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.
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.