Arts

Improve Your Muay Thai Now: How Master Toddy Trains Champions, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

ON THE ROPES

The muay Thai trainer known as Master Toddy likes to have his students cut their teeth on a specially designed striking pad that’s positioned near the ropes that surround one of his boxing rings.

“You can stand in front and hit it to get your distance with uppercuts and other punches until you feel comfortable,” Master Toddy says. “Then you learn how to punch and kick while bouncing off the ropes to get their energy. You really need that energy in round four and round five.”

ON READING YOUR OPPONENT

“In round one, watch your opponent,” he advises. “Notice how he stands, how he moves, how he blinks. You have to feel him out and think about what he wants to do to you.” That’s the best way to beat him, Master Toddy says.

ON THE PHYSICAL VS. THE MENTAL

“Fighting is 50-percent mental,” the muay Thai master says. “Conditioning is only so important. I know one guy who runs marathons, but the conditioning doesn’t do him much good in the ring. He never wins; he never believed in himself.

“I would say, ‘Kick him with your right leg.’ He would ask, ‘What happens if he kicks me at the same time?’ I told him I couldn’t be his muay Thai teacher because we couldn’t connect. Letting him stay would have wasted his time.

“You have to be determined to win. If you’re not, you’re wasting your time.”

Wang Bo, formerly of Shaolin Temple, is the featured instructor in an online kung fu course from Black Belt. Titled Tree of Shaolin, it streams video lessons to your preferred digital device. Sign up here and start your journey along the 1,500-year-old Shaolin path!

ON GOOD TEACHERS

It’s very common for good teachers to connect with their fighters — even if they don’t call it “connecting,” Master Toddy says. “I might do more than other people because I come from the background of a monk. My family believed in the same things I do. My fighters do, too.

“Like Lisa King — we connect every time she fights, and she wins. She has the spirit. Of course, everybody has bad days. If your spirit is strong, though, it won’t matter. You can still be strong and win.”

ON MEASURING SKILL

Master Toddy says people often ask him if the person with the better technique will win a fight. “No,” he says. “The person with the heart of the lion wins. It can help you beat someone who’s technically better than you.”

The best test of skill in muay Thai is competing in Thailand — with no family and friends around you, he adds. “You can’t call yourself the world champion of muay Thai without having beat the Thais.”

ON EMPATHY

After one incident in Thailand, Master Toddy began cautioning all his fighters about unexpected mental conditioning. “I had one fighter who went there to train,” he recalls. “She was watching a fight, and a boy she knew got knocked out right in front of her. She felt that knockout and heard his head hit the floor. She said, ‘I hope that doesn’t happen to me!’

“Then everything started going wrong. I tried to get rid of her negative thoughts, but she got knocked out in the first round of her next fight.

“Whenever someone gets knocked out, you shouldn’t look at the person getting carried out. You should look at the winner — and celebrate! Feel his victory!”

ON CATCHING UP

Thais start training in kickboxing at age 4 or 5, making it extremely difficult for an American fighter who doesn’t begin until he’s 25 to catch up. But Master Toddy has a solution.

“I have them train certain things and fight smart,”  he says. “For example, in Thailand, they don’t score much on punches because they don’t want muay Thai to become boxing. So training smart might include developing a big punch or a sneaky elbow. The Thais are so far ahead that a foreigner doesn’t have to win to be victorious there. If he goes five rounds with a Thai champion, he’s a winner to me. If he loses a split decision, I jump up and down!”

Silat for the Street is an online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt mag. Learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

ON PREPARATION

“Prepare everything before a fight,” Master Toddy says. “Your clothes, gloves, even your toothpaste and toothbrush — everything you need to make your day. Then you don’t have to worry about the little things. You can focus on fighting and winning.”

ON BEING BOSSY

“I don’t believe in telling my …

Improve Your Muay Thai Now: How Master Toddy Trains Champions, Part 1

In a universe populated by hardened ex-champs who have about as much personality as a worn-out boxing glove, muay Thai authority Master Toddy stands out. A jovial fellow, he’s as entertaining a host as one could hope for in the martial arts. But put him on a mat with his students or in the corner with one of his Thai boxers, and he transforms into a fighting fiend.

That’s where Master Toddy shines as a maker of champions — including American men and women who’ve actually traveled to Thailand and beat the Thais at their own game. His success speaks volumes about the validity of his unorthodox methods and beliefs. In this article, Toddy shares some of the kickboxing secrets that have propelled him to the top of the muay Thai world.

— Editor

ON SHY STUDENTS

During the 16 years he spent in Manchester, England, and the 15-plus years he spent in the United States, Master Toddy has learned that you don’t have to be a big bruiser to be a good martial artist.

“When I was in England, there was nothing — they weren’t even allowed to teach muay Thai because they thought it was too violent,” he says. “I had to teach them everything — discipline, how to slow down, how to fight smart. I had to show them muay Thai isn’t about street fighting.

“Most people who do martial arts are shy. They’re nice people who’ve been pushed around, and they want to protect themselves. They’ll fight if they have to, but they don’t want to do it. That’s why martial arts competition has rules and why shy people can become great martial artists. That was the lesson I brought to England.”

ON SUCCESS

Master Toddy was a hit in the United Kingdom, and he soon noticed that American champs were just as interested in what he had to offer. “They wanted to learn how to do muay Thai and defend against the leg kick because [25] years ago in America, they didn’t have muay Thai,” he says. “They had kickboxing, but it’s very different. When they faced a muay Thai stylist, they’d get hit with leg kicks or elbows.

“I decided to come to America to expand muay Thai, to show that it can be done properly and that it’s not a violent sport. The first thing I did was work with the Nevada Athletic Commission to get permission to include elbows and knees. We did the first show in 1995, and it went very well. It started growing. I was successful because I’m a very positive person. Every day I tell my people how important it is to be positive.”

Silat for the Street is an online video course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt mag. Learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

ON BIG NAMES

Master Toddy has trained plenty of well-known fighters over the years, including Maurice Smith, Tito Ortiz, Bob Sapp, Gary Goodridge and a host of K-1 regulars. “Most of them were already champions,” Toddy says. “After they had a hard fight, they would come to me because of my coaching record.

“For example, Bob Sapp came to see me. I trained him in one punch. He went out into the ring and got a first-round knockout with that punch. Then Gary Goodridge came and trained for one of the biggest fights in his career, against a K-1 champion. Gary knocked him out in the first round.

“Once they believe in it, they win. It’s mental programming. It’s not about the kicking and punching; it’s about connecting.”

Master Toddy

ON CONNECTING

“It takes me 20 to 30 minutes to evaluate a fighter,” Master Toddy says. “I talk to him until we click. I find out if he has long arms and long legs and how he moves.

“For example, I might see that he’s got a lot of potential in his right hand. So we train, and I develop his right hand. I don’t train every punch and kick; I train him to use his other techniques to set up his right hand. After every kick, I want him to say to himself, ‘My right hand is ready.’ I want him to have confidence in it.

“In training, he throws a roundhouse kick, and his right hand is ready. He throws a left hand, and his right hand is ready. Then, when I say, ‘Now!’ he does it. At that moment, he and I have to be connected. I have to believe in his right hand. If he feels it, I can feel it. That’s how he can win.”

ON MONKS

“When I was a …

In Honor of David Carradine, Kwai Chang Caine From the TV Series Kung Fu

December 8, 1936 – June 3, 2009

Today marks the eighth year since David Carradine, the actor who left his imprint on martial arts history when he starred in ABC’s Kung Fu television series, passed away.

Countless senior practitioners in dojo across the country received their first exposure to the martial arts because of Carradine, who portrayed wandering Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine from 1972 to 1975, and many of us were inspired to take up training because of the character’s weekly exploits in the American West.

David Carradine and Keye Luke in Kung Fu. (Photo Courtesy of ABC)

Probably just as many middle-aged practitioners got their first look at David Carradine when he appeared in Chuck Norris’ hit movie Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). After that came the TNT series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, which brought Carradine back to television to play the grandson of Kwai Chang Caine from 1993 to 1997.

The younger generation — my grandkids included — received their first glimpse of David Carradine when he landed the role of Bill in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).

Chuck Norris and David Carradine in Lone Wolf McQuade. (Photo Courtesy of Topkick Productions)

Over the years, David Carradine became a good practitioner of the Chinese martial arts and did whatever he could to spread goodwill for all styles. Case in point: In 2005 he was invited to the Black Belt Festival of Martial Arts in Los Angeles, and for several hours, he walked the convention floor, providing numerous fans with once-in-a-lifetime photo ops.

During my first interview with him, David Carradine said, “As a seeker of kung fu, your influence must reach farther than the tips of your fingers.” He certainly lived up to those words.

Floyd Burk congratulates David Carradine on his Black Belt Hall of Fame induction.

In the months before he passed, David Carradine and I were collaborating on a Black Belt feature article intended to share the lessons he learned while pursuing martial arts mastery. When his death was announced, I, like everyone else, was stunned. I shelved the project out of respect and mourned the man’s passing.

It’s my hope that the martial arts world will pay its respects to David Carradine on this somber day and take a moment to appreciate all that he gave us during the 35 years he practiced kung fu and the 50 years he devoted to acting. Rest in peace, sir.

Floyd Burk is one of Black Belt’s contributing editors.

Studio Photos by Rick Hustead

Wang Bo, formerly of Shaolin Temple, is the featured instructor in an online kung fu course from Black Belt. Titled Tree of Shaolin, it streams video lessons to your preferred digital device. Sign up here and start your journey along the 1,500-year-old Shaolin path!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Taekwondo Legend Jhoon Rhee

“A picture is worth 1,000 words; an action is worth 1,000 pictures.”
— Jhoon Rhee

For decades, we’ve known Jhoon Rhee as the father of taekwondo in America. Without digging too deep into our memories, most of us could tell you that the master is based in Washington, D.C., and that he’s trained elected officials on Capitol Hill for years. Some may also know that Jhoon Rhee was instrumental in the development of martial arts sparring gear back in the 1970s and that in 1983 he was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Man of the Year. In martial arts circles, he’s as famous as anyone can be.

Ironically, few people — in America or his native South Korea — know much about Jhoon Rhee other than the aforementioned points. To remedy that, I wrote this article. It presents 10 fun and fascinating facts about taekwondo’s best-known practitioner.

Photo by Sara Fogan

1
RHEE, LEE AND ALI

In 1964, Rhee met Bruce Lee at Ed Parker’s International Karate Championship in Long Beach, California. The two became friends and frequently discussed the martial arts, and Rhee wound up teaching a few taekwondo kicks to Bruce Lee.

A number of people vehemently deny that, and if you’re one of them, consider the following: Bruce Lee’s early demonstrations centered on hand techniques that utilized speed and power. His prowess in the physical pursuits stemmed from his experience as a dancer, boxer and wing chun practitioner — none of which was oriented toward kicking. When Lee rose to fame as a kung fu actor, it was well after his collaboration with Rhee had begun.

Now take a look at a Jhoon Rhee side kick — any photo from one of his early taekwondo books or articles will do. Compare that to film footage of Bruce Lee doing a side kick. The techniques are nearly identical.

Jhoon Rhee is also credited with teaching Muhammad Ali the “accu-punch,” a fact that Ali stood behind. The accu-punch is described as a blow that’s done instantly when no thought is given to it. It’s launched as soon as an opponent presents an opening. Ali said he used the punch in 1975 to knock out U.K. heavyweight champ Richard Dunn in one minute 30 seconds. Pretty cool — but wait a minute. Rhee credits Bruce Lee with having taught him more effective hand techniques that didn’t telegraph one’s intent. So maybe it’s more accurate to say Lee taught the punch to Ali through Rhee.

2
THE BIG SCREEN

In the 1973 Raymond Chow flick When Taekwondo Strikes, Jhoon Rhee had a role. The setting was one he was all too familiar with: the Japanese occupation of Korea. Rhee demo’d his taekwondo skills on the big screen while portraying a leader of the resistance. He looked forward to more opportunities in showbiz, but Bruce Lee passed away around the time the movie hit the theaters.

That, coupled with the amount of time Rhee was required to be away from his family and his martial arts schools, left a sour taste in his mouth. It ended up being his first and last film.

The karate/kobudo master teamed up with Black Belt magazine to make Fumio Demura Karate Weapons: Complete Video Course. Merging Demura’s classic DVDs with new new kata footage, the program streams lessons on the nunchaku, bo, kama, sai, tonfa and eku bo to your digital device. Details here!

3
FROM KARATE MAN TO FATHER OF TAEKWONDO

When Jhoon Rhee began teaching the martial arts while studying engineering in Texas in the late 1950s, he advertised his program as karate. Occasionally, he’d use the name tang soo do to denote the style of karate he taught. Using the word “karate” was a wise move because Americans were familiar with it. Virtually no one had heard of taekwondo.

In 1960, Gen. Choi Hong-hi paid a visit to the Texas-based Jhoon Rhee Karate Club. Choi, the founder of the oh do kwan, one of the original five kwan that emerged after Japanese colonial rule, encouraged Rhee to use the new Korean term. Calling it “taekwondo” evoked a sense of freedom and independence, as well as respect for the Korean homeland. Rhee agreed.

The road wasn’t an easy one to follow, but Rhee proved he was more than up to the challenge. His decision to go with the new name made him the United States’ first taekwondo instructor.

4
BORN TO FAIL

Jhoon Rhee possessed a reverse punch and roundhouse kick that were second to none. He could bust boards with either technique. Combine that taekwondo prowess with his strength, balance and flexibility, and you can see that he was an exemplary athlete.

However, it wasn’t always that way. When he was a child, no one thought he’d amount …

How to Prepare to Defend Yourself Against Real Violence When You’ve Never Experienced It

Telling other people how to use self-defense skills to survive a dangerous or potentially lethal encounter when you’ve never experienced one can be pretentious.

No matter how much experience you may have in the karate dojo, it cannot compare to those occasions when you’re facing an adversary bent on doing some massive or terminal damage.

Having said this — and admitting that, thankfully, I’ve never had to fight for my life — I will offer the following observations on the role karate and other martial arts can play in self-defense.

A major difficulty faced by normal people in violent encounters is that, with few exceptions, the behavior of the attacker just doesn’t make sense. If you’re walking down a dark street and someone sticks a gun in your side and demands your cash, you may be surprised. However, you won’t be confused because you understand the motive of the robber. (In fact, that very knowledge will probably keep you from walking down that dark street in the first place.)

But what about the guy who’s standing at the corner beside you, the guy who suddenly whirls and plants a fist in your ear? It’s unfortunate that unpremeditated, senseless attacks like this are becoming more common. Extreme examples include shootings in schools and workplaces. “The guy just went crazy!” is the usual description after the carnage.

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Walking down the dark street, you’re prepared for the potential violence that might logically happen. Standing on the street corner when a nut cuts loose is something you’re not prepared for, however. Nor can you be. You don’t want to live in a state of combat readiness 24 hours a day. It’s not practical, and it isn’t healthy.

What you can do is train to eliminate your internal rules that say all aggressive acts must “make sense.”

The guy on the corner suddenly attacks. Chances are, you see it coming — at least you’re aware of the oncoming blow. What slows your physical reaction is your mental reaction: “What’s he doing this for? Why’s he swinging at me? He must’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

Thoughts like those immediately form, and they keep on forming even if you’re still standing after the strike has connected. They’re perfectly logical. They occur because you’re a reasonable, rational human being. After it’s all over, they’re appropriate thought processes. In the midst of a violent encounter, though, they’re useless. You must learn to short-circuit them.

Silat for the Street is the title of an online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt mag. Now you can learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

“Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out!” is an example of silly, macho strutting that no one could take seriously. But you should adopt the attitude that you must deal with the attack now and worry about its motivations later on. Insisting that an attack “make sense” before you respond can get you seriously injured or killed.

There’s nothing much here to argue with, you’re probably saying, but what’s the answer? How do you learn to bypass logic and reasoning and let your body take over? You do it the same way human beings have always successfully trained to deal with unexpected aggression — through kata.

Are you ready to start your education in combatives self-defense for both empty-hand attacks and weapons attacks? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course! Go here to sign up.

Of course, the proven method hasn’t always been called kata. The military calls it basic training. The police use similar names. But on some important levels, it’s all the same. The routine goes something like this:

Repeat basic movements over and over. Instill them on a level where they’re nearly instinctive and work without conscious thought. Practice them in different sequences. Practice them against opponents who attack in expected ways and then, increasingly, in unexpected ways. Learn them so thoroughly they’re spontaneous and dependable in any situation.

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One of the primary goals of kata training is to integrate physical movements independent of conscious volition. It’s not easy, nor is it quickly accomplished. Despite ignorant criticisms of it by those who’ve never seriously undertaken the process, it’s the most reliable method for learning how to deal with the …

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