Monday, March 29, 2010

Worldly Shaolin Warriors

UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy

Dan Hardy gave Georges St. Pierre less of a fight than I expected, but for the toughness and courage he displayed in not succumbing to submission attempts and lasting five rounds, he has my utmost respect.

In fact, I have so much respect for The Outlaw's fighting spirit that I wish he would've had a chance to learn the aspects of Shaolin kung fu that are more directly applicable in combat.

I wouldn't know what training curriculum Dan Hardy went under at the North China Shaolin Martial Arts Academy during his two months there, so I can only go by Hardy's own words (scroll down for the stuff on Shaolin) and the brief footage from Episode 2 of UFC Primetime : St. Pierre vs. Hardy. (Hardy's Shaolin training scenes come starting at the 13:14 mark).

However, drawing from the fact that Hardy's time spent studying in China was fleeting and that both his training footage and account told to Fight! Magazine reflect an emphasis on forms, stances and conditioning, it's safe to say what Hardy took home with him most was the intangible aspect of traditional martial arts training, such as discipline. This is something that even Hardy himself has said :

We trained hard, doing like 10 or 12 hours a day, and a lot of it was forms and stance work and weapons training. I learned a lot while I was out there. But when I got back, I realized the most important thing I took from the experience was the conditioning, the mental side of it. The rest of it was great, going through the forms and stuff, but there wasn’t a lot of other point to it as far as combat goes. So it kind of turned me more toward the competitive side of martial arts, and I wanted to pursue that a little more.

It's a shame Dan Hardy didn't get a chance to learn the direct combat applications and training methods of Shaolin, like the ones practiced by the monk Shi De Jian. With his creative spirit and mental strength, there's no telling how good Hardy would've been with a versatile, unified system to build a foundation on.

Would Dan Hardy have been able to stuff GSP's takedowns at will with explosive high-low movements, powerful stances and quick whole body turns?

Would Dan Hardy have had the footwork and coordination to launches attacks at GSP from all angles and levels?

Would Dan Hardy have had the drilled reflexes to make GSP pay for any momentary openings in GSP's attack or defense?

We'll never know.

But we do know that with his shaved head, class and comprehensive training program that stresses grueling hard work, studying with the best and a highly disciplined lifestyle and diet, GSP looks like a worldly, French-Canadian version of a Shaolin monk.

The commitment to physical and spiritual fitness has paid off, as he has developed a complete game based on the otherworldly takedown.

Could that be why Georges St. Pierre dominated a man who actually trained with the Shaolin?

Of course, we'll never know.

P.S. If you like the UFC-kung fu metaphors, check out the following pieces :

1. Pick Your Poison : UFC 111

2. The Poison Clan Reborn in UFC 111

3. Exit Shaolin, Enter BJ Penn

4. The Feminine Side of UFC 107

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