Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

San Shou Review

My friend Scott Sonnon just fought in an International San Shou Championship that was put on to raise money for hurricane relief.

This is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he had never fought San Shou before.

You can read a little about the tournament here.

For those of you who are not familiar with the sport, San Shou is a full contact contest that includes punching, kicking and take-downs, but not ground grappling. It is fought in three rounds, and can be won on points or with a knock-out, the matches go three rounds and are quite fast paced. Usually the matches are fought without much protection but in this case the fighters used head gear, chest protectors, shin guards and amateur style boxing gloves. (The kind with a lot of padding and usually a white rectangle over the legal striking area). I think the reason behind this was because the tournament was for charity, so the promoters wanted less damage in the ring, but this is just a guess on my part.

Now here are some of the interesting things.

  • Scott had never fought San Shou, as I had mentioned.
  • He had six weeks to train for the match.
  • He had to work in whatever training he could around a full teaching schedule.
  • He had to work in his training around his movie filming schedule.
  • He won the fight by knock-out (It is very difficult to knock out someone who is wearing headgear with you are wearing over-padded gloves) .
  • His opponent was ten pounds heavier, eight years younger and a professional San Shou fighter with twelve pro fights to his credit.
There are other things I want to mention about this fight as well, but before I do you should really see what I am talking about. Fortunately we have access to a "highlights" video of the fight. It is a fairly big file at just over 40 megs, but worth the bandwidth.

Download the video by right-clicking here.

Now the win would be enough for me to make mention of the fight here, but there is more to it than just this.

Ever since Scott started teaching his methods publicly he has had his detractors. (Can you imagine that happening in the martial arts world?)

For the most part, these detractors have fallen into two camps. The first being those who are trying to make a name for themselves by marketing their own thing. The criticism here has always devolved into "don't listen to him, my stuff is better!" without ever bothering to objectively demonstrate how this is true.

The second camp is in some ways more irritating. They are the "Hey, that will never work" gang, and when you inquire as to why this is not the case they will give you a variant of "because my sensei/sifu/guru/coach says it won't" or "because we do it differently" or something equally as lame.

Now to give them credit, the first group will often test out Scott's material. You can tell because parts of the Rmax corpus has appeared under different names in what they sell after Scott has published the material.

It reminds me of the way scientific discoveries evolve, from
"Everyone knows it's poppycock!"
"Well, it is true but it is not worth anything."
"Yes, it is correct, but you know, I discovered it first!"

The second group just never bothers to test the material in any meaningful way, which allows them to make fun of it.

Well, now we have a way to examine what really happens when you put Scott's material into practice.

So let's take a look at the tape.

One of the first things I notice is that there is a real difference between the way Scott is dealing with impact and the way his opponent does.

Look at the first few kicks that are delivered to Scott's legs. You will notice that he sheds the energy of the kicks through shock absorbing while his opponent allows Scott to deliver the full amount of energy to his leg. You will also notice something very cool on about the third low line kick to Scott's leg.

Scott not only sheds the force, but using subtle pressure redirects it to break his opponent's structure and turn him. You may have to run the clip in slow motion to see what I am talking about clearly because it happens pretty quickly. It's sweet though so take a close look.

Now one of the criticisms I have heard over and over again is that this kind of shock absorbing will not work in a "real fight". Obviously the people who think this are mistaken.

You will also notice that Scott's strikes are interesting. You may have to slow the clip way down to see this clearly as well, but you will notice that his kicks and punches both shoot out with a sort of loose "whipping" motion where each joint is entrained sequentially along a very tight line, almost as if he were "casting his hand or foot. This is another area where some people insist that what we are seeing is not a useful way to hit or kick.

What we see is that it is a VERY effective way to deliver energy to ones opponent and that it is not very easy to block or counter.

The third thing we see in the clip is that one closes to grappling range with Scott at their peril. I suspect that Scott's opponent was feeling a lot like a basket ball being dribbled at some points in the fight. Scott's Sambo skills really came into play here. You will notice that he not only throws his opponent, but does so in such a way that he is always in an advantageous and dominant position. I suspect that the psychological effect here was substantial.

Scott has very lucid ideas of how to remain in "flow state" while driving your opponent out of flow. We see this clearly demonstrated in this match. Every time Scott's opponent gets up from the mat he looks to be more frustrated. At one point near the end of the match, after a particularly sweet throw he can't contain himself any longer and strikes the mat in frustration/anger with both fists. At this point the guy has lost the fight in his own mind I suspect.

The crowning moment of the fight is the point where Scott lands one of those "whipping" punches on his opponent at his moment of greatest "density", and there is no place for the energy of it to shed. It looks almost as if the punch sticks to his face for a moment to unload all of its force. The guy goes down for the count.

Another thing to notice here is that Scott is quite fresh at the end of the bout. I attribute at least part of this to his Clubbell work. Using Clubbells in a "ballistic" way really helps endurance.

So here is a person going up against a very competent fighter and taking the gold at his first San Shou tournament, pretty kewl.

The thing is, those of us who have taken the time to work Scott's material knew that he would do well because we have seen the results with ourselves and our students, but it IS just a little nice to be able to point this out to the people who have disrespected the work that Scott has done with RMAX.

I should mention here that Scott was not a fluke. His team mate Joe Wilson also took a gold in his division, it was also his first San Shou tournament, he fought an opponent fifty pounds heavier than him.

Coach Scott Sonnon and Coach Joe Wilson taking home the gold for team RMAX!

I have been privileged to know and learn from a number of people who have reached a level of mastery in their art, Scott Sonnon is one of them and has brought something important to the table.

He is an American, he speaks perfect English and can express all of his ideas in my native language (which is more important than you might think) He speaks in contemporary scientific terms and uses the metaphors of this culture. This means it is easier to learn from him and model what he does than most anyone I know of who is operating at his level, and that is priceless. He is also willing to share everything he knows, unlike so many who try to make their students jump through hoops for years to prove that they are worthy (as long as they remain under the control of the "teacher") It is really a breath of fresh air to me.

Most importantly, he walks his talk and is willing to test his insights in the arena that really matters.

I have to say that I wish more teachers of all types would do this.

So what should you do?

Well, if you are a friend, you should head over to RMAX and get some of Scott's material and start applying it to your art. You might want to look into getting the Intu-Flow and Xtention Package, it is a great, low cost introduction to Scott's work. You will also want to check out the RMAX Forum. It is one of the most information rich, troll free places on the 'net. You can gain whole bodies of knowledge just from reading the material there.

If on the other hand you are one of those people who spends his time bad mouthing people behind their backs you won't like the CST material very much and should probably go become a certified SCARS instructor or some such.

The really fun thing is that you will still have your art you will just end up with more insight and skill. I have been applying Scott's models to my Silat for almost six years now, and it is still exactly the same Silat only entirely different. Go Figure.


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