Learn to Punch First!

In the old days, we used to say “make sure you learn how to fight standing up first, and then learn what to do on the ground.” Today, the proponents of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tell us that 90-95% of all fights end up on the ground, so because of this, martial art students should focus on ground fighting.

As a martial arts instructor and proprietor of a large dojo, I meet many prospective students interested in ground fighting, because of the popularity of mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Some of them are annoyed at the fact that I emphasize developing good striking skills before I even consider putting them on a mat.

Let me say that I have great respect for the Gracie family who has done so much to popularize ground fighting around the world. When I first saw the Gracie’s winning so many fights, however, I wondered what would happen if they started to encounter more and more opponents who were able to deliver hard and fast strikes. Interestingly, I’ve seen more and more ground fighters pay closer attention to their striking skills in the standing position.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a young man from Georgia who was trained under the Gracie system. While this he was an exceptional ground fighter, the lack of good striking skills put him at a disadvantage. He was referred to me by a tough boxer I knew many years ago named Vito. Vito and I remained good friends over the years and he sent his friend to me for a one week camp to specifically to work on his striking power.

Vito and I had a sparring match in the 1980′s and he was always impressed with my punching power. I learned early on in my martial arts training that good striking skills would serve me well. At the time of our fight, I only weighed 145lbs. in comparison to his 190lbs, but he still remembers my punches!

There really is no official statistic that supports the claim that 90-95% of all fights end up on the ground. In the September 2008 edition of BLACK BELT MAGAZINE, author Bakari Akil II, Ph.D. studied 300 fights on You Tube to determine if this claim was accurate. In 72% of the cases, only one of the parties ended up on the ground. In 42% of the fights, both individuals ended up on the ground. Interestingly, 35% ended up on the ground after being punched and only one of these cases resulted in a knockout due to a kick. Furthermore, Akil observed that the first person to end up on the ground usually lost the fight!

The moral of this story is to become a well-rounded martial artist. Learn how to punch first!

Post time: 06-19-2017