Saturday, November 14, 2009


Now that I've stopped talking about Penthouse, all of my readers seem to have wandered off somewhere else, except, of course, for my mother. So Mom, this one's for you.

I was talking to Egemen yesterday afternoon about these Top Ten Tips lists for defending yourself in hand-to-hand combat. He expressed some reservations. He was concerned they might not fully convey the complete unpredictability of a real fight -- or the unpredictability of human beings, for that matter.

For example, "If you can't run, scream." Probably good advice most of the time, except when you encounter the guy who's so crazy that when you start screaming, it makes him decide that he has just got to do whatever it takes to make that unattractive noise stop. People that crazy are out there, and if they test the fire alarm in my building even one more time, I'm going to become one of them.

Anyway, Mom, I think Sifu Emin's Top Ten Tips are very good advice for you, and would be quite helpful to you in your next hand-to-hand combat situation -- keeping in mind, as I always stress, that I'm really not qualified to say.

But I'd like to point out one notable potential exception. Sifu Emin advises that you "Forget about throwing a high kick to your adversary’s head. Fancy high kicks take too long and leave you off-balance and exposed." From what I've seen, this is almost always true. But in my inexpert opinion, this advice should be qualified thus: "Forget about throwing a high kick to your adversary’s head. Fancy high kicks take too long and leave you off-balance and exposed, unless you are Mirko CroCop."

If, Mom, by some metaphysical mishap, you wake up tomorrow and discover that you are Mirko CroCop, then I say by all means, feel confident in your ability to end things by throwing a high kick to your adversary's head.

Now, I have a question about this video. Those guys in the ring with him are pros. Surely they availed themselves of YouTube before these fights to study CroCop's fighting style. Did they not notice a trend? Why is it that none of those poor schmucks seemed to see that high left kick coming? I mean, he does it over and over and over. He ends it that way every single time.

Wouldn't you think that anyone going into the ring with Mirko CroCop would know that above all, you've got to keep an eye on his left foot, because if you don't, it's going to end up being driven into your head?

So what's going wrong for them? I really don't quite understand this. Sifu Emin's right, that is a highly telegraphed kick. You'd think it would be possible to prepare for it a bit better.



  1. Hi Claire,

    This is your long-lost cousin Greg. I love this blog! I learned about it today when my mom told me about her trip this past week to Chicago to see your mom. There are all sorts of things I'm sure we could catch up on since we've, well... never spoken. But for starters let me try to reply to your post about Mirko Cro Cop.

    It's true that he has knocked out many people with that unpleasant looking high kick. Why they didn't prepare to defend against this and see it coming is a good question. I don't have all the answers but in my opinion it's a combination of factors.

    For starters, Mirko in his prime was such an incredible athlete that his speed, power, and flexibility were hard to deal with. Even if his opponents knew it was coming they still couldn't stop it. He was so fast and hit with such force that many opponents couldn't react and defend fast enough.

    Next is who Mirko was fighting. Mirko began his fighting career as a kickboxer but later transitioned to full-blown mixed martial arts. Most of his stunning high-kick knockout victories took place in MMA. Mirko's foundation was kickboxing, but in MMA he often fought against wrestlers and grapplers that possessed only rudimentary kickboxing or thai boxing skills. His strategy was to avoid being wrestled to the ground where he would have been a fish out of water, and to instead force the opposite. Not only was Mirko the best pure kickboxer in MMA, but he was also very good at making MMA matches devolve into pure kickboxing as opposed to another style. This could make some of his opponents look inept.

    Lastly is that when Mirko was at his best, his left high kick would be preceded by other attacks that left his adversaries already injured and confused prior to that final, highlight-reel kick. An opponent might begin the fight holding his arm up high to protect against a high kick, but Mirko would instead atack the exposed midsection. Guys would end up with a badly hurt midsection and a brain screaming "stop letting me get hit there!" On the third or fourth kick, when they would instinctively react by lowering their arm to protect their bruised side, the kick would instead aim for the exposed head. Tragic.

    Ultimately, however, several factors caught up with Mirko. As MMA grew as a sport, the level of competition increased and there was less "easy pickins" out there for him. His opposition became more adept at preparing and gameplanning to avoid getting kicked in the head. And as Mirko aged, nagging injuries slowed him down as did his diminishing speed and reflexes. He is still fighting today, but no longer considered a legitimate contender to win the heavyweight title. This may have been the real turning point, back in 2007:

    In this tiny video we see Mirko being given a taste of his own medicine. His opponent, Gabriel Gonzaga, had earlier in the fight thrown a bruising kick to Mirko's body. If you watch the clip closely, you'll see Mirko is initially guarding his face, but then sensing another damaging body kick, he lowers his arm to defend it. The kick went high instead of low and the rest is history.

    Hope you are doing well!!!

    Feel free to say hello any time. Would love to hear from you.
    My email is: gsaks123 at yahoo dot com


  2. Coming from a Wing Chun/Kali background, I too in the past have been dismissive of the high kick. While my personal style still reflects this, I don't trumpet it off to students anymore as being completely un-useful - mainly because of the power of unpredictability in this move.

    I can say I have personally caught a straight kick to the chin while standing.

    HOWEVER! For the typical self defense situation I still recommend against it. Training for competition is so far from training for real life. The biggest downside to this is not the possibility of efficacy in its execution (hitting your target), but the other factors involved that mostly involve only the defender:
    - losing balance
    - tearing un-warmed up muscles for a high-flexibility movement
    - your clothes restrain your movement (tight jeans, low-crotch pants - very common for men) and you fall down (I've seen this happen multiple times)
    - uncertain surfaces - you could easily slip (seen this a lot too.. had a friend almost break his back)

    Basically, you're more likely to hurt yourself than your attacker.