a cage], “don’t bother opening a gym.”  He said, “Some owners lack the forethought when they presume a ring takes up too much space.”  The thing they miss is that it is space, open space, and it’s the space that everything relies.  Real fighters are drawn to work-out in and around a ring.  Newbies are drawn to learn around a ring that they can watch fighters move around in.  Workouts are enhanced and everyone has a tangible goal to workout to – stepping in the ring to fight.  And sparring is a joke without the boundaries that allow a fight to continue uninterrupted.  And for the pungent smell that separates the finest gyms from the finest havens of artist bourgeoisies, know that it is more than just novelty, and that there is merit in it whether it’s charming to you, meaningless, or just repugnant.  Always remember the saying “sweat begets sweat.”

And nothing makes a gym like its members. Gyms that allow anyone to attend indeed tend to create a more loyal following and indeed better sparring, rather than a small uniformed cult in dress and in complacency.

Q&A with the World Fight Club

by D.J. Morrissey

D.J. Morrissey: What is the WFC?

Andromania: The WFC is essentially the World Fight Club, we are the world fight club for so many reasons. We incorporate all styles of fighting such as boxing, wrestling, kickboxing MMA, professional wrestling, jiu-jitsu. Where else can you find all of these different styles of fighting under one roof, on one card, for one ticket? That is essentially the idea of what we are trying to brand as combat entertainment and that is basically the WFC.

D.J. Morrissey: Why did you start the WFC?

A: The WFC began as a hobby with two or three other friends got together about 10 years ago after realizing the price to continue training in any dojo or gym was extremely expensive. We realized that as much as we would like to continue practicing martial arts we couldn’t afford to train in a traditional setting, so we decided that we would train to together, find an open park on a Sunday afternoon, do some training, some sparring, and basically just keep ourselves in shape. As it grew and more people started to come down and they were better at different things and we would have classes together. Some guys were better at boxing, wrestling and various martial arts. Different guys came down with different styles and we would train each other it became a giant network for martial arts. We would train with each, teach different exercises, keep each other in shape and have a great time doing it. The first 2-3 years it was all about coming down and getting a good workout. After a while we started doing our training sessions at our old high schools on days that weren’t busy and eventually we started gathering crowds. As we began to practice regularly every Sunday, people caught wind that these guys were competing against each other in martial arts matches every Sunday. As we continued to do it more and more, we began to develop a fan base. We had a little bit of a crowd, people cheering for us and it got us thinking, got us a little excited. People would stop in their cars and come over to watch and we got to thinking; what was just a simple hobby to us was entertaining to others. We started thinking, hey what can we do, we are skilled, we are in shape and we like the fact that we can entertain people with our martial arts. We said you know what, why not have some sort of competition so at that point we created the first championship, When the WFC started I was the guy that pretty much got everyone together, called everyone up, made sure everyone had transportation and basically ran the show. Since I had the most amount of experience out of everyone I was assumed to be the number 1 guy. I had guys with 3, 4, 5 years of experience in martial arts, and at that point in time I had about 12 years of experience, so being the most skilled I won the most matches. People would look to me for training not only because of my experience in martial arts, but my background in personal training. I would make sure people were eating right, working out the right way so that they could build themselves and progress. So after a building our crowd and having a group of guys who were committed, we decided that we needed some sort of ranking system or title and we created the WFC championship; one single title which would represent the best fighter of all the styles whether it be boxing, wrestling or jiu-jitsu. We began to have tournaments every week and we would crown a champion. The title might have changed hands every week, but fortunately for me I became champion and stayed champion and in the ten years of WFC I have only lost my title 3 times. Having the most experience and being champion it became an ego thing for me as well. I wanted to remain the number 1 guy, walk in the champ and walk out the champ. After about another three years we decided to organize and host a show. We realized that whether we were at a park, an old high school or a friend’s house, people would come by to watch us. In October, 2006 the WFC had its first show, the King of New York Tournament. Everyone came in with a clean slate and we actually created a new title that night called the Submission King Championship. I wanted to walk out of there with not only my WFC title but the Submission King belt as well but unfortunately I didn’t win that belt and the person who won that belt still holds it until this day. We knew at that point that we were on to something and wanted to make history in combat entertainment so we decided to develop a full season of matches. On April, 20th, 2007, WFC Live was born, we built the website, we developed characters, Andromania was born and we decided to run with the ball. We had a great year in 2007, our very first show was our biggest show to date but unfortunately the cops came and actually liked what we were doing and wanted to stay but because we weren’t very professional at that point in time and people were competing in street clothes they shut us down. They thought it was just some brawl at first but then they say the cameras and the lighting and everybody having a good time but they still had to shut us down. After that we decided to take it one step further and at the next show, we had a keg, barbeque, a DJ, everything to keep our fans entertained. It became a party that you wanted to say that you went to. You wanted to be able to say that you went to a WFC show. You could go to a keg party, a friends BBQ but where else could you get all of it combined with the combat entertainment of the WF They thought it was just some brawl at first but then they say the cameras and the lighting and everybody having a good time but they still had to shut us down. After that we decided to take it one step further and at the next show, we had a keg, barbeque, a DJ, everything to keep our fans entertained. It became a party that you wanted to say that you went to. You wanted to be able to say that you went to a WFC show. You could go to a keg party, a friends BBQ but where else could you get all of it combined with the combat entertainment of the WFC. You can say to yourself, oh I went to a UFC match, oh I went to a boxing match, oh I went to a professional wrestling match; but where else can you go and pay one price and see MMA, pro wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, submission wrestling. No one else has it, nobody else is doing it except the WFC – World Fight Club – which has grown from a hobby into one of the most recognized underground fight clubs around. We have our videos on our youtube.com channel, receive emails from people around the world who love what we are doing and we have surpassed any expectations we had for ourselves when we started. We are always looking to take it one step further and in 2011 we plan on doing that with our website wfclive.com and with our shows.

DM: Not only are you the creator of WFC, but also a fighter, how did you get started fighting?

A: I got started fighting pretty much because I had to. I am 5’5 and growing up I was the skinny kid, the small kid, so in order to not get beat up, I had to learn how to fight. I used to be a pushover, they called me Piñata because I used to have a sweet tooth and when the kids beat me up in elementary school, candy would come flying out of my pockets. I then decided that enough was enough and had to figure out “what could I do?” I was always considered the most athletic kid who couldn’t play a sport by my friends; too small for basketball, too light for football and I couldn’t catch or throw a baseball. I always liked watching action movies, martial arts movies so I decided to take a class, and believe it or not, on my first day I got beat up by a girl. I thought that martial arts weren’t for me at that point in time and decided to just weight train and get as strong as I can. About a year later I decided to give it another try and started taking classes, really started getting into kickboxing and the rest is history. Flash-forward to today I have been training in martial arts for over 16 years. I started with Tae-kwon-doe, Snakefist kung-fu, Muay Thai kickboxing, American and Chinese boxing. In high school I learned how to wrestle. I got the inspiration from watching UFC and, specifically, Dan Severn, I didn’t understand what he was doing and it intrigued me; then I saw him beat up a Muay Thai fighter on one of the shows and I decided to learn more about it. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join the wrestling team and the rest is history. I attribute most of my success as a wrestler to having an understanding of Aikido and being able to use one’s opponents force against them. Wrestling then really became my passion. In 2000 after I graduated high school a friend asked me if I’d like to get back into martial arts, and at that point I began the creation of the WFC. A bunch of friends and myself (sic)started looking around for places to train and found them all very expensive so we decided to train with each other. I started to blend all of the various arts that I had trained in to become an MMA fighter. With my background in personal training and nutrition I was able to keep myself in good shape and on a regimented diet and that is basically how I began fighting. DM: How did it feel the first time you used your training in a real fight? A: I was never one into street fighting, fighting always intrigued me but I didn’t necessarily like fighting. About the 5th or 6th grade I came across somebody trying to kick my ass and it was amazing to know after that, that at least this stuff does work; I was able to defend myself. It felt great and from that point on I decided to keep on doing it.

DM: What part of your fight game needs the most improvement?

A: I would say everything. No fighter wants to feel comfortable and build habits; you don’t want to become a one trick pony. It’s important to work on everything, be open to suggestions and constructive criticism. I never think that anything I do is perfect. I’m always trying to punch faster and harder. I always try and work on everything everyday and make sure to keep my fundamentals strong both by practicing them and teaching them during classes. DM: What would you say your go to move is during a fight? A: Because I’m usually the small dog in the fight I like to use my upper body strength to create angles and get them off balance. If it’s a kickboxing match I’ll use my 1-2-3 combo. A jab, cross and then roundhouse kick to the leg to chop them down. In an MMA match I would look to start off with some strikes and then use my wrestling against my opponent. In a wrestling match I’ll get the guy on the ground as quick as possible, make them tire down by using their energy to attempt to get up and if submissions are involved I will usually go with the rear naked choke or the guillotine.

DM: What are your thoughts on the state of MMA today?

A: If I could sum it up in one word, that word would be “inflation.” Any guy who rolls on the mat for two months thinks he can get in the ring. A guy who knocked somebody out at a bar thinks he can go in there and strike. It’s really pathetic today to see such a great sport like Vale Tudo and Pancrase, real fighting become almost like a fashion show, everyone’s trying to walk down the runway strut their stuff and make a quick buck and get out. Now you got guys, it’s all about tattoos and who has the better Affliction shirt and I hate it because what happened to hip hop and professional wrestling. It’s all about their reality TV shows and promoting those fighters while real fighters can’t even get a contract. That’s why I feel this sport will go out of business eventually because it’s not quality over quantity. It’s quantity over quality right now because their aren’t very many real fighters being employed right now. The state of MMA today is actually its own worst enemy. Its own success will be its failure and I find it deplorable. That is why I hope one day my WFC can rival a company like the UFC and truly bring back the art of fighting into entertainment.

DM: What are your aspirations for the future as a fighter?

A: My aspirations as a fighter are pretty simple. Unfortunately age is a factor and I don’t foresee myself becoming a professional fighter. I want to use my fighting abilities to help further the movement that is the WFC. I will look to use my knowledge to train the fighters of tomorrow and hopefully help breed a new generation of great fighters and entertainers through my organization.

DM: What are your aspirations for WFC in the future?

A: What I want to accomplish with WFC is plain and simple. I’m looking to get out of the backyard and onto the TV. Outside of my background in fighting and training I have experience in film and I love to entertain and I want to bring the WFC into your homes to entertain you. We want to take that next step from the underground throne to the mainstream. You can check us out at wfclive.com and on our youtube page at youtube.com/wfclive.

Fear Training – The Essential Aspect of Training in Martial Arts

By Al Alvir

Some of these issues have been addressed in “The Problem with Bruce Lee’s JKD,” but it is discussed here in more depth as this has been an on-going discussion with several of our readers.

Martial Arts schools are typically “business above all things,” so every potential martial artist/fighter must look at everything honestly.  First of all, all belt systems that I have ever come across are arbitrary. They’re just selling points to appease people who need to be patted on the back.  Whether it’s t-shirts systems, or patch systems, dojos and schools have arbitrary ways of monitoring people’s improvement. They’re so arbitrary in their methods that the rewards are also so arbitrary, needing to be made tangible.  Meaning, knowing you beat the next guy in some competitive face-off is usually not enough.  Some academies, as they tend to be named, use levels and phases with no definitive measure for passing people to the next promotion. If they feel like it, you will be promoted. 

I implore you to really think about why you got that last promotion.  What relevance does the testing have to ability?  Talent?  Pity?  Just showing up?  Who says the criteria maker, the black belted business owner, has the best say just because he has the last say?

This coddling of the martial artist is the heart of the problem.

Schools view its members as being sissy-pants (the choice term), so what people need to improve is seldom practiced.  That need is fear.  While most schools’ only practice is trying to keep its members and getting new ones in, the best boxing gyms (the ones that produced the toughest everyday fighters), for example, used to do the opposite.  They tried to keep out weekend wannabe’s and they discouraged people who couldn’t do it.  That old-school gym is not as omnipresent nowadays, but the balance continues to be needed outside of boxing.  Martial arts schools need to apply fear to its curriculum when it comes to all lower-rung students. 

Fear is, perhaps, the most important aspect of fighting to control. So, simulation is hardly simulation without the aspect of fear – whether it’s fear of pain, injury, or humiliation. Humiliation can manifest in many ways in the mind – how will I react, how will I perform, how will I be perceived.  “What will I do when everything in my body tells me to quit?” “What will I do when being a coward is the easiest decision?” “How will it look if I lose?” People are forced to face these fears only when they are in real battles, so the simulation that many gyms practice is more like pretend simulation. People may say they want to do martial arts, but they just want to delude themselves.  People may say they want to be in a controlled environment that simulates the street corner without the probability of serious injury or robbery, but they really just want to pretend.  Because being on the street corner in a situation is dangerous and the ONLY thing you can be sure of is that you will be afraid.  Training, therefore, should teach you how to control that feeling above all things, skill-wise or otherwise.

In regards to self-defense situations, one question that the self-defense based mind-set would generally answer easily is: “What will I do when being a coward is the safest decision?” If it’s safe, they would probably go with that.  But think about all the fights you have had in your life. In retrospect, “self-defense” is probably a poor euphemism for upholding your dignity (in law enforcement there is an exception).  You can probably go through life safe and healthy without ever getting into a fight. In elementary school, you could have absorbed the minor humiliations and ignored whatever semblance of pride you may have had. As an adult in a compromising situation, you could just be peaceful and brand yourself a coward.  And as a potential victim of a crime, as anyone always ever advises, just hand over your wallets.  And if you really have to defend your life, I always encourage a surprising strike to the groin to get the job done sans any costly martial arts education.  That, only after trying to run.  And still, more forethought and savvy could have probably kept you out of that situation as a whole, and if it ever were a potential threat again, self-defense would only be your back-up for stupidity.  Like the anecdote of the girl walking into a dark alley, my advice for self-defense is to not walk down that alley if it seems dangerous, duh.  Most similar situations practically spell-out the signals: “DARK ALLEY. Choose something else.” 

Martial arts is simply for people deluded into a concept of self-defense and that they’ll have to protect their families, or it’s for people who want to know how to fight for every other reason. No matter what any martial artist or boxer may chalk his passion up to, it is insecurity that usually drives anyone to put effort into such a competitive pursuit, as any.  And in fighting, it is surely insecurity that drives people into wanting to practice harming anyone who may try to harm them – by definition, but the Freudian debate is for another time. In any case, at the core of combat training, fear is the only thing that must be simulated–or it is not at all simulation. 

The fact is that most average people fear not being in control of a situation, not being in control of what the other person does. What could happen if I had to use my weapons (strikes, holds, or actual weapons) in a given situation?  In boxing gyms, fear is the inevitable fact because boxers have to face real danger in sparring.  Karate dojos do not offer as much on a macro scale — point systems, touch sparring, and slow-motion reenactment simply aren’t as scary (because they are not anywhere near as dangerous or damaging) and are not as likely to cause the fight or flight dilemma well experienced fighters have been through.  People tend to be comfortable in how they want to see themselves and how they want others to see them, so they don’t want the challenge of being afraid.  This is why most people are comfortable with traditional martial arts over mma, and it may be a valid reason for the trend of mma popularity over boxing.

So, for whatever skills you are motioning through, and whatever drills are mimicking real speed conflict, if the practitioner does not experience the closest thing to the real thing, the training is far less useful than it seems.  Many other people fight so much in the gym that any fear is numbed by, at least, knowing exactly how they act in dangerous situations of real pain and real reactions, and they are learned in what happens in real physical contact.  They know themselves and are in control.

Practitioners in all martial arts, however, must be very careful in how they approach real physical contact for training.  Again, it’s a must that they stay honest in how ‘scary’ training or simulation drills may be.  I, personally, have never witnessed any pad-less sparring that would create the same situation of fear or urgent realism as being in a boxing ring with gloves, a cup, and headgear.  They either go too light or they don’t hit to the face when there are no pads.  Conversely, I’ve sparred in situations of wearing full riot gear – either both my opponent and me, or just on my opponent – and it, too, is not as realistic as being in a boxing/kickboxing sparring match.  Riot-gear requires the men in the gear to “act” hurt, and it never really rings true to what happens in the street.  Perhaps, it’s different at your gym or dojo, but be honest to how realistic your work-out is.  And if you are not numb to danger, realize that the butterflies should linger.  If not, you should step-up your training. And be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Fit But Not To Fight – Commentary on the State of Training and Over-training

by Al Alvir

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  “It’s not how strong you are, it’s leverage.”    “Skills pay the bills.”  These are some oft spoken training maxims, but pure fitness has always been a center piece of martial arts, romanticized and necessary in its core.  Now, with the boom of crossfit training, the popular implementation of strongman routines, and the everyday mma poseur who thinks he’s showed talent in some bravado bar brawl, how much muscle under one’s bench means so much more.

There may be a false pretense because being in shape is starting to mean more than being in fighting shape to many people trying to be fighters. 

MMA guys are spending so much time in the gym body sculpting (whether they call it that or not) that they inadvertently sacrifice fighting technique.  Tire flipping for hours, then benching, then sledge-hammering tires, then throwing medicine balls in every angle for another couple of hours is becoming the norm for mma practitioners.  Macebells.  Chains.  Kettlebells.  Ropes.  Sandbags.  War hammers.  Indian clubs.  Clean and press….  It’s usually followed by 20-30 minutes of hyper mitt work, a small chunk of which may be technical mitt work.  Fight studying is left to the few professionals who solicit it.  Even their skill drills consist of contrived ways to achieve fitness without actually doing the boring thing they’re training to do.  E.g. Sprawling on medicine balls.  But consider that relying on attrition and drilling over strategy is one way to be unprepared.  And some fight camps only have sparring twice a week.

Martial arts training has always dangerously revolved around cute trends.  “What’s cool at the moment” has always meant more than good ol’ boring work.  On a lesser scale than other martial arts, boxers have found ways to escape the monotony of training since the adherence of the Marquess of Queensberry rules.  Bouncing handballs to train hand-eye coordination and training to jazz music are examples.  Speedbags, heavybags, shadow-boxing are accepted today as good drill work, but they have been around for as long as we can track back in time.  New training routines and training apparatus are regularly being introduced to martial arts.  Until the 1970’s and 1980’s, old-time boxing trainers were wholeheartedly against any weight training, as they believed it ruined flexibility and took snap out of punches.  Today, everything the everyday martial artist does revolves around weight training.

In Rocky IV, the “cool” trend that Rocky contrasted in the series’ obligatory training montage was the costly machines and expensive regimens.  His character basically favored the strongman/circuit training that is coincidentally the fad of today.  The displacement and unpredictability of the weight indeed lends to a more well-rounded work-out (you have to stabilize the weight and use your core), but how many drills does a fighter have to do?  Is the idea that strength and size replaces skill?  The arguably dumbest line in the history of combat movies may be Rocky’s response to Paulie when he was asked where he’s going to spar.  “”I don’t think I need it anymore, Paulie.” dismissed Rocky on his arrival to fight camp.  Perhaps this is a sentiment of today’s martial artist, specifically the mixed martial artist who seems to put technical-training on the backburner of fitness.

The cliché of the fight game, “styles make fights,” seems to have missed the mark in mma.  It’s not how a fighter wears his tattoos or designs his board shorts that style refers to.  It’s not whether a fighter is sprinting on a road or on a track.  Style is fighting style – habits, strengths, weaknesses, moves, and how each relates to the other fighter’s style.  (I was going to edit out the condescension, but it may really have been needed to be said).  The ultimate fact is that training should consist of as much simulation as possible to improve style; attrition will come with the intensity of work and the several complimentary drills.  But a fighter doesn’t need to do every damn drill in lieu of the real thing. Perhaps it is because trainers are trying to make it fun for their students that they try to implement new regimens and new training devices. 

But fight training is not supposed to be fun.  It’s supposed to be hell.

Overtraining muscles over skills is a problem, and the proof is in the quality of fights that are put out.  Guys have great physiques.  Some of them are fast.  So many of them are powerful.  But no one seems to have timing anymore.  And for such fit people, they don’t last the marathon of professional fights well.  This can be attributed to the lack of experience and savvy of being in the situation.  They suck air while punching like bums.  They lack technical proficiency.  They lay on the ground to rest, or they paw and push punches while struggling to get to the bell.  I can spot 7 out of 10 televised mma fighters who are simply mediocre.  And the numbers of top ranked boxers who are showing less than expected technical skill are also alarming, perhaps 3 out of 10.

Simply, there are too many work-outs to build specific techniques’ muscle memory and strength, so fighters must narrow down their work-out programs in order to focus more on ring or cage hours.  Any technique building exercise is more valuable than too much strength work.  And if the technique work supplements strength work (padwork w/ weighted vest), it’s even better.  But an honest assessment of training needs to be made.  If technique is suffering – a ubiquitous problem in mma – refocus needs to be made for its improvement.  And more weight training is not the solution.

A fighter is not a weightlifter or runner or strongman contestant.  He is certainly not a swimmer.  So, a professional fighter, especially, usually cannot be a professional of any of those pursuits simultaneously.  Imagine a fighter training to do the butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke, and aiming to increase swim speed over an 8 week training camp. Then, that fighter practices throwing barrels, lugging sleds, and doing farmer’s walks?  Each workout takes some serious technique and practice in order to perform well and, more importantly, decrease the chance of causing injury. The fighter’s focus, therefore, is removed from fighting in every one of the grueling workouts.  Doing a few things to enhance a specific fighting need where there is a deficiency is certainly encouraged.  I, for one, think strongman training is actually the best fitness training in the world.  But fighting is a game of skill and needs as much practice as possible in itself, as any other pursuit does.

How can a fighter improve his routine after falling for all the trends?

The individual fighter simply has to know what matters.  The drill sergeant coaching needs to be put into extinction for any fighter in the world.  The fighter has to not be a follower.  The fight game is a self-motivating discipline in which coaches are there to spot weaknesses and remind fighters to focus, not baby them into mindless onslaughts of hard work.  It’s not the military in which a kid may just be trying to get through his service tour and have his college tuition paid for.  The fight game is “exclusively” for people who love fighting and are compelled to do the work that goes into fighting.  It’s not for people who need to be psyched-up like power-lifters and football players.  They need to drop the ego that goes with all the “cool” and “hardcore” routines.  Because there’s nothing more hardcore than fighting.  The fight game is for composed warriors, warriors composed in all trials.  The discipline of fighting is like no other because it should be boring.  The discipline is in the routine, the monotony.  Bob Jackson, an old trainer of mine, once told me, “There’s no music in a fight.”  The “fun” in training and preparation was supposed to be in the “hunger” to be the best.  The question is: What is the goal, really?  Surely, not just image.

I forget which famous fighter once said this: “You wanna know how you practice fighting for an upcoming fight? Fighting.”  And no martial artist can ever disagree.  And so it goes for sprawling, too.

How To Take a Punch – The Interpretation of Taking Blows

Soft Chins, Hard Temples: The Interpretation of Taking Blows

by Al Alvir

Absorbing shots to the face and body is often a matter of interpretation.  I call it “interpreting force.”  Some shots, of course, have the impact beyond the realm of interpreting; fighters just get layed-out.  But the great majority of hits in a fight are not going to be KO worthy.  And everyone gets hit.  So what does one do when he gets hit one of those times hard?  Does it depend on how sturdy his chin is?  Can his chin get sturdier?

Interpreting force is not some spiritual idea.  One doesn’t have to reach an inner Chi to start taking good shots.  It’s not a psyched-up state of mind, necessarily, either.  Interpreting force is a matter of experience.  One will only know how to interpret the force of blows depending on two simple things: 1) Having seen it coming and felt it in the past, and 2) Not having seen it coming and felt it (being blind-sided) in the past.  The two criteria must be met in order to really know one’s capabilities to further one’s fight education.  And it’s very important that all interpretations in a fight should be positive.  That way, a fighter can just tell himself, “I’ve been hit like that a million times before, and it does nothing.”  If a fighter interprets a good shot saying, “Uh-oh, I’ve been rocked with shots like that before, if I get hit again, I might get knocked-out,” it means his fighting spirit might need a re-evaluation before his chin does.  At the threshold, however, some point in one’s experience of taking the most damaging shots, a fighter will know what his body can and can’t take.  Even body blows and other kinds of force can be prepared for to a shorter extent.  Fighters often wilt and stay down from a great shot to the body because it’s debilitating – if it happens, it may only happen once in a fighter’s career.  But other fighters have been known for getting up only for the reason that they’ve felt the pain at least once before.  It is arguable that Oscar De La Hoya may have gotten up if he had already felt the same exact pain of Bernard Hopkins’s knockout punch to the liver.  Knowing the threshold of pain is why experienced fighters sometimes know when their opponents simply cannot knock them out after feeling the other fighter’s power.  And experienced fighters are only “tried and true” when they have been down and have had to feel how it was at that threshold of trying to survive.  This is why trainers often dwell on a fighter “never being down before” or “never going deep in a fight.”  Fighting has enough overwhelming pressure by just being alone in combat that one needs experience, as much as civilly possible, to be productive.

Generally, chins and temples are a genetic grace, but once a fighter has the experience of knowing what it feels like to be hit, he can start “interpreting” the force (again, as long it’s not knocking him out).  What does it mean that it hurt so much?  How much abuse can be sustained?  So much of a fighter’s ability to interpret force depends on him seeing it.  The saying goes, “It’s the one you don’t see that knocks you out.” Seeing shots coming is so important because it provides a fighter with another source of information – he saw it and felt it, then he processes it.  When a fighter sees a shot coming, he can prepare if he has experienced it before.  He knows he can take it and he eats it, or absorbs it.  “Eating” a shot is like having a “prepared relaxation,” no tensing up, per se, and no allowing the shot to topple the fighter over.  Some trainers wrongly encourage fighters to roll their heads with shots like Shannon Briggs does, but that can only get a fighter knocked-out with another punch he doesn’t see, and it looks to judges like punches are really snapping the head.  Plus, if a fighter keeps his eyes on his opponent and the punches, maybe next time he can defend it or counter it.  Taking blows and “doing something with it” is part of the chess game of boxing. 

But how does a fighter interpret getting hit with a hard shot when he doesn’t see it coming?  He has to use it as a wake up call and treat it like it can’t hurt him, he’s felt it before.  And then he needs to know what he did to be put in that position, because it shouldn’t happen too often in a fight.  If he can’t adjust, he might have to be woken up off the canvas.  And the problem is that knock-outs blows are never a force that can be interpreted.