Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cage Fighting Fundamentals

Sun Tzu wrote: "the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him."

At today's sparing practice, Liam imposed his will on not one, not two, not three, but four enemies. And he beat each of them.

This past weekend I told him the other kids had only one tactic: throw the first kick. During each of the previous matches, the winner was determined by who could raise his leg first, beat the other kid before he could do the same. There was no skill. No finesse.

Liam may not have been able to outkick all of the other kids, but I knew he could outsmart them. I knew he could control the fight. Force the enemy into unfamiliar territory. He could turn the tide in his favor.

The other kids are used to a kicking match. They're expecting it. And we practiced doing the unexpected. Over and over I'd yell, "Fight!" and Liam would immediately jump to his right, dodging the inevitable first kick, then cut lose with a series of punches and a final kick. We kept practicing and talking about making the opponent fight OUR FIGHT. Cutting to the right (the enemy's left) and not giving the opponent the time to adapt to the situation. Break the pattern. Impose our will.

The first match was against Tanner. I was hoping Liam would start with someone easier. Tanner had won his first two matches. He was small and quick. But Liam stuck to the plan. He dodged every one of Tanner's kicks and then stepped in close and at least one of his punches would find their mark. Much to everyone else's surprise, Liam won the match. And he did it without losing a single point.

The second match was against an older kid. Taller than Liam. With a much longer reach. But the outcome was the same. Liam lost a point, but the other kid couldn't adapt to the new style. He couldn't do anything other than launch the first kick and hope it landed. If it did, Liam usually blocked it. And sometimes the kid blocked Liam's punches. But in the end, Liam kept imposing his will, and won another victory.

The third match was interesting. The boy was smaller than Liam, and he wore glasses. Either he didn't know how to kick, or he'd been watching Liam's style, because they quickly got into a punching matching. Fortunately we'd been practicing combinations. And the third round was mostly a series of Liam throwing punch - punch - shin kick. And the smaller boy went to the back of the line, with Liam staying in the winner's circle.

The final match was against a much bigger boy. He easily had twenty pounds on Liam. I'd watched this kid's first fight and knew he had a trip-hammer for a leg and lots of power behind his kicks. Liam, however, was high on his success and had gotten used to the recent punching match. The instructor yelled, "Fight!" and Liam took a kick right in the jaw. It knocked him on his ass but cost the other kid a point (you can't strike near the face.) When Liam got up, I could see the tears welling in his eyes. He'd lost his edge. Had let the enemy impose a new will. I figured the end was a foregone conclusion. I figured wrong. Liam wasn't sad. He was angry. He was mad that the other kid had kicked him. And when the instructor yelled, "Fight!" Liam was on the kid like fat on a pig. He lunged inside the kid's guard and cut loose. The first time it happened, the bigger boy had to retreat, and stepped out of bounds. The second time, Liam scored. It was 3 to 0, in Liam's favor, when the class ran out of time.

He hadn't been beaten. He won all four matches. He wasn't the strongest, or the fastest. But he imposed his will. And stuck to the plan. Sun Tzu and I could not have been prouder of my son.

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