Since a few people have mentioned they would like to see some more information on the actual technical aspects of martial arts presented here, I’m posting an excerpt from my book The Principles of Unarmed Combat, available from Turtle Press (just click the book cover on the upper right side of the screen to be whisked right to it). At the risk of sounding immodest, I feel the book is truly unique in the realm of martial arts literature. Not sure I’d go as far as MMA writer Jim Genia did in proclaiming “Bruce Lee’s The Tao of Jeet Kune Do ain’t got nothing on Mark Jacobs and the Principles of Unarmed Combat” (oh, who am I kidding, of course I would) but seriously, I’m fairly certain there is no book on the market that addresses the empty hand aspects of combat as comprehensively as this book does or is as heavily researched and based in scientific and medical fact as this book. While I do include a number of specific techniques in the book, it primarily deals with the underlying principles that make martial arts work (or not work). Below is a brief excerpt from Chapter 11, Combining Upper and Lower Body Postures…
Blending the Upper and Lower Body
As with all other techniques, blending the positions of the lower body, the upper body and the hands into one useful fighting posture must take into account your strengths and weaknesses, your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and the circumstances of the combat. If these three factors dictate a wrestling-oriented approach, then holding your hands as a wrestler would while shifting your weight forward in a wrestling-style stance would be a logical combination of upper and lower body positions. By the same token, if the factors dictated a kickboxing-oriented approach, the hands would likely be kept somewhat higher and closer to the body while the stance would be narrower and weight distributed more evenly. Obviously, this blending of upper and lower body postures becomes more confusing in something liked an MMA format where punching, kicking and wrestling are all allowed. Now, elements from different stance and upper body postures must be incorporated together but they must be done so in a modified manner.
In modern mixed martial arts competitions, it’s rare to see fighters using the techniques of exclusively one style as they once did. You generally won’t see a combatant in the UFC assuming a purely wrestling position with both his upper and lower body, nor will you see him assume a purely Muay Thai position. Instead, they will incorporate elements of various upper and lower body postures but in a much more modified form than what we previously described. Rather than having the hands extended too far away from the body or at a medium height, even grapplers engaging in MMA will now tend to keep the hands somewhat closer in and higher to defend against strikes to the head. Their hands may still be in position to execute a grab and takedown but they are also better able to block punches and kicks. Though such a hand position would be less efficient in either a purely wrestling or a purely striking form of combat, it’s better suited for a mixed form of combat. Similarly, rather than keeping a true Muay Thai stance with the great majority of weight on the back leg and the front foot placed lightly on the ground, a mixed martial arts fighter may keep his weight somewhat more even so they can lift their front foot to defend a leg kick when necessary or shift their weight forward to shoot in for a wrestling takedown.
Even when squaring up and coming forward in a more classic wrestling stance into close quarters, the MMA fighter might still opt to hold his hands high and closer to his head in more of a boxing position because he knows a certain opponent who is a decent boxer and wrestler but not a good kicker may attempt to slow him down with punches. But this is a successful blending of two seemingly conflicting postures (a wrestler’s stance and a boxer’s hand position) using sound principles. The offensive goal is to get close to an opponent to turn the fight into a close quarters or grappling situation, the defensive goal is to avoid getting punched in the head. By understanding how and why certain techniques work, and then factoring in your strengths, your opponent’s strengths and the circumstances of the fight, you can successfully blend seemingly contradictory upper and lower body postures.