MMA and You: Matrix kicking blends TKD, MMA and Parkour

By Jerry Beasley

Taekwondo influenced kicking is finally making its way into MMA competition, and in a really big way.
MMA fans were dumbfounded in December  to see taekwondo black belt  Anthony “Showtime” Pettis run toward the cage, jump up “Matrix style” like he was going to run along the side of the cage, then push off with his right foot against the cage  and strike his opponent, world champion Ben Henderson, on the face knocking him down. With his opponent noticeably stunned Pettis quickly finished the fight to win a unanimous decision. You can watch this unbelievable kicking technique on You Tube by typing in Pettis/MMA.
 One of the more crowd pleasing attributes of taekwondo, hapkido and tangsoodo is the emphasis on a variety of technically advanced kicking skills. The taekwondo stylist often dedicates hours to developing the ability to master the most intricate and difficult to perform kicking skills. Indeed some kicks are valued simply because they are so difficult to perform. If you want to be impressed watch a traditional Korean master perform a rapid fire series of jump spin kicks.
It seems like taekwondo fighters have always brought honor to their art.  By the late 1950’s legendary master Jhoon Rhee had introduced taekwondo to west Texas, setting the stage for the eventual dominance of taekwondo trained fighters like Allen Steen and Skipper Mullins. In the 1960’s taekwondo masters Byong Yu and David Moon tore up the tournament floors with their athletic displays of kicking finesse. Martial arts superstar and tangsoodo stylist Chuck Norris displayed the finest variety of kicking combinations on his way to his 1960’s world title.
Throughout the 1970’s taekwondo fighters continued to dominate the competition. The original Professional Karate Championship world light-heavy weight champion Jeff “The DC Bomber” Smith was a Jhoon Rhee protégé. And Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, the greatest competitive kicker of all time claims he was influenced by sixties champion Skipper Mullins. Wallace developed anarsenal of what many have claimed were the fastest kicks ever thrown. Clocked at a speed of over 60 miles per hour Wallace would often score with a hook and roundhouse combination that would have judges arguing about which kick to count!
In the 1980’s taekwondo forms champions like George Chung and John Chung (no relation) greatly raised the bar on what the audience would come to expect in precision kicking skills. John performed his sidekicks straight up. Each time he kicked you could hear and audible “pop” as the uniform snapped against his leg. George became famous for his 360 degree series of 10-12 lighting fast round kicks called the “machine gun”.
In 1993 the sport of MMA was born out of caged events called “Ultimate Fighting.” Taekwondo fighters were completely shut out of the winners circles while a new art from Brazil called “Gracie jiujitsu” took center stage. But now taekwondo is back in the spotlight thanks to Anthony Pettis. Fighting out of Milwaukee, WI Pettis earned his black belt in taekwondo and has since added muay Thai and Brazilian jiujitsu to his repertoire.
In round five of the December championship, the last ever for the WEC (which has been absorbed by the UFC as of January 2011) Pettis delivered the cage propelled kick without any indication that it was coming. Dubbed the “Matrix” kick the technique seemed to mimic the popular “Matrix” movies in which the lead characters would pull off impossible strikes. The Pettis kick combined elements of French “Parkour”; the sport in which the participant runs a route negotiating obstacles in a most efficient manner. Using an obstacle to push-off and change direction is a popular strategy in Parkour. Pettis claimed he and other fighters from team Roufusport in Milwaukee often used the cage to spring off of for a combination of surprise and power.
On the night of December 16, Pettis waited until the last few seconds of the fight to pull off what has become the most talked about kick in MMA. The win made taekwondo black belt Pettis the number one contender for the UFC lightweight title. Although Pettis was planned to fight in February of 2011 the current champ Frankie Edgar scored a draw against Gray Maynard in their January UFC lightweight title bought.An Edgar/Maynard “3” event is now being planned. While Pettis waits his turn at the title he will fight Clay Guida in June. Will he try another taekwondo matrix kick? We’ll have to wait and see.
In the meantime we can expect to see taekwondo exhibitions featuring the matrix style kicking techniques. Imagine the audience appeal as the taekwondo performer runs up a brick wall, pushing off and breaking a board with a well-executed round kick, just like Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Before long taekwondo masters will up the ante and begin advancing the round kick to a spinning hook kick. Who knows to what degree the new Matrix style kicking skills will influence taekwondo exhibitions.

Dr. Jerry Beasley heads the martial arts program at Radford University. He will present the 23 rd annual Karate College mixed-style martial arts camp featuring Bill Wallace, Renzo Gracie , UFC champion Matt Sera and more on June 23-26 in Radford, VA
MAR. 31. 2011. TaeKwonDoTimes.