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Normally under a heading like this I would be talking about Judo moves in particular. This time however I want to talk about the martial arts I took part in, what they taught me and what penalties they bring to MMA. You have to remember though that I never rose particularly high in any of these martial arts.
This was my first martial art, studied in 1986 when I was in primary school. I considered this a decent first art, but now I really wish I hadn’t touched it. Granted, Taekwondo is arguably the most advanced technical kicking art, (I hear the howl of kickboxers even as I type that) but it is absolute crap with the hand work. I have almost no head defense and no awareness of range with my punches, and I honestly believe Taekwondo had a lot to do with that. So, what good did it teach me? Umm… does a snap kick count? I still like the snap kick.
My second art, studied in 1990, high school. Lets be clear, Judo is a sport. Anyone who tells you Judo can be used in real life is kinda kidding themselves, but it was by no means useless! I have excellent balance, and my base is very stable, both attributable directly to Judo. I am also quite good on the ground, but we did very little ground work in high school Judo, and no submissions at all, so I don’t know if Judo can really take the credit for that. As far as throws go, there is at least one or maybe two I can still use without a gi. Not much more than that though…
This might sound odd, but I think this art may have taught me the most practical skills I use in MMA training, other than balance. Forgetting the fact that it is armed combat, Eskrima is a truly ambidextrous art, and I think the reason I can switch so easily from Southpaw to traditional stance is because of eskrima. Also, I used those twirly stick moves a lot in stage combat, which is besides the point but still cool.
White Crane Kung Fu
This was without doubt the weirdest part of my training. I learned white crane from a lunatic in the middle of the countryside while I was wandering the land as an 18 year old. Despite the fact that he was undoubtedly crazy, he very much knew his stuff. This art taught me fluidity and speed. It taught me that strength does not come from muscles. It taught me that power can come with grace. It also taught me that most of the actual kung fu moves are almost 100% wank and belong on a movie screen or a tournament mat. Kung fu has very little place in the real world anymore. Several centuries of tradition will do that.
Medieval combat recreation
Now, I struggled over whether to include this, but I think I have to because it had a large effect on my range. It is recreation combat, stage combat, deliberately trying to avoid damage to the opponent. This is actually the style I have fought in the most, and I even taught it for several years. The main effect was on range I think. Rather than going for the killing blows, I am trained to lighten the attack at the last second, aim away from the target to change direction of the force and basically to not hurt the fighter in front of me. This seems like a big thing now, but I’m willing to bet the first time someone clips me in the ring I’ll forget all about that and go in for the kill. At least, I hope so.
I never properly studied this, but I wish I had. Bloody Taekwondo taught me the worst punches in the world and I’ve been using them ever since. I’ve been studying along with some old boxing DVD’s and trying to retrain my body and brain in correct punching and range without taking too much on board as far as stance and movement is concerned. Boxing has the best hand work in the world, (duh) but they don’t have to worry about kicks or takedowns.