The greatest kickboxer who ever lived, goes by the moniker ‘The Doctor’. Perhaps it’s because of his surgical precision, alternatively it might be because Giorgio Petrosyan is the only kickboxer I can think of, who fights as though he has a PHD in the subject.
Giorgio Petrosyan has achieved something unprecedented in combat sports. At the time of writing Giorgio boasts 111 career fights, 104 wins, 3 losses, 2 draws and 2 no contests. This record has been amassed over twenty years, across three different eras of kickboxing. It’s fair to say, that with Petrosyan only now starting to have slightly weaker performances, that he may be slowing down. Of course, slowing down for the Doctor means something different from the rest of us mere mortals.
The impressive thing about Giorgio, which makes him in a way quite difficult to break down is that he doesn’t do anything abnormal. There are no strange eye-catching techniques that you can point to and say: ‘this is why Giorgio is so dominant’. Instead, he just does basic things, but very, very well.
As a striking coach, it is my job to break down fights to their bare basics, and it’s my belief that there are only six things a fighter can do in a fight.
Lead, Half Beat Counter, Full Beat Counter, Evade, Obstruct and Deflect. If you’ve read Miyamoto Musashi’s book of five rings, you will probably be familiar with the first three. The second three are my own way of breaking down the three ways you can defend an attack.
Today we are going to look at how Giorgio uses these six principles to defeat his opponents.
First, we are going to look at offence, something Giorgio is actually very good at, and rarely gets credit for. Being the greatest counter fighter who ever lived, most of the praise that Giorgio gets comes down to his exceptional defence – but defence is only useful if you have either good reflexes, or a reasonably good idea at what strikes are coming your way.
Of course, Petrosyan has both, but a good part of his offensive game is creating and maintaining distance, where he can use his laser targeted left straight and left body kick to attack, while being ready for whatever comes his way.
Offensive Principles: Lead, Half, and Full Beat Counters
Giorgio leads through a standard double attack, by using his jab in conjunction with his teep, he keeps range while also keeping pressure on the opponent. Petrosyan, much like Floyd Mayweather Jr. is often criticised for just standing and waiting for an opponent to attack him – but this isn’t true. Petrosyan does a lot to aggravate his opponent and prompt them to throw quite obvious attacks his way. Giorgio will jab, then stiff arm his opponent and wait for them to throw the very obvious strike, then he counters.
These counters would be considered full beat counters, as Giorgio fully evades the strike, then comes back in, countering on the path they left behind. Here is another clean example:
These are the types of counters Petrosyan truly excels at. What is important here is that his lead is what allows him to have these successful full beat counters. He leads the dance and provokes the swing, which he then counters. A big part of why Petrosyan is so successful and defending attacks, is because he often knows what his opponent is going to throw ahead of time, and by leading and stiff arming his opponent, he allows himself slightly more time to defend.
When Petrosyan goes for a half beat counter, that being when the counter intercepts the opponents strike, Petrosyan will usually use it as an entry point to flurry and overwhelm his opponent with blistering hand speed.
These counters rely more heavily on reflexes. You have to see and immediately react to the technique, which is part of why we don’t see Petrosyan use them as often. They’re not inferior by any means, but as famed kickboxing coach Lucien Carbin (link) once said ‘Petrosyan’s greatest weapons are his eyes’. He didn’t mention reflexes for a reason, Petrosyan doesn’t rely on them.
The Defensive Principles: Blocking, Evading, and Deflecting
These counters have to be set up through solid defensive principles. There are only three ways to defend a strike, you can evade the strike outright (by either dodging it or intercepting it with your own technique), you can block a strike, or you can deflect a strike. Depending on your outlook on life, you could possibly consider blocking and deflecting to be on category called obstruction.
Giorgio Petrosyan uses a multi layered system of defence. As we mentioned before he uses stiff arms to obstruct the opponents guard, he layers this obstruction with evasion. He sees the punch coming, he will duck out of the way. If he sees a kick coming, he will check or lean back.
He doesn’t do anything particularly crazy, as mentioned before, he’s just very good at what he does. There’s a notion in kickboxing that head movement will cause you to duck into a kick or a knee. While this could be true of extremely low bobbing and weaving – basic, subtle head movement consisting of slips, lean backs and leaving small weaves are all perfectly safe in kickboxing. They just need to be done correctly.
The final piece of the Petrosyan puzzle, however, is something not everyone will notice.
Combining Offensive and Defensive Actions with Teeps and Shoves
Petrosyan will straight up shove an opponent. Unlike boxing, within kickboxing it is perfectly legal to push an opponent. It would be hard to argue that pushing shouldn’t be illegal when push kicks, such as the Muay Thai teep are completely legal.
Petrosyan combines his offensive and defensive guard control with pushes, shoves and teeps to keep his opponents from being able to set their feet and throw at him. Constantly harassing his opponent’s guard, Petrosyan will commit the very simple and very effective action of just pushing the guard out so that he can pivot around his opponent and step into their blind spot. His opponent is vulnerable to attack as they turn, and Petrosyan can get more hits in.
He pushes, he turns, and he gets a free attack. Yet it works because he spends so much time accosting his opponent’s gloves, and any strike they throw to try to stop him could result in a devastating counter.
The beauty of Giorgio Petrosyan’s style, is that in theory anyone can do it. He doesn’t rely on crazy reflexes, ferocious knock out power or blinding speed. He just focuses on good boxing and good guard control, and from that control it allows him to take any offensive or defensive action reliably. In a sport that is designed to favour fast paced action and high volume, Petrosyan slows a fight down and dominates it in a way that is uniquely his. Anybody could do this, but only one man is a Doctor of It.
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