I spent much of my teens and into my early 20’s boxing. I had a great coach, Willie Toweel, who won the bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He taught me some very important lessons, that I will never forget (like when he used to scream at you to keep your chin down). Now either it was my lack of athletic ability, or not enjoying the slip game, it did seem to me that getting punched in the face (a lot) seemed part and parcel of the game. When I entered the world of doormanship, not only didn’t you wear boxing gloves, you invariably fought people much bigger, and much stronger than you. Missing a slip in the ring against someone your own weight, you may be able to recover from, but on the street when someone is three times the size of you could spell disaster.
Part of my emphasis over the years, specifically with the defensive system of Crazy Monkey, was to find a more effective way of defending. Not only did I want it to work in the ring, but more importantly stand up against the rigor of street fights where being out sized, and out strengthened is a reality. Plus I am not sure about you, but I don’t like getting hit in the face.
Working the defensive structure in CM also changed the way I viewed victory in sparring (and a fight). Even when I am sparring light and taking a shot which would do little in the way of real physical damage, I ask myself two important questions:
- How many clean blows were delivered on me in that round?
- How many clean blows was I able to deliver on my opponent in that round?
I define a clean blow, as one if it was delivered with power, would have the potential to either hurt or stop you. A good solid shot to either the front or side of the jawline, or a perfect shovel hook to the floating ribs, are shots I would deem as clean. I don’t count glancing shots, especially those that tend to ride the top of the skull as a clean blow (unless it was a temple shot). This is the way I think about every sparring match, especially if it is light. Light sparring matches are a great way to test out new strategies and tactics. They give you the opportunity to be creative — simply, because taking a risk, and walking into something isn’t going to knock you out. But, the draw back is that a person may get cocky and take unnecessary chances, or absorb blows that they would never be able to if it was a real all out fight. Even when sparring light, and I am caught with a clean blow, I count it as a potential fight stopper. I think it is arrogant to think otherwise.
When you approach sparring this way, you enter into a whole new world. The goal then becomes one of taking as little amount of punishment to oneself as possible, while ensuring that what you fire lands accurately and cleanly. In other words, it’s not about how many strikes you can execute in a round, or how many points you are able to rack up, but rather what you can make land as clean potential hurt shots. To me, it doesn’t really matter if I only throw 20 punches in a 2-min round, if 99% land as clean blows. This allows you a more accurate assessment of how well you actually did.
Of course if you have trained, and have toughened up for sparring you could likely take a clean shot/s and survive — but why ever allow yourself to get into a mindset that would allow you to take that kind of risk? Again, taking a clean blow from someone your weight is going to be very different blow when taking it from someone three times the size of you.
When we are talking specifically about self-preservation (what Crazy Monkey striking was designed for), this approach to keeping safe, being able to ride the storm of incoming attacks, and being able to strategically place your own clean shots are paramount. If you take this approach every time you spar, even lightly — you are honing this essential skill when you need it most — on the street.
I have never understood why anyone, in MMA competition or boxing for that matter would allow themselves to get punched, to punch. While some of this is clearly unavoidable, I don’t feel it is the best strategy (and it is a sport strategy to be frank). Many competitive fighters get away with this because they fight in a weight class. Anyone who says size and strength don’t make a difference, are talking absolute bullshit. If that was the case then no combat sport (and this includes jiu-jitsu) would have all these weight divisions. Size and strength make a difference in a fight — end of story. If these competitive fighters did more sparring with other fighters who were bigger, stronger, taller, and had a longer reach than them,they just wouldn’t be able to play that type of game. One of the things we have always prided ourselves on in Crazy Monkey is that we make sure people spar everyone (and this often means people bigger than you). It is in sparring out of your weight class where you begin to truly understand the Crazy Monkey methodology, and why defence should always come first.