Black Belt Hall of Famer Joe Lewis concludes his analysis of the physical and mental attributes that play a role in becoming a champion in the full-contact ring.

Where does the individual fit into your formula for selecting the right martial arts toolbox (described in Part 1 of this interview)? Joe Lewis: Let me break something down that will make it easier to formulate a style that will work best for you. Style does not mean uechi-ryu, shotokan, wushu or taekwondo. Those are just names. Style refers to the individual manner expressed by a person. It is determined by two factors. One is your physical makeup. That determines quite a bit as to how a person moves. How tall or short are you? How big or small are you? How fast are you? How slow are you? A taller person is going to basically end up being an outside fighter. He’s going to try to use distance against his shorter adversary. He’s going to try to keep people on the outside with that long leg or arm. A shorter, stockier person is primarily going to be an inside fighter. A man who’s really fast will tend to be very trigger-happy. He will try to get off the line first, be the first to squeeze the trigger. He will concentrate on trying to beat the other guy to the draw, whereas someone a little bit slower will think about sitting back in a foxhole, letting the other man fire first, trying to make him miss; then he can set up for a counter-technique. Speed, size, reach — all these physical factors have a very important part to do with how you spar, with the personality of your style. What’s the other factor? Joe Lewis: The second factor is your psychological nature. Some people are very assertive, very self-confident. They’re right on the edge and ready to jump down your throat in a split second. They love to take risks. Then you’ve got those who are very passive by nature, very laid back. That’s going to play a very important role in the essence of the way you spar. Your instructor may show you how to throw a round kick, punch and stand in position a certain way, but how you execute, deliver and approach your opponent is not going to be determined by what your instructor shows you but more so by your physical makeup and your psychological nature. And the third one? Joe Lewis: As you learn your fighting principles, you start developing your mindset. You start integrating your intellectual strategies. This will also influence your decision-making skills and quickness: When do I make the decision to move, as opposed to the decision to fire? Those are the only two things you can do in the fight game when you’re out there trying to control an opponent. You’ve got to know when to move and when to fire. Do I fire first and then move? Do I throw a quick kick, then pull out real fast? Or should I move first and then fire? Maybe I should do a little scramble step to draw his fire and end up countering him? All that is determined by your mindset and strategy. These are three important factors, things not necessarily taught by an instructor but which have an imperative part in determining your particular style — the personality, the essence of your fighting nature. Your style is dictated by those factors, not by the style of karate taught by your school. Then what good are martial arts schools? What is their role? Joe Lewis: They give you a frame of reference. When you walk in off the street, you have some idea of how to hold your hands to throw a punch from watching Clint Eastwood or Sugar Ray Leonard on TV. You have some idea of how to throw a kick like a football player kicks the football. But you’ve got no real frame of reference as to exactly how to position, exactly where those hands belong or where those kicks belong. What do you do if someone is throwing a kick at you? What do you do if you see a punch coming about six inches from your nose? What do you do if you see a wrestler diving at your legs about three inches off the ground? For that we need a frame of reference, a beginning point. Resources To read Part 1 of this article, go here. To read “Joe Lewis: Fix the 40 Most Common Kickboxing Training Mistakes,” go here. To learn about Joe Lewis’ Okinawan karate roots, visit this link.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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