Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Importance of stance, footwork, finding balance and center

I've been training for over 17 years now and have been trained by one of the greatest fighters to ever walk this earth, Maurice Smith. I have also trained with many world class fighters from around the world and in that time I learned a great deal. Moreover, I have been teaching for 11 years now and in that time I have learned even more. Among all the things I have learned everything relies on the fundamental basics which is the foundation of every sport and even everyday life.

I always see a pattern in new students, no matter what their athletic background might be. Its something every instructor has seen many times. New students of Muay Thai or Kick-boxing seem to get caught up in the act of punching, kicking, throwing knees and elbows. They get lost in the strikes and forget about what got them to the point where they can strike, footwork. They are over exuberant in their performance that they lose balance and cannot re-center themselves after that thrilling punch and kick combo. Sound familiar? Everyone goes through this stage and some never learn or are taught to get out of that phase. Its the excitement of throwing the punch and students and long time practitioners forget to properly do the things that got them to the point of throwing that punch or strike.

Its trivial to me how I sometimes teach athletes that played a high level or even an elite level in their respected sport and they just cant slow down and learn from the ground up. I ask them if they had to learn from the ground up in their sport and they always say; yes. Then I ask them what makes martial arts or kick-boxing any different and they say; I don't know. My answer is; its not any different and you must slow down and get a firm foundation before everything else. If someone were to take golf lessons, would their instructor just let them swing away at the driving range or would he/she teach the fundamentals of the stance, back stroke, swing, hips and so forth? The answer to that is pretty apparent and there is no need to explain. Same goes for any sport. This old adage is right; you must first learn to crawl before you can walk. We have heard it all the time but how many of us actually follow it? In my time as an instructor, I say; not enough.

The foundation of any striker is their stance and finding their center in that stance. Then comes the rules and balance of footwork. Without proper footwork and balance it is nearly impossible to always be ready to strike, cut proper angles and out maneuver your opponent. How many times have you seen fighters throw combinations or single punches and lose their balance? How many times have you seen fighters stumble instead of return to their stance, ready for another exchange? I can answer that for you; A LOT! Start watching fights closer then just being a fan and you will see bad footwork, terrible stances and almost non-existent center and balance. I always tell my students and fighters; with proper footwork alone, you should be able to fatigue your opponent to some degree. Proper footwork and balance will allow you to strike at any given time and will also enable you to retract into a proper stance during any point in the exchange.

Finding your center is extremely important in the formula for dominating an opponent with footwork, angles, precision strikes and counters. Always being ready to strike, defend, move, and counter are all by-products of great stance, footwork, balance and center. A fighter should know exactly where their center is at all times so that they may move, swivel or strike from that position.

Great striking starts with a superb foundation. Elite level striking can never be reached without the foundation of stance, footwork, balance and center that makes everything possible. There is beauty in honing these skills, not just in what you can do but in what you will see your opponent do. When you really learn these skills, you will then take advantage of your opponent when he/she makes fundamental mistakes. Funny how perfecting the foundation of striking can lead to so many opportunities to dominate an opponent. The heart of striking is not really about the actual strikes, its about controlling your own body so that those strikes can be delivered properly, without prejudice and effortlessly. Everything we physically do in life revolves around body control and balance. The same applies to striking and fighting.

Anyone can get lucky and land a punch and in that sense it is just the strike that matters but in a skilled fight, everything matters and having a loose foundations will only lead to your crumbling demise.

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