Issue 35 Kickboxing for the Street Chad McBroom Join the Conversation Photography By Chad McBroom and Natalia Benenate WARNING! The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult your physician before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan. RECOIL and its contributors are not responsible for any harm or injuries sustained while attempting these techniques. We remember the early days of the UFC, when U.S. Senators were writing letters to the governors of all 50 states, urging them to ban what they referred to as “human cockfighting.” Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has grown into a billion-dollar industry. With such a fervent, far-reaching fan base, it’s no surprise that so-called “combat-sport” gyms have sprung up all over the country. Most of the people who attend these gyms aren’t there to become the next Ultimate Fighting Champion. They simply want to get into shape and have some fun doing it. For this reason, you will find these gyms frequently offering classes like “Cardio Kickboxing,” “Boxing for Conditioning,” etc. After all, what’s more fun than strapping on a pair of 16-ounce gloves and going to town on a heavy bag or working the focus mitts? Many times, these classes are marketed as “self-defense” with pitches like, Learn self-defense while you get in shape! Such claims are often misleading, as these classes typically focus on high-tempo striking routines, with no time dedicated to teaching self-defense theory or realistic strategies for employing strikes. The bottom line is there’s no substitute for specialized self-preservation training with a highly qualified instructor. However, many folks may find themselves in a situation where effective, reality-based training just isn’t available on a regular basis. Not to worry, there’s still hope! With some fine-tuning of the fundamentals and a little out-of-the-box thinking, your cardio-kickboxing class can still become the solid foundation for a practical self-defense program. In this article, we’ll present some strategies that you can use to weaponize these watered-down classes and go from fighting to be fit, to being fit to fight. LEARN PROPER MECHANICS Learning proper body mechanics is the most important thing you can do to prevent injury and turn this cardio activity into a viable self-defense system. Unfortunately, not every trainer teaches correct movement patterns or striking mechanics. The truth is that a lot of these trainers attend a two-day certification course to learn how to lead a class, taught by someone who was just as clueless when it comes to proper striking. If you’re attending a reputable MMA gym, your chances of getting good instruction in this area are much higher. Find a reputable instructor who can teach you proper striking mechanics. Educate yourself in proper basics. Find a reputable instructor who can teach you how to throw a jab, cross, hook, and uppercut with correct form. You should know how to assume a proper stance, how to generate power through hip rotation, how to align the bone structures of the wrist and forearm of the striking arm, and how to move on your feet. These elements form the solid foundation of your self-defense skills. WORK THE HEAVY BAG If heavy bag work isn’t already part of your routine, then add it. Striking a solid, 100-pound-plus heavy bag will strengthen your muscles and increase bone density and connective tissue resilience. It’ll also help you develop speed, power, balance, coordination, timing, and accuracy. Heavy bag training will take your fitness gains to the next level, while developing combative attributes and hardening the body for real-world threats. MODIFY YOUR STRIKING SURFACE Punching with your fist requires a lot of hand conditioning to prevent injury upon impact. Striking a bag or pad while wearing hand wraps and boxing gloves isn’t the same as hitting bone with your bare knuckles. If your fingernails are long and beautiful, making a solid fist is impossible, which means you won’t have the bone mass to fill your hand and support the knuckles; therefore, you need to understand how to modify the surface with which you’re striking to avoid injury. Striking with the palm of the hand is a much safer alternative to punching with the knuckles. Turning your hand so that the open fingers are to the outside instead of vertical will allow you to reach full extension and help reduce the risk of spraining your wrist, which can result from striking too close to the fingers. Striking with your fist requires a lot of hand conditioning to prevent injury to yourself. THINK MOVEMENT, NOT TECHNIQUES Think about the body mechanics and angles from which your punches are normally thrown and see how you can use those same mechanics to deliver other strikes. The jab and the cross can become powerful palm-heel strikes to the face or finger jabs to the eyes. The motion of the hook can be used to deliver a devastating power slap with the open palm or a raking claw with the fingernails. That uppercut to the body can become an open-hand strike to the groin, which can be converted into a groin grab upon impact. Striking with the palm is a safer alternative to punching with the knuckles. Turning the palm horizontally reduces the risk of a wrist sprain. Don’t limit yourself to personal weapons, either. Incorporate impact, edged, and improvised weapons into the mix. Pick up an umbrella, book, knife, etc., and see how you might be able to use your punching mechanics to deliver strikes or cuts. A crushing straight strike (jab or cross) to the throat can be done with the spine of a hardcover book or tablet. And don’t forget about those elbow strikes. The same mechanics of an elbow strike can be used to perform reverse-grip knife cuts. A basic elbow strike contains a lot of mechanicals that can readily be applied to improvised weapons. IMPROVISE Every movement has a reverse. Analyze your movements and figure out the reverse application. Usually, by simply following and extending the reverse path of a strike, you’ll find another strike that can be delivered from the opposite direction. For example, take the motion of a wide hook, play it in reverse, and you’ll find a backhand strike. Now, exaggerate the retracting motion of a right cross, and you’ll discover a straight rear elbow strike. An inward elbow strike becomes a rear elbow strike when played in reverse. Once you learn to recognize and then refine these “hidden” movements, your world will begin to open up and you’ll discover the possibilities become endless. The mechanics of the horizontal elbow strike above can be used to deliver a reverse-grip cut with a knife. VISUALIZE Whether you’re striking a heavy bag or just shadow boxing, keep your mind engaged. Visualize your opponent in front of you. See the body targets you’re hitting with each strike. Imagine your attacker’s response to every movement you make. Doing so will build accuracy in your strikes while simultaneously developing a predator mindset that will ensure you win the fight should that dreadful day ever arrive. SWITCH HIT Practice working from a reverse lead, with your dominant side forward. You don’t get to choose how or when you’re attacked. You may be knocked off balance, pulled into your attacker, or thrown to the ground. If you’re comfortable striking from both leads, your reaction time will be much quicker should you find yourself in a position where your dominant side is forward. WORK WITH A PARTNER Hitting bags and pads only goes so far. To add some realism into the mix, grab a partner and work out possible attack scenarios. Have them “attack” you in different ways and problem-solve the situation. This should be done in a very slow and controlled manner to allow you to discover the natural body mechanics and identify angles and targets for your strikes. Over time, you’ll begin to recognize your responses more quickly as they become ingrained into your central nervous system. Chad has Sheena Green working knee strikes on the focus mitts from a clinch position. RUN Running isn’t just something you do to burn extra calories, it’s a self-defense skill! If you’re attacked, the best thing you can do to get away is run. You don’t have to be a marathon runner. You don’t even have to go out and run several miles at a time. Your goal is to develop short bursts of speed that’ll allow you to create distance from an attacker. A psychopath can’t drag you into his car if you’re 50 yards away. There are a few ways you can integrate sprints into your workout. One is to go out to the track (or wherever you can find the surface and distance) and work a combination of sprinting and shadow boxing. Start off with a 15-second burst of shadow boxing, immediately sprint 100 yards, and then finish with another 15 seconds of shadow boxing. This drill simulates fighting an attacker, breaking contact, and running away, as well as fighting an attacker after you’ve attempted to run away. Another thing you can do is break off during your regular training class and run short shuttle sprints in the back of the room. This may pose a challenge because it’ll require coordinating with your instructor before class. Your instructor may not like the disruption, but if you explain what you’re trying to accomplish, they might just go for it. Who knows, they might even like the idea and decide to add it into the mix. Sheena delivers a devastating knee strike to the groin of an attacker from a reverse lead. MINDSET Your mindset is the thread that’ll either weave all of these principles together into a vivid tapestry or cause the entire fabric to unravel. You must be willing to leave your comfort zone to better yourself. That means pushing past your physical limitations in training, and breaking through the mental barriers that prevent you from seeing the depths to which you can dive in terms of application. A combat-sport-based fitness program can be an excellent choice for increasing your cardio fitness and melting away body fat. By applying the strategies outlined here and developing the proper mindset, you can increase the value of your training and uncover its true self-defense potential. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chad McBroom is a law enforcement officer with over 20 years of service, with most of that time in a tactical unit. He has spent over 30 years studying various combative systems with instructors from all over the country. Chad is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, and offers training in the areas of empty-hand tactics, edged weapons, impact weapons, and firearms tactics. www.comprehensivefightingsystems.com Explore RECOILweb:.308 Coordinated Ballistic Rounds from RUAGThe New Blastwall Sling Pack from Hazard 4Trending now at 1MOA - Skills Software and Shooting StandardsGeiger Rig earns more kudos and goes tactical NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included). Click here to get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to a digital PDF of this target pack!