PRACTICAL BOXING

Hybrid Boxing

Hybrid boxing is a combination of boxing methods from different sources, the idea being to create an effective boxing system to win fights in one or more specific environments.

Practical boxing is a type of hybrid boxing method that puts equal (or more) importance on street survival than on contest wins. The best way to illustrate this is with examples:

  • The Jan Plas / Mejiro Gym method of Thai boxing is a hybrid boxing system that combines Western boxing with Thai boxing, for the purpose of enabling Westerners to win Thai boxing fights. This system came to be known as 'Dutch-style Thai boxing'. It works because Westerners are better at punching than the Indochinese; punching is far more effective for them; and on average they cannot kick like Thais. It is a highly effective method for Westerners in all types of kickboxing fights, especially as weight rises above 150 pounds / 70 kg.
  • The Croydon practical boxing system combines early 18th century bareknuckle fighting (with its integral wrestling and throws) with modern boxing, Thai boxing, and some military CQC. The basic principle is to create a boxing method that utilises all the relevant sources to produce the best possible fighting method irrespective of rules or gloves, which can be utilised effectively by the exponent for street or ring use. It is efficient for self-defence and for contests, since the technique works well for both. Part of the basic functionality is to ensure that the old bareknuckle boxing technique for punching without gloves is used, since otherwise the boxer is at elevated risk of breaking the hand in a street encounter; a major part of the value of old-time boxing is that the punching method was substantially different and had far lower risk for hand damage. Certain moves have to be removed according to the nature of the rules - but the training should always be efficient for the street aspects since this is going to be of more importance.
  • The local environment may dictate the direction the system takes, to some extent. For example, the Croydon system had to take account of the number of mob brawls encountered locally. It was found that punching and throws were the most-used types of move for that environment.

Practicality

In recent years, more people have been exposed to effective combat methods, and the pendulum has swung back toward effective fighting methods and away from the more formal martial arts training of the late 20th century. One result of this process has been the clear superiority of boxing methods over formalised methods for the handwork side of things. However it can be seen that modern boxing is not perfect, since:

  1. It is a system with a very narrow focus.
  2. It relies strongly for its viability on well-protected hands.

Other boxing sources

One solution to the first part of this problem is to put back in some of the old technique - striking and wrestling - that was removed in the process of making boxing a modern sport. There are two possible sources for this technique: old bareknuckle boxing and Thai boxing.

Thai boxing has the major advantage that it is a living system and can be seen functioning, unlike 18th century bareknuckle fighting. We can see how strikes and throws are used optimally by a boxer.

Old-time boxing is long dead now, and in fact that process had started by the late 18th century (1775) in the gradual process of making it more user-friendly and less of a fighting method for the ultra tough. However, a core of information survives in the accounts of the day, and in the multiple old pictures of bouts.

Hybrid systems: the choices

Individual teachers will take what they need from the various sources, to create a hybrid boxing method that suits their needs. One of the first of these teachers was Jan Plas of Amsterdam, who successfully mixed modern boxing and Thai boxing to create the Dutch system of Thai boxing. You can find many video clips of his training sessions at Mejiro Gym, showing how his method was clearly a 50-50 mix of modern international boxing and Thai boxing, designed to be efficient for Thai boxing contests. The stand-out feature of the Mejiro Gym method is its efficiency, resulting from the sophisticated creation of the Plas system.

Another approach, taken at the Croydon Gym in south London and taught by Chris Price - strongly influenced by Jan Plas - was to take equal parts of modern boxing, Thai boxing and old bareknuckle boxing, with the aim of creating a fighting system that was also practical for street defence since it (a) included wrestling, and (b) used the punching methods from old boxing, with the aim of reducing risk for broken hands when used without gloves and handwraps.

To illustrate the difference between the two: when I was training at Mejiro Gym, probably around '82, Jan used to frequently have to tell me to stop throwing opponents in sparring. For his system, designed to win in Thai boxing bouts, there was no advantage to throwing the opponent: it just didn't get enough damage in a well-padded ring, and (probably rightly) didn't get scored appropriately as a result. From my perspective, dumping an attacker on their head on the concrete is hard to beat, and is especially handy with multiple opponents since you will often be grabbed at some point. But I did as I was told in his gym - mostly :)

Thank you and RIP Jan Plas, one of the three giants of combat of the 20th century (Jigoro Kano, Helio Gracie, and Jan Plas). You can still see the Jan Plas system used in stand-up all over the world today, 40 years later.