Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ultimate martial art style comparison between striker and grappler

Ever since the dawn of time, human have developed two main ways of fighting. First form of fighting is striking, which is the most natural things for anybody to do when in physical conflicts. Striking comes in the forms of slapping, punching, kicking and other types of hitting by using the harder parts of your body to make strong and sudden impact on your opponent's body, causing direct physical damage to your opponent.

Second form of fighting is grappling, which is the most natural things for anybody to do when they are engaged in physical struggles too close for direct striking. Grappling comes in the forms of choking, throwing and locking/potentially breaking opponents joint, causing physical injuries. 

There are other forms of attack such as gauging your opponent's weak part using fingers, scratching your opponents using finger nails and biting your opponent's flesh using teeth. These forms of attack can be employed by both striker and grappler therefore are not included in style comparisons. 

So here comes the question that martial artists have always been trying to find out: Striking arts vs Grappling arts, which is more superior forms of fighting and which one will eventually win in a fight?

To find the answer, or i should say, to explore where the ultimate answer may lies, we need to set the scenarios first. Here, we are strictly talking about a 1 on 1 dueling with empty hand, and the combatants have no previous knowledge of the fighting style of the opponent, moreover, each combatant represents the highest mastery of the respective art and has very limited knowledge and experience of the other art.

Therefore you see that today's MMA fights can no longer be used to find out which type of art is better anymore since all of the fighters are cross-trained in both striking and grappling already. There are legends in the past that details fights between grandmasters of different styles, however those are just legends and can't be relied on too much for its accuracy.

Hence, the closest thing I can come up with for using to compare striking and grappling is the early day UFC or Vale Tudo. The two combatants were strictly experts of their own styles and the rules inside the cage was very minimum. There were still rules, fighters still had some sort of knowledge about the opponents before the fight and not all fighters had the same level of mastery of their own style. Boxing wasn't represented by Mike Tyson, Kickboxing wasn't represented by Peter Aerts, Karate wasn't represented by Francisco Filho, but wrestling was represented by all-Americans or olympians and BJJ was represented by the Gracies. But regardless, it was still the closest event that matches the scenario i set.

The result of the first few UFC events was very obvious. Grapplers really stood out and beat strikers. Of course we could argue what if Mike Tyson went in or Ramon Dekkers went in and on and on, Well, if we focus on how strikers lost, we will see that strikers's striking capacity was not given the chance to shine at all because grapplers knew how to kill the striking distance, hence removing the weapons from striker. Had Mike Tyson gone in there, would he had done better? Logically, he wouldn't unless his knew how to stop the take-downs from grappler, and we all know boxing doesn't teach you that.

It is exactly because of the huge success of wrestling and BJJ in the first few UFC events, it not only put grappling arts on the map, but also revolutionized the sport. In today's MMA, no fighters would dire to go in the cage not knowing grappling at all.

So can we conclude that grappling is superior than striking in 1 on 1 empty hand combat? No, actually far from it.

Now that we understand the issues strikers face when dealing with grapplers, which is how to fight when there is no more striking distance. We need to see if strikers can find a way to strike and inflict mortal damages in skin-touch range or before losing the regular striking distance when grappler tackles.

One classic fight that shows how striking beat grappling is Takanori Gomi vs Ralph Gracie. Even though Gomi wasn't exactly a pure striker at that time, he did end Gracie's winning streak in a few seconds with a knee to the face when Ralph dived down for a tackle. So strikers do have a chance against grappler if the knock-out can occur before getting too closed. However, Gomi's win over Gracie is a chance encounter and it is too hard to reproduce. If we want to compare which style is better, we can't rely on chance encounters, if a style is indeed better, it should reflect the result every time or most of the time. Because the nature of take-down is that it can be repeated again and again until it hits, in other words it is ok to not succeed every time, where the defending of the take-down has to work every time or you are not getting back up. Therefore, relying on striking before closing in is a probability thing, and therefore most of today's MMA fighters can't just rely on that to win against grappling opponents.

This brings to another way, which is what I mentioned earlier. Can strikers still inflict mortal damage in grappling distance?

When it comes to striking, the common idea is the style like boxing, Muay Thai, karate, Taekwando, or kickboxing etc. These are modern combat sports that came from traditional root. Due to the popularity of these sports and the fact that their striking techniques are depended on striking distance, therefore it is commonly accepted that strikers can't inflict mortal wounds in grappling position. Hence people argue that Bruce Lee would not have been able to beat the Gracies had them met.

This is an interesting and largely unexplored area in striking arts. Although Bruce Lee did look at he would fight like a boxer or Sanshou fighter due to the popularity of his movies and his teaching of Jeet Kun Do, his ability to generate tremendous power at close distance should not be forgotten. Wing Chun's one-inch punch has been proven to be a powerful weapon. It is clear that through proper training and understanding of body-mechanics, human body can generate unimaginable power in unnatural positions. 

A lot of the traditional Chinese Martial Arts have been studying the body-mechanics for centuries and develop specific training regimen for cultivating power through the practice of forms and stance. Baji Quan has been known throughout the history of China for its devastating power at closed range. The idea is to generate power by twisting the core body through creating and releasing of the body tension. The idea is similar to how tennis player can hit the ball up to 150MPH during tennis serve. It is about winding up your body through overly turning or stretching your body in one direction, hence creating tension, and then suddenly release the tension and the body will go as if the bow spring is released. The power is elastic and explosive, more importantly, it is coming from the core.To completely propagate this power through your arm and into your opponent, it requires the arm to be relaxed and solid like a frame. If i put a stick against your chest and the other end touches my shoulder, by me rapidly turning my body, the stick will penetrate into your chest because it is pushed by my shoulder. You can imagine what kind of internal injury will be inflicted, moreover, this type of strike is only possible when there is no distance between striker and striking object. Now all you are doing is to replace the stick with your arm and still strike the same way.

This type of striking can be achieved and has been achieved. Martial artists have been able to break boards that are hanging in the air at almost zero distance. However, the training of such power is not easy. It requires years and years of training of the forms and doing push-hands to find the connectivity between the core and the rest of the body, making arms truly an extension of the body, just like sticks. Baji Grandmaster Lee Shuwan was known for his explosive Baji power through the practice of wielding the spear. He had killed many opponents in duels and he famously quoted 'I don't know what it feels like to hit the same man twice.' His students had become bodyguards of Mao Zedong and Jiang Jieshi.

Back to the thesis, can strikers still inflict mortal damage in grappling distance? Yes they can and it has been proven in demos. Has it been proven to work in full-contact scenario? No.

The problem is, a lot of modern martial artists are using demos as a marketing tool, they spent a lot of time doing fancy tricks to impress the crowd and only a very few masters actually have the core power. Bruce Lee knew how to use his core to generate power, a lot of Jeet Kun Do masters today can perform impressive stunts and even Bruce Lee's move, however, behind the same moves what they lack is the power. Chinese martial arts with just moves and no power is as ineffective as some of the Aikido blackbelt factory. 

Therefore, to sum up, if striker can't deliver fatal shots at close range, he will have less chance to win a fight against grappler of the same caliber. The ability to deliver fatal shots has been 'lab tested', and it is waiting to be proven to work in the cage. 

Ultimately, you need to believe in your ability and the believe can only come from hard training, no matter what style you are taking. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...