When Fedor Emelianenko—the baddest man on the planet—walks through the door, the first thing you notice about him is … he’s not all that big. The statistics list Fedor Emelianenko as 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, but even that seems a stretch. When he enters a Manhattan gym with an entourage of handlers, several of whom are larger than he is, you might not know he’s regarded as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the mixed martial arts unless you were already a fan of his. And the common wisdom has long been that his fan base in the United States is confined to the hard-core MMA junkies, the kind of people who scour the Internet for hours on end just to learn what Chuck Liddell had for breakfast this morning. But either the common wisdom is horribly wrong or New York has more MMA fans per capita than anywhere else on earth. Word of Fedor Emelianenko’s arrival in town for a public workout and press conference was sent out only a couple of days beforehand to MMA journalists, but hundreds of fans were lined up around the block an hour before he was scheduled to show up. There was a brief period earlier in the day when it appeared the event wouldn’t even get off the ground. Several uniformed firefighters made their way into the building, and concerns about safety-code violations related to overcrowding began to dance in the heads of the Showtime executives who’d scheduled the appearance. But it turned out the firemen were there simply to get their pictures taken with Fedor Emelianenko. Apparently, even the NYFD are big fans. It was difficult to tell if the enigmatic heavyweight returned the sentiments. Although he’s always polite, it’s hard to fathom what’s going on in the 33-year-old Russian’s mind. During the press conference, he gave his careful, stock answers to queries about why he signed with Strikeforce rather than the much larger Ultimate Fighting Championship and what he thought of UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, always taking his time to listen to his translator—even though he has a good grasp of English. Known as an emotionless, stone-faced fighting machine inside the ring, he prefers to give little away outside the ring, even when there’s just one reporter rather than a hundred. At a private photo shoot the next day, Fedor Emelianenko would listen as translator Tanya Svyatodumova interpreted the questions from a lone interviewer, then pause for several seconds glancing down at the floor as if lost in thought before giving brief replies. When asked why he seemed so careful and thoughtful, Fedor Emelianenko said: “I don’t think we should say just anything that comes out of our mouths. We shouldn’t utter empty, meaningless words.” The reply from his interviewer, that journalists would be out of business if this were true, managed to bring a small, bemused smirk to his face—but just for a moment before he clamped down again. So much for witticisms. The kind of fame that brings a constant stream of fans and media to his doorstep is not something Fedor Emelianenko ever sought, although he handles it as gracefully as a reluctant celebrity can. His poise may end up being tested even further with his next fight against Brett Rogers, set to be broadcast live on cable television for the first time in the United States via Showtime, a company that would love nothing more than to make him a household name. If that happens, it’ll be on the basis of his fighting skills, not his love of the spotlight. “Fedor Emelianenko’s just a very quiet, private guy,” said Annie Van Tornhout, Showtime’s supervisor of sports communication. It’s her job to help cajole him toward American superstardom. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that his reserved nature is a Russian character trait or the product of the old Soviet sports system, which was just winding down as Fedor Emelianenko began his training in sambo, the Russian grappling art in which he became a world champion. He grew up idolizing the Soviet sports stars of the past, men who were often perceived in the West as cold and robotic. Despite being a self-described weak child, Fedor Emelianenko seized the opportunity to participate in sambo, making up for his lack of athleticism with a burning desire to excel. His longtime trainer, Vladimir Voronov, has said persistence is Fedor Emelianenko’s greatest talent. It was persistence that kept him practicing the martial arts when he entered the Russian army but was inexplicably denied a post in one of the units that specialized in athletics. Instead, he was placed in a firefighting brigade and forced to train on his own during off-duty hours. He left the army in 1997 and ended up winning national championships in both sambo and judo. He probably would have been happy with a career in either sport—he still competes in sambo and has won the world championship three times—but with little money to be made there and a new family to support, he had to turn to the one place his skills could earn him a decent living. Joining the Japan-based Rings organization, he began fighting in MMA competitions in 2000 and has never looked back. Amassing a 30-1 record, his single loss came early in his career—a stoppage that followed cuts from an illegal blow in a bout that should have been ruled a no-contest. He later avenged the lone blemish on his ledger by brutalizing Japanese fighter Tsuyoshi Kohsaka with a one-round TKO. Essentially, he’s been unbeatable for his entire MMA career—although this is an idea Fedor Emelianenko openly scoffs at. “Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. “Sooner or later, it will happen that I lose.” Hardly the typical answer from a champion fighter. “He’s humble. Very much so,” said Joost Raimond, CEO of M-1 Global, the Russian-based company that manages and co-promotes Fedor Emelianenko. “That may put him in a different category from everyone else. But he doesn’t need to pound his own chest.” Indeed, chest pounding is the last thing anyone would expect from Fedor Emelianenko. Although engaged in the most brutal of sports, he doesn’t conduct himself like most other mixed martial artists, often referring to himself as a “sportsman” rather than a fighter. He said he still has a passion for learning and practicing the martial arts but doesn’t like watching others fight. This continued love of the arts was evident when he started running through techniques with his partner for the photo shoot, top-ranked light-heavyweight fighter Gegard Mousasi. Despite the bright lights and camera, it was quickly apparent that this, more than anything else, was Fedor Emelianenko’s natural environment as he began laughing and joking with Mousasi like a couple of youngsters enjoying themselves in the dojo. Losing himself in the pleasant familiarity of the training hall, he even slipped up on a few occasions and lapsed into a bit of English. “Gegard, your feet are dirty,” he teased. When Gegard Mousasi playfully tucked his chin at one point, making it difficult for Fedor Emelianenko to demonstrate his fearsome rear choke, the Russian casually forced Gegard Mousasi ’s head up by driving his knuckles under the other man’s jaw. He jovially explained how he uses the knuckle of each thumb to press underneath the hinge of his opponent’s jaw, causing enough pain to make him lift his head. Sliding those hard, bony knuckles down along the sides of his partner’s neck like water finding a crack to seep into, he slipped one arm under his chin to secure the choke, then proceeded to make Gegard Mousasi pay just a little for his temerity, applying the hold more than once with a touch of glee. Fedor Emelianenko is open when it comes to sharing tips about his legendary ground-and-pound technique from inside an opponent’s guard. Although many fighters become cautious under such circumstances, fearing a submission, or they look to simply loosen their opponent up with a few strikes so they can pass his legs, Fedor Emelianenko is renowned for administering a dominating punching attack while remaining inside the guard. It’s a skill that enabled him to handily beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, one of the best guard practitioners in the sport, on two occasions. From down on his knees, he’ll wind up his stocky body, cocking his punch back the way you’re told never to do in a stand-up fight, then hurl himself into the blow like a man throwing a javelin down into the ground. When asked if there’s a risk he’ll unbalance himself, he emphasized the importance of keeping the knees wide for a solid base. Then he explained how his body lands on the opponent’s torso, which he uses to maintain balance and stay somewhat upright. It was a fascinating change to witness a little of his normal reserve fall away as he became more involved in the techniques. Watching from the sidelines, Van Tornhout said she’d never seen him this way. Fedor Emelianenko confessed: “In my childhood years, I was very emotional. Now, maybe, all that energy goes into training.” It would be a mistake to assume he has no ego—almost all world-class athletes do, or they wouldn’t be where they are. When asked to allow Mousasi to place him in a few holds for photographs, he politely declined. No champion ever likes to be seen on the short end of the stick. It’s always tempting to read meaning and devious motives into every action of those in the public spotlight, but that kind of over-analysis isn’t necessary when it comes to understanding for Fedor Emelianenko. In the end, he may be that rarest of all modern celebrities, one about whom you can say, “What you see really is what you get.” What you do see is a thoughtful, reticent individual who genuinely doesn’t care for fame but who tolerates it because it’s part of his job. He also seems to be someone who, like a lot of martial artists, would be happiest simply hanging out at the gym with a few friends, swapping techniques on the mat. And whether in a gym or an arena, that may be something he does better than anyone else alive. (Mark Jacobs is a freelance writer and martial artist based in New York.)
Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.
Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDM0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5MTk2MDE3M30.ITCjBPu9aE5EUzwZEIKpzlPE_6ovW911ir-ZjIonfP4/image.jpg?width=1500&coordinates=131%2C345%2C357%2C203&height=2000" id="e612a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3072885226e45985dad115a8f6031564" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><em><a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/jeet-kune-dos-combat-philosophy" data-linked-post="2645906483" target="_blank">Jeet kune do</a></em> is a scientific approach to street fighting, a method for developing complete martial artists who are not bound by any style or system. Rather, they're able to adapt to all styles, systems, situations and circumstances. JKD, of course, is the result of Bruce Lee's search for the truth of combat, and part of that truth is that those who have mastered attacking the eyes and groin while weaponizing their awareness will have a distinct advantage in a street fight.</p><p>A street fight is like a very brief game of combat chess involving two strategists. In this context, the "queen of all moves," the most versatile technique of all, is the <em>bil jee,</em> or thrusting finger jab executed with the lead hand. Simply put, it's the fastest, most effective strike in the martial arts. It can be found in all traditional styles and reality-based self-defense systems. It even appears in MMA — think about how many times you've seen an accidental finger to the eye stop a UFC fight.</p>
Defend The King<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDQ1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODEzNjc1OX0.auDCI_jr0vTBCXxwU6R-V0Dd-C78ZMvJawePlK8OBSg/image.jpg?width=980" id="4af8d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42aa0521105d1a2d677d7e77fef723cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="As Harinder Singh demonstrates breathing techniques and its importance on conserving energy." /><p>As you attack with your queen, you must not forget to defend your king. The king, in this case, is your breath. In chess, the king can move only one square at a time. Similarly, breathing can be managed only one breath at a time. If you lose track of your breathing, you're doomed — in a fight and in life.</p><p>Proper breathing is important for two reasons: It allows you to conserve energy, and it helps you weaponize your awareness. When you fight, fear, stress and anxiety create tension, which can cause you to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your energy gets depleted. Feeling slower and weaker, you start to panic. Obsessive thinking sets in, and the chatter in your mind robs you of the present moment, making you your own worst enemy.</p><p>Controlling your respiration in tense situations is a skill that must be developed. Learning to relax on demand during conflict, chaos and the ever-changing circumstances of a fight is often overlooked and usually undertrained.</p><p>Fighting changes from moment to moment based on you, your opponent and your environment. Victory is not in the end result. Rather, victory is gained by making the right decisions and adapting from one moment to the next. To effectively adapt to your opponent, you must learn to weaponize your awareness. To weaponize your awareness, you must learn to come from the center of time and space. The center of time and space is where you, the observer, should live. An observer has no thoughts, judgments or attachments. An observer knows without knowing and acts and reacts on his own. That may sound mystical, but it's really not. Consider:</p><p>While driving your car, have you ever swerved out of the way at the last moment and barely avoided an accident? It's almost like you moved before you had time to process the event, and only afterward did you realize what you'd done.</p><p>In sparring, have you ever just hit your opponent and then, in the next moment, realized that he was open? This is the phenomenon you're after. Awareness is always there; it's just that some people have lost touch with it. By reconnecting with awareness, you're not creating anything new. Rather, you're connecting with something you may have forgotten.</p>
Weaponize Your Awarness<p>My <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_chi" target="_blank">tai chi</a></em> master taught that to weaponize awareness and orient from the center of time and space, a martial artist needs to know the four pillars of the mind: imagination, sensation, intention and attention. They're considered the keys to weaponizing awareness because they teach you to task your mind with orienting from the perspective of the observer and not the thinker. Outlined below is the three-step process that I teach all my students, from military and law-enforcement personnel to civilian martial artists.</p>
Step 1: Orient From The Still Point
Heed The Wisdom of Musashi<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDYzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzA5ODY2NH0.Cr5sdMob-cL2ZUz6YeCKrDy4qXrQvmewqxnKR_DWqxY/image.jpg?width=980" id="dbd7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="06e28928368d80e6122fd83d3f5e2991" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Implement the wisdom of Miyamoto Musashi" /><p>Tactics, strategies and weapons are just knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. You can learn about awareness, understand strategy and know the fastest move (the bil jee), but if you can't apply this knowledge, it's just useless information.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Miyamoto_Musashi" target="_blank">Miyamoto Musashi</a> said, "The way is in training." Your confidence stems from experiential knowledge and knowing that you've embodied your tools and strategies so they can be adapted for use in changing situations. Only then can you be wholly in the moment and surrender to the experience by letting go of victory or defeat.</p><p>The best way to develop this ability is by using a training method that's fun and functional. It should develop your physical attributes, strategies and weapon selection while sharpening your awareness. It should be equal parts feeding drills, counter-for-counter drills and sparring against resisting opponents. Because a fight is a living exchange, your training must incorporate timing, angles, distance and progressive resistance. To help you with this, I have developed a method that gamifies the learning process.</p>
Play Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDY2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTU3ODUzOH0.vSW3w8FWGRGcNpc1Mfq1ToqiV5SWYm3v3CjqjupG54A/image.jpg?width=980" id="0ddc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4cf3438b091244ad0911b735b4f7e6d3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Develop your strategy for your own game of combat chess" /><p>To absorb all the benefits of training, you need a step-by-step progression that chunks pieces of information and installs them in your subconscious mind. The greatest chess masters isolate individual pieces — for example, a king versus a king and a pawn. Chess masters learn how these isolated pieces move together on the board, and this information is stored in their subconscious. This isolation method of training accelerates the learning process, which is why <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/bjj-advice-from-rickson-gracie-grapplers-must-also-learn-to-strike" data-linked-post="2645906301" target="_blank">Rickson Gracie</a> made it part of his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_jiu-jitsu" target="_blank">Brazilian jiu-jitsu</a> training philosophy. When you isolate tools or positions, you have fewer options and are forced to focus on energy, awareness, timing, and the space between the strikes and positions.</p><p>The four "games" listed below can be used to functionalize any tactic or strategy, but to mesh with this article, you should focus on bil jee attacks to the eyes and lead-leg attacks to the groin. For best results, experiment with opponents of different body types and martial arts backgrounds. Start by feeding each other techniques with no resistance so the correct mechanics can be learned. Next, introduce counters so you can start to understand timing and the appropriate responses. Finally, incorporate resistance and intelligently spar using the isolated weapons and positions.</p>
Game 1: Coordinate Awareness And Movement
Put The Art In Martial Arts<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDg0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDk0MjA5NX0.0jd8wnRcjl7VKjc4pNL79z15oj0AKSBzmgq2B4N_RGM/image.jpg?width=980" id="5309c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b3a9ebb138722b70f6bf83ef5cea4934" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"Creation" refers to making something that didn't exist before. When you create art, there can be no fear of the outcome, just honest self-expression. By following the combat-chess methodology, you'll start chunking information and installing the chunks in your subconscious. Your subconscious has the ability to connect the various groupings of information and create responses without conscious thought, leaving you to be the observer of the experience.</p><p>Operating as the observer will make time seem to flow more slowly and allow you to "start after but arrive before" your opponent. It's the most freeing phenomenon that can be experienced in the martial arts. It's the instinctive response that Bruce Lee was referring to when he said, "It hits all by itself."</p><p>The master key to success in this fighting process is you. Remember that results rule. Question everything and always look to explore, discover, grow and create. </p>
Sifu Harinder Singh<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDgzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDk0NTA4MX0.pQ62IzGNpu-B8rhQSCD36VDY69Uq3yBtH8ceH-bYYfA/image.jpg?width=980" id="eeb1c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3359e3406b7d7fd2004ee7ac41a6cf92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Portrait of Harinder Singh" /><p><em>Harinder Singh Sabharwal teaches jeet kune do, wing chun, tai chi, savate, kali, boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's the founder of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association and Black Belt University. For information about his new online course, visit <a href="http://jkdathletics.com/" target="_blank">jkdforblackbelts.com</a>.</em></p>
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