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Interview with two-time Muay Thai world champion Greg Wootton
We cover numerous topics including:
– Motivation for training
– Narcissism and social media in the fitness industry
– Developing mental toughness in and out the ring
– Old school vs New school methods of training
– Brain injury risks during fighting
– Fantasy matchups, and much, much more
Check out Greg on Instagram @greg_wootton & www.gregwootton.co.uk
Football was my first love. I used to get butterflies thinking about her. I used to plan my whole week around her. I’d sit there visualising what I’d do when I finally got my hands (or feet) on her.
Sadly, although she was my first, the love, the lust.. it’s gone. She’s just not that exciting any more. She got fat, frumpy, and nags all the time. I need to be free..
All metaphors aside, my knees have really started to take a pounding from years of playing on astroturf. I run hard and I run alot. That takes a huge toll on the joints, especially the knees.
I need a break from football, something new to perk my interest. (I’ll be back though.. I always come back to her).
So where to go from here?
As you know, I’m all about athleticism. Working out and hitting the weights is great, but that’s only part of the puzzle for me.
If I’m lifting weights, I want it to benefit me in some way other than just looking good. Being a meathead is out of the question, not to mention extremely boring.
Back in 2011 my gym was running a boxercise class so I joined out of curiosity. I was hooked immediately.
My conditioning during this period of boxing was phenomenal. I was playing for my university football team at the time (full back) and I was up and down the pitch like a horse for the whole 90 minutes. Insane stamina and explosive lung capacity.
Boxing is a fartlek type sport, with longer periods of low intensity aerobic type activity punctuated by short bursts of explosive punching. You get the best of both worlds. Plus it’s exciting and effective. If you only do low intensity cardio, you suck tbh.
Although boxercise was a great way to get started, it didn’t quite satisfy my bloodlust. There’s nothing more instinctual to a man than violence and combat. Mortal combat. You vs another man. “If he dies, he dies” and all that jazz.
Eventually I joined a full on boxing class and began sparring. The fear and adrenaline I used to get before going toe-to-toe with another man is something I’ve never been able to get anywhere else. I hated it but I loved it.
Floyd Mayweather I was not, but I was a student of the game and was always improving.
Eventually however, I stopped sparring. Although I love the sport, I wasn’t willing to risk my brain cells (or looks) for something that wasn’t paying my bills.
I still shadow box and hit the bag to keep me sharp and in decent condition, but it’s just not the same.
But now, three years removed from boxing, I feel it’s time to start experimenting with another type of combat sport just for the hell of it.
There are lots of options out there because of the rise of MMA gyms in London. Muay Thai is one of those options.
While I respect Muay Thai as a sport, it’s just not for me. Boxing is a precise science and that’s part of the reason I love it so much. Muay Thai seems too random and unstructured, plus I hate those little shorts they wear.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is another interesting one, and I’ve taken a few classes before and really liked it. However, I don’t like the lack of striking in jiu-jitsu, so I decided to put it on the shelf.
However, after much research, I stumbled upon something new, so without further ado I’d like to share my experience with Krav Maga.
Krav Maga is something I’ve read alot about online (I’m sure you have too). Lots of people claim it to be the most effective combat self-defense system in the world.
Guy tries to headbutt you? He’s going down. Man pulls out a shank? Fool’s getting disarmed. Bold claims for sure.
The more I read about it, the more curious I got, so I booked an induction with a well known Krav Maga teaching institution in central London. (Cost me 30 squid.)
(By the way, Krav Maga is not actually a martial art. It’s a self defense system – don’t ask me what the difference is.)
Before I tell you about the session and what I learned, I just want to clarify one thing.
I had many reservations about trying Krav Maga, because it’s an Israeli combat system. It’s currently used by the IDF in their occupation of Palestine. I am completely against this occupation.
However, I don’t feel there’s any harm in trying something new as long as the proceeds don’t go directly towards Israeli oppression of Palestinians. I boycott those companies which build settlements in Palestine and donate money to the state of Israel.
(These guys will probably ban me from their classes after reading this, but oh well. I’ll just do BJJ instead. See www.bdsmovement.net for more info on which companies sponsor Palestinian oppression.)
This was a 3 hour induction aimed at beginners, and there was a very mixed bag of people, maybe 60% guys, 40% women, from different backgrounds and varying experience levels.
The instructor started the session with something very cool, one of the tricks we all came for really. With the help of his buddy, he demonstrated how to disarm a knife attack. (Rubber knife, don’t watch that).
Although we know it’s not as simple as that in a real life situation, he made it look easy. With constant repetition and drilling, I’m sure it would be very effective.
After some warm up and technical demonstrations, we were split into pairs to practice.
Among other things, we were shown:
At first glance, much of this stuff seemed quite basic, but what Krav Maga does is refine it so that you can drill it over and over until it truly becomes instinctual.
What I loved about the techniques is that it that they are all practical. No fancy techniques that only work in Jackie Chan movies – this is all real life stuff. Plus it’s dirty, all out street fighting.
The world can be a nasty place, especially London. You never know what kind of scumbag is going to approach you carrying some kind of weapon. Krav Maga is a way to level the playing field.
I’ve got into a few scraps here and there, and one thing I’ve always been conscious of is getting headbutted. I’m cringing at the thought of it.
Krav Maga has the answer to this and more. Practicing with a partner, you’ll throw kicks, elbows, palms, claws, and punches at a large pad or a ball.
My knuckles were absolutely torn to shreds by the end of the 3 hour session. (I wore plasters over them for two days after to look like a G.)
Although this was a beginners session (hence may not be a fully accurate view of ‘true’ Krav Maga training), I felt there wasn’t enough emphasis on how to punch properly. This is partly due to the fact that there’s so much other stuff you have to learn.
I’m lucky I’ve done boxing before, so I know how to throw a good punch effectively with either hand. If you’re only doing Krav Maga, in my opinion, you need to focus some time on how to punch properly if you really want to be deadly.
In terms of the conditioning aspect, in my opinion KM won’t get you into great shape.
This is not like boxing where everything is done in 2 or 3 minute rounds to simulate the rounds of a fight. KM mainly consists of drilling techniques and then ‘free’ fighting with an opponent to practice. (I could be wrong however, as again, this was merely an induction).
In any case, I would do KM merely for the techniques, and add conditioning in elsewhere. Heavy weights + fartlek or high intensity training + Krav Maga = absolute beast.
The great thing about KM is that pretty much everyone can do it, regardless of strength and size. A lot of it is simply about knowing where and when to strike, and how to use momentum. Those kinds of things can be learned regardless of your physical attributes.
I think I will definitely be doing some more Krav Maga classes in the future just to see how far I can take it.
Even after just doing the induction, I feel I have some more tools in my locker in case some chicken shop wasteman wants to get brave. Come at me bro. Highly recommend.