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Bag Work
Building Stick Stroke Mechanics: Answering A Video Coaching Request From Athenian Alex
© 2015 James LaFond
APR/2/15
Stroke Types
1. The slash rips through the target and when done in the air is assumed to represent a beat. Since the slash is easily diverted for the crude beat defense it is the preferred stroke.
2. The power dump can be done with the tip or the sweet spot. This is the hardest shot, but is also the one that can be snaked by an opponent's arm, so it is best done with a checking hand.
3. The jab or rap encompasses all of the retracting or fanning blows. These are mostly just wrist conditioning exercises. However, the fanning motion to the head used by Charles is done at tactical speed, and can be effective against a checked or shocked opponent. The stroke not much in evidence here is the most common sparring stroke, the rap to the hand.
Self-Learning Notes
1. Use a light stick at first. Note that James—recovering from flexor tendon injuries—does not switch to the heavy stick, and that Charles uses the heavy stick in the mid portion, warming up and down with the light stick.
2. Begin slowly and check your mechanics, speeding up only when your motion and angulation is correct. Find your distance over and over again to develop a sense for where you can hit from.
3. Isolate strokes, develop them, and then combine them.
4. Pay close attention to the movement in this video and note when it enhances and detracts from the power.
5. Standing in front of the bag and just hitting is an exercise to develop specific muscles. Mix this up with strokes done with tactical movement.
6. Learn with one hand and then teach the other hand. You will find that you are asymmetrical, so make adjustments and be a different kind of fighter from your weak side.
7. Note James changing hands. This is a crucial skill when fighting injured and should be practiced on the bag.
8. Be certain to miss with some of your strokes. Do not just hit—mix it up like the real thing.
9. Study Charles' footwork, how he moves offline slightly with the same pivot that powers the stroke, how he hits in the direction he is moving when doing long steps.
10. Charles spends time hitting while looking past the bag and seeming to give up his head. He is practicing reading hips and fighting with a mask on, which limits peripheral vision. He is not as easy to hit in the head as it looks because he has quick hands and fades with his hips while rolling his shoulders, dropping his head out of the strike zone. If we get him in there with a guy who is taller and quicker it will tighten this style up. Right now he is sparring with heavyweights and runts so is playing more loosely than he could with a top young guy.
11. Always check with the empty hand when you stab the bag, and do not stab it hard lest you injure your wrist.
12. The upward stroke Charles employs should not hit the bag lest it hurts the wrist. It is aimed at the hand and elbow, never at the core.
13. Never rap, jab or power dump low. Low strokes should always slash through.
14. Return your stroking hand to your hips and shoulders.
Technical Notes
1. To be a sustainable stick fighter you must be able to hit with power from clinch range. We spend a lot of time on this. It is where the forearm and the tricep are coordinated and developed to impart economic force.
2. Note James doing the single oblique lunging power dump. This shot cuts inside the guard and is devastating. If you are defending with a flash light, rolled magazine, hand umbrella, etc., develop this stroke. With a full stick like this, such a shot delivered to an unprotected head can kill, so put it on his collarbone or neck unless you are defending against an armed attack, or a murder attempt. This takes out guys wearing fencing masks. It is simply the clinch stroke with additional force provided by the lunge. You must not lunge at the bag but obliquely lest you clinch up.
3. When Charles is doing those high telegraphed forehands, he is practicing a roof block to a counter.
4. James demonstrates two backhands, the dump and the slash, from an umbrella block.
5. Note that every backhand slash should come with a hand check behind it. This is not a sword and you need to defend against the clinch.
6. Note that once James speeds up to fight pace he is using 2 strokes per step rather than the one he practices. This naturally happens as the hand can speed up faster than the body, so is trained for. When you are outclassing someone who is in over their head you will be able to settle back down with more deliberate strokes calibrated to take advantage of your motion and really punish him. However, considering the speed difference between Charles and James, James will not be afforded this luxury and is therefore practicing 'stick-boxing' with his left hand held against his temple to deny the head shot stoppage.
Good luck Alex, and feel free to address questions to either Charles or James through this article.
PS: Not many guys hit harder with the stick than we do, but we know one guy who hits twice as hard—turning your blood to piss in your veins! It sounds like thunder when he hits the bag. The power range you see here is pretty much where most experienced stick fighters end up after a year or two, with the win going to the guy who manages to dominate the combat space through motion, angulation, timing, tactics, aggression and tenacity. Last year Charles and I split bouts. We will do it again this year. I'm favoring Charles at 3-2 odds.
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alex konstantaras     Apr 8, 2015

Mr. LaFond,i was feeling fortunate enough that i am able to communicate with you via e-mails and to receive answers to my(sorry for that!)many questions.But to have my favorite practical combat author and his team,make a video to help me in my practice,is like a piece of martial arts heaven.Along with your training comments the visual aid,is the best instruction that i could get.I am still hoping that one day, you will make a complete set of both armed and unarmed instructional tapes.Many,many thanks to you and your team!
James     Apr 8, 2015

Alex, since I have not been able to convince Jason Statham to depict me in a training video, Charles, Erique, My Gut and I will be filming training sessions. In order to avoid putting my reptilian personality on display we will not instruct on the video, but write the instruction in the attached article. Congrats, you have generated a video article format.

My brother viewed this video and said, "You're fighting that guy this summer?!?"

When I answered 'yes' he began reciting The Lord's Prayer...

Alex, I have an e-book that I would like to send you. I hear the Greek economy is in the toilet and would like to send a title your way, but have not been able to do so through this function. Please email me at ϳаmeslаfond.com at gmаil.com and I will send you a copy of Winter of a Fighting Life or When You're Food, whichever you prefer.

There are more videos coming, including the check boxing request you made earlier.
alex konstantaras     Apr 9, 2015

I am sure that many people will find the videos very beneficial,i'm so glad that you will be making them.I would also like to inform you,that I'm also a proud owner of a GUT(lol),by the way you look solid mr.LaFond especially in the neck and shoulders.

So kind of you about sending me the e-book.Because I know that I will read and reread each book many times,I've just finished ordering both of them from amazon u.k.In the past I had problems ordering titles from amazon u.s.a,many sellers didn't send stuff in Grecce,but gladly I found them in the united kingdom.It was about time to read something that I enjoy to read,I'cant wait for the books to arrive.

Vast gratitude for everything!
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