UFC 140: How Machida Can Use Shotokan Karate to Prove Jon Jones Is Overrated

Matthew HemphillCorrespondent IIDecember 9, 2011

Most fans have already pegged the young light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as unbeatable.  When Lyoto Machida steps into the cage against him at UFC 140, it will be as an underdog.

It wasn't that long ago that Machida's straight-laced style of karate was seen as a perfect iron wall of defense that couldn't be penetrated.  Now it's Jones' crazy style that seems to mix anything and everything together all at once.

Whereas Machida has spent his career trying to prove that Shotokan Karate is a dominant style of martial arts, many fans have now dismissed the possibility, eschewing it for Jones' individualistic movements.

But what is Shotokan Karate?

It seems like many fans know Machida practices karate, but they don't know anything about the style he practices.

Shotokan is about repetition.  It isn't about learning a bunch of fancy moves or coming up with new techniques, it's about using the same moves over and over again until they are perfected.

Shotokan has two punches: a straight punch to the body and a straight punch to the head.  There is no real variation in these punches, and if you watch some of Machida's fights you will see he uses them a lot.

So. that means the blows should be easy to dodge.  However, knowing what is coming and being able to avoid it are two different things.  Those who train in Shotokan Karate throw those two punches over and over again to the point of exhaustion.

Even those who only practice on a recreational basis will still throw hundreds of punches by the end of a week, if not by one day.  They will also throw hundreds of kicks to the body and the same moves in several key forms again and again.

While Jones learns different techniques and styles in his spare time and works on a game plan in training camp, Machida focuses on the same moves he has learned since he was three.

He is now 33.

That is three decades of practicing the same moves over until they come as easily as breathing.

It's no secret to Shotokan Karate practitioners how Machida fights.  In fact, any fan could probably guess what he is going to do if they looked up five of the different forms involved in the style.

Knowing what is coming is good, but being able to stop it is what makes a fighter great.

Jones' unpredictability is his strong point.  He does so many unorthodox things that it has thrown his opponents from their rhythm.  However, Machida's rhythm and timing have been with him for longer than Jones has been alive. 

If Jones can keep Machida off that rhythm he will win, but if Machida can keep his rhythm, he can break through Jones' impressive ability to throw fighters off-kilter.

And there is also a matter of footwork.  Those that practice Shotokan Karate are taught to move their feett off the ground as little as possible and instead have them slide over the floor on which they work.  Whether it is carpet, wood, marble, grass, or sand, they are taught to let their feet move gracefully over the floor while seemingly staying glued to the surface.

It has been in all of Machida's fights and it eliminates most of the repositioning fighters have to deal with when they fight in the cage.  It leaves him less vulnerable than some of Jones' other victims, as Machida will never be far off from being able to bring out an offensive move even when on defense.

These two factors—the footwork, which gives the punches power and the fighter movement, and the punches, which blind opponents and snap quickly—will either be utterly beaten or be unleashed in full force on Saturday.

It could be enough to prove that Jones' unorthodox, invented style of martial arts is no match for an age-old tradition.  Instead of the flash and color of Jones, they have the simplicity and pacing of something learned through centuries and refined for decades.

So, though Machida might lose on Saturday, don't be surprised if he uses the metronome of Shotokan Karate to get the victory.


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