WAL­LACE ON WIN­NING

Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS -

A s a liv­ing leg­end of the mar­tial arts, Bill “Su­per­foot” Wal­lace needs no in­tro­duc­tion for the ma­jor­ity of Black Belt’s read­ers. But for those who are new to our pur­suit, here are a few key­words that de­scribe the world’s great­est kicker: high-school wrestler, Air Force vet­eran, judo black belt, karate black belt, un­de­feated pro­fes­sional full-con­tact fighter, body­guard, fight com­men­ta­tor, ac­tor, stunt­man, fight chore­og­ra­pher, Black Belt colum­nist, au­thor, video ta­lent. Add to that the fact that Wal­lace is per­haps the most pop­u­lar mar­tial arts in­struc­tor in the world and has been for four decades. If that’s not enough, know that he owns a master’s de­gree in ki­ne­si­ol­ogy. The take-away is that if you’re into point fight­ing, con­tin­u­ous spar­ring or full con­tact, you’d be wise to heed Su­per­foot’s ad­vice when it comes to com­bat. In this ar­ti­cle, he fo­cuses on a topic that’s likely right up your al­ley: the top 10 strate­gies that will put you on the path to be­com­ing a cham­pion.

1 Lim­ber Up Your Limbs

Just like all hu­man be­ings need air, all mar­tial arts cham­pi­ons need lower-body flex­i­bil­ity. To be­come flex­i­ble, Su­per­foot says, you must work your ham­strings, quadri­ceps and ad­duc­tors. In the long term, stretch­ing those mus­cle groups will move you to­ward the goal of truly gain­ing con­trol of your legs.

Wal­lace fo­cuses on three T’s for flex­i­bil­ity: tem­per­a­ture, ten­sion and time. You need to raise the tem­per­a­ture of your mus­cles by warm­ing up, he says, af­ter which you need to put ten­sion into each stretch­ing move- ment and then spend time hold­ing the stretch. Max­i­miz­ing flex­i­bil­ity clearly re­quires ded­i­ca­tion. How­ever, it need not be such a sac­ri­fice if you adopt the right mind­set. Here’s what I mean:

Say you like to watch tele­vi­sion. In­stead of be­ing a couch potato, do the stretches Wal­lace rec­om­mends while you en­joy re­runs of The Big

Bang The­ory or The Simp­sons. Start with floor stretches. Then stand up and turn so that while you’re do­ing a ba­sic for­ward-bend­ing stretch, you can still see the tube by peer­ing between your legs. You get the idea.

Feel free to re­cruit friends and fam­ily mem­bers for part­ner stretches in your liv­ing room. If no one’s around, use a sofa or chair for sup­port. Use com­mer­cials as cues to switch to a dif­fer­ent stretch as you work your way through the three T’s.

ADDED AD­VAN­TAGE: You’ll get your stretch­ing done at home. That will save your valu­able train­ing time in the dojo for your art.

2 Pres­sure-Test Your Strate­gies

Be­cause of the in­jury he suf­fered, Wal­lace’s left leg be­came his pri­mary weapon in com­pe­ti­tion, and he used it might­ily to win. Over the years, he de­vel­oped some fan­tas­tic fight­ing strate­gies that meshed with his of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. One method he used was a strat­egy from chess.

The ob­jec­tive is to con­trol the cen­ter of the board, thus forc­ing your op­po­nent to take the long route to get to you. That leaves the quicker and shorter path through the cen­ter for you to ex­ploit. Here’s how Wal­lace says he made it work:

Su­per­foot al­ways used the left-leg­for­ward, side-fac­ing stance in con-

junc­tion with the “Wal­lace lean­ing tac­tic.” This en­abled him to turn his body away from his op­po­nent while po­si­tion­ing his left leg close to the per­son, and he could lean back­ward in an in­stant when he needed to pro­tect against a head strike.

If a fighter came straight down the mid­dle, Wal­lace says he would drill him with a side kick or left jab. As the per­son re­treated, he’d raise that left leg and chase him down while pep­per­ing him with quick kicks. Wal­lace’s unique foot­work and leg cham­ber made this pos­si­ble.

Those foes who opted for an out­side at­tack were also at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause Wal­lace had the speed needed to ad­just his po­si­tion­ing and ba­si­cally sub­ject the per­son to the same abuse. And un­for­tu­nately for ag­gres­sive op­po­nents, the quicker their at­tack, the harder the whack they’d re­ceive.

3 Fine-Tune Your Foot­work

Wal­lace de­vel­oped foot­work and move­ment pat­terns that com­ple­mented his side-fac­ing stance and kick­ing style. Be­cause he was al­ways stand­ing with his body fac­ing side­ways, long strides were never an op­tion. He tended to take shorter steps than most mar­tial artists do when mov­ing to­ward or away from an op­po­nent, which helped him main­tain of­fen­sive readi­ness. When he moved for­ward, he led with his front foot. When he re­treated, he led with his rear foot.

Another move­ment pat­tern Wal­lace used was to cham­ber his left leg so he could kick with it or use it as cover against strikes — and still move for­ward or back­ward. When he ad­vanced, his short (and bounc­ing) steps en­abled him to siphon off some of the mo­men­tum to sling­shot his left knee up into his cham­ber and un­leash a killer kick.

Even if you can’t kick like Su­per­foot, your aim should be to do what he did and de­velop foot­work that helps you throw ef­fec­tive tech­niques on the go. Ex­per­i­ment with min­i­miz­ing your stance so you don’t have to use longer steps to ma­neu­ver.

4 Pol­ish Your Kicks

“Peo­ple are full of ex­cuses,” Wal­lace says in ref­er­ence to skill im­prove­ment. “They say, ‘I have to wait un­til I get in bet­ter shape to work my kicks,’ ‘I have to do the splits first’ or ‘My knee is a lit­tle bit sore right now.’ Hey, I in­jured my knee in a judo ac­ci­dent, and my knees are as sore as just about any­body’s.

“You’re al­ready train­ing, which means you’ve made a com­mit­ment to be a mar­tial artist, so now you need to make a com­mit­ment to spend part of your train­ing time work­ing on your kicks. It makes no sense to hold off for th­ese rea­sons or wait un­til you’ve made some other ar­bi­trary ac­com­plish­ment be­fore you start. Just do it.”

Yes, you need a cer­tain amount of strength to lift your leg, as well as a cer­tain amount of en­durance to keep it raised and ready. If you’re not there yet, don’t make ex­cuses; just start slowly. “Find your­self a chair for sup­port so you can fo­cus on the kick,” Wal­lace says. “Place the chair in front or to the side of you and hold onto it, raise your kick­ing leg and do a nice, slow round­house kick. Do this 10 times, then do the same with the side kick. Then re­peat us­ing the other leg.”

Ex­er­cises like this will strengthen your mus­cles, af­ter which you need to build stamina, he says. “For en­durance, raise your kick­ing leg and do 10 kicks be­fore plac­ing the foot down. Af­ter awhile, in­crease it to 20 kicks per set. Do th­ese ex­er­cises a cou­ple of times a week — you can add vari­a­tions and work other kicks if you like. When you feel ready, quit us­ing the chair for sup­port.”

BONUS TIP: When cham­ber­ing to ex­e­cute most kicks, you should raise your knee as high as you can with your foot po­si­tioned near your but­tocks, Wal­lace says. At the same time, turn your sta­tion­ary foot so your toes point back­ward and your heel faces for­ward. This “opens” your hip, which al­lows for smoother tech­nique. “Peo­ple who throw their kicks with­out first piv­ot­ing the planted foot and open­ing the hip joint have the most dif­fi­culty be­cause all the mus­cles are work­ing against each other,” he says. 5 Cus­tom­ize Your Strikes Many mar­tial artists try to in­cor­po­rate their ba­sic tech­niques into their spar­ring reper­toire be­cause of all the time they spend prac­tic­ing them. Un­for­tu­nately, some of those moves aren’t as ef­fec­tive for fight­ing when us­ing a cer­tain stance or when fac­ing an op­po­nent in a par­tic­u­lar stance. That means you need to weed out the stuff you can’t rely on and con­cen­trate on what you know will work, Wal­lace says.

“It doesn’t make any sense to throw a re­verse punch when you’re stand­ing there side­ways be­cause there’s not enough reach,” he says. “I [chose to] use the back­fist, but I made sure it didn’t get jammed so eas­ily by rais­ing my el­bow first and then snap­ping it out and back quickly.”

His back­fist al­ways orig­i­nated from a down­ward po­si­tion be­cause he fought with his lead arm down to pro­tect his left side. If you elect to fight his way, try us­ing Wal­lace’s style of back­fist. If you use a more ortho­dox punch­ing stance, ex­per­i­ment with other op­tions such as the re­verse punch and ridge-hand strike.

For full con­tact, Wal­lace of­ten fired a com­bi­na­tion that fea­tured a left jab, a left hook and then an up­per­cut with ei­ther hand. “I al­ways liked the jab be­cause it worked to keep peo­ple off me, it helped set up the side kick and it’s pretty easy to poke some­one in the nose with the thing,” he says. “Plus, I like hit­ting peo­ple in the head be­cause it makes me feel good.”

Be­cause he’s left-handed, the left hook proved a nat­u­ral move for him, and the punch has a lot of pop. The up­per­cut, which pos­sesses knock­out power, was also an easy fit be­cause it’s an in­side move. Wal­lace says the best way to de­velop hand strikes such as th­ese is to spar a lot with dif­fer­ent part­ners. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t, he says, then work to smooth out your ex­e­cu­tion.

6 Land Your Shots

Mak­ing con­tact in com­pe­ti­tion isn’t as easy as peo­ple think. One key to Wal­lace’s suc­cess is he learned how to ex­ploit any op­por­tu­nity us­ing his speed and foot­work — with­out tele­graph­ing his in­ten­tions. His flex­i­bil­ity, along with the afore­men­tioned po­si­tion­ing of his planted foot to open the hips, gave him su­pe­rior ex­ten­sion on his kicks. He could throw that foot high with ease, and his mi­dlevel kicks ben­e­fited from the ex­tra reach.

He was able to land so many of his shots be­cause he could an­tic­i­pate the an­gle and di­rec­tion of an op­po­nent’s at­tack, then launch his re­sponse and let the other guy run into it. Wal­lace did that a lot and made it even more ef­fec­tive by dis­guis­ing his tech­niques and move­ments. He also cre­ated scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties us­ing de­cep­tive com­bi­na­tions. In one of them, he’d open up his op­po­nent by throw­ing a side kick to the head, then drive a side kick into his ribs. In another, he’d ex­e­cute a round­house to the body and fol­low up with a hook kick to the back of the head. Or he’d of­fer up a jab to get the guy mov­ing back, then blast him with a side kick.

“If you want to kick or punch some­one who doesn’t want to be kicked or punched, you’ve got to ap­ply New­ton’s sec­ond law, which says an ob­ject in mo­tion tends to stay in mo­tion and an ob­ject at rest tends to stay at rest,” Wal­lace says. “It’s a lot easier to get the other guy with your tech­nique if you’re al­ready mov­ing.

“To keep mov­ing through­out a match, you’ll need to work on your stamina. To build my stamina, I al­ways sparred as much as pos­si­ble, and I did shadow-kick­ing and rounds on the bag, too. That was in ad­di­tion to all the leg-strength­en­ing and en­durance drills and the flex­i­bil­ity. It all works to­gether.”

7 Boost Your Speed

Wal­lace has al­ways been fast, but the ef­fec­tive­ness of his kicks was en­hanced by the fact that all his tech­niques were de­signed to snap out and back, rather than thrust out and lock. He’d throw his foot out and im­me­di­ately re­tract his leg and re­peat, hit­ting his foe again and again. If he missed, it was no big deal — he’d just come back with a dif­fer­ent tech­nique.

How­ever, when you set out to boost your speed, it’s of­ten best to start with hand tech­niques be­fore con­cen­trat­ing on kicks. If you’ve got good hand speed in a match, your op­po­nent will give you more dis­tance to work with, thereby al­low­ing you more dis­tance to throw a kick, Wal­lace says.

A rec­om­mended way to build hand speed is the palm drill. First, square off with a part­ner and have him or her hold an open hand in front of you at head height. The dis­tance should be such that you can just touch the hand with your jab. Your job is to tap that hand, and your part­ner’s job is to move it away so you miss. Do 10 reps, then switch roles so your part­ner ben­e­fits, too. Once you have it down pat, per­form the drill while you and your part­ner move around.

8 Hit Your Work­outs

Most mar­tial artists will ben­e­fit from adopt­ing a reg­u­lar work­out sched­ule, Wal­lace

says. “My daily reg­i­men at home is very sim­ple. I start with a set of dumbbells. I do three sets of 10 curls, three sets of 10 tri­ceps ex­ten­sions and three sets of 10 mil­i­tary presses. Next, I lie down on the mat and do three sets of 30 crunches. Then I do all my stretches. The work­out is fun and easy to do. It’s good for me to know ex­actly what I’m go­ing to be do­ing ev­ery day so my body stays used to it.

“As for the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem and the strength­en­ing and en­durance stuff, I do that while teach­ing my sem­i­nars ev­ery week­end and on many week­days, too. That in­cludes work­ing on kick­ing, box­ing, flex­i­bil­ity and all the other ma­te­rial I teach. Dur­ing off weeks and when I have a cou­ple of hours to burn, I go to the box­ing gym and do a more ex­ten­sive work­out.”

Don’t let your train­ing lapse when you’re on the road, Wal­lace says. “You need to de­vise a plan to stay in shape — if you don’t, you may lose your edge. When I was com­pet­ing, I was in ho­tels all the time, and here’s what I did: dips us­ing two chairs for sup­port, pull-ups us­ing a towel stretched over the bath­room door, reg­u­lar push-ups, in­cline push-ups us­ing a chair for el­e­va­tion, full situps and crunches while putting my feet un­der the bed for sup­port, and stretch­ing out with sev­eral of the flex­i­bil­ity ex­er­cises.

“I al­ways did it. Don’t be the one who says, ‘I’ll do it in the morn­ing.’ When morn­ing comes, you may not want to get out of bed. Then you say, ‘I’ll do it to­mor­row,’ but to­mor­row never comes.”

9 Love Your Train­ing

It’s easy to be per­sis­tent when you en­joy what you’re do­ing. You never hear Wal­lace com­plain about work­ing out be­cause he loves train­ing. Strive to love yours. That may mean find­ing ways to make your rou­tine so re­ward­ing you just can’t wait to get off work or out of school so you can start it.

The best way to do this long term is to set goals. Goal set­ting mo­ti­vates you to do what you need to do to im­prove. That might en­tail find­ing train­ing part­ners and fel­low tour­na­ment go­ers who share your pas­sion.

“DON’T BE THE ONE WHO SAYS, ‘I’LL DO IT IN THE MORN­ING.’ WHEN MORN­ING COMES, YOU MAY NOT WANT TO GET OUT OF BED.”

10 Live Your Life

Wal­lace be­lieves in the value of cross- train­ing, but it’s not like the cross- train­ing many peo­ple do. His the­ory is, Why spend valu­able train­ing time rid­ing a bike, run­ning or do­ing other un­re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties when your goal is to be­come a mar­tial arts champ? It’s bet­ter to do spar­ring and drills — and per­haps some weight work if you need to pack on some mus­cle. “For weight train­ing, just use lighter weights and do more reps,” he says. “You don’t want to bulk up too much.”

He cau­tions peo­ple not to mis­in­ter­pret this ad­vice as a cam­paign against en­gag­ing in hob­bies and hav­ing fun. Out­side in­ter­ests are nec­es­sary for a ful­fill­ing life, he says. Which is why he’s still smit­ten with mo­tor­cy­cles and sports cars and why he ab­so­lutely loves golf. He was suc­cess­ful in mar­tial arts, how­ever, be­cause he rel­e­gated those ac­tiv­i­ties to his spare time and didn’t let them in­ter­fere with the train­ing he needed to do to be­come a world cham­pion.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Floyd Burk is a San Diego–based 10th-de­gree black belt with 45 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the arts. To con­tact him, visit In­de­pen­dent Karate Schools of Amer­ica at iksa.com. To con­tact Bill Wal­lace, visit su­per­foot.com.

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