5 — Power
Although everyone loves power, overwhelming force isn’t the name of the game in kickboxing. Sure, knockouts are exciting — they thrill crowds and deify the winner — but you just can’t neglect technique. That doesn’t mean, however, that power isn’t important. The following are two tips for throwing more powerful shots:
• Get your entire body behind the technique. Chances are, you’ve heard that concept explained numerous times in your martial arts class.
• Get a good stance. It’s important because it provides mobility and stability, which you need if you want to be effective. I teach two basic training stances — only two because I figure you’ll develop your own stance as you progress.
The first is the kick stance. It’s one of the most commonly used stances in kickboxing because it lends itself well to kicking and allows for greater mobility and stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take one step back with your right foot and orient it so your feet are at right angles to each other. Your left leg should be relaxed, with the majority of your weight on your right foot. Keep your body straight but maintain the same angle. Your hands should be in the guard position, and you should hold your elbows forward so they protect your ribs.
When you kick from this stance, always aim for your opponent’s upper chest. However, your field of vision should encompass his entire body. To improve your power, use this stance to kick a heavy bag. Make sure you pivot properly so you can generate maximum punching power, as well.
The second stance is the punching stance. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pivot on the balls of your feet so your heels and toes are turned slightly inward. Distribute your weight evenly on your legs. Your knees and torso should be slightly bent. Clench your hands, hold your fists at jaw level and keep your elbows forward so they protect your ribs.
Practice switching stances swiftly with and without a partner. As you improve, you’ll be able to change instantaneously, and that ability will come in handy in the ring. Good footwork enables you to attack and defend with speed, economy and balance.
6 — Endurance
You can’t win without endurance. If your conditioning is sub-par, you may be able to survive on tenacity, but sooner or later you’ll discover that mental toughness is not enough. You definitely need to be tough, but you also need stamina. When you combine the two, you’ve got a winning formula.
Fighters who aren’t in supreme condition will likely suffer from a lack of confidence because they know they can’t go the distance. When they get fatigued, their form may also degrade, and they won’t have as much power as they should. Furthermore, they’ll begin telegraphing their moves, they’ll slow down and they’ll start fighting flat-footed. The result? They’ll find it increasingly tough to get out of the line of fire.
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When you’re in shape, however, you’ll have speed, power and rhythm. Your lateral movement will be good. You’ll be less likely to get hit. And you’ll have the confidence to perform mentally and physically. There are a number of ways to get in shape for the ring. One of the best is to hit a heavy bag three times a week. Do as many three-minute rounds as you will do in your fight. Supplement that with five days per week of running. After you warm up, sprint for a quarter mile, then run easy for a quarter mile. Repeat until you’ve covered three miles. For variation, occasionally run greater distances.
You should also spar three times a week. Again, do as many rounds as you’ll do in your fight. Your daily workout should also include stretching, kicking, shadowboxing and defensive drills. Start with one three-minute round. As your stamina improves, add a few more.
7 — Sparring
Freestyle sparring is the final and most meaningful part of your preparation. It involves stepping into the ring and throwing kicks and punches at will. Beginners shouldn’t try it until they’ve mastered the aforementioned principles and sampled the other training methods. Sparring is essential because you must make contact to develop your sense of distance. If you never make contact in training, you’ll probably be in big trouble when you need to do it for real — whether in the ring or on the street.
(Studio Photos by Tom Sanders; Below Photo Courtesy of Ring of Combat)
Louis Neglia is a former world kickboxing champion who has run a karate and kickboxing school in Brooklyn, New York, since 1972. He now runs the Ring of Combat MMA organization.
Bonus! Effective Blocks and Counters
It should come as no surprise that what you do in any given combat situation is determined by the situation and your skill level. As such, it’s impossible to prescribe the perfect response to an attack initiated by your opponent. However, it is possible — and beneficial — to examine a collection of classic kickboxing blocks and counters that have proved effective over the years:
• Use your right hand to parry a left jab downward and follow up with a left hook to your opponent’s head.
• Block a left uppercut with your right forearm and retaliate with a left hook to the head.
• Counter a right uppercut with your left forearm and retaliate with a straight right punch.
• Duck a straight right punch and counter with a straight right to the body.
• Stop a left hook with a right block, then counter with a straight right to the chin.