A former MMA student asked me to do a quick write up on how I have described or conceptualised the different levels of striking to my training partners since I became a coach back 1980's. Most people agree that there are a number of levels of efficiency in striking but find it hard to define them when looking at fight results, beyond that their favourite fighter just walked in a punch. The idea below is very much a Richard coaching ism and those who I have coached in boxing, Muay Thai and MMA will recognise it. Nothing too revolutionary but I hope it is of help to the reader.
For the sake of explaining this concept I am going to use western boxing but it applies to all striking arts and having a coaching efficiency frame work is a must have for coaching in all arts. To be clear this concept deals with an actual fight, not demonstrations, not sensitivity drills, not drilling either dead or alive but a full out hard-core contest to the finish against someone with an approximate equal skill set. We are dealing with two people that have a fundamental skill set and with the intent to use that to knock the other guy out. That’s the game and it’s fun if you are the next level up on your opponent.
My coaching concept is that there are three basic levels of striking efficacy and the first level is where you hit and it lands. Your skill set is such that you have the speed, timing and force to pop the other guys nose either when he comes into range or you change your or his position to land the shot. When you have two fighters both at this level, they tend to stay out of punching range, well away from the punching pocket and the fights tend to look like a warm up rally in tennis. Often what passes for great stand up in MMA falls in to this category, and that’s partly due to MMA guys have to worry about the take down which can stifle flow.
Lots of fighters never actually get beyond this level and for a while it works. Back and forth until someone gets caught and then a flurry to finish off a diminished opponent. Once in a while someone who is dizzy and on the ropes accidently discovers the timing for level two and gets a surprise knock out. The result of level one fighters meeting is a lot of back and forth striking until someone either works something out or more likely makes a mistake and pays for it.
Level two is where you have the fundamental skill set of a level one fighter but you have the ability to use boxing defensive system to make the other guy miss. I am not talking about robotic to whom it may concern parrying or ducking here but the internalise defence that allows a fighter to slip a world class jab and fire a hard-left hook bang on target. Level two fighters hunt down level one fighters much like a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt hunts down a purple belt. The end is coming and it’s probably just a matter of time. Being a level two fighter allows the boxer to stay in the pocket for longer and increases his chance of knocking his opponent out whilst avoiding bad luck knock outs.
Level three fighters are rare, even amongst professional fighters, because they have the ability to hit like a level one, with the defensive countering skill set of level two but are able to dominate both lower levels by controlling the fight. They fight where they like, to the timing they set and retain the ability to knock a level two fighter back down to a level one or below. Basically, they have fundamental operating system that borders on the supernatural and most reading this don’t have a prayer fighting a level three unless they change the rules. I have only met a few of these guys and they have the” IT” factor that makes them legends in their field.
The bad news is you are probably a level one fighter right now and you will not find that out until your fight a level two but at least you now know how to frame that and can react accordingly. It also helps to explain the broken nose you picked up. It’s nice to also remember a level one fighter is a thousand years ahead of someone who thinks demonstration save face drilling is where it’s at.
The odd thing about this is that as well as improving during your short fight career, you can also go from level two to level one, Mike Tyson would be a good example of this.
The good news is that either way the “it” factor is flitting and few last more than half a decade, so hopefully you catch a fighter in decline but winning that match does not make you great. Once you know where you sit skill wise, which in itself is a benefit, you can incrementally improve you game.
You will probably never make level three but you can push towards it and be the better for it.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs Edwin Rosario 1987 - When levels collide.