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.