A few days ago, somebody on a mailing list I’m on sent in this link:
He then asked what we thought of the way these guys fight. Here’s my response:
It looked like some sort of amateur level competition. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just that the level isn’t all that high. It looks like the right place to compete to get some experience and see if you like it once you “jump in the water”. Most fighters there seemed to lack many of the things you need for sanda. Try these clips:
This is a nice fight with a lot of clinching and throwing. Compared it to the clip you sent in and you spot the differences:
- The fighters have a lower fighting stance, more stable because of the bent in the knees. You don’t see them totally off balance when a technique doesn’t land 100% correctly.
- The guard is up. It’s a Chinese guard though; rear hand high, lead hand lower. Not my preference but it works for fighters who prefer throws and takedowns, which is what these two guys are.
- They don’t flail around. They either throw single shots or short combinations.
- The shuai jiao is integrated with their other techniques, it isn’t something that just happens out of the blue.
- The most critical thing: instant rooting. As soon as the clinch happens, they sink their weight and root to the floor. This is what differentiates sanda with other ringsports.
This clip is a totally different match:
- These two fighters are strikers. The stance is a little higher but also wider, making it easier to punch and kick. They also hold both hands up, not just the rear hand.
- Their footwork is lighter and more active. It’s not as stable as what the two grapplers did, but it allows for faster striking. It’s a choice you make as a fighter.
- Power techniques: the spinning kick knocks the guy out right through the chest protector. It’s not an easy thing to do but this guy seems to specialize in it. He competed in a tournament here in Belgium last year. Saw him do the same thing.
- There was lots of striking in the clip you sent in but not much of if was very effective. Not if you compare it to what these guys are doing. That said, this is world class level and not some amateur competition. Though even at world championships, there are fighters who are good and others who are great.
And in a follow up response:
That’s one of the keys to performing well in the ring. Long combinations are not something you can easily pull off against a skilled opponent. You can do so in specific situations but in general, you better stick with short combos first until you have the other guy’s number. Usually it takes some experience before you can do that in a match. You first need to get used to the adrenal stress of being on the lei tai. Once you can control that, the rest starts falling into place.
The link you sent showed guys who didn’t seem to be at that stage yet. Give them a few more years of competing and training and they’ll probably do things differently.
The part about long combinations came back to me during tonight’s class. We were doing a combo consisting of jab-cross-jab-stomp kick. The students weren’t getting it. They were throwing it with the wrong rhythm and getting the distance messed up. They also didn’t get why we trained the combination in that specific way. So I had to explain both things before we could move on.
The first one is easy: Imagine a guy with good head movement. You might be able to keep him at mid to long range but he keeps slipping your straight punches. That’s fine because to do that he needs to keep his lead leg stable and/or put weight on it. So you throw a flurry of straight punches and stomp down on his quadriceps with the heel when he starts slipping them.A couple of light bulbs went off.
The training method is also important. I like to teach combos in “pyramid style.” This means that in this case you step in and throw the jab, then you break away. The partner flashes the pads and then you move in with jab-cross, circle out again. This goes on until you complete the combination, adding one technique every time. I like this type of training because it has a bunch of benefits over just doing the full combo over and over:
- It forces you to consciously perform each technique. A common error is to rush to the last technique of a combination by doing the first ones less than 100% right so you can get faster to the last one. The problem is that these first ones are there for a reason: they set things up for the last one. Fail to do them correctly and you never get to do that last one.
- You have to keep working on footwork and timing as you step in and then move away from the partner.
- The partner can move like a real opponent and fire shots at you and keep you on your toes. As you are always ending with a different technique he has to focus to get his counters in.
- You learn all the little nuances of that combination: what happens if you are a couple degrees more to the left or right on a technique, should you throw power shots all the way or favor speed at first and end with a bang, etc.
- The key issue: you practice the most important thing first; the entry. This is what makes the difference between the guys in the first video and then the other two. You need to ingrain your entry to the point where you can pull it off (correctly) without thinking. The more reps you get doing that, the faster you’ll get there.
Using the pyramid approach, you do the entry the most of all. This ingrains the habit of setting up combinations, one technique after the other. That in turn helps you, at the very least, be aware of the danger of rushing to the last technique. At best, you can avoid that pitfall altogether.
In the end, you need both: knowing why you do a certain combination but also have a training approach that helps you ingrain it.