Thursday, December 31, 2009

Uncovering and Unfolding

Just as one needs a brilliant instructor to reach inside of you and to show you how to ignite and to use that incredible energy each of us possesses, a great interview depends as well on working with a writer who has that same skill. I did my first published interview with a major newspaper in Raleigh, N.C. at age ten after winning a city-wide art contest.

That’s right, you heard it here first---Joe Lewis, the artist. Bruce Lee was also an incredible artist; in a way, that makes us both real martial “artists.”

Over the years I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of excellent writers and some top scientists from various intellectual fields such as philosophy, psychology, space research, physics, parapsychology, and etc. These scholars in my life have taught me that there is a big difference between just information and real knowledge.

Some day I hope to republish several of these top favorite interviews and articles I’ve done after having worked closely with a number of these intellectuals in my life. There are some of these already posted on the membership sections of my web site: Each of these mentor/friends was at the top of his field, such as Durk Pearson, a research/physicist who graduated from MIT with the highest point grade average in the history of that renowned university.

I know you will find this ongoing premise to be of profound interest as it will lend insight to many of the sources of my own development, and will also identify the roots of some of the principles that I teach today. One of these people, Dan Levin, at the time in 1971, was the senior staff writer for Sports Illustrated magazine. He was assigned to spend an entire week with me to do his background research for the below featured article. It was the first time a martial artist had been featured in this magazine, the largest circulation of any sports publication at that time (2,500,000).

Dan and I hit it off from the beginning because we each had a common interest in Ayn Rand, a Russian scholar, who founded Objectivism, a revolutionary philosophy movement that was based out of New York City. I find that many martial art styles practiced today lack a structured philosophical base---it remains my belief that this is one of the chief reasons why the majority of those who are involved in the arts eventually will resign from any lasting, active participation. It is kind of unfair to call them “quitters” because deep in the sacred core of their spirit, they never really started. They were motivated to start but not inspired to continue.

This idea lends support for the purpose of this blog; hopefully, in part, to help one find through reading my Sports Illustrated article, and why it was originally brought to my attention from a fan on Facebook, a greater reason to seek a more meaningful personal challenge to continue participating in martial arts. Ultimately, my mentors guided me to realize that my actions in life were not about just gathering information, but learning how to think, effectively processing this collective mental input in order to use it as functional knowledge, not just something that “floats” around in your memory.

Remember! Lost time can never be found. However……. “Uncovering the past can be just as rewarding and exciting as the unfolding future.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Academy Awards Of Martial Arts
Jan 8 & 9, 2010
Tropicana Casino Resort
Atlantic City, N.J.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Exposing a Striker’s Weaknesses


Mr. Lewis, It seems that many MMA fighters with strong backgrounds in the striking arts are often frustrated when wrestlers or grapplers close the gap and go for a clinch position. They often look like fish out of water and end up in a bad position against the cage/ring or on the ground. Is there a lack of quality training on fighting from the close or clinch position in modern kickboxing and boxing gyms or is this a position that simply favors grappling and wrestling?

This question gives rise to the greatest dilemma facing some of todays inexperienced MMA trainers—what are the unforeseen, educated techniques and cross-martial arts disciplines I need my fighters to work on most? Pay attention to this old axiom:

“You don’t win in the fight, you win in the preparation.”

Are grapplers supposed to be superior to strikers? Then how do you explain what happened when we see a non-grappler like Maurice Smith, a karate-based kickboxer, knock-out a string of world class grapplers in MMA matches? Does that make the strikers the rightful owners of the ultimate martial arts discipline? How then do you explain why Renzo Gracie was so effortlessly able to take a much taller (six foot, four inches) world champion kickboxer to the mat, and then force him to tap out in just one round?

To best fully grasp the importance of this question, make sure you avoid the tendency to demonize one martial arts discipline, such as the strikers, in order to glorify another, like the grapplers. We are all guilty of this meaningless practice. The many ways the various media are promoting martial arts and today’s MMA sport contributes greatly, directly and by implication, toward causing the propensity for us to drift into that pattern of thinking.

We become fixed on the unchallenged, unproven idea that one martial art is superior to all others. A theory or concept only becomes a fact when it has been tested in a realistic model using acceptable standardized criteria, and the results are supported by verifiable evidence based on the use of reason and logic. This procedure exists in our military, but not in today’s martial arts; we still base most everything on theory and myth—not data. You put the fighters inside a phone booth, and the grappler is going to win. If you allow eye and groin strikes, fish hooking the eye and mouth cavities, head butts, bleeding techniques, biting, etc, then perhaps the striker will have the advantage for victory.

This above type of back and forth, pendulum shifting from one discipline being favored over another has greatly packaged martial arts into two forms, strikers vs. grapplers, or the kickboxing against the jiu-jitsu. The use of this equation diminishes the importance of a fighter’s footwork, his set-up skills, his aggressive defensive maneuvers, his mental thinking method, his ability to focus, one’s controlling the momentum, conditioning strengths, expertise in timing, breaking an opponent’s rhythm, and this list becomes endless.

We have become blinded as to what is most important. After all, is it not these factors, a fighter’s attributes and skills combined, that makes it possible for his strikes or his grappling techniques to work in the first place? Before anyone can claim that martial arts builds character or integrity, this question first deserves an answer. Without being able to out-think your opponent, or without the effective power or speed, or the obstinate will power to execute in the face of any danger or against overwhelming odds, one’s grappling or striking techniques have no meaning.

Mistakes are made

Now take a second to ask yourself this question, which deserves some thought. If any grappling discipline is superior to the striking arts, then why are all the smart, top grappling fighters taking kickboxing and boxing lessons? Why also, are all the top striking champions adamant about exercising serious grappling training? It is not because they wish to switch over to a different art form, it is because they know all disciplines are limited and they do not want to get beat.

These smarter fighters know that there are cardinal rules they must learn and practice in order to maximize their chances of either not getting hit by a striker, or finding themselves caught in a compromising clinch, upright or on the ground, with an expert grappler. Their tactical training evolves around making sure they know how to avoid any compromising weaker position that may surrender the advantage to an opponent. The rule of thumb as to when do you not use something is: “when it is more dangerous to the user than the opponent.”

There are three basic reasons why this rule gets broken: (1) the fighter doesn’t listen to his coach. (2) The fighter didn’t do his homework. (3) The fighter allows his opponent to out-think him.

I recently received a comment on my Facebook page: why does it appear that many MMA fighters on TV seem to be training to “get hit?” The sport is new and still in transition. Mistakes will be made as the sport continues to evolve. At least, once in a while, we can all enjoy a “Mike Tyson” type real fight, very unlike some of those boring you-touch-me or I-touch-you type point-fighting matches I had to endure back in my earlier days.

Remove the Blindfold

For every victory you show me by a striker over a grappler, I’ll show you ten fights won by a grappler over the striker—and vice versa. There is no room for an argument here. In the end, it’s the fighter, the individual, who wins, not the art form or fighting discipline. This type of thinking is an out-dated school of thought.

I have always said that in a match between opponents, it is not what you see, but what you don’t see that is the secret. Sometimes one opponent is just tougher, and he wins not because his skills are superior. There are two integrated forces or faculties at work here. This collective structure of a fighter’s attributes (his speed, physical strengths, conditioning, rhythm, timing, and accuracy) together with his technique skills (tools such as offensive weapons, aggressive defense, pocket control, bridging the gap, setting up attacks, etc.) have to be appropriately exercised by one’s use of an effective process of mental actions.

As a member of the first combat unit to go to Viet Nam, let me leave you with one last thought. If you are fighting in a war, where would you like to be when the war ends…at home, or standing on the battle field with the troops who fought with you? This same premise carries over into the fight game. All fights start in a standing position; if you know how to fight, they will end that way, one standing, one not. To answer the original question, you are right—what you see is what you get! Although your question contained its own implied answer, I hope I have been able to help you see the unseen.

A fighter’s ultimate weapon is the efficacious use of his mind, that which we call consciousness. Either you are taught how to properly use it, or a smart opponent will help you shut it down. Read some of my earlier old school quotes:

“He who fails to prepare, prepares to fail.”

"The real fight is not what takes place between you and your opponent, the real fight is what takes place inside your head."
Joe Lewis

Great Christmas Gift for a friend or teacher!

limited supply of 50 photos, fcfs

Monday, November 30, 2009

Footprints in the Sands of Inspiration


Tips from the Top Question: You have been an icon in the martial arts for four decades. Why have you waited so long to form a Joe Lewis organization?

Joe Lewis: Originally I became involved in the martial arts for the same reasons most of us did. Not only was it fun and exciting, but the training appealed to my need to develop and mature as a person. Also, the camaraderie I enjoyed while working out with my fellow black belts was unmatched.

Later, when I found myself being questioned by most of the top fighters about strategies, tactics, fighting attitudes, and training tips, I realized that it was time for me to become an instructor.

During the next decade, many of my top black belts insisted that there was a need to form a Joe Lewis organization, and they asked me to be the head of it. Like Bruce Lee, I never wanted to give my fighting style a name or to start an organization or to write a book until I felt comfortable with the completed evolution of my research.

Question: Some years you do nearly 100 seminars a year. Why add forming an organization to your plate?

Lewis: I have always wanted to have all of my seminars recorded or to put my research into a permanent format where it could forever remain available to any interested martial artist. Seminars are very limited. My new Black Belt Manual and website create the perfect forum to provide me with total access to the martial arts community. And, more importantly, it provides them with total access to me.

Question: What do you hope to accomplish with a Joe Lewis organization?

Lewis: To dignify the student’s efforts and to pursue a common vision based on courageous leadership. I do not think that happiness as a martial artist is attained with self-gratification or the greedy pursuit of ego centered values, but through one’s fidelity of a worthy purpose.

While most black belt instructors spend up to 80 percent of their time teaching beginning material over and over again, mostly to white belts, I have spent more than 80 percent of my time developing ways to advance the teaching skills of those instructors, as well as to enhance the training methods and combat skills of black belts and world-class fighters.

A good organization should embody a vision shared by all its members, and it should demonstrate a sense of leadership in its most basic form. For example, I will not ask you if you can accomplish something. But rather I will show you how to accomplish it. A teacher who represents cutting-edge concepts should never have a student ask can he make black belt, can he be fast, or could he ever double his power? Our organization will teach you to have students who will instead ask how to become a black belt, how to increase their speed, how they can double their power.

Question: Who can join?

Lewis: The doors to this organization are open to anyone. You do not even have to be a martial artist to join. This association is first and foremost an alliance of people. At the end of my book I wrote a few years ago about training with Bruce Lee, I applauded how his vision made him a leading icon in martial arts history. Unlike any other martial artist, he was able to bring together millions of people of diverse backgrounds, enabling them to share the same future. He made all of them proud and excited to be martial artists. We want to do the same.

Question: You are well-known for saying the only rank that matters is black belt. Do you still feel that way?

Lewis: I said a lot of things when I was young and arrogant. To me, pursuing martial arts was similar to going on a diet. I didn’t understand why people would quit before reaching black belt. That attitude was out-dated and did not take into account the high cost of years of expensive tuition or the ongoing aggravation of sacrifices that many endure. Nor does it take into account that many black belt instructors lack combat skills or the ability to motivate students, not to mention a lack of understanding the science of improving self-confidence. Some intelligent instructors are able to motivate students; however, motivation is like an emotion, it only lasts a short period of time. Great instructors know how to inspire students; inspiration lasts a life time.

I now believe that the majority of those who discontinue their pursuit of earning a black belt acquiesce because of disappointments unrelated to a personal lack of genuine effort or honest intentions. When a student’s instructor falls short as a motivator or teacher, or if his material is below the student’s expectations, I would never blame him if he dropped out.

Question: You are well known for saying that there are two kinds of black belts: good ones and bad ones. How do you define a good black belt?

Lewis: This subject would make a great book itself. But, briefly, if you have passed a battery of tests for your black belt promotion and you were conferred rank by a legitimate board or instructor, then in my opinion you are a black belt.

One of my first schools in Okinawa gave out two types of black belts. One was rank earned by sparring, and another was rank earned by knowledge of a certain number of katas and wazas. The handful of those who received a sparring promotion also got a special seal attached to the diploma by the head instructor. Although I could beat some of these specially promoted black belts in a sparring match, I never received one of the fighting certificates. I also failed my first green belt test.

“Success is nothing more than a long list of failures until you finally get it right.”

During my old days as a Marine back in Okinawa, the Okinawan instructors put great emphasis on katas. In 1936, one of the grandmasters in my chain of command, Okinawa’s most iconic legend, Chojun Miyagi, made this published statement: “Regarding kata, I think traditional kata should be preserved as old or classic kata. For the nationwide promotion of KaraTe, I think we better create new kata. We will create both defensive and offensive kata which are suitable for students of primary schools, high schools, universities and youth schools”

I created our own fighting forms based on a number of techniques and maneuvers used by past famous fighters in their championship bouts.

I and a few others put our emphasis on fighting skills and reality based training. Today, my opinion of what constitutes a good black belt has greatly changed from those days. Most people who love and participate in martial arts do not engage in combative sparring, nor do they place a high value on that category of demanding training skills.

The Black Belt Instructor

Instructors, though, want to know how to teach sparring and how to teach their students to better themselves when engaged in any form of combat. The idea of learning tactical combat skills, strategic mindsets, and teaching others to confront different opponent types appeals greatly to the intelligent, modern-day black belt teacher.

In today’s world, little emphasis is placed on who is the toughest. Most instructors strongly advocate the value of having the courage, the will, and the self-assertive conviction to deal physically and mentally with a situation when they are forced; however, this does not necessarily mean having to prove it in a sparring session or some type of king of the hill forum.

Instructors today teach their students, especially children, to solve problems by communication, not by the use of force. Otherwise, our kids grow up believing that adults condone violence and that problems get solved through the use of force. This is one reason I feel it is distasteful for world class fighters to challenge each other in public.

The rank system is important for personal development. Each rank level gives a student a physical goal that symbolizes an accomplishment. Self-esteem leads to self-confidence. Appropriate martial art’s training can be a great self-confidence builder. Of course, I still believe that a good black belt must understand and demonstrate that warrior’s spirit; it is a fighter’s most important asset, the Authority of a Fighter’s Will.

The appropriate and balanced development of every student affords each martial artist the potential to achieve that ultimate weapon, an obstinate will power—in his heart, his body, and in his mind. This energy will make it possible for a practitioner to always execute with conviction. Every student deserves an instructor who possesses cutting-edge combat tactics; the ability to see these hidden strengths within each student; and, finally, the ability to create inner courage and a sense of self-confidence in each of them.

Question: That said, what then makes a good organization?

Lewis: First, make sure that it is set up on the premise of benefiting its members and not on magnifying an individual. Always place moral conscience above economic gain. A successful association has an administrative structure that it’s planning and efforts focus on the good of its members, thus maintaining a loyalty to its collective fidelity towards a worthy purpose.

Most associations collect dues until the end of the year, when they pass out a pile of meaningless awards at an over-priced banquet. This is why I have always shied away from organizations. I believe that good associations continually upgrade their services. They maintain easy access among the leadership staff and all members. They have mastered the secret of making membership more important than the association itself.

Question: How can someone earn a black belt with you?

Lewis: First, let me state with pride that our black belt certificate is the best looking diploma in martial arts. The outside border is pressed gold foil, and dead center of the certificate are three big words “Black Belt Certificate.” I’ve always put more emphasis on the person’s rank than the name of the association.

The Joe Lewis Fighting Systems Black Belt Manual

We have a black belt manual, which is easy for any instructor to read and follow. On a black belt level, our manual lists 100 sparring combinations, that can be done either by a fighter, or in a cardio class, or even by any non-combat oriented martial artist. Our glossary lists dozens of martial arts terms, such as broken rhythm, implicit timing, and so forth. It is the only manual which discusses the most efficacious method to deal with each of the nine different types of fighting styles.

Our system is currently broken down into five sections called Pillars. These are officially named the “Five Pillars of the Joe Lewis 40 Universal Fighting Tactics.” These tactics are broken down into these five categories: Ring Generalship, Aggressive Defensive Tactics, Bridging the Gap, Dominating the Pocket, and Specialized Maneuvers. I have no knowledge of any fighting system with this type of disciplined structure.

All martial artists, students or instructors, need to grow and to know that they are constantly growing. What gauge or type of criteria does one use in order to best calculate whether he is lost in the past, or responsibly continuing to advance his growth in knowledge? The experience of understanding and knowing how to effectively show others how to use these Universal Fighting Tactics is by far the best standard I've witnessed during my 45 years as a black belt.

I can ask most black belts a question: "If your opponent has a fast side kick, how best should you take it away from him? (I do not mean to block it....that's not taking anything away, even though his kick may be stamped with a return address.) Or, if he has an accurately sharp, straight right punch, how would you take it away from him?" Most of those asked would either have no answer or could only give some faulty nonsense as one.

An informed strategist knows it would be prudent to prevent him from firing his favorite technique, or if he does, it is because YOU made him---not, let him. One would need to know how to set this maneuver up, and then how best to check him as he's firing. A skilled practitioner needs to understand how to use quick interception timing to check and counter, or how to come in through the back door, (defensive timing), with an effective, appropriate answer. And, does one defend from the (upright or crouching) inside guard or from the outside guard? What does this depend on? These are the kind of intelligent questions our manual begins to answer for you to point each instructor in the right direction.

(For immediate shipment of credit card order, autographed JLFS Black Belt Manual: Call 727 420-0496.)

We require each student to spend time developing his skills against various targets, bags, mitts, and so on, because without contact against a target, speed, power, and timing have no meaning.

Whether a student is strictly a cardio-fitness trainee or is pursuing higher rank as a martial artist, target skills are a must. Not only are they fun drills to learn and execute, but they are the quickest route to self-confidence.

Fighting Forms (Katas)

Our forms are called combination sequences. We also advocate the recommendations stated earlier from Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi. Each of our cutting-edge fighting forms is designed to teach the student how to confront and engage a different type of fighter. The forms can be executed in a shadow-fighting context or against a coach holding mitts or with the heavy bag or double-end bag. Real fighting or combat combinations, which we call modules, are extrapolated from each of these various sequences.

Our programs teach the student how to double his speed or power. Ninety percent of all mistakes in combat are mental, not physical. We teach instructors to show students step by step how to deal with the classic mistakes. All of this can be easily learned without ever engaging in actual sparring. For the everyday cardio fitness student, one advantage of exploring our manuals is seeing how easy it is to advance their skills step by step and acquire combat confidence without ever getting hit, or engaging in dangerous full-contact sparring drills.

Question: How old do you have to be to earn a Joe Lewis black belt?

Lewis: With rare exceptions, our bylaws mandate that an individual must be 18 years old and have achieved either a brown belt or a black belt in another martial art system before they can test for a black belt in our system.

A few years ago, our board of directors promoted a 13-year-old multi-champion young man to the rank of junior black belt. He went on to receive a wrestling scholarship to college. We have, therefore, opened up rank qualifications to black belt for those under the age of 18 so that they can qualify as a junior black belt until such time that they can convert to an adult ranking.

Our standards and requirements from first-degree black belt and above may be a little stricter than other associations. However, once you put that black belt on, the sense of personal pride is unmatched by anything else. I have won world titles; I’ve starred in movies; I’ve been on the covers of all the major martial art publications; I’m in over 15 halls of fame. But, the thing that means the most to me was earning my first black belt.

Question: How will this organization differ from the many other martial arts organizations?

Lewis: In my 51 years of fitness and martial arts, I’ve seen more attempts at creating organizations than I ever want to remember. My Board of Directors has been working very closely with me to make sure that we give our members a huge return on their tuition. The organization is built around an exclusive website for our members. There they can ask me training questions, have personalized training programs developed for them, earn discounts on our events and products, have access to my personal training library, interact with other members, and most importantly, get a downloadable video private lesson each month to advance towards black belt. We will also have special member-only events where we can all get together and train. Our membership runs from the casual fan who just wants access to this amazing website, to the school owner who would perhaps like to earn a Joe Lewis training center certification.

“Real leaders are not followed, they are accompanied.”

Question: There is also some industry buzz about your book, World’s Greatest Fighter Teaches You: How to Master Bruce Lee’s Fighting System. Is this your first?

Lewis: I am like one of my teachers, Bruce Lee. He started many book manuscripts but never really finished any to his personal satisfaction. This was the first book that I had written, actually finished, and published. It’s about my earlier training years with one of my last martial art’s instructors, Bruce Lee. Many martial artists have told me they are not interested in Bruce Lee, that they are only interested in me and my personal fighting system. For anyone to fully understand my system, however, they must first grasp both the essence and the attitude of my fighting psychology.

Any smart martial artist or instructor will get his hands on this book. Without this book, you will not be able to answer one of the two most important questions that confront all martial artists: What is the most dominant psychological principle that motivates a person to want to fight or to engage in combat? Another interesting question that the book will answer is, what was Bruce Lee’s vision that propelled him into super stardom and made him historically martial arts’ most famous icon?

Question: What kind of support have you received for the book?

Lewis: I have nine contributing writers who each provided a personal chapter about his relationship with Bruce Lee. This is a first in martial arts history: Ten notable martial artists, each contributing his experiences with the late Bruce Lee. Each of these contributors worked with Bruce Lee and also knew me. They are Joe Hyams, Danny Inosanto, John Korab, Gene LeBell, Jhoon Rhee, Mike Stone, Bob Wall, Ted Wong, and Chuck Norris. Many books have been published about Bruce Lee or about the two of us. Most were written by people who never met Bruce Lee or me, or even watched us train or fight. This is history’s first.

Question: You’ve always been on the leading edge of martial arts training. Now you’ve become an author and teacher. Do you have plans for any other books or projects?

Lewis: Presently, I am focused on my web site,, my new blog, “Tips from the Top, and training programs for our new subscribers and members. Eventually, I will do a multi-volume encyclopedic training manual for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts.

Arnold Howard, research writer, has been a karate instructor since 1985.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Uncovering the Check Hook Punch

Think this one through.....

Below is a discussion on the "check hook." How much value should one invest in being able to appropriately identify, or to correctly execute this technique, often called a counter punch by many trainers? It was of profound importance for Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and his corner when he used this check hook to knock out his opponent, Ricky Hatton, in their 2007 world title fight.

I have often successfully used this same counter punch against various types of fighters attempting most all known attacking techniques, round kicks, straight rights, left jabs, and/or the shooting of a grappler. I was taught not to hook with a hooker---unless he's a dud or super slow----however, I’ve often worked a “corkscrew hook” inside a wide outside hook being attempted by a fighter who lunges in with his chin unprotected. It requires exceptional "interception" timing, catching the attacker in the middle of his offensive strike as you will view in the Mayweather/Hatton clip below.

Various hooks:

It is easy to become confused over all the different types of hooks and the various names different geographical areas use to identify each. There are inside and outside hooks, hooks to the head, the body, or the thigh cavities. We have shovel hooks, sneak hooks, the forty-five hook, the corkscrew hook, the upright hook, the check hook, the pronaded and supinated hooks, the straight hook, the surge hook, and the swing hook, just to name a few. Some are better for use as counter techniques while others are lead-off or follow-up punches. With the right training, type of opponent, and timing, they can all work.

Part of the widespread confusion is due to the use of creating slang terms for each as a specialized vocabulary and idioms, the purpose of which was to disguise from outsiders the meaning of what was being said or taught. It’s the same with most martial art disciplines; in Muay Thai, one camp will call the knee strike to the side of ones mid-section a circle knee and others call it an inside knee. The up-kick identified in Muay Thai is called the stick-kick in Burmese kickboxing. In Philadelphia’s old school boxing gyms, the inside hook (Jack Dempsey’s shovel hook) to the body or head is called the “forty-five,” due to the angle of its penetrating trajectory. In the old boxing schools in New York City, many refer to the same type punch as a “check hook,” especially when it’s used as a counter.

Study correct execution:

One of my motives for creating my Black Belt Manual (CLICK) was to help my fighters deal with what’s of most importance to them, and also how best for each of them to train by making it easy to select which maneuvers from our Universal Fighting Tactics section to use in preparation for their classroom or for an upcoming contest. For example, in the chapter discussing our favorite proven fighting combinations, the “Dirty Dozen,” (CLICK) one of them is called “The Tony Zale.” Tony knocked out the infamous former world boxing champion, Rocky Graziano, twice with the same combination---a right hook to the body followed by a hook to the head, a “corkscrew hook.” (CLICK) (The actual fight between Zale and Gaziano)

From time to time I will break down many of these ultimate fighting techniques and maneuvers and the psychology behind them at my Day/camp clinics (click on site below and go to Calendar of Events). Available studies will often appear on my blogs as well as on clips you can find on my web site if you are one of our special JLFS’s members.
Check us out:

Study the below clip (two minutes-plus) closely and you can see Mayweather early in this last round attempting to set up this finishing shot, the check hook, by keeping Hatton slightly out of range and drawing him into the pocket. Hatton gets hit coming into the pocket---head first. Prior to the knockout, Mayweather has successfully used his jab to draw Hatton’s right glove slightly forward and downward from protecting his chin (Part of the set-up in conjunction with the drawing forward footwork against Ricky). Hatton’s left shoulder and right glove had both deserted protecting his chin when he charged in on Mayweather.

The knockout blow, according to Wikipedia’s writer below, was supposed to be a check hook; however, to me, this shot looks more like what is called a corkscrew hook off the wrong foot. Using Wikipedia’s definition of a check hook, there is supposed to be some type of slide step just prior to triggering this punch, either a pivot in (on left foot) against a South-paw or a pivot out (also on left foot) against an orthodox hooker like Hatton. Note that Mayweather does not pivot at all (although he begins to pivot out on his right foot appearing to be positioned on just one foot), as he lands his counter against Hatton's incoming hook. I did not see any slide step during the hook. Supposedly, the attacker is going to lunge past you leaving him open for this check hook counter punch. Your call!

Check hook - From Wikipedia, (CLICK)

In boxing, a check hook is employed to prevent aggressive boxers from lunging in. There are two parts to the check hook. The first part consists of a regular hook. The second, trickier part involves the footwork. As the opponent lunges in, the boxer should throw the hook and pivot on his left foot and swing his right foot 180 degrees around. If executed correctly, the aggressive boxer will lunge in and sail harmlessly past his opponent like a bull missing a matador.

This is rarely seen in professional boxing as it requires a great disparity in skill level to execute. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. demonstrated a picture perfect example of this punch against Ricky Hatton in their 2007 encounter. Ricky Hatton was caught with the check hook as he was lunging in; Hatton continued forward as he was knocked off balance and proceeded to ram his head into the ring post as Floyd Mayweather stepped out of harm's way. When interviewed, Mayweather stated that he was taught the check hook in the Michigan amateurs.

Mayweather/Hatton clip: (CLICK)

This contest represents a classic example of great courage and gallentry being trumped by superior tactics and techniques.


Joe Lewis

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Five Pillars of Strength

I have always enjoyed questions that interest both the martial arts enthusiast as well as the combat competitor. Should a martial arts practitioner focus more on being strong or on being powerful? I cannot think of a single issue that creates more confusion over what should be the appropriate vocabulary usage, or why it seems that the “experts” on the subject cannot collectively agree.

One athlete may claim that being strong means to lift the heaviest amount of weight in a single given movement (regardless of time) thus, a one rep maximum. These athletes are called power lifters. Another “strength” athlete claims that strong means to have the power to move a fixed amount of weight with speed and explosiveness.

Then the champion martial arts fighter comes along and says that how big you are, or how much weight you can lift, then move around, has nothing to do with being strong in the ring—or in any other realistic engagement. It does not take that kind of “weight lifter” strength to produce that accurate sharp tap on the exact point of someone’s chin (the button) to finish him. A strong wind—like the strong punch—may not be able to lift hundreds of pounds of weights, but when it reaches hurricane force levels, it can reap major damage on large trees and buildings alike.

So, the word strong can mean different things in various sport or athletic contexts. Strength comes in many forms. In the physical realm, the martial artist should understand the three most important types of strength: Maximal (absolute) Strength, Explosive (speed) Strength, and Strength Endurance. What factors are called into play to determine the kind of strength that is most important for your particular type of athletic endeavor?

As a strongman, this type of athlete would focus on setting his training to achieve the type of strength that will optimize his ability to perform a single maximal heavy lifting movement as in the sport of power lifting. Speed in his performance would not be a factor. The martial artist would instead focus more on the speed of his executions; therefore, explosiveness and quickness would become profoundly important.

The degrees of strength as well as the types of strength necessary for each of these athletes to perform their skills at an optimum level would be relative. Therefore, each athlete must make sure that his intended strength gains do not have competing objectives, and detract from one’s sport-specific performance. A fighter may increase his bench press by another 100 pounds, and this may give him that preferred tough-guy attitude in the ring; however, during his bout, he suddenly realizes that the time he spent away from his necessary sparring sessions in order to lift weights has cost him a shocking decrease in fighting skills. Not a smart move.

"Being bigger doesn't mean being better."

We have all witnessed fighters climbing into the ring (or cage) who look big, strong, and muscular, but sadly end up running out of gas long before the fight should have ended. Then we sometimes see another fighter who has great speed and cardio strength but finds his opponent to be just too overwhelming and powerful to handle. This was the case with Brock Lesnar’s last opponent in the 100th UFC title bout.

I have seen fighters who hit hard and who have that gifted one-punch knockout power of a Mike Tyson, and then, barely half way through the fight, they cannot hit hard any longer. Even Tyson had this problem. How many fighters in your memory had that gifted one-punch knockout power in the last round of a title fight? Maybe Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, and Jack Dempsey are the only ones most of us can recall. This is a combination of lacking in both Endurance Strength (including the will to endure) and Absolute Strength.

The boxer, Muhammad Ali, used to run nine miles to the gym in Miami to workout. After his training, he would return home—another nine mile run. The former world champion kickboxer, Don Wilson, used to run a daily seven miles in the sand on the beach. This training gave both champions incredible endurance strength.

The smart martial arts practitioner needs to work hard on two types of Explosive Strength. I prefer to use the word speed here in the place of strength. One’s initial speed is the quickness or the suddenness of his starting motion—his initial move. One needs to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible instantaneously at that startle reflex moment called the trigger squeeze. You can call this Starting Strength; it is better known as quickness in athletics.

A fighter’s acceleration speed (called fastness) is keeping the maximum number of muscle fibers recruited after the initial movement is executed, such as shooting in or bridging the gap against an opponent. This increasing rate of force or momentum that must be created and maintained is called Acceleration Strength.

There is no need to sub-divide these different types of strength into more complex terms. For example, with Absolute Strength, a trainer may add the three different types: Eccentric Strength, Concentric Strength, and also Static Strength. The martial artist only needs to know that strength is a training necessity that is an inherent capacity to act upon something, a resistance. The martial artist needs to remember that power is a component of strength, an "explosive" attribute required in the performance of both sport and combative executions. Power is a general term, which simply applies to the ability to move something; whereas, force is the actual exertion of that power, the result.

The last, and for me the most important strength for the martial arts athlete, is Mental Strength. It is a fighter’s most important asset, the Authority of a Fighter’s Will. The appropriate and balanced development of the aforementioned types of strengths enables the martial artist to achieve that ultimate weapon, an obstinate will power—in his heart, his body, and in his mind. This energy will make it possible for a practitioner to always execute with conviction.

I first referred to this phenomenon as part of the fighting system in our Official Black Belt Manual—I like to call this Mental Strength, Permanent Infinite Will Power. I have seen fighters who possess all the physical gifts—coordination, speed, size, as well as strength and power; however, in spite of also having a great work ethic, they are still weak competitors. They are controlled by their emotions, mainly fear. They lack mental discipline—an insufficient degree of confidence in the efficacy of their thinking skills.

There are many training methods, depending on your coach or trainer, to best train in order to develop the above strengths that may be important for you. I started lifting weights two weeks before I turned fifteen, and never missed a day of training for five and a half years. I have been a black belt for nearly forty-six years—that’s about 51 years of total training.
On stage at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Classic (the nation’s leading fitness competition), I was introduced as the first weightlifter to cross over to become a world champion in another sport. I feel I’ve just about seen it all, and so, let me speak from experience and share a couple of final key points.

First, find your niche—and stay there. No one knows your body better than you and only you know what is in your heart. Avoid any biological manipulation—pharmaceuticals. Keep in mind there are many “experts” on the subject of strength. In every gym—or for every trainer—there’s a “best” way to wrap your hands, a “best” way to hold your fighting stance, a “best” technique execution to work on, and/or a “best” version of strength and power exercises to employ. The real experts are always the most humble.

“Sometimes an expert, always a student"
Joe Lewis

Monday, October 19, 2009

“The Overabundance Syndrome”

A recent discussion about marketing gave me an idea about teaching martial arts. Sometimes it is not important that what you are teaching someone happens to be the best material, but rather how a person uses the knowledge at hand. For example, a teacher may know that controlling distance is important, but he may not also know the best way, or even how to use this knowledge to set up and/or to create a curriculum of drills for its instruction.

In other words, some people may have certain knowledge, but remain totally unaware of how to use it. I see this in both martial arts marketing and in fighting. To me it is all about two things, attitude and approach. If one is off, this can automatically defuse or negate the other. A great system of marketing or fighting is only as good as the implementation of a proper psychology (with its practice) behind it.

For me, there has always been either too much or an overabundance of knowledge out there in the martial arts. The emphasis today has been on always getting or gaining more and little attention on its proper or effective usage. This is one reason why MMA took over the media because a few guys came along and showed us that you only need a couple of moves IF they are properly used. This all starts when one puts both the practice and the proper psychology behind their endeavors.

Joe Lewis
Cum Corde Et Animis

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Art of Trickery and Deception

The Art of Trickery and Deception: An Educated Introduction

What does a fighter learn different in a real match that doesn’t come from sparring? More appropriately, what does the average martial arts enthusiast learn from actual sparring that doesn’t come from the classroom’s curriculum based, interaction drills?

Such questions would make many practitioners uncomfortable by compelling them to figure out how do you develop inner resources or test ones deepest courage if you never fight or at least spar? Often a smart instructor can provide the student with some challenging skills such as exercising feinting and drawing movements which could help bypass the importance of the above questions.

“It’s not the one who walks in with the best technique; it’s the one with the best training.”

Here is a short video I did some years ago on “Indirect Angular Attack”

Feinting or faking movements are decoys used to force an opponent to adjust his defense, and therefore allowing one the advantage of any openings created. Secondly, a practitioner may use a feint just to discover what his opponent’s reaction may be.

Most opponents have the same general reaction tendency to each feint exercised and therefore give the initiator the foreknowledge of what openings are going to be created by a specific feint. For example, a lead leg hip fake downstairs would most often draw an opponent’s attention downward to intercept a low kick thus leaving his head open for a cranial shot.

Good fighters and experienced sparring practitioners will know in advance what openings will be available before he feints, and he can use this foreknowledge for his follow-up actions even before the opening appears.

There are a number of good feinting movements a practitioner can select to practice. Start with a favorite and develop your skills slowly. Feinting is an advanced art form----not for beginners or inexperienced fighters. Find a coach who knows how to teach you the proper form of the basic “arm swing” feint. Then, advance to the “side bend,” and the “body drop” variations. These are more of what could be called shoulder feints. These do not come easy without educated penetration footwork entering the pocket.

Your next stage of development is the use of “arm” feints. There are several----the most popular are the shift feint, the draw-back, and then the up-and-down feints. The final stage enables one to engage in the use of “knee” and “hip” feints, primarily for great kickers----and/or to set up a surprise, unexpected straight punch. My friend and former world champion sparring partner, Bill Wallace, was a master of these.

“Indirect Angular Attack”

In Bruce Lee’s style, Jeet Kune Do, the two of us worked extensively on this type of set up----attack by drawing. Some opponents refuse to lead, so forcing or drawing their attack supports your set up tactics. Often this means you have to use pressure by constantly crowding your opponent.

An effective drawing movement is exercised by feinting with a specific part of the body left unprotected in order that your opponent will attempt to strike the opening against which your counter is executed. Exposing the body to an attack to set up a counter is a skill rarely developed by many fighters.

There are three fundamental methods of drawing your opponent’s lead. 1) Using a feint----different types of feints will each draw a specific counter. 2) Deliberately exposing the body----carrying the hands (or one hand) high will apparently draw a low attack, and vice versa. Stepping in with the shoulders or hips squared open will obviously draw a lead straight up the middle or the center line. 3) Constant forward pressure (forcing) ----advancing forward without hesitation to force opponent to lead, usually a lead leg or forward hand strike (left jab).

Remember that the execution of drawing skills is used against an opponent who will not lead. Feinting and drawing movement skills will be taught and discussed by Bill Wallace and myself at our Joe Lewis Fighting Systems Annual Conference coming up soon. Any smart instructor will want to incorporate this knowledge into both his self-defense curriculums as well as his sparring classes.

“When a fighter is tired or frustrated, he will merely look (hoping) for an opening; when he is strong and in control, they know how to work in order to create the openings.”

[Do take advantage of learning these feinting and drawing skills being coverd in depth at our 10th Annual Joe Lewis Fighting Systms Annual Conference----Tampa, Florida----Oct 1st thru 4th.]

"The measure of a truly great champion is the dignity with which he treats lesser opponents."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bruce Lee's Principle "Power Side Forward?"

Vol 1, 103

I get many questions from on my web site about fighting strategies, in this email I would like to share an important one.

Question: Mr. Lewis, when training for MMA shouldn't you have your strong side in the rear? I know in boxing and kickboxing you have the strong side in the rear. Could you explain your thoughts on this and why you would or wouldn't want your strong side in the front for MMA fighting.

Answer: Let's relax and put on our thinking hats---this question has many parts. First, one must accept the premise that there is such a thing as power side forward or power side vs. non-power side. Some of the Tai Chi stylists accept this theory as do fencers that one's power side (stronger side) should always be facing one's opponent in combat. Therefore, some martial art fighters accept the theoretical possibility over the practical possibility that having one's stronger side forward gives one an advantage.

This concept has no scientific evidence we can use to support its hypothesis. We must remember that much of what is practiced in martial arts was created on someone's desk top, not in the field of actual combat. Personally, I do not believe in the theory of power side forward. Accepting this notion means that one has to believe that he only has power in one side and not the other. I had power in both sides and fought and won equally with both sides forward. In my judgment, if you cannot hit hard with either hand nor kick hard with either leg, you have a body mechanics problem; it is a lack of balance. That would be like a scrimmage line in combat with the troops on one flank being able to shoot like sharpshooters and the guys on the other end not able to hit anything.

Boxers and kickboxers fight orthodox because it is hard for professionals to get matches if they are known southpaw fighters. Some great fighters won world titles fighting with their "power" side forward. Gene Tunney, a lefty, beat the great Jack Dempsey for the Heavyweight Title fighting orthodox---using his left hand forward. Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith, both lefties, won world titles in kickboxing fighting orthodox---their left hand forward. This practice comes down to a matter of preference, not science. If something works, use it.

In combat or in an actual fight, there has to be a structure by which you use to train and to plan your fight strategy. First, you start with your objective, do I want to force him to fire or shoot first so I can use my defense, or should I plan to initiate the first attack and put him in a defensive posture? Your answer will help you to decide which side to put forward---and your answer will be determined by an objective strategy....not one's style or any "power side forward" theory.

Secondly, you must pre-calculate your odds ratio, called force ratio (a military combat term). This means what are the odds against you and which ones are in your favor? Should I assume a defensive posture initially or should I better set up first my offensive impetus? One side may be best for defense and the other may be best for your offensive initiative. Study fighters, and you will notice that many grapplers put their so-called, power side or right side forward. Some do this for defensive advantages and others do it for reasons to gain the offensive momentum. There is no prescribed cardinal rule.

Which side is forward comes down to preference and preferences unfortunately dictate patterns. Patterns can be studied and detected early. For example, unbalanced fighters who fire kicks from out of range, will usually plan to shoot low. Those that fire kicks as they enter the pocket (the correct range execution) are probably going to follow-up by shooting high, grabbing high, or attempting an upstairs hand attack.

Whichever side you ultimate use as your forward position, make sure you stay in control. Ultimately, all fighting comes down to who is in control. If you let or allow your opponent to fire or shoot of his own volition, then he is in control. However, if you are the one who forces him to initiate an attack, then you are in control. Either you make him or you let him.

"The real fight is not what takes place between you and your opponent, the real fight is what takes place inside your head." Joe Lewis

For a classic study of the “Power Side Use” check out this YouTube clip of “Dempsey vs. Tunney”

It was a very infamous fight back in 1926 yet shows the use of the forward hand (the left jab), especially during the first round on the clip. (You only need to see this round or part of it to get the picture and unless you understand Japanese turn down the volume)

Gene Tunney, the challenger in dark trunks, is denying the champion, Jack Dempsey, access to the pocket, catching him standing still, not letting him get set or allowing the champ to effectively cut the ring off (called squeezing), and corner him against the ropes.

It is obvious that Gene studied Jack's style; he prepared for six years to beat Dempsey. Tunney knew how to make Dempsey come to him while fighting going backwards in order to win. This proves that effective tactical footwork HAS to be exercised to keep an opponent off balance in order for the power side forward principle to work. Without Tunney's disciplined footwork, which was the real key-- not the power side forward-- saved him from getting killed by the hard hitting Dempsey. The power side forward is no greater in significance than perhaps having a single trick move. My point is---so what?

There will always be unanswered questions. Why didn't Dempsey bridge the gap better and explode underneath Tunney's headhunting punching style? The important insights which surfaced from our discussion of the original question have hopefully allowed us to understand that what is most important is not one's martial arts discipline, or favorite technique, or singular principle taken out of context such as the power side forward etc, but that he who controls the pocket, controls the fight. Either you deny your opponent access to the pocket, or if you enter the pocket, make sure you outwork your opponent.

Keep in mind that all of my material can be used to teach either self-defense oriented curriculums, or traditional mainstream styles, or cutting edge full-contact systems.

Don’t forget about my New Instructional Manual

This manual primarily focuses on teaching principles, strategies and mental attitudes. I do not advise anyone to change their style of executing basics. This is all black belt material, no basics.

For immediate delivery of your copy (or copies), please e-mail me directly at:
or contact me at

This new much larger manual is priced at $119.95 currently discounted ($99.95) plus $4.95 shipping and handling.

Credit card orders accepted.

I look forward working with you at one of my seminars or at my annual conference in Tampa, Florida this Oct. 2nd thru the 5th.

Cum Corde Et Animis,
(our combat fighting motto)

Joe Lewis

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I always found the exchange of ideas and concepts helped me grow as a Martial Artist. Before I was a World Champion I would get together with all of the top fighters and pick up ideas as well as improve and perfect my techniques on “real world proponents”. This is how I grew, in a community of fighters. In the past you needed to be “in the fold” to get this inside knowledge but today with the development of the internet and instantaneous communications you can have it on demand.

Welcome to a new and ongoing avenue to gain information from me, I am a former World Karate/Kickbox Champion, my name is Joe Lewis. I have developed a definitive and comprehensive study into how to magnify the inner will and self-confidence of today’s martial artist.

My lesson plans are designed to keep you ahead of the curve--- a balanced blend between the ideas of the traditional “old school” masters and the cutting-edge technologies of today’s top martial art trainers. Let me know how you like this first of an ongoing “Tips from the Top” series

For study: Click on this fight between Ray Mercer Vs Remy Bonjasky.
This short clip illustrates a classic matchup between two world class fighters---both champions in their day. One is a boxer and the other a full contact karate/kick boxer. The disciplines of each are not as important as are the attributes (mental skills) that each exercises or fails to exercise.


(1) Do not stand straight in front of a good kicker and allow him to get set at his chosen range.

(2) Against a good lead-off kicker---you MUST fire first or move side to side, not in and out. A good kicker controls the distance in a vertical plane---do not play an in and out game with him. You must know how to move up and down (dipping, crouching, ducking) or side to side (angulations). Against a good kicker, you need to get inside the pocket, step off on an angle (turning him) and then hit him.

(3) Note that the taller kickboxer, Bonjasky, denies Mercer access to the pocket. Remy knows that Ray is not going to kick because he is wearing boxing shoes (no kicks allowed with laces). Never allow your opponent to detect what you are going to do---or NOT do.

(4) The ultimate key to fighting is to control your opponent. If you allow or let your opponent exercise his will---fire or shoot---then HE is in control. When you force or make him fire or shoot, then YOU are in control. Study the clip---Mercer lets him kick.

(5) Old saying: When in doubt, stick and move…..or, step back quickly and observe. Whenever an opponent fires a quick unexpected technique or shoots, you always drop with a quick half step back with your rear foot---then you roll defensively (inside or outside) OR you stabilize your opponent using either hand. You just do not freeze and get hit. If you do---this means you are not focused.

(6) Never enter the ring not being properly focused. Watch Mercer as Bonjasky triggers the kick. The actions or non actions of one’s physical performance are an exact reflection of the actions or non actions of ones mind. Mercer’s reaction is almost non existent. This means he was thinking (conceptualizing) instead of observing his opponent.

Mercer appears as if he is almost too focused on preserving the dignity of his stance (typical trait of classical practitioners) than he is on not getting hit. He was not into that proper level of attention called pre-consciousness. This state of mind using precision mental skills is almost a lost art. Of the five levels of attention, this level allows the fighter to appropriately use reflex timing---that which enables one to react instantly without any thought.

The Joe Lewis Fighting Systems offers drills that can easily be taught to develop this mental faculty.

P.S. One MUST learn to protect the lower chin and neck area with the rear hand at all times. Study my defensive rhythm set drills on my private lesson series on web site.

All JLFS members can download each new monthly lesson offered on our web site to enrich this type of knowledge and easily integrate this material into their own system or teaching method.

“I have learned that a man has the right to look down on somebody, only when he is helping him to get up.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Joe Lewis
Former World Karate/Kickbox Champion
United States Marine Corps
(Member of 1st U.S. combat unit in Viet Nam---8th Marine Brigade)

“Get your training tips and cutting-edge curriculum ideas from the same place I get mine.” Joe Lewis