Boxing as a striking art is very popular in MMA not just for its offensive acumen, but also for defense as the defensive movements and techniques are easy to learn, and easy to apply in MMA. As such, the standard boxing defense (with a few adjustments) can be very effective.
The reason why I am going into this first over the other types of defense is that this is the easiest to learn, and takes the shortest amount of time to engrain into your reflexes. The great thing about the straight boxing defense is that is not only applicable against punches, but it works well against kicking attacks from the waist up. Before I get into the specific techniques themselves, let me go over some basic Theorem.
Learning Defense: The TMA Method
Defense as it is taught within the general TMA styles can be described as routinely drilling your specific blocking techniques as designed for specific attacks. Once one drills the technique against the air, it is then moved over into “application” within 1 or 2-step forms or kata
s of defense. Within many TMA styles the terms of “Upper Outside Block,” “Lower Outside Sweep,” “X-block,” or other similar techniques are taught and trained to be implemented as one recognizes the type of attack
that technique is designed for. Essentially the multitude of TMA went through the same route training as Ralph Machio in “The Karate Kid” without actually painting the floor or throwing back shots of Sake with Arnold from “Happy Days.”
The grand flaw in the practice of Defense within TMA styles is that when faced with an opponent in real life, it became obvious that actual live, resisting, and aggressive opponents did not have the tendency to attack with the same compliance or roboticism as their training partners in the Dojo. Rather, they were soon introduced to the painful reality that when one decides to swing, they usually don’t just swing once, and that fights tend to continue on even if the initial set of techniques are actually successful. On that end, many TMA practitioners found themselves “painting the floor” with their own faces.
Going beyond that, if one took the time to step away from the katas and examine the actual practice of styles during “freestyle” sparring, it became obvious that the standard prescribed techniques fell to the wayside in favor of movement and aggression. Those who rigidly followed the basics of the Dojo only found success when seemingly discarding years of technical defensive training. Obviously, something was amiss.
Learning Defense: Modern Boxing Method
On the other side of the coin, modern boxing practitioners forged further with making “the sweet science” actually more scientific. Although a combat sport far removed from MMA, it is put into practice on a regular basis by many MMA competitors. Why? Well, there are a few reasons:
1) Boxing is taught and practiced under “live” sparring conditions. Sure there are drills that will be run, but all the true learning is done during sparring when one figures out what works. In this end, the practitioner is placed deeply in the chaos that is combat and is placed in that situation until it comes to an end. Nothing was routine or robotic.
2) The defensive blocking/cover techniques were simple and intuitive. When training to learn a boxing defense, one is taught simple covers and is trained to defend the angle of attack
not specific techniques. On that end, one can assure that they know how to defend themselves even when the levels of stress and fatigue increase. With the TMA method once the level of stress and fatigue goes beyond the normal threshold of the practitioner, fine distinction between one technique to another becomes highly difficult (close to impossible) causing the practitioner to either be too late in choosing a defensive technique, or intuitively choose the wrong technique altogether. Suffice it to say, that doesn’t work out well if a fight goes past the initial set of techniques.
3) Boxers are taught to incorporate upper body mobility and footwork to ensure that they don’t get hit. Where the TMA method relies solely on the power of the blocking technique to meet force with force, the modern boxer is taught to cover and move out of the way of the incoming attack. In the rigidity of forms that are engrained into the mind and habits of the TMA practitioner, they find themselves offering too many openings to an opponent even if they successfully block the incoming attack
On those points above, when trained properly on how to box the MMA practitioner becomes a more mobile and slippery opponent. It does not do any MMA practitioner well to “take one” in hopes to land their own. Why? Because it only takes one shot that is either hard enough or placed in the right spot to turn a fight around.
Personally speaking, I read the above posts soliciting the idea of taking a shot to the body in order to land one to the head and I couldn’t help but shake my head in disgust. If you are fighting against someone who likes throwing body shots (like Rutten, Hominick, Hoost, etc) or you get hit in the liver or solar plexus, you find out very well that such a mindset is hindrance to actually becoming a better fighter.
In my next post I'll go over the actual boxing covers, and how they apply in MMA.
by, Mark Hatmaker