Friday, January 30, 2009

"Your Karate Gym"

Yesterday one of my good customers came in to my place of business and said to me that he had done some HVAC work at "your Karate gym". Madison is a pretty small town. I am sure that the owner of the gym dropped my name to the HVAC technician and I was right. That is fine, it happens all the time, especially in a town as small as the one I live in. I try very hard not to piss people off because you never know when it will come back to bite you.

After the technician told me he had done this work at my "Karate gym" I instantly - and I mean instantly - said to him that we do absolutely zero Karate there. He had a very "deer in the headlights" look about him. I had to regroup a bit.

It is incredibly difficult to explain just exactly what Muay Thai is to the uninitiated. Most people lump all martial arts into "Karate" or "Kung Fu".

The biggest savior to Muay Thai has been the UFC. So I asked him if he ever watched UFC. He replied that he had. I said do you remember what it looked like before they hit the ground? He nodded. I said THAT is what we do at my gym, and others take self defense courses (our gym offers JKD) and others yet take BJJ. In addition to that we train fighters for MMA fights, both professional and amateur.

Guys like Anderson Silva have given Muay Thai new life in the states. Silva is arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world right now. Rare are the guys like me that do Muay Thai exclusively, but without it you are toast if you want to be an MMA fighter. Here is Anderson Silva showing his incredible Muay Thai skills.

Lucky for Muay Thai, guys like Silva are becoming the kings of the ring. There is really no other way to explain Muay Thai in a quick fashion to people who have never really studied a martial art other than to say it is the standup you see in the UFC. To succeed in MMA you must have great standup, and Muay Thai rules the roost right now for that.

The guy who said that I worked out at a Karate gym really meant no harm, but I had to set him straight. I don't do Karate. I really don't want anyone to think that I work out at one of these rent a dojo's who give out belts and certificates for nothing.

I did a little youtubing and found this video with a couple of guys sparring Karate.

This is actually very good stuff. They are sparring in a controlled manner and not out to hurt each other which is great. I do note a few differences between what these guys are doing in sparring and what we do in Muay Thai sparring.

First, no leg kicks. I don't think they have shinguards on, but they do have foot protection. Maybe Karate guys concentrate on those strange snap kicks more. Notice I call snap kicks strange because we kick with our whole body in Muay Thai. I will let Duke explain it.

Even in light sparring those low kicks on the thigh are murder.

Secondly, I noticed the Karate guys really didn't know what to do in the clinch. As a matter of fact they just sort of walked away from each other when they got close. We spend a LOT of time working on our clinch in Muay Thai. In true Muay Thai matches the referee will let the clinch go on for a looooong time. All the while you are trying to work your elbows and knees into your opponent while trying to aviod the same fate. Clinchwork is absolutely exhausting.

I would love to spar a Karate guy sometime, but I think they would consider my sport "dirty" from the use of the elbows, knees and clinchwork. Not to mention that every time they lead with that goofy snap kick I am going to catch that kick and cut their rear leg, dropping them to the floor.

But you know, I really shouldn't bash Karate too much. I have always said that if you take a martial art and enjoy it and are getting in shape, it is WAY better than nothing at all and I still maintain that position. And in the end, a guy who is a top level Karate guy could probably kick my ass. It really isn't the art, it is the practitioner.

But the second my customer said "your Karate gym" I instantly bristled. I don't do Karate, I am a Muay Thai guy. And I have the bruises, callouses, scrapes and deadened shin nerves to prove it.


Carl from Chicago said...

That is a good summary of the differences for a layman

James R. Rummel said...

"But the second my customer said "your Karate gym" I instantly bristled. I don't do Karate, I am a Muay Thai guy."

There isn't any difference when it comes to firearm enthusiasts. Try referring to someone's .45 carry gun as a 9mm and watch the top of their head explode from the blood pressure spike.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting stuff in the last video - I've been taking Chinese marital arts (Tongbei and Hsing-Yi) for a few years now, and they emphasize the same use of hips and full-body motion in striking. That little 'step' just before the kick/punch is familiar, too. I'm pretty sure, however, we don't do quite as much shin conditioning as you guys do :)

Dan from Madison said...

Anon - I am not familiar with Tongbei or Hsing-Yi, but interesting that they are teaching full body motion with the kicks.

As for the shin conditioning, you gotta have it for MT.

Rob Kirkwood said...

My MT instructor is a black belt in Kyokushin karate, and I think what he brings to muay thai is flexibility and speed, particularly in the high head kicks. It's very effective - have the bruises to prove it from sparring!

Dan from Madison said...

I believe it. If you are fast with a head kick that can be a deadly weapon. My kicks are too slow in general so I have to use deception to get them off, I have been working on the speed aspect a lot.

Jason said...

I certainly understand what you're getting at, but let's not paint karate with such a broad brush. A previous commenter mentioned the Kyokushin family of karate. We've got leg kicks, clinching, and elbows--all borrowed from Muay Thai, of course.

The video you used for reference looked like "karate" strongly flavored by Tae Kwon Do, which for some reason is frequently labeled karate.

Just for giggles--and not to fuel a my style's better than yours flamewar--I present to you a better video. A disclaimer--the smaller guy is my teacher. One of the weaknesses in our training--no face contact.

Dan from Madison said...

Jason - agreed with not painting Karate with a broad brush and TOTALLY agreed that a martial arts flamewar serves no purpose.

That is a very cool video, I like the bare knuckle aspect. Those guys are tough and a bit nuts.

I noticed a few things - they kick to the legs, but not with their entire body. It almost seems as though it is a diversion type tactic. When we kick to the thigh in MT it is to destroy the base.

Also, no clinching in the video. I love the clinch and if presented with a real life need to use my art that is my "safe place", where I would go to first get my head together, then begin to destroy with knees and elbows. Hopefully I won't ever have to do that to anyone.

I still say those crazy spinning and ax kicks are virtually useless, but would hate to get nailed by one. They are easy to catch and then you can dispatch your opponent to the floor as your teacher did in the video. We use the spinning techniques as "saviors" in MT, in other words, when we miss and are halfway through a spin already and don't have time to come back to proper structure.

Thanks for the comment.