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Greg Koval

Countering is often treated as a catch all approach where fighters are once again forced to resort to technique selection under duress. This is why it takes fighters such a long time to get good at countering and often they will resort to using one or two counters over and over. This is good at creating efficiency in technique but while the wrong technique done in the right way is good enough, we want to strive to be better, so we are looking at instead using a few techniques blended together and chosen correctly based on the opponent’s triggers.

Our process on this is to identify the most common high percentage countering methods, divide them into proactive and reactive responses, then divide again into best use based on types of pressure given by the opponent. We want to pick techniques that have the most crossover to limit the number of techniques we have to learn but also are the most effective from each position.

What I’ve done is broken up the Counters into Open and Closed Stance, and dealing with Reactive and Proactive responses. Some counters you can do at any time and are best for reacting to what your opponent does, particularly blocking and guard absorption based counters. But these are less ideal since it is more likely to take some damage and it’s harder to do significant damage back when you are responding to your opponent. Instead, it’s better to draw out attacks and counter with a proactive, planned response.

When Drilling, practice against each technique under 5 types of pressure

  1. Retreating

  2. Opportunism

  3. Static

  4. Forward Pressure

  5. Overcommitted (Blitz)

On the chart below you will see a variety of different responses. Many of them can be used for more than the attack indicated. The attack I indicated is purely a baseline attack for drilling purposes. But you should practice these under as many different types of attacks as possible.

When Practicing you should follow the training methodology system to become proficient in all these different responses, but you should ultimately choose a few to perfect and be able to consistently use over and over again. The nice thing about counters is you don’t need quite as much diversity in your attacks to be successful. Combinations require a bit more diversity because being proactive you have to create surprise. But in Counters, you are able to limit it to a few responses since the burden is on your opponent.

AttackStanceTypeDef Gesture - CounterCrossOpenReactiveBlocking - Fonz lead Hand Cover. 1. Lateral Back Step. Rear foot follows and counter crossJab, cross, hook 1-2-3OpenReactiveInterfering Hands with retreating steps to an intercepting front kickJab, cross, hook 1-2-3OpenReactiveNemean High Guard to Holly Holm overhand, uppercut, overhandJab, cross, hook 1-2-3OpenReactiveBackstep stance switches with Head Pulls. Finished with Frame and Roll Out escapeJab, cross, hook 1-2-3OpenReactivePoint Footwork sliding steps back to jumping kneeLeft, Right HooksOpenReactiveMachida Schoolboy defense to Double oversLeft, Right HooksOpenReactiveInside Framing to Thai plum clinchJab CrossOpenReactiveSingle Leg or Body clinch AttackStanceTypeDef Gesture - CounterJab CrossClosedReactiveAbsorb on High Shell. Return fire with jab crossL uppercut, R straightClosedReactiveRotating High Shell, return fire with cross hookJabClosedReactivePull to Jab CrossJab, CrossClosedReactivePull to deep slip left, body hookLead HookClosedReactiveFrame and Roll Out to sudden directional change, cross AttackStanceTypeDef Gesture - CounterCrossOpenProactiveBlocking - Hard Middle Block to OG #4, retreating side kickjab, pause, jabOpenProactiveLH top position swat to jab. RH top position swat to crossJab CrossOpenProactivePhilly Shell Deep Bow Under. Uppercut and pivot outJabOpenProactiveWedge Block, pivot out, and counter cross or roundhouse kickLead HookOpenProactiveIntercepting side kickJabOpenProactiveStep to outside, Intercepting leg kickCross HookOpenProactiveIntercepting high front kickOvercommitted Jab, crossOpenProactiveSidestep forward to turning back kick or roundhouse kickOvercommitted Jab, crossOpenProactiveTJ Dillashaw style Left drop to back take AttackStanceTypeDef Gesture - CounterJabClosedProactiveIntercepting Lead overhand with pull (wonderboy)Jab, CrossClosedProactiveSlip (or Deep slip) with simultaneous counter cross, followed by pull with inside leg kickJabClosedProactiveCatch Parry and simultaneous jabCross, HookClosedProactiveSlip L, Roll Under Right to 3/4 back with post. LF high roundhouse kickJab, CrossClosedProactiveSlip outside with intercepting UppercutJab, CrossClosedProactiveFull Step Back to intercepting jab or crossLead HookClosedProactiveSpinning ElbowLead HookClosedProactiveDropping to Handplant Spin Hook Kick AttackStanceTypeDef Gesture - CounterBody Roundhouse kickBothProactiveSweep Through to Back ControlBody Roundhouse kickBothProactiveStep in direction of kick and catch to Thai sweepCut kickBothProactiveInside Check (bent crescent kick block) to rear leg roundhouse kickTurning back kickBothProactiveHip check to back controlRoundhouse kicksBothProactiveTop position check to counter leg kickRoundhouse kicks mid and lowBothReactiveChecking to counter leg kickLeg Kicks AllBothProactiveNemean Step Back to counter crossLeg kicks RoundBothProactiveStep over and return fire leg kickSingle Leg TakedownBothReactiveFront hand frame, rear hand underhook, lead leg step backSingle Leg TakedownBothReactiveOverhook, Rear hand frame, recover foot back and drive outSingle leg TakedownBothReactiveOverhook, Limp leg outDouble Leg TakedownBothReactiveSprawl and drive head down, circle and take the backBody ClinchBothReactiveLH tight elbow underhook, RH frame chin away.Thai ClinchBothBothKnee across the body frameThai ClinchBothBothDuck Under EscapeThai ClinchBothBothOverwrap and pinch with elbows. Counter knees to the body

Regarding counters, there are a few things I would like to discuss to make you more successful.

  1. Counters work best from range when they can’t easily access you. This is why we use the Nemean fight system with an emphasis on frame with the long guard and stopping their forward motion with a side or front kick to the body.

  2. We want to frustrate them into attacking from just outside punching range. This gives us more time to respond to their attack and counter them

  3. We want to force them to take an extraneous movement to reach us. By overcoming the frame from a range if they must take a step to access us, it gives us more of a response time.

  4. We want to use funneling to create the dilemma principle. Funneling is the process of limiting the ways they can attack us. If we can draw them into predictable attacks, we can counter them with success. If we can consistently counter them with striking and takedowns, they become too afraid to press the action against us and we can pick them apart from the outside.This will shut them down completely. This is probably the most successful method to win any fight..A good example of this is Valentina Schevchenko. Valentina’s method is to draw her opponents into a countering game. From a static range she hits them repeatedly with her striking, and stays just outside of range. This forces them into an overcommitted attack and she does a body clinch takedown when they take the bait. So her opponents sit on the outside and wait for her to come to them and she picks them apart from the outside using a hook cross.

Funneling - Here are some examples of funneling you can do. Try these out in practice to learn how your opponents respond to each of these stimuli. Identify the types of attacks your opponent can throw under each of these circumstances. Create your own methods of funneling and figure out how to best make these work for you.

  1. Pressing forward and cutting off ring space. They are more prone to try to shoot underneath or throw hook and uppercut punches as you press them. They will also likely try to clinch

  2. Retreating - They are more likely to throw kicks or jab and cross only because they have to cover the distance.

  3. Framing and Angles to the outside - If you can get to the back side, they have to turn to face you. Mostly anticipate a pivot to a cross or hook

  4. Monkey See Monkey Do - They will replicate what you give them

  5. Stopping them with kicks - Frustrating them with kicks will draw a variety of responses. They may try to kick back. They may try to find ways to bypass. They may get frustrated and overcommit

  6. Forcing Clinches - If every time you attack you tie them up and thai clinch to strikes, they will often back away every time you attack. This opens them up to chasing roundhouse and other similar attacks

  7. Threaten constant takedowns - If they are afraid of your takedowns, they will be slow to enter your range. They likely won’t press forward on you as much. It will make them counter and use more uppercuts and leg kicks

It’s also important to have strategies for different types of attackers. Knowing nothing else about your opponent, you can often tell a lot about the way someone will attack and defend purely off of stance, and plan your strategy based on their style

Strategies for common styles and attacks

  1. High Shell boxer - They are going to block and absorb a lot. Don’t mess around with head punching a lot. Keep them at range. Front kicks up the middle, leg kicks, and single leg takedowns are easy paths to victory

  2. Philly Shell Boxer - They want to absorb a lot. Leg kicks and single legs are still great, but now you should emphasize taking the back.

  3. Peek a Boo Boxer. A high guard, low center, and side to side head movements as they rapidly close range. Snap them down or thai clinch them for an easy victory.

  4. Muay Thai Fighter - High hands and marching, with excellent leg checks. Since they love to leg check, use it against them. Fake the leg kick to the side kick midsection. Shoot the low single as they press you forward. Retreat and let them chase you so they walk into your retreating jab and front kick. Draw out their roundhouse kick and when they overswing, do a sweep through and take the back.

  5. Wrestler - Often they will enter with a low stance and a forward head. Use takedown defense tactics. Lots of prevention. Low hands in the philly shell. Threaten uppercuts. Kick away at their legs. Make them afraid of your striking so they can’t confidently move into your range. Attack infrequently but make your attacks hurt a lot. Threaten takedowns of your own. More on this in wrestling defense. Front kick them in the face early.

  6. Powerful Brawler - This is someone who is probably bigger and wants to just pummel you. Low defense but powerful offense. They will rockem sockem given the chance or grab hold of you to punch. A lot of whirlwind attacks. Stay out of range and make them swing and miss. Then clinch to either a front headlock control or a back hip control and make them carry your weight. Get them tired and slow things down. Then beat them up at will. Watch the first Stipe vs Ngannou fight to see this in action

  7. Taekwondo / Karate Point fighter - They have low hands, high chins, wide bladed stance, and tend to bounce. These guys are tricky to get ahold of. Use a philly shell to protect the body. These guys are usually rubbish at boxing and leg defense but their range and kicks can be a real threat. Get inside of their range and pin them. Tie them up and beat them in a clinch.

  8. Street fighter- often hands to head with high elbows and lean back gait. Front kick them in the body and chop away at their legs for an easy win

  9. Judoka - You don’t run into this a lot and often it’s too late when you realize it. In a fight they will crash in and get ahold of you. They often like the headlock grab to set up hip throws. If they do, don’t head to the back, it’s a trap. Instead, move to face them and disconnect. Then just make them try to chase you to get ahold of you and catch them with lateral striking from range.

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