Steve Anderson started competing in karate tournaments in the early 1970s in Southern California. By 1980 Anderson, who’d gained the nickname “Nasty,” had become the top sport-karate fighter in America. He dominated the Karate Illustrated/NASKA circuit for the next decade. Anderson, who’s called Canada home for 20-plus years, is now vice president of the Canadian WKA National Team. He runs a successful martial arts academy and trains his 10-year-old daughter Osha, herself a World Kickboxing Association champ. In this article, the 58-year-old discusses his trademark “California blitz” and its MMA counterpart, the superman punch.
What exactly is the California blitz?
The blitz is a punching technique that’s used to quickly close the gap between you and your opponent by simultaneously delivering a jab and a cross as you move in.
Steve Anderson demonstrates the original version of his California blitz done without the jump. It was developed in the 1970s for point-karate competition. Anderson begins in a fighting stance (1) and opens with a jab, which he executes with a forward lean designed to cover distance (2). After a quick step forward (3), he uncorks the reverse punch (4).
When did you start using the technique?
In the 1970s, I noticed Howard Jackson using a similar technique while fighting taller opponents. He was able to close the gap by practically running in [and] punching, as opposed to the traditional shuffle reverse punch that was used at the time. I am 6 feet 3 and a 100-meter sprinter, so I worked on developing a unique way to get off the line quicker. I watched some video footage of myself fighting and noticed I was doing similar [things], so I fine-tuned the technique until it became what’s been known since as my California blitz.
What advantages did it give you over your competition?
In those days, the fighters had great kicking and punching ability but lacked lateral movement and forward motion. By implementing my blitz into a tournament format, I was able to score with offensive punching techniques faster than they could counterattack. And while my opponents were focused on my hands, I was able to score more with my kicks.
Do you attribute your unprecedented winning percentage in sport karate to this technique?
Mastering the blitz definitely gave me an advantage over the average competitor, but within months, many of the other top fighters began using the same technique. My winning percentage was a result of a number of factors, including:
• I worked harder in training than anyone — or at least I told myself I did.
• I competed in more tournaments than anyone, averaging more than 50 annually.
• Since sport karate was my career, I needed the prize money.
• I never got hurt or had injuries.
• I fought with my brain rather than my brawn.
• I used a scientific approach to fighting and always studied my opponents.
• I truly believed I was going to win every single fight.
To show the diving version of the California blitz, Steve Anderson recruits his instructor, Orned “Chicken” Gabriel, to hold the pad. Anderson initiates with the same jab, this time performed as he’s about to go airborne (1-2). Anderson leaves the ground to close the distance (3), then unleashes his power technique in the form of a right cross, making contact before he lands (4).
There have been comparisons of the California blitz and the MMA superman punch. How are the techniques similar?
The superman punch is the California blitz. They both:
• have fighters exploding from the ground, jumping off the lead leg,
• end with a cross or straight right punch, and
• have fighters jumping up and forward to close the gap and hit opponents [who are] out of range for traditional punches and kicks.
How do they differ?
The California blitz was designed for sport karate, which is a speed and accuracy [contest]. In sport karate, the first scoring technique gets you a point, and you don’t need a knockout to win. Bearing this in mind, there are some differences between the two techniques:
• The blitz uses the extension of a jab to propel your momentum forward, then lands the jab.
• The blitz uses your back leg to start the momentum of the jump forward, rather than up, to cover ground quicker.
• The blitz travels like an arrow rather than a rainbow, which is more widely used in MMA.
• The blitz [lets] you surprise your opponent with an unforeseen jab or backfist, followed by the cross for good measure.
What advice do you have for MMA competitors looking to increase the effectiveness of their superman punch?
First off, I commend all MMA fighters for their use of the superman punch. It’s a technique that takes time and expertise to master. Once they have the basics down, [they should] try the following:
• Lead off the technique with a long, diving jab to the head. This will change the angle of the jump from upward to forward and get you to your destination quicker.
• Remind yourself that this is a speed technique, not a power technique. With great speed, you’ll be able to hit your opponent with two clean punches. It’s the punch you don’t see coming that hurts.
• Practice the technique by blitzing up and down the floor on a three-minute clock. Jump off your lead leg and land with your lead leg as your cross connects with your opponent. Drilling in [front of] a mirror will allow you to see whether you’re like a rainbow or an arrow. The more you develop into an arrow, the safer your chin will be in competition and the more accurate and devastating your blitz will be in your next fight.
Given your success with the California blitz, how would you like to see MMA people acknowledge its origins?
I’m sure you’ve noticed in UFC broadcasts the use of fighting techniques such as the kimura, [which bears the name of judo legend Masahiko Kimura]. The California blitz is no different. I developed, mastered and used the technique for nearly two decades to dominate sport karate. [Black Belt Hall of Fame member] Raymond Daniels has been the most dominant sport-karate fighter for the past decade now, and what is his No. 1 technique? The California blitz. I’d respectfully encourage coaches and announcers to acknowledge the California blitz as it evolves and is adopted into blended martial arts.
A native of Ottawa, Canada, Ben Stewart started training in the martial arts in 1987. He received his black belt from Steve Anderson in 1997 and now holds a fifth degree in American freestyle karate under him. Stewart serves as president of World Kickboxing Association–Canada.
(Photos by Robert Reiff)