Thursday, March 13, 2008

Revisiting the Turtle Block

The other night I was training with my coach and was made to do several rounds of boxing sparring with him. Going into the ring, one of the other coaches told me to keep my hands up and against my head at all times in what we call in my style a "turtle block." Not knowing what was coming my way, I didn't feel the need to use the turtle block as my guard against Mark. I was soon disabused of any such notion.

My coach is a former pro-boxer, as some of you already know. And he decided that night it was time to put more pressure on me. Without hitting me hard enough to cause injury (though hard enough to cause real discomfort), he proceeded to lay the beats on me for three rounds.

At first, when I stayed in a more traditional, more open guard, Mark just punched right through my guard, landing blows to my head with his own fists or simply by punching MY fists into my own face. After a minute of this, I buckled down and put my hands up into my turtle block position so I could absorb all his blows and throw a few of my own punches when the opportunity presented itself.

In this kind of boxing, there is really no blocking at all. It's pretty much just either absorbing the blows with a solid guard or damage control (i.e. keeping the chin low and actively taking the blows on the forehead where the head is strongest). All the more reason to train yourself to fight the flinch.

I was later told though that I can keep my lead arm out a bit more so that I can snap out my jab more easily as long as I keep the arm quite firm so that my opponent's blows to punch through my guard or cause me to hit myself in the face. I practiced this a bit later on and found it an effective alternative to simply maintaining the turtled position. And as far as MMA goes, I found that this firm guard allows me to absorb blows more effectively when entering an opponent's space for throws and takedowns.


Colin Wee said...

At first, when I stayed in a more traditional, more open guard, Mark just punched right through my guard,

The 'more traditional' is not a guard against continuous fighting. Hard styles 'fight' by stringing together a sequence comprising a defendant preparing to catch an aggressor by surprise and an end-point - ikken hisatsu or similar finishing event.

Modifying 'traditional' hard style to cater towards continuous type fighting requires an instructor to stitch together transitional movements contained within the system: folding for blocks, circular movements, turning movements, etc to effect deflections, coverage, and movement.

This is a good post highlighting the 'square peg and round hole' challenge of hard style martial arts.


Lori O'Connell said...

'Ikken issatsu' is an expression in Karate to describe the general intent behind the art. It translates to 'one strike, one kill', meaning 'to kill with one blow.'

I trained to brown belt level in Shotokan Karate (a traditional style) and the sparring system used is point-based, not continuous to represent the idea that if you have landed a blow, you have ended the fight.

As for stitching together transitional movements like folding, circular/ turning movements, deflections, etc., these principles are indeed present in my style of Jiu-jitsu and I am able to use them quite competently against opponents who are less skilled in boxing-style striking.

Be that as it may, these movements are too slow and easily countered by someone like my coach with a professional boxing background. People who go up against him may be able to use those kinds of tactics, once, even twice if they're lucky, but as soon as he knows you're going to use a block or a deflection, he'll adapt and use that split second it takes to complete the movement to punch right through your guard.

That's not to say that those tactics are useless, but it really depends on the kind of opponent you're facing whether or not you'll be able to make a lot of use of them.

Colin Wee said...

Well said. Yeah, the game plan for going up against an adept opponent needs to be addressed - less you want to get some humility beaten into you. :-)


Lori O'Connell said...

Hey, nothing wrong with learning by having something beaten into you. That's how learned all this stuff. ;)