Yesterday we had a balmy winter day and did some training following our run to the Hill with intervals of sprints, shadowboxing, and push-ups. We then worked kicking and knee combinations alternatively on the pads to finish our warm-up. We then did two sets of 2 x 2 minute rounds on the focus mitts of:
  1. Head/Body Reactions
    We used high and side cover to enter in to cross-lead hook-cross, in addition we used the lead and rear body cover enter into lead uppercut-cross-lead hook and rear uppercut-lead hook-cross, respectively.
  2. 3-Parry-3-Side Cover-Reverse 3
    Jab-Cross-Lead Hook-Parry (Cross)-Cross-Lead Hook-Cross-Side Cover (Lead Hook)-Lead Hook-Cross-Lead Hook
On reaction drills it is especially important to not to celebrate, admire your handiwork, or run out of gas at the end of your combination. All fight exchanges have a beginning, a middle, and an end. On a provoked reaction or action reaction, when your done, be sure that your disposition of the situation is enough. When I train someone on pads and they complete their combination, if they look expectantly at me with puppy dog eyes begging for praise they get swatted...hard. The time to relax is when your are well back out of range and can then watch your opponent fall down.
We switched to the thai pads and did two sets of 2 x 2 minute rounds of:
  1. 2-Kick Follow-ups
    We covered two variations here:
    • Jab-Cross-Lead Kick-Cross
      It is very important to shield (i.e. pre-cover) when entering for the punch, the impulse to generate kick power drops the hands away from the head, so when closing for the final punch, be sure to protect yourself from an intercepting punch.
    • Jab-Cross-Lead Kick-Lead Knee
      Use the kick to punish and then re-cock and throw the knee.
  2. 1-Kick Follow-ups
    We covered two variations here, note that these combinations are a good way to train the flow into the Superman fake, since they basically do that but include rather than fake the rear kick.
    • Jab-Rear Kick-Rear Knee
    • Jab-Rear Kick-Cross-Rear Hook-Cross
      It is especially important here to reacquire your original lead so that you can go right back into the your punching combination.

At the end of our practice, I did some fast boxing timing with one of my students. This was probably a bad idea, as he came out whipping really fast, tight combinations at me. I haven't purely boxed in months, so the first thing I thought about was kicking him and then realizing that I shouldn't, as I registered the shouldn't part he pasted me. OK. So as we exchanged again I thought about clinching, nope can't do that either, before getting swatted again. After several exchanges each time getting the worse of it, I invoked senior privilege and bowed out (that and I was hacking up a lung...yeah that's the ticket). Joe, my student, started boxing about a year ago and has been competing and training in this almost exclusively for the past six months. I've been training guys for mixed-martial arts and been sparring more in that line. Given a set of rules, boxing, I was spending a large amount of processing time, remembering what I could and couldn't do, time that I couldn't give up to someone as fast as Joe. And as each time he was getting the better of it, I was scrambling to some up with something.
This is both the boon and ban of rules. Rules can refine skills to incredibly high levels. No one would argue with punching superiority of a boxer, the elbow-knee clinch dominance of the thai fighter, the takedown skills of a wrestler, and the submission skills of a sport jiu-jitsu expert. By playing within in the context of given rules, these combat athletes have refined their tools to be the best for those rules. However, they are also purely functional within those rules. Mixed-martial artist like to point out then that they are the superior fighters as mixed-martial arts incorporates "everything". This is a fallacy on two levels, (1) to refine skills in one area it is better to return to the source, I'd rather learn to box from a boxing coach and then have an MMA coach integrate that into a MMA game and (2) MMA has its own rules that gamemanship can exploit, not everything is legal and depending on the mechanics of the fight can favor certain elements of a fighters style. Here's another example:
Another problem with rules is the unreality they impose on any "live" situation from a match in ring or self-defense fight for your life. In training we often impose rules on sparring, self-defense scenarios, or drills. This is done to protect ourselves and often to emphasize an attribute to technical point. To paraphrase Tony Blauer, All training is fake, just try to train the most realistic fake stuff possible. Thus when someone drills combination X, followed by combination Y and their willing partner moves the right way, the desired result Z, they form a rule in their head. When I do this, this happens, however when dealing with an unwilling opponent and then X + Y suddenly doesn't equal Z. Rules then are a necessary evil, understand where they conflict with reality and why they do so, find ways to train around this unreality, but recognize that the rulebook isn't always what you think it is.

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