Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Combination Theory

There are tons of instructional DVD’s out on the market relating to combinations. Each one of these touting to have the ultimate combination series! Is there such a thing as an ultimate combination? Or is it merely a marketing ploy? I would vote for the later.

To be honest it would make no difference how many combinations you learn it still will not make you a better combat athlete. The reason is simple, you are not fighting a static opponent who just allows you to hit him wherever you like, nor are you fighting an opponent who has predefined moves that you are aware of. This may be true for some of the classical systems of martial arts training, but in a real performance based environment your opponent fights back and you cannot know what that will be with, unless you have the ability to predict the future.

Another reason instructors continue to coach hundreds of variations of combinations are because they want their students to need them. The more you can teach them new techniques or variations on them the longer your students will need you, this then makes you feel more important as the instructor. Why would that be any different to constantly handing out food to poor people but you never teach them how to grow their own. It is simply a method of control. The other side of this sinister ‘control theme’ propagated by many martial art instructors are the instructors who honestly don’t know better and really believe they are doing the right thing for their students.

Once you have students on the road to technique collection they then become ‘technique junkies’ always looking for the next ‘technique fix’. It is ridiculous that there are still people who argue that because they know 1000 techniques and you may only know 50, that they are better than you. Better at what? Memorizing! Just because you have a photographic memory does not make you intelligent- intelligence lies in the ability to apply, that which has been understood.

So is there any use for teaching combinations?
Yes to a certain point and definitely in the beginning. Combinations are simply there to enforce muscle memory and the learning of proper technique (Chin down, shoulder protecting chin when punching, bring your hand back to your face, etc). More importantly combinations are there to help a person understand flow.

Flow not combinations
Flow means your ability to move from one technique to another without getting confused. In the beginning when you first start learning different types of punches you still have not acquired enough muscle memory of the specific move. So sometimes you hear the coach call a cross but you jab, or you hear the call for an uppercut but you do a hook. This is because we are just thinking too much, trying to memorize and not allowing our bodies natural intelligence to take over.

Ultimately the best way to learn ‘combinations’ or what I would prefer to call ‘flow’ is just to do it. The difference in my mind is this; a combination is predetermined either by yourself or your coach where as a flow is to let what ever comes to just come out. If while flowing you see yourself creating a pattern, which means you end up doing the same flow of moves over and over simply change it. Remember the idea of flow is to allow you to move from one technique to another without confusion. This goes back to what I said in the last chapter- wanting to throw a cross but ending up with a hook. This however does not last for long as long as you stop thinking about what is the right and wrong thing to do and just do it.

Of course some moves flow together better than others and this is pretty much the reason why coaches would teach a ‘combination’ or at least I would. But I want my athletes to move away from learning combinations, which are pre-determined by myself as soon as possible and simply understand that it is not the combination that is important, but rather the ability to seamlessly flow from one technique into the other while developing timing in hitting an opening on the opponent that is. This is something no coach can teach you except yourself and in fact outside of some principles for flow no one ever has to teach you a combination either.

Predetermined combinations only work for as long as the other person is at the same level as you, (Another sinister reason many martial art schools teach specific techniques at various levels they have created, this simply keeps everyone at the same level without them knowing) once you go up against someone with good defense and better timing and say as your coach all I have done is coach you a series of combinations you will come to me anyway and say, “I can’t seem to make the combinations work!”. I then teach you some more predetermined combinations and the cycle starts all over again.

Lets say for argument sake that the new combinations which you have now been taught consist of several moves instead of the ones you already knew which consisted of say only three moves. These new combinations that you have now learnt off by heart actually begin to score on the opponent you had been having trouble with. Lets also say this has happened because this opponent was only ever taught those 3-point combinations you originally used and the relevant defense for them. What happens if you face another opponent who has been taught to counter and defend several point combinations at one time, what are you going to do now, asks the instructor to teach you combinations that consist of 14 moves in them? This whole thing sound ridiculous right? You may be laughing now but there are instructors who coach this way. What you get out of this training mindset is I know 1000 techniques and you only know 50 so I must be better than you.

What if I coached an athlete in defense not to be concerned with specific combinations but rather to understand the lines of attack and flow in defense? Simply it would matter little on how many combinations you know off by heart, as the guy I coached will just react as he should, instinctively, without thought!

Obstacles to flow
This s really subject matter for other articles and part of my Combat Intelligent Athlete program ( ). Of course the real obstacles to making flow work or if you prefer a combination is not really about the combination itself. It is rather your emotional response to the stressors of sparring and trying to apply them on an opponent who is intended on kicking your butt. So fear, anxiety, mental apprehension are all serious factors to really consider why your game is not improving or that you cannot make things work, it really has nothing to do with learning a new combination!

Loosing my job!
Here is where I loose my job☺ Once you understand the technique and you know all the little points that make it work then all you really need to know more than a bunch of combinations taught to you is combination theory. If you understand combination theory then you don’t ever need another person to coach you a combination again because you will naturally come up with what they would coach you anyway. Learn the theory, apply it in sparring and just let a combinations ‘flow’ as it is meant to.

Combination Theory
1. Flows of 3 techniques work the best. 6 are the maximum!
2. Anytime you go to the body, always come back to the head. Straight shots like jab and cross are the best to come back with.
3. Only double of the lead if the first strike is a straight line (e.g. Lead jab to lead hook. Don’t do a rear-cross to a rear hook). If you are in tight you can double of on either rear or lead but remember if you go for example; a lead hook to a lead shovel, because the last shot was a body shot return to point 2, always come back to the head.
4. Don’t start a flow with a hook first.
5. Don’t throw a single cross on its own.
6. When executing a flow that starts with straight lines and then goes to hook lines or uppercut lines always come back with straight line to the head (e.g. Jab, Cross, Hook, cross). This is also important to practice on the bag and focus mitts as most people when missing an uppercut or hook just stop and don’t continue the flow.
7. Hit off your opponents punches, that means working your flow while he is attempting his, don’t wait for him to stop flowing first before you return your own, that is only good for tennis.

There are several more principles than this, but I will leave you with those for now. Hopefully I have made my approach understandable and I hope that these principles will allow you to create your own flow- now go out and be your own creators!

RodneyKing2005.All Rights Reserved.