Monday, 1 June 2009

Lyoto Machida's Style

Since Lyoto Machida’s knock out victory against Rashad Evans at UFC 98 there have been a string of articles published about Shotokan Karate and Machida’s style of fighting. Weather it is really effective for real life, is Lyoto just lucky, one day soon he shall get what’s coming to him and other stories which seem to be pointless.

Why are they pointless? Simply because, style does not make a fighter. A statement that has been written and said many times for years and years. Bruce Lee famously proclaimed this during his life. It is the person that makes a good fighter not the style. Weather a person trains in Karate, Kickboxing, BJJ, or Kung Fu, as long as one trains realistically they should be effective fighters. There is never a guarantee of victory, but if one has a realistic attitude towards combat they should always stand a chance of winning.

Notice above though, that the word realistically is marked in italics. It is very important that realism is kept in ones mind always, when concerned with real fighting against a live opponent, be it in the ring or on the street. This is the main thing that Lyoto Machida has done.

As far as MMA for sport is concerned, he has kept his way of fighting realistic by understanding that his strikes need to be fast, well timed and with full hard contact, something that some sport Karate fighters do not train as it is not in there rules of competition. He has kept his way of fighting realistic by understanding that clinch work is nessecary for real fighting and that it must be given considerable attention. Weather trained in a Karate dojo or a Muay Thai gym, the clinch work must be trained. Finally, he has kept his way of fighting realistic by understanding that takedowns, grappling and submission holds are part of real fighting, hence his high grade in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

If one trains each part of overall fighting described above, one will be successful and if many hours of careful, strategic training are carried out rather than many hours of simply fighting with different people, timing, distance, reactions and many other elements will be enhanced.

This is what Lyoto Machida has done and this is why he is champion. Being a Karate ka does not have much to do with it. Being a strategic competent fighter does.


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BSM said...

I tend to agree with you. He took certain (not all) techniques from Shotokan and adapted them to MMA. If he was using traditional Shotokan with traditional philosophy he'd probably be eating mat.

The thing that excites me is that once we get past the hype I wonder what other arts could be adapted as well?

I agree that how you train relevant to where you might use your art is important. But I do think Shotokan is his foundation. It's where he developed his discipine which helps him train in other arts; it's also where he probably developed his power, speed, and timing.

MARKS said...

BSM - As long as one trains in a realistic way, taking all elements of combat into acount, one should become a good fighter. For instance, many times I have heard some semi or light contact fighters say, "oh, if I wanted to I could strike full contact" and they rarly if ever spar full contact, not even on heavy bags. To me this is not taking realistic fighting into consideration.

I think every art has something to offer and who knows, maybe we shall be seeing Aikido style takedowns. Thanks for the comment.

John W. Zimmer said...

I've always thought the style does not matter as much as the fighter. While I liked seeing karate hands and kicks bridge the gap effectively, what you said about training realistically rings true.

Matt "Ikigai" said...

Great points being made about the individual vs gross stylistic assumptions. I wonder if he trained on makiwara?

Anonymous said...

Machida does so well because of his shotokan, only shotokan has this profound timing and distancing. Of course it has to be adapted to mma, no ncaa wrestler will succeed in mma without adaptation and learning how to strike, neither a gi or no gi jiu jitsu competitors can succeed. But shotokan has unique timing, distance, strategy if learned properly which is rare, there are only few good teachers.

Anonymous said...

In order to comment intelligently on karate, you have to understand what karate (a martial art) is. The applied goal of martial arts is to enable the practitioner to overcome an opponent in physical (generally) confrontation.

If you accept this definition of marital arts, hence karate training seeks the same; with Machida, the style is Shotokan Karate. The next question then becomes what is involved in karate training. Without lauching into a long discourse here, the vast majority of commentary and evaluation of karate in the MMA arena does not understand or appreciate what comprises karate training. Hence, the commentators pick on a certain aspect of the training regimen and make a critical statement about an isolated charatacteristc without competency to do so. Others like to quote big 'names' like Bruce Lee (see above) as the "gospel." While Bruce was a good fighter, oustanding teacher, and perhaps the most successful ever promoter of martial arts, Bruce Lee never completed a traditional martial arts curriculum, nor was he a professional fighter.

As a case in point, the Bruce Lee point about the person being the key to being a good figher is true. Bu the greater truth on this point is that, for argument sake, there are three overall variables on what makes a martial artist successful in combat, sport or self defense: (1) the particular style of martial art, (2) the school, and the (3) student. Number (2) further includes (a) the instructor(s) and (b) the other students at the school.

The various styles of martial arts all have their own philosophies, conventions, and strenths and weaknesses. Understnading and learning these is necessary to succeed. Keeping the discussion on the karates, I have attended numerous karate schools and contrary to commentary above, they all presented the principles of developing a strong, unified (key) body which can project powerful and strong technigues designed to be effective in a physical confrontation. Whether or not the student became accomplished, cylcles back to foregoing paragraph.

Many kick boxers /MMA people advocate boxing training as necessary to be an effective fighter. Again, it is true boxing (technically a sport) can make you a better, effective fighter and many martial artists have incorported boxing successfully including Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

Critics of karate techniques, however, omit the fact that there are beginning/ training technigues designed to build the strong & unified body AND FOR VERY RUDIMENTARY situations, applied techniques for self defense as well as tactical offense, and advanced applications; all synthesized and learned in a PROGRESSION.

The same failing applies to the critics of sport karate or point karate vs. full contact fighting. Again, if you accept the applied goal of martial arts training stated above, then the relevance of sport karate and point karate becomes that is a level of training on the way to real life combat or self defense. But since we are not in a self defense situation, we consciously follow rules so as not to (risk) kill or maim our opponent. We might want to adopt a sports approach and utilize some boxing technique to help score 'points.' We consciuosly pull our strikes short of the target, limit our targets, restrict our techniques, etc., acccordinly. We can still dynamically demonstrate proper stragtegy and technique with speed and power in a simulated exercise, which we can consciously change in a serious, real life confrontation.

Proper karate training requires considerable time, effort, and understanding. Virtually all of the criticisms of karate training fall away once students gain a full understanding of the martial art, then put in the appropriate / proper time and practice. Lyoto Machida is a prime example. I think his last opponent, Shogun Rua, is also.

KarateStudent said...

Karate Student is the author of the previous comment dated November 21. Karate Student will provide an answer to the call for realistic training: Which is more effective in a real fight of contest, boxing or karate?

Karate Student's answer: In a conflict between the boxer and karate fighter, the boxer always wins (with one exception)! An important reason is Marks position on reality in the training necessary to make a good fighter.

Boxers are trained to dish and take considerable punishment. Boxers doing what they should be doing are strong and tough and can quick fast, hard punches or mix it up with various, fast. combinations. Take a look at the Manny P. vidoeclip posted on this site. They are true, applied fighters.

Karate students, on the other hand, often use Kihon techniques in fighting and sparring; or recognizing the weaknesses in Kihon cited by Marks in this site two years ago, resort to the applied strikes of boxers. In that post, Marks uses the 'lunge punch' to illustrate the weakness of Kihon in a 'real fight.' The karate person ends up in an extended stance with an extended arm and the opposite hand chambered at the waist. The karate person is in a planted position with on arm fully committed and defensively exposed (Marks goes onto to state some traditional benefits of kihon and why it is important). The boxer camp and other critics of karate, therefore, conclude that karate-kihon is ineffective in a 'real' fight. Many famous martial artists and fighters based their success on this presumption, and include Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace. Let's, for a moment, step back from the presumption that kihon's benefit is solely for training.

Karate Student's challenge the boxer superior to karate presumption begins with the definition of karate (cited in the previous post): The applied goal of karate is to enable the practitioner to overcome an opponent in a physical confrontation.

PART 2 to come.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent "SAID" Part 2:

Before we delve into the applied goal of karate set forth in the previous post (dated November 24), KarateStudent ("KS") will establish the 'traditional' karates referred to in this post. Lyoto Machida's base is the Japanese karate, Shotokan Karate. Shotokan is characterized by rigorous and forcefully physical techniques, often linear and aggressive in manner. KS's style is the Korean karate of Tang Soo Do. Tang Soo Do ("TSD") is closely aligned with Shotokan sharing many similarities, and they could be considered 'sister' karates. Because of the agressive, physically forceful nature of these sister karates, they may be grouped in the 'Hard Style' karates.

Hard Style karate students start out learning to block, punch and kick. The basic (Kihon) blocks and hand strikes are generally done with a closed fist. The student is shown the low block, middle block and high block. The first Kihon arm strikes are the middle punch, high punch and perhaps low punch. These hand techniques are commonly performed from a lunge stance (Shotokan), front stance (TSD). The front stance has the leg aligned with the striking arm forward and flexed, the other leg to the back and side at roughly a 45 degree angle, which can be made steeper (Shotokan) of shallower (TSD). The Kihon block or punch arm is more or less extended and in line with the forward leg. The opposite hand, not performing the Kihon technique is placed at the side (lower in Shotokan; higher in TSD), called chamber.
Early on, KS was introduced to the inside middle block and the backfist strike.

This chambering action is the subject of lengthly criticism by the boxer / sporting and applied fighter community. They claim disadvantages, among others, of (a) it takes too long to perform a hand technique vs. holding the hands higher like a boxer, and (b) the chambered hand leaves the head and torso striking zone unprotected. KS then asks why do karate practicioners do such a dumb thing as chambering?
The rhetorical answer from the boxer / MMA camp is that traditional karate is impractical, outdated and obsolete.

KS says take a boxer-type fighter who is pretty strong and can bench press 200lbs. If the boxer-type fighter hits KS with a full power straight punch, he can hit KS with 100lbs. of maximum force , the strength of one arm / shoulder. KS, who does not lift weights, has only fair strenght in his upper body, being able to bench 140bs. When KS performs a traditional Kihon punch on the boxer-type fighter the maximum force is up to 140lbs.--because KS is using both arms, one punching and one augmenting the punch by simultaneouly chambering. One can argue it's something less than 140lbs. because the second, chambering arm is augmenting the strike. The broader point is that traditional karate Kihon is designed to build a strong, unified body capable of delivering powerful blows. Once this is recgnized, it becomes clear how a karate practitioner drawing on his entire body, in this case KS, can deliver a punch that equals or exceeds the power of the stronger, weight-lifting, boxer-type fighter.

Chambering also has, yes, a tactical advantage. the chambered hand from the preceeding punch, is now in position to execute a another punch drawing upon the power of a strong unified body. Remember that!

PART 3 to follow:

MARKS said...

KARATE STUDENT - Your above points about the force of power a boxer can achieve with a straight punch seem very much like you have scientific knowledge of this. Have you trained in boxing before?

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent reply to Marks comment above, dated November 27:

Karate Student ("KS") is a karate student, the present style is Tang Soo Do, but has trained in other styles. KS have never trained in boxing; nor have I undertaken any scientific study.

In the course of my training, KS has encountered boxer-type fighters. So, KS has in Mark's words, realistic experience, with boxers as real-time opponents. KS has been overwhelmed by boxers in kihon-type training so I have first hand experience in the weaknesses of kihon. However, the caveat is that the boxers typically turned training exercises into a boxing match while KS was training for the legitimate, traditional Kihon objectives as a beginner.

KS will also acknowlege that a boxer can put more than one-arm's power into punch by using the momentum of his / her body weight. Some TSD karate instructors advocate this also; KS does not. KS will also acknowlege that a boxer can learn to punch using the body. A major underlying difference though between boxing and karate is that karate starts out emphasizing the entire body from day one.

Get a series of vidoes on any Hard Style karate and take a look. Compare it against a boxing course. The information is out there. The understading is up to the martial artist.

KS has a Shotokan Karate video from a Shohtokan grandmaster in South Africa. This grandmaster is very professorial, and he provides a much better academic explanation of Kihon as well as karate training in general that KS can. KS has never trained in Shotokan; KS prefers TSD to Shotokan. However, this Shotokan video clearly demonstrates students rigourous training for the the foundation of a unified, powerful body. In my opinion, Shotokan, for all its disadvantages, is one of the very best of examples of this fundamental foundation of karate.

MARKS said...

KARATE STUDENT - Although I do agree with some of what you say, I have to disagree with you on Boxers not being taught to use there hips/body in punches from day one. I have trained many years in Karate and Boxing and must say that the similarities both use in the use of the body for punching is more than evident.

However, please dont think that I am being a "smart ass" with you. Thanks for your comments and any more are welcome

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent "SAID" Part 3

Reply to Marks' post dated November 27.

Thank you for your welcome. KarateStudent (KS) found his opinions held a very small minority at the TSD schools as well, including KS's challenge to the boxer is the better fighter vs. karate practitioner issue. KS will now continue with PART 3.

At KS's TSD school, a sparring contest is required as a part of all belt-rank tests. During KS's first couple of months both of the instructors active at time, especially the head instructor, had little appreciation for KS's views.

KS student was finally approved by the head instructor for the yellow-belt test, the first belt up from pure beginner. The head instructor matched KS with one of the schools fiercest red-belt fighters at the school. This red belt was aggressive, physically fit and adopted the boxer-kickboxer fighting style. KS, on the other hand, was judged to be non-athletic and not being outwardly aggressive, too passive, too traditional, and not forceful enough in KS's technique. KS believes that the instructors had a dual training purpose in pairing the fierce red-belt and KS together in KS's yellow belt test match. I believe they wanted the red-belt to hold back on his aggression and learn to help the 'struggling' beginner. On KS's part, I would be confronted with a tough, aggressive opponent which would be instructional about KS's apparent lack of athletic prowess and seemingly passive behavior. In fact, KS declined sparring whenever KS could. This earned KS great disdain from instructors and many students at the school.

Before KS describes the match with the red-belt MMA kickboxer type fighter, KS is going to digress to describe the first two steps (there are 20 total) in the 1st begginner level form learned in TSD. Virtually the same form or kata is taught to the begginners in Shotokan Karate. The TSD form is called Hyung Il Bu (KS's yellow-belt test required this form be done as part of the test.).

Hyung Il Bu 1st 2 steps: After assuming a ready position; Step 1, the student turns left and steps left into a front stance, performing a left low block, right hand chambers at the right side; Step 2, student steps forward into a right front stance and performs a right middle punch, left hand chambers at the left side. To summarize; Step 1, turn step & block low; Step 2, step forward & punch middle. Even simplier, Turn, step & block; Step & punch. Beside doing something so simple it could never work in a real fight, what have we learned?

First, we have introduce the Kihon of directional movement to the Kihon of just standing and doing techniques. Furthermore and just as importantly, we are progressing on Kihon training objective of building a strong, unified body form which to project powerful, accurate techniques. Moreover, the chambering of the right hand at the end of Step 1 tactically prepares the student to lauch the middle punch in Step 2, there is continuity between the techniques. How about stratey? Looking at Hyung Il bu as simulation, the student is turning to face an attack from the left, stepping in and blocking a low blow, then advancing and striking or counter-striking the attacker. The strategy is simply (1) [turn] step & block, (2) advance [step] & strike.

KS's sparring test for yellow-belt commenced with the fierce red-belt assumming a boxer-type stance with his hands up to protect his face. KS assumed a traditional TSD Left fighting stance which is a blend of 1/2 front stance and 1/2 back stance, left hand held high in front as guard and the right tucked under the left and lower in front of the diamphram.

Part 4 To Come.


KARATE STUDENT'S ("KS") reply to MARKS post Dated November 27.

Thank you for your welcome.

KS's latest post (PART 3) did not appear. Did MARKS receive KS's PART 3, or is MARKS confident in MARKS experience in karate / boxing / MMA as regards the boxer vs. karate issue?

In the course of KS's training, KS has encountered instructors who concur with MARKS that expert boxer's use of the body is the same as a karate fighter. KS has respect for some of these instructors and takes their opinions on any subject seriously. KS always considers his opinion(s) could be wrong.

KS is not a boxer, and is not qualifed to train or advise on boxing versus someone, MARKS, who has completed courses in boxing. KS is schooled in karate. KS is a karate fighter. KS is a student of the Hard Style karates and is able to comment on the Hard Style karates.

KS's comments are getting long-winded, probably sound like "BS." At KS's TSD school, there are nine ranks to proceed through to black-belt. What KS is saying is that even a basic, 'urealistic' Hard Style karate like Tang Soo Do is actually very involved; there's the reason for the lengthly commentary.

For KS to properly address MARKS comment as well establish the sophistication in karate, as well shed light on the issue at hand, Karate Student must continue with PART 3.

PART 3 To Follow?

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent ("KS") interjects comment about MMA training style and Lyoto Machida's Shotokan Kartate.

MARKS started this post addressing the critics of Lyoto Machida, who voice he will get his comeuppance, as pointless. The conclusion MARKS draws is that Lyoto Machida is an excellent realistic fighter irregardless of Machida's base in Shotokan Karate. KS agrees 100% that Machida is an excellent AND realistic fighter.

IN response to Machida's decisive win over R. Evans, suddendly most in the boxer / wrestler / MMA camp 'woke' up and said as MARKS already recognized, "Machida is a formidable, realistic fighter."

One of these MMA trainer's who apparently has a quite a following, said the he has identified what Machida does--it's timing! So what is this MMA trainer is going to do?--Go out and get three of the best karate guys he can find and work on guess what, timing! His reason is that timing is really all Machida wins with, supposedly the rest of his Shotokan background is [largely] immaterial.

KS holds the directly 180 Degrees viewpoint: Lyoto Machida's success in MMA springs from his excellent base in Shotokan Karate, which another early commentator to this post has firmly gone on record with. Notice KS said ** excellent ** not mediocre. On Lyoto Machida's father (who hardly looks like he could qualify as an MMA fighter), Lyoto Machida's father has certainly evolved a potent (realistic re MARKS) style highly effective in the MMA arena, which we see through his son.

The MMA trainer's "cut and paste" add 'timing' approach to improve his athletic-based style will usually end in disaster against a seasoned martial artist. A perfect reverse example of this is the not too distant bout between Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie. To KS, Matt Hughes is a champion-level MMA fighter and truly outstanding at the sports-base MMA area of wrestling and boxing. Royce Gracie is clearly proficient in BJJ and MMA fighting. Royce Gracie professes to include karate kicks and strikes in his repetrior. To KS, Royce Gracie's, karate skills clearly fall into the "cut and paste" category.

The UFC match started out with Royce trying to ward off Matt with some half-hearted karate. Matt breezed by Royce's 'karate' defense and landed a clean shot on Royce no problem. Hugh's, right off the bat, demonstrated he was the superior, realistic fighter, and 'karate' couldn't stop him.

KS replies: "cut and paste" doesn't well work in actual (realistic) competition; ESPECIALLY with the Discipline of karate.

PART 4 on the Boxer vs. Karate saga to follow.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent("KS"): Kihon Karate vs. Boxer Saga;
PART 4: KS Yellow-Belt Sparring Test vs. Fierce Red-Belt.

The match started and true to form, the fierce red-belt went on the offensive. He threw roundhouse kicks middle and high. His technique was good and you would take a good shot if hit. The fierce red-belt was perplexed when KS did not move, but maintained the traditional Tang Soo Do (TSD) Left fighting stance. KS did not move because the kicks did not come close enough to hit me. Seeing the yellow-belt testee 'frozen' and not intimated to move from his kicks, the fierce red-belt eased back, then pressed his attack by shuffling in and threw a strong, straight right (aimed past the outside of KS's left guard hand) directly into KS's face.
The red-belt's left hand was up in boxer's guard protecting his face and presumably poised for a follow-up.

How did KS respond? Did KS duck, retreat, frantically left block, bob & weave, jab left, counter to the body, take the shot and go ballistic in vain? No to all of this typical responses. KS did the unthinkable; he responded with his yellow-belt kihon karate.

As the straight right came past KS's left guard, KS quickly stepped forward into a right fighting stance, and executed a Right, Middle Inside Block (left hand pulled to partial chamber). EFFECT: The inside middle block contacted the red-belt's striking arm at the inside forearm, bumping it harmlessly out of the way. What you say; now both of KS hands are to the left of his body, leaving the center & right vulnerable to the fierce red-belt's dangerously poised left hand?

ANSWER, next step (remember, Hyung Il bu's first leg has 2 steps). Upon the inside middle block contact, KS bounced his right arm off and drew it back to partial chamber towards the left shoulder (similar to preparation for a R low block) and snapped a Right Back Fist to the defenseless right side of the red-belt's head, KS (completing the partial chamber of the left hand to full chamber at the side--adding stunning momentum to the backfist strike). EFFECT: A look of surprise appeared in the fierce red-belt's eyes as he realized an effective counterstrike has just been scored on him. What happened next left fierce red-belt dumbfounded.

KS had pulled the backfist strike approximatley 1" short of target and with that, KS immediatley turned into a Right front stance and shot a powerful Left Reverse Punch into the red-belt's unprotected right torso (pulled to light contact), right hand full chamber. EFFECT: A look of shock appeared across the fierce red-belt's face as he realized, as far as a point karate match goes, he had just been taken out 1,2,3.

The fierce red-belt became angry, being a moderately stronger, athletic, experienced, technially good fighter of pre black-belt rank, who had just gotten trumped by a someone who didn't even have a belt. He became very aggressive but the sparring only went another 20-30 seconds. The head instructor stopped the match when the red-belt tried the famous 'superman' punch and the instructor saw the red-belt was loosing his cool. The red-belt never scored on KS.

PART 5 to Follow.

KarateStudent said...

KarateStudent Part 5: Boxer vs. Karate Epilouge

KarateStudent("KS") knows that some critic(s) will try to pick this post apart (The fierce-red belt was holding back, the red-belt could have does this/that, you (KS) had better duck next time, blocks can miss too, karate [sport] fighters don't really do what you said, I know this boxer who ..., karate is full of other weaknesses despite what you say, etc., etc.).

KS' long Diatribe notwithstanding, KS is not a "gospel singer" for traditional 'hallowed' karate. Traditional karate is full of faults and weak points. Karate was designed by people; how could it be (realistically re MARKS) anything but imperfect and flawed. Maybe, just maybe the benefits, if you train rather than complain (M. Ali 'speak') , outweigh the disadvantages.

For specific follow up comments, KS will ask you to go back and reread this entire post on Lyoto Machida / Shotokan Karate--start to finish. Or, alternatively post them to MARKS, the author of this website.

For those who still want to argue / criticize, go to the "Okinawan Shorinji-Ryu Karate" website advertised on MARKS Read what the Hanshi says in "About Shorinji-Ryu Karate Do," then sign up for classes and criticize / argue with him. KS prefers TSD; as a serious karate practitioner however, KS would be the last person to argue with the Master at this site.

Tang Soo!

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