Fights Gone By has Moved!

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Fights Gone By has moved to

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New Interview with Live Hard

Hey folks, I've been quite busy lately but I have also been away for a few days so I haven't had much chance to catch you all up on what I'm doing at the moment. There is a big update coming to Fights Gone By soon, but in the meantime here is an interview I did for a good friend at Live Hard. This blog is well worth a look as he examines meta-learning in the martial arts. I am very interested to hear the results! If they are good it could certainly revolutionize at least my own teaching strategy!

A Fantastic Ricky Hatton Tribute by Gorilla Productions

I love this Gorlla Productions' highlights and I think my readers probably will too. Although about half of the video is focused on Ricky Hatton's losses to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the first three minutes capture perfectly what The Hitman was about. Hatton wasn't just a whirling dervish, he was a scientific rough houser at close range.

The inside game is a hugely important and overlooked part of boxing and many weight classes are now almost devoid of inside power punchers at the highest levels of the game. For many years the infighter was an almost exclusively North American export, while the traditional upright out fighter was a European commodity mainly championed by the British. It is interesting that despite fighters from the UK who make it to the world stage being more adept as outfighters overall, one of the most powerful infighters at the lower weights in recent years was an Englishman.

Hatton will be remembered by many fans as being a blood and guts fighter who fought some fairly weak competition en route to his world title and as a fighter who never learned the rudiments of defense. All of that is true, but it shouldn't blind us to his genius in his field of boxing and the several times he rose to the occasion against truly elite fighters. Just watch Hatton's work at close range and notice how much is going on.

Frank Klaus,one of the first great infighters, stressed that the normal rules of boxing don't apply in infighting as the range means that it is more about checking the opponent's hands and feeling what is happening than it is about guarding and watching the opponent's movements. Hatton's intuition on the inside was fantastic as he threw double and triple hooks to the body and head off of the same hand. Hatton would also force his opponents to cover with a hook to the head and then uppercut off of the same hand straight up the middle of their guard, or place a glove on their elbow as they kept it tight to their body and use it to steer himself around them to an angle. There is a great deal to be said for Hatton's scientific offense on the inside and it would be delusional to pretend that he got by on power alone.

Killing the King: Georges St. Pierre


Georges St. Pierre is to my mind the most rounded fighter to ever compete in mixed martial arts but Killing the King series is my commitment to examining all of the UFC champions with an eye for weaknesses which may be exploited by elite game planning. I will say up front that these men are champions for a reason - finding chinks in the armour of men such asJon Jones, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva is a very hard task. Everyone, however, has favourite techniques which they use more than others, and every technique opens up a target (even the 'safe' ones: the jab, the side kick, the teep) and the targets exposed by a fighter's favorite go to techniques are the most intelligent ones to exploit.
A great example from a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu perspective is Frank Mir's use of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's favourite sit out technique to lock in an unusual kimura. Frank Mir doesn't have as good a positional BJJ game as Nogueira has shown in the past, but he is an excellent hunter of submissions and a decent gameplanner. These are the sort of openings which are the best to target against the men who can force their will on a division.
Today we will examine:
·  St. Pierre's Striking
·  Availability of the Body Shot
·  Countering GSP's Explosiveness

Photo by Esther Lin / MMA Fighting
St. Pierre's Striking

St. Pierre’s striking in recent years has evolved along the Bruce Lee-esque philosophy of absorbing what is useful and discarding what is not. Georges has really simplified his game down to the basics and he lands them basically whenever he throws them. Gone are the high kick and back kick which GSP used to sprinkle in as often as he threw a punch, the new GSP is built around that king of strikes: the jab.  There is a great deal of misconception surrounding the jab and the two most popular are that:
·  The jab is a point fighting move, unable to do any damage beyond the superficial cutting and bruising of the face except in freak cases.
·  The jab is a single technique.
I shall address both of these points by referring the reader to Georges St. Pierre’s second bout with Josh Koscheck. The damage which St. Pierre did with his lead throughout the bout was far more than superficial and he prevented an iron headed opponent with heavy hands from doing anything One does not stupefy a man as passionate for throwing leather as Josh Koshcheck with point scoring techniques, because he has shown himself happy to walk through other fighters punches to land his own.  Review the fight and note that a great many of the times on which St. Pierre connects his jab he visibly stuns Koscheck and the latter ceases his forward motion almost immediately.
The second belief is something which most people are not even aware that they have but when you hear people saying "all GSP does is jab, jab, jab" as if it is just a case of St. Pierre going through the motions exactly as in practice they are suffering from this misconception. Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Matt Serra, Dan Hardy; none of them are considered elite in their striking defence but they all know how to deal with "the jab". They have each spent hours and hours in the gym with pad men simulating "the jab" and probably learnt several counters for it. To land a hard, jolting jab with any degree of consistency on anyone with a full time striking training program is a hard thing to do. St. Pierre’s fights are a masterclass in how to use the jab to damage and discourage an opponent – here are just a few factors to look for when reviewing his recent bouts. (G)
·  GSP will fake a jab two or three times to dive in with one hard one.
·  St. Pierre will jab while leaping in straight or while circling to the left in what is called a Safety Lead.
·  St. Pierre will use a non-committal jab to hide the step up with his rear leg for his hard inside low kick, and conversely will use a faked inside low kick to throw a leaping jab / cheat punch (commonly called his Superman Jab).
·  When St. Pierre sees his opponent attempting to parry his jab with their rear hand (basic boxing form) he will occasionally fake the jab and throw a lead hook instead. GSP does not commit to this technique as often as I would love to see him do, but when he does he is capable of dropping fighters of the calibre of Josh Koscheck and Thiago Alves.
Next we will focus on how to deal with St. Pierre’s bamboozling lead.  

Slack's Travels: The Road Ahead

It's been about a week since my second ebook, Elementary Striking became available and the orders have been flooding in. I want to say thank you to everyone who is supporting me by picking up my books or donating to the site, or simply by sharing my work with friends. It's amazing for me personally to see my work reaching people I have admired for years and them enjoying it - without naming too many names there's been some real heroes of mine from the BJJ and MMA world picking up Elementary Striking and tweeting my articles.

I think it's about time that I let all my readers in on my future plans. Firstly, at some point I will be coming back to updating my blog full time and doing outside work on occasion. Slack's Travels (I may think of a better name) will be my updates from the adventures which I am having through martial arts around the world. Below I'll give a little insight into my upcoming adventure.

In summer of 2013 I will be heading out to my favorite city in the world, Tokyo, once again. My previous trip to Tokyo was about three or four years ago and I had the great pleasure of being able to train at the Japan Karate Association headquarters (or honbu if you're feeling very traditional) and Kid Yamamoto's Yamamoto Sport's Academy along with the Krazy Bee team and their coaches.

This time around I will be trying to do a little more dojo hopping and will keep a track of my experiences. I'll be hoping to make it over to the UWFi Snake Pit, Laughter7, P's Lab, Parraestra and many other big Japanese MMA gyms. Then there's all the great karate dojo (is that plural?) that I need to visit.

Most of my writing is about modern, practical striking, but many of you will know that I also adore the traditional martial arts when they are practiced with some realism and intent. The JKA is one of the finest places to learn the meaning of true traditional martial arts. I lost a piece of one of my teeth at the JKA when I wasn't concentrating (tired or hungover, I can't remember); the guys there do hit to hurt, and that is what I love about it! Until my training at the JKA I had pretty much written off the front snap kick as a mediocre technique. A private lesson (by chance, not booked) with JKA All Japan female kumite champion, Yukko Takahashi quickly changed my mind about that as she drilled me through the fundamentals and practical applications of her great kick. Now just a few years later the UFC is filled with fighters attempting the same kick with varying degrees of success.

Here are some photographs which I took at the JKA headquarters during my last visit. It certainly is a beautiful environment in which to train.

I'll also be trying to have a bit more of a life outside of training than I did on my last visit! There's plenty of history to be found just outside of Tokyo and the shinkansen bullet trains connect Toyko extremely well with the more historic cities of Japan. For those of you who don't know, my degree is in history (rather than journalism as I'm sure you can tell) and my passion for museums is obsessive. There is also an incredibly vibrant nightlife in Tokyo and I'm sure I'll find time to sample some of it and tell you all about it and my poor capacity for drink!

Pictured: Womb, one of Tokyo's larger clubs with Japan's largest mirror ball. Photo from The Guardian.

After my jaunt in Tokyo I will be heading down to Okinawa with my lovely girlfriend. Many of you will know that this is the birthplace of karate but I'm under strict orders that this portion of my trip will be a holiday. There will be plenty of snorkeling along the coral reefs and exploring volcanic islands to keep me busy in a tropical archipelago. I'm sure I'll be able to charm my way into sneaking out to a couple of training sessions with the local masters though!#

Some more photos from my time in Tokyo. Top to bottom: Shinjuku at night, The grounds of the Imperial Palace surrounded by high rise buildings, Senso-ji Temple, The grounds of Senso-ji.

After my return from Japan it will be back to training around rainy old England until I have finalized some details on my next adventure. I am in the process of planning some time touring some major U.S. MMA and BJJ camps and writing about some of the aspects of training for big fights / tournaments. As the U.K., and particularly my part of it, are very limited in both MMA interest and facilities, I'm hugely excited to see how some of the major camps in the U.S. operate - and I'm sure I'll get my arse kicked a few times along the way! If you are a coach or have a coach that would be interested in letting me bum around at their camp for a while in my travels please do let me know!

My articles will continue as I try to punch my way into the top levels of MMA journalism, and if I can't I'll just work on this site full time until it is big enough to rival some of the other MMA sites out there. Furthermore I will continue to share what I know and what I learn with all those interested.

Stay tuned and thanks again for all your support,

Jack Slack

Elementary Striking: Available Now!

Hey guys,

So pleased to announce that Elementary Striking is now available on the Books page! It's taken a long time to put together and aside from the difficulty formatting a .mobi version I am very pleased with how it's come out!

For those of you who don't know, Elementary Striking is a lot more to do with my personal philosophy and teachings on striking than Advanced Striking - which was more case studies. The Advanced Striking will get a second volume but Elementary Striking is pretty much a one off guide to fundamental strategy.

Don't let the word fundamental fool you though - there's a lot in there that I haven't seen written down before and a lot of it isn't taught in most gyms!


The Most Emotional MMA Moment?

Hey guys,

It's been a while since I updated (as always it seems!) I've had a lot on with the new book and becoming a big attraction at BE (my articles are now being listed as "Jack Slack Breaks Down" rather than "Judo Chop", which is pretty awesome). I wanted to share a moment from an old PRIDE fight which I consider one of the most intense displays of emotion in MMA history.

This moment comes in round 7 of the incredible fight between Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie - which was scheduled to have no time limit other than being fought in 15 minute rounds. After fighting for an hour and a half both men were exhausted but Sakuraba began to best Royce with low kicks. At about 3:40 you can witness the start of the end for Royce Gracie as Sakuraba lands two such kicks on Royce's thigh to an eruption of the crowd.

At about 7 minutes into the clip Stephen Quadros, Bas Rutten and Maurice Smith begin to discuss how Helio Gracie must feel for his son. Helio had been in lengthy fights like this but never against a complete fighter such as Sakuraba. This is accompanied by a shot of Helio Gracie, looking intensely stoic as always.

At 9:25 Sakuraba drops Royce with another brutal low kick and stands over him in his guard. Both men are absolutely exhausted as they return to the centre of the ring and their mouths are open while their hands are low. No-one has ever fought for as long as Sakuraba and Gracie did in this bout and while it was understandably dull in places it remains an incredible spectacle.

By the 11 minute mark Royce Gracie is a shell of himself and simply hanging on through Sakuraba's hard kicks and punches. Every time Gracie drops to his guard he is finding it harder and harder to get to his feet. At 11:50 the camera cuts to Helio Gracie wringing his hands with concern for his son as the announcer declares that there are 3 minutes left in the round.

Helio Gracie is perhaps one of the toughest men in martial arts history - weighing only 140lbs he took on all comers in fights lasting up to an hour with his newly created variant on Judo newaza, Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He had not once considered throwing in the towel when the enormous Dan Severn was seemingly setting his son, Royce up for the kill, nor when heavyweight Kimo Leopaldo was bloodying Royce up in an unexpectedly tough fight in the UFC. In fact any time Helio appeared on screen in Royce's corner, even up until earlier in this round, he had been the epitome of tranquility in the face of his son's pain. This moment in the 7th round tells us more about Helio Gracie as a man and a father than any of the legends can. He may have been the authoritarian father figure, insisting his boys toughen up and come to blows for honour, but when he knew a fight was lost, he didn't want to see his son take any more punishment.

At 12:28 the camera cuts back to Helio and Rorion Gracie and the camera zooms in on Rorion's hand on the ring apron, holding the towel in a white knuckle fist. As this shot happens the crowd erupts and you realize that the image we are seeing on our screen has been broadcast to the entire arena. The crowd know that the Gracie's are going to give in, but Sakuraba and even Royce are clueless - never taking their eyes off of each other.

In the final minutes of the round Maurice Smith asks his co-commentators "How much can a fighter take? How much should a fighter take?" in reference to Royce Gracie, vainly throwing up kicks that visibly hurt his own legs. Gracie has abandoned attempting to stand from his guard and is instead attempting to chop at Sakuraba's legs from the floor. Sakuraba, 90 minutes in to the longest MMA match in history, against an undefeated opponent, summons all his energy to deliver what has perhaps become the defining image of his career.

After the end of this clip there is a minute in the corners before the Gracie family finally throw in the towel, but by that point it is ceremonial. In the course of this single round Royce went from in the fight to being savagely beaten, his family turned from intense, machismo and encouraging to the point where they wanted to end the fight, and the Japanese fans reached a fever point as a shaky camera shot confirmed that the legendary Gracie family were going to give up after years of refusing to submit, even through broken bones.

The fight between Sakuraba and Gracie is one of the most significant moments in both martial arts and combat sports history and I recommend that anyone who hasn't seen it put aside 90 minutes, sit down with a drink and a snack, and watch two master tacticians grind each other down. The lulls in action are more than made up for by the creativity of Sakuraba, the heart of Gracie and the significance of the bout.