Conditioning for the Ring

By Sifu Tai Yim

Sifu Tai Yim The recent NACMAF International Tournament in Baltimore, MD was of very high caliber, and full-contact fighting was at a high level. Following this event, I spoke with many of the spectators. Response was varied. Many people I spoke to were impressed with the fighting spirit and enthusiasm the fighters portrayed.

I was asked about the preparations undertaken by the fighters for this event. The most important aspects of training for a full-contact fight are conditioning and full-contact experience. The conditioning necessary for a full-contact fight is very specific. I?ve seen a lot of point-style fighters try to make the transition to the full-contact ring, thinking that it will be just like the point-fight with harder hitting. Then there are some who have excellent forms and think they can step into the ring and rely closely on their precise technique.

Conditioning may include training for speed, power and endurance. Other training may also include methods of absorbing impact. Training speed, power and endurance as related to a fight is going to be different from the same type of training for forms practice. The training needs to be more intense to take into account the stress factor that is involved in an actual fight.

In forms practice as well as forms competition, it is just you performing by yourself. In the fight there is stress, nervousness, your adrenaline is flowing, and you are hitting and being hit. Endurance in forms is very different from the high stress of being in a fight. Without endurance, you cannot expect to have proper execution of technique.

However, if you have that endurance, it gives you advantages. Your actions as well as your reactions will be quicker and more responsive to the situation. This will allow you to stay in control during the fight and give you added confidence.

All of the training I have talked about is still only work leading up to the fight. One might jog and skip rope, punch a heavy bag and a variety of focus pads with a partner but still, there?s something missing. What?s missing is the practical sparring experience. Fighting in the classroom is what teaches the student how it feels to be in a real fight. This is the piece that puts it all together for the student. The sparring puts the student into the correct mind-set for what the fight is really all about.

The actual fighting experience tests the students? courage and teaches them how to focus and control their nervousness and turn that nervous energy into something that works for them, not against them. Sparring also allows them to fight beyond what they think are their limitations. There are many concerns about full-contact fighting being debated now in the United States. One of the things I hear a lot is that the rules being used in the U.S. today are too much like karate-style kickboxing and that kungfu should not fight like karate kickboxing.

In the kungfu community, we need to start standardizing somewhere, and the rules being used by the three major full-contact kungfu tournaments are actually very different from kickboxing. Leg kicks, throws and takedowns are being allowed at the kungfu tournaments, all of which you will not see at a kickboxing match.

One of the other things I often hear is that a particular instructor?s style is too advanced or too dangerous to be adopted to the ring. I feel that if a style is designed to work in a real fight, then those techniques should also work in the ring. If a technique is good, then it should ?stand up? to the restrictions of fighting within the ring. What works in the ring is the same thing that works in an actual fight: simple and effective techniques. Another of the concerns is that the rules and regulations of fighting in the ring compromise individual styles by having them conform to those rules. As I have said, simple and effective techniques are what work and therefore, you see many of the fighters sticking to the basics. As a result a lot of the fighters look the same: you see them using basic jabs, hooks, uppercuts, front kicks, side kicks and round kicks.

However, I disagree that the rules infringe upon individual styles. If you look closely at the more advanced fighters on the circuit, you will see a clear difference in style in all aspects of their fighting. For example, at the NACMAF tournament, the fighting styles of fighters from Russia, Malaysia, and even different parts of the U.S. were clear throughout the event. The Russian fighters were very strong in Greco-Roman wrestling and Shuai-Chiao, and dominated in their ability to control and throw their opponents. The Malaysian fighter had a unique leg kicking style. We also saw techniques such as gwa-sao and qwa-pek that were indicative of the Choy Li Fut fighters from San Francisco. Once the fighters reach a level of experience with the basic techniques in the ring, they can move on to more intricate and stylistic fighting. It is a logical progression.

The rules being used today by the full-contact tournaments are actually quite good. Rules have been established that afford the competitors a chance to test their skill while providing protection for the fighters against serious injury.

However, we need to keep an open mind about changes to those rules for the betterment of our art. Some instructors have told me they wish we could have our students fight like ?the good old days.?

It is true that before, we did not use any safety equipment and if you wanted to test your skill outside the relatively safe learning environment of your school, then you really had to put yourself on the line. This view is futile and outdated. I am glad that tournaments now allow a practical experience for my students and provide a forum for exchanges on all levels.

No one is trying to claim that the rules being used today are the end-all and be-all of fighting rules. We realize that the ring is not the most realistic of fight situations. However, it is another step in the right direction to prepare our students in the event of a real fight. It is important the we, in the kungfu community, continue to work together within our individual organizations to keep finding ways to improve our rules for competition.

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Written by Sifu Tai Yim for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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