If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


In this ex­clu­sive Q & A, bill wallace gets pelled with fre­quently heard state­ments about the mar­tial arts and tells us wether they should be be­lieved or dis­carded. Bonus: What might have hap­pened if "Su­per­foot" had never in­jured that right knee?

Bill Wallace is a true liv­ing leg­end, a man who’s re­garded as the world’s great­est kicker by nearly ev­ery­one in the mar­tial arts com­mu­nity. “Su­per­foot” is uni­ver­sally re­spected for his pro­fes­sional full-con­tact karate record, in which he amassed 23 con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries be­fore re­tir­ing un­de­feated. He’s also per­haps the most pop­u­lar mar­tial arts in­struc­tor in the world — and has been for decades. What’s more, he ac­com­plished all that de­spite suf­fer­ing a po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing knee in­jury that forced him to adopt an un­ortho­dox side­ways-fac­ing com­bat stance early in his ca­reer.

Those are some of the rea­sons for this mar­tial arts tru­ism: When Wallace talks, peo­ple lis­ten. That ob­ser­va­tion prompted Black Belt to de­vise a list of fre­quently heard state­ments about the arts, many of which stem from the early days when ev­ery­one talked about karate but no one had ever done it, and sub­mit them to Su­per­foot for anal­y­sis. The ben­e­fi­ciary of the ex­change is the mar­tial arts new­comer who may be tempted to be­lieve such things, as well as the old hand who likely heard them decades ago but never sub­jected them to crit­i­cal think­ing. In ei­ther case, en­joy.

A karate prac­ti­tioner can eas­ily kick a knife out of the hand of an as­sailant.

Bull tuckey. What if you miss? A knife fighter isn’t going to show you the knife in the first place. If a guy does show the knife and you’re far enough away to kick his hand, turn and high­tail it out of there.

The mar­tial arts will en­able a 90-pound per­son with training to de­feat any­one who hasn’t trained.

I’m not buy­ing that one. A good big man will beat a good lit­tle man ev­ery time. This is be­cause the big man has the weight, power and move­ment to do so.

Board break­ing is good for help­ing a mar­tial artist be a bet­ter fighter.

Not — al­though there are some fan­tas­tic board break­ers who put on a nice show. Break­ing may tell you that peo­ple have the guts to hit some­thing hard, but if they could hit that hard and knock some­one out, some of them would be us­ing their skill to win at cage fight­ing. I haven’t seen any of them do that.

Hit­ting the maki­wara is good for mar­tial artists who want to con­di­tion their hands.

Hit­ting the maki­wara does teach you to keep your wrist straight, but that’s about it. You do it too much, and it’s going to cause arthri­tis. The maki­wara we used in Ok­i­nawa was softer than what peo­ple use here. It had a lot of give to it. I still don’t think it’s a good prac­tice be­cause of your odds of get­ting arthri­tis.

If you want to make your shins into weapons, you should con­di­tion them by hit­ting them with sticks.

That’s just sick. I wouldn’t do it, and I didn’t do it.

One re­verse punch is enough to kill a per­son.

You may get lucky, but who wants to have their life de­pend on just luck? How many times have you sparred and buried the re­verse punch into the other guy and he says, “Good shot!” and then keeps on going? If you’ve done much spar­ring, it’s prob­a­bly hap­pened many times. It takes mul­ti­ple shots to do much dam­age, which is why you need to use com­bos. Mike Tyson hardly ever knocked any­body out with one shot. He would come in and blast the guy with a punch, then fol­low up with another one. He al­ways re­lied on com­bos.

I say the same thing about kicks. You can al­ways get lucky, but don’t count on it. Dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion bout with Joe Lewis, I hit him with the hard­est side kick I ever threw. I re­ally nailed him. He just backed up a foot or two and said, “Ouch,” then plowed right back into me with­out any sign that it had hurt him. A bet­ter strat­egy is wear them down with mul­ti­ple hits.

To kick with max­i­mum power, you should lock out your leg.

I learned early on not to try to put too much power into a kick. All that power tears up the menis­cus and liga-

ments. I never re­ally liked lock­ing out the leg be­cause it’s so hard on your knee, hips, back and neck. When I tried to throw kicks too hard, things never seemed to work out. In­stead, I raised the knee with my foot cocked in a tight cham­ber, then just snapped the kick out and back.

Snap­ping the kick out and back gen­er­ates a lot of speed. With speed, the kick is hard to de­tect un­til it’s too late, and peo­ple will run right into it, which in­creases the im­pact. It’s not my fault you ran into it. I’ve had a lot of suc­cess kick­ing this way, and if you want to be able to kick your whole life, work your speed and flex­i­bil­ity.

Tra­di­tional karate blocks done just the way they are in kata will work in self­de­fense and com­pe­ti­tion.

Not un­less you change them up a lit­tle. If you do that, then I say karate blocks are fan­tas­tic. With the high block, don’t block so high. Make the rest of them shorter, too, and don’t block so hard. Use your blocks to move your op­po­nent’s at­tack­ing arm just a bit. You’ve got to mod­ify your tech­niques be­cause no­body is built the same. I’m only 5 foot 8½. How do you think I was able to fight all those guys who were 6 foot or taller? I mod­i­fied my tech­niques.

A cou­ple of years of training is all you re­ally need be­cause that will en­able you to de­feat any un­trained per­son who at­tacks you.

To me, mar­tial arts is a life­long event. You can’t do some training and then for­get about it and get rusty. It’s easy to learn the tech­niques, but to keep from get­ting your butt kicked, you need to de­velop and hone the nu­ances such as dis­tanc­ing and tim­ing, and you need to stay at it. It doesn’t take that much time out of your week to prac­tice some moves that could save your life or that of some­one you love. Keep­ing up your skills will give you peace of mind.

No pain, no gain.

The guy who said that is an id­iot.

Get­ting hit in training or com­pe­ti­tion is part of life as a mar­tial artist.

Hey, there’s still life after com­pe­ti­tion. Your head and your body can take only so much con­tact. Sooner or later, you won’t be able to take it any­more. You don’t want to be crip­pled when you’re all done. When you get knocked out or see stars, you just had your­self a con­cus­sion. Brain cells die, and they stay dead and you don’t know where they went. When you get old, all that dam­age could cause a brain bleed lead­ing to a stroke. It could hap­pen sooner, even.

I say, try your best to avoid shots to the head. If you take a good one and get a con­cus­sion, take the time to get bet­ter. Take all the time you need.

When you’re a mar­tial artist, you should ex­pect to get in­jured.

We all get bumps and bruises. The thing is, if you have an in­jury, let it rest. If you let the in­jury heal, it will heal. I’ve found that anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries help things heal. One key to longevity is don’t get hurt. Also, don’t think it’s cow­ardly to try to avoid get­ting hit or tweaked on by out-of­con­trol training part­ners.

Work­ing on your flex­i­bil­ity is one of the best things you can do to help avoid most of the in­juries that creep up and then linger. When you work on your flex­i­bil­ity, just do it slow and easy.

Any adult black belt can run a mar­tial arts school.

Not if the black belt can’t teach and isn’t able to re­tain students and re­cruit new ones. A teacher needs to be diplo­matic, work with the par­ents of young students and help students get what they want out of going to the school in the first place. A lot of black belts don’t know how to do all that, which is why so many schools strug­gle and fail.

Quite a few peo­ple can run a school for a year or two — or even four or five. How­ever, run­ning a school for the long haul — say, a decade or longer — takes a real good black belt in­struc­tor. That’s com­mit­ment, and I com­mend any black belt who’s done that.

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