I have been watching some Olympics off and on during the last week an even caught some fighting! I was watching some wrestling the other morning before work and I saw this guy (Adam Wheeler) from Lancaster, CA win the Bronze metal! That was cool as I understand because it is the only wrestling win for the U.S. so far. I reviewed a match a while back where a girl beat a boy to win the title. I can only guess that the Olympics is every wrestlers dream. This picture of a 3rd century B.C. Pankratiasten fight was taken by Matthias Kabel.
I will review the fighting sports that are in the Olympics and how they might be applied to self defense situations. I will also touch on why my favorite sport, karate is not in the Olympics. Let me say in this day and age of mixed martial arts, each of these Olympic fighting sports are important components of many great fighters! Even though there are so many rules (which you need in an effort to make things truly fair), the true competitors still excel!
Wrestling is probably the oldest form of fighting in the Olympics and there are many forms of that sport. For a long time in the West, wrestling was the main form of the ground game. Growing up in the U.S., I had not heard of Judo, Karate, and Jui Jitsu until the Green Hornet came out but I had always heard about wrestling and boxing. When I was a kid, boys did not kick like girls. Two guys in school would start out boxing fight and end up in a wrestling match. I have fought wrestlers in real fights and found them to be some of the toughest fighters around and definitely not someone to let get a hold of you!
Some good things about wrestling are excellent ground fighters, strong and resourceful. As I am not a wrestler (since Junior High) I would have to strike the wrestler from middle to long range with kicks and punches to hold my own. As I have wrestled in my past and respect wrestlers today, and note many MMA champions have come from wrestling backgrounds (like Urijah Faber of the WEC), I think everyone considering a MMA career should have wrestling, Judo or a Jui Jitsu background.
Boxing has been around forever and in the ancient Olympics, let to the death of one of the fighters. Modern Boxing is one of the more disciplined sports that has rules that lend themselves to the Olympics. It is also, as wrestling, popular world-wide. Boxers have very heavy hand strikes that easily lend themselves to self-defense situations. Nowadays modern full-contact and MMA fighters both incorporate boxing skills into their fighting arts. Boxing is a very good medium to close range fighting method and if you get caught inside – you had better understand how to cover or counter the barrage of hard punches coming your way!
The good thing about boxing is the hard, fast punches in close to medium range. The downside as I see it is one cannot kick or a boxer may not know how to defend against kicks or knees. Boxing was wildly popular when I was a kid. I recall Muhammad Ali’s (a former Olypian himself) fights and used to think world-class boxers where fairly unbeatable. Karate in those days were still in its infancy as a full-contact sport so boxers held broad respectability as a fighting art.
The way to beat a boxer (speaking as a practitioner of karate) is to not fight the boxer’s fight. You have to (at least with my boxing skills) fight the boxer on the outside or of you have decent ground skills – take the fight to the ground. Many MMA fighters have good enough boxing skills to hang with traditional boxers and throw hard leg kicks as well as take downs. If I was a betting man, I would bet on the MMA fighter to win in mixed MMA/Boxing matches. But having said that, I have the utmost respect boxing as a fighting displine and most MMA/Full Contact fighters have to know how to box to become a well blended fighter!
Now we come to the closest fighting discipline to my love, karate – Olympic Tae Kwon Do! When I first heard about Tae Kwon Do as a kid, I was told that it was the sport version of Tang Soo Do (I don’t really know if that was true but I linked to a wikipedia article on Tang Soo Do). We (the U.S.) have three siblings going to the Olympics in this CNN video.
I hope the fighting Lopez’s do well and I applaud their competitive spirit! Tae Kwon Do rules in the Olympics (probably similar to the regular rules) seem to favor kicking over punches. As far as I can tell, punches to the face to not count! This is kind of foreign to me as a karate practitioner. If I could not punch, all I could do would be to stay on the outside of the critical distance and try to score points. In a real fight most people would be well suited to use their hands if their attacker was open for that. I have taught a armless student once that did not have the luxury of punching or blocking with his hands (he did not have his hands) so I taught him to strike and move so he was always outside of the distance (except when he was attacking)!
The positive aspects of Tae Kwon Do as I see it are excellent kicks. The down side of using Tae Kwon Do in self defense is your face is wide open for punches. If an opponent understands distance, he can dart in with a kick or punch because the Tae Kwon Do fighter is not really using his hands. I was watching one video of a Tae Kwon Do stylist doing a jump spinning kick and striking three targets! This style has amazing kicks but as I mentioned in my post entitled, “Are Flying Kicks Any Good?” all you have to do is step out of the way (you cannot change speed or direction in the air) and punch him as he flies by.
I like Judo as a sport and noted that it too is in the Olympics. I have a friend that is rather involved in this sport and he has taught his daughters as well. The thing I really liked about Judo growing up is the wonderful shoulder rolls I learned (that have saved me in many fights to land back up on my feet!) as well as a method of throwing an opponent. Judo is based on leverage and was developed in Japan as an alternitive to the more agressive Jui Jitsu (which was outlawed) as i recall. Judo easily lends itself to the Olympics as it is practiced world-wide. I believe as in Jui Jitsu, one advances as he or she wins matches so it is inherently fair.
I remember in the old days hearing about the “Judo Chop!” and wondering who would win in a fight, the Karate or Judo guy. I learned that black belts in Judo had to even learn striking. Now that we have MMA, I think that question depends on the fighter but I definitely think that it is valuable to learn Judo as part of an overall self-defense/sport fighting plan. Jui Jitsu and Judo long had contests to see which was better (as if one could define better), but I think each fared well. If a striker tried to fight a Jukta at close range, he or she would have to know ground fighting to do ok. If I was fighting a Judo practitioner – I would stay on the outside, just as I would with a wrestler.
I think karate is not in the Olympics because there are so many different styles and no uniform rules that most styles agree on. There is non-contact karate, kiss contact karate, to full contact karate. Each style favors different rules and techniques that the Olympics might have to have many styles of karate to satisfy all. Tae Kwon Do has unified rules the world over it seems and is large enough that it was easy to make the case to add that sport. Maybe some day karate will have a unifying set of rules that will make it to the Olympics!
As we here at My Self-Defense Blog try to focus on total self defense, I will leave you with the fun video of a dancer defending herself with Judo, Karate, and Jui Jitsu. I was laughing out loud during this skit!
This guy was either a slow-learner of a glutton for punishment! Now go enjoy the 2008 Olympics!