The Importance Of Versatile Techniques: Dynamic Striking With The Machida Brothers
On the face of things, striking is a relatively simple art. We are limited in the number of weapons we have; everyone has, at most, two arms and two legs. With these limbs we can throw straight strikes or curved strikes. Capping our weapons in this way would seem to limit us to a small range of possible strikes to use in a fight. This analysis belies the true versatility of our striking arsenal. Our weapons should be developed so that they can fulfill multiple functions. In the below article, we will look at some of the ways various strikes have been used to fulfill multiple functions and cap it off with the Machida Brothers describing two ways to employ their signature front kick.
What Are The Purposes?
Four our purposes, we can divide the functions of strikes into four broad classes: Power Shots, Setup Shots, Distance Managers, and Ring Positioners. Let’s look at each of these categories. In the technique video below, the Machida brothers will describe how they masterfully use one technique, the front kick, for multiple purposes.
In the video below, the masterful Machida brothers break down two uses of the front kick. In their analysis, they are explicit in describing the varying functions of the front kick and how to perform each variation.
Lyoto begins by describing the direction of each kick. The snap kick travels in an upward trajectory, from the floor to the point of contact. The push kick travels upward before moving horizontally and downward to the point of contact. A second distinction between the two techniques is the contact point of the foot. With the snap kick, the force is concentrated on the ball of the foot. While the push kick can also be landed on the ball of the foot, it is commonly used with the whole foot as the point of contact. The final distinction noted in the video is the movement of the body with each kick. When throwing the snap kick, the hips will stay square with the opponent, as opposed to the push kick which utilizes the full body. Rotating about the hips allows the generation of more force, which can be used to create more distance between the kicker and the opponent.
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Power Shots are the shots thrown with the intent to hurt the opponent. Any fighter who competes in the true spirit of the fight, finishing the fights, has hurting blows as the end goal of every tactic and strategy they employ. The technique we look at today includes a version of the front kick that functions as a power shot: the snap kick.
There are two schools of thought regarding Power Shots. Some experts, such as Bas Rutten, believe that every shot should be thrown with full power. The idea here is that Power Shots have to be respected. Fighters will fully commit to defending these shots, which creates openings to be exploited with feints or combinations. Alternatively, other experts believe Power Shots should be used judiciously. Power Shots are typically slower and require more energy. Given these tradeoffs, people in this camp advise using lighter punches to set up the big shots. This brings us to our next class: Setup Shots
Setup Shots are strikes that are not thrown to hurt, but to increase the likelihood of landing a Power Shot. Strikes can set up Power shots by blinding the opponent or forcing specific defensive reactions. Although striking is a brutal game, blinding an opponent in this context does not refer to rendering them unable to see. Rather, Setup Shots obscure their vision so that the power shot can land undetected. Nick Diaz artfully applies this tactic. When Diaz throws his one-two, he times his right straight so that it is thrown while the jab is blocking the opponents vision. Thrown this way, the rear straight lands before the jab is fully removed from the opponent’s eye, often landing on an unsuspecting fighter.
Programming reactions is a superordinate skill that combines simpler techniques to create specific openings for hurting blows. Commonly, this is done by repeating a specific punch or sequences of strikes so that the opponent reliably defends the techniques. Successfully landing the jab brings out common defenses. If the reaction is to parry the jab using the rear hand, they have created an opening for the left hook to the head. Opponents that slip the jab to the outside are vulnerable to headkicks. Each reaction has a vulnerability that the astute striker can exploit.
Distance setting punches serve to either close or maintain the distance between two fighters. The two most popular distance setters in kickboxing are the jab and the front kick. As we have seen, these punches can also be applied as power shots or setup shots. As distance setters they are most commonly used to maintain the distance. These are straight blows that inflict force that pushes the fighter backwards while simultaneously creating a barrier between the two opponents.
Strikes in this class can also serve to close the distance. In contrast with the distance maintaining strikes, which are typically straight blows, these punches are typically curved strikes. Punches like the leaping left hook used by Roy Jones Jr close the gulf between two fighters. Shifting overhand strikes, as used by Dustin Poirier can also fit into this category. Poirier will often launch an overhand left while shifting his rear foot forward into an orthodox stance, deceptively closing the distance between him and his opponent.
Positioning Shots are strikes designed to move or corral an opponent into a specific location within the fighting arena. More often than not, fighters want to control the center of the ring so that they have the option of backing up to evade strikes. Because most fighters wish to take this position, fighters need to know how to move their opponent back against the cage or ropes. One tool for this is the double jab. Opponents who back away from strikes can be positioned against the fence by doubling up on the jab, forcing them to move back an extra step or two. Push kicks can also serve this function. Great pushkicks not only maintain but create distance by launching the opponent backwards. Landing a good push kick from the center of the ring can quickly place the opponent against the ropes.
Once fighters are positioned against the barrier, they will try to circle out and regain the center. Crafty ring cutters can use curved strikes to keep their opponent in front of them. Launching a heavy body kick or hook can quickly encourage a fighter to stop their movement in that direction. Once their movement has been stopped, the fighter in the center can leverage the positional advantage he or she has gained.
Why Learn From The Machida Brothers?
This article is 1000 words devoted to the importance of having strikes that can be versatile. Having versatile weapons is what separates sophisticated strikers from novices. The Machida Brothers are legitimate karate masters who have utilized the front kick for multiple purposes in high level competition for decades, scoring multiple all-time great finishes. Their instructional Machida Front Kicks by Lyoto and Chinzo Machida – Dynamic Striking is focused solely on using this technique. If you want to learn the intricacies and nuances of the front kick, there is no better place to start.