Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I went to martial arts classes. These classes consisted of stretching, learning basics, kata, and self defense techniques. Later on, I’d start sparring on a regular basis as well.
I can say with absolute certainty that the most important aspect of those classes were the basics.
I’m a pretty athletic guy. In my late teens and 20’s I was sparring against people who weren’t athletic didn’t drill the basics. I fared pretty well against them. The reason for this was my athleticism allowed me to get a grip on the basics fast.
Mastering the basics is what separated me from most. This is true across all fields.
Basics in martial arts
The brand of martial arts that I studied was American Kenpo. It was started by a guy named Ed Parker who was huge in the 60’s and was Elvis’s bodyguard for a minute.
The basics in Kenpo are your standard karate moves. Side kicks, roundhouse kicks, punches, turning side kicks, and spinning wheel kicks.
The problem with karate classes was that they would show you how to do the basics, and give relatively little instruction in them. It took me a couple months to figure out to turn my support foot towards my opponent to get more power on a side kick.
We’d spend a lot of time in class doing things like kata and self defense techniques that aren’t really worth knowing compared to just practicing the basics over and over. However they needed to keep teaching you new stuff in order to justify keep coming.
At this point in my life if I ever went back to training in a class setting, I’d focus exclusively on training basics, sparring, and stretching after class.
Master this and you’d be way better than 99% of the population in fighting.
Support muscles in kicking
If you want to get good at throwing kicks, the best way to do that is to practice kicking over and over again.
When I was doing martial arts, I was pretty good at kicking. I was able to kick high, with power, and good form. This has diminished greatly by not practicing.
The reason for this is that when you are kicking over and over again, it works stabilizer muscles in your legs and core. When you make these muscles stronger, it allows you to have greater control over your kicks so that you’re not just throwing your leg out there and using momentum.
Working the basics allows you to not only obtain greater athleticism, but it allows you to maintain it.
Work your kicks
Most people have really weak kicks. If you watch any fight, you’ll notice that they tend to follow the same path of people punching at each other until they get tired. Then they start wrestling.
Having strong kicks gives you another very useful tool. Kicks allow you greater distance, more potential power, and more ways to attack.
Having greater distance gives you a huge advantage. It allows you to hit them when they can’t hit you. A perfect example of this would by Lyoto Machida. He would always stand with a karate stance in his matches and people had a hard time getting in on him. This was because at any time he could throw a kick and hit you from far away.
Kicks give you more power because they are longer limbs with usually more muscle behind them. By swinging your leg up to a guy’s head you are generating a huge amount of force.
Having more ways of attack is always going to be more effective than limiting yourself. When you implement kicks into your attacks it makes you opponent have to react to more stuff. Putting your opponent into this reactive state gives you a huge advantage.
I’ve seen many black belts who can’t throw effective kicks. Instead of working on the basics until they get them down, they work on a bunch of self defense techniques that don’t have as much application.
You’ll never get good kicks unless you work every day on throwing kicks.
Heavy bag work
Once you have the basic movements down and you have some strength building up in your stabilizer muscles, the next step is to start doing heavy bag work.
Doing heavy bag work allows you to develop your power, develop your stamina, and develop your combinations.
When first starting your basics, you have to figure out how to do the move itself. This is done by practicing over and over in the air. When you move over to the heavy bag, it’s a whole different world because you see how much power you have to put into those kicks.
When you start throwing strikes with power, you will drain energy much faster. After working on the heavy bag to develop power, your stamina will increase.
You will figure out how to allocate energy levels to different strikes in order to get the best attack. The stamina needed to be in a fight is totally different than your everyday cardio.
After doing bagwork for a while working on your strikes, start to put combinations together. Combinations are where the art comes into play.
The point of combinations is to string together an attack that will land on your opponent. You throw one strike here to land one there. Sometimes you’re doing stuff to set up a strike to land on your 5th strike.
If you work on the above basics in any martial art consistently until you become a master at it, you are now better than 99% of people at fighting.
Don’t get too cocky though because there’s always someone out there who is better. There’s always going to be freak atheletes who can do stuff you never can. The good news is that they usually aren’t the ones you’d have to deal with in an altercation.
Focusing on the basics until you master them, and then applying that knowledge is the secret formula to become great at anything.
This article was written through the lens of my experience of martial arts, but could be applied to any field.
People are trying to sell courses online in all manner of fields. In order to justify teaching anything the teacher must throw in a bunch of fluff to the course. If you could figure out the basics of the course and become a master at them you’d save yourself a bunch of time, and money.