clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Technique Talk: Ray Longo deconstructs 'The Destruction'

New, comments

Let's start with a basic question: was the particular type of leg check used by Chris Weidman at UFC 168 that eventually lead to the leg break of the all-time great unsportsmanlike?

Whatever it was, it was certainly effective. As Weidman himself later stated, it was intentional. Not the leg breaking part necessarily, but the act of causing enough pain on Silva to deter him from further kicking. The broken shin was an unfortunate result.

Still, there's an issue lingering about the use of the check by Weidman that employs part of the knee and whether such a technique has a place in professional mixed martial arts. Speaking more broadly, it re-raises the question the role of shin checks, why more MMA fighters don't use them and the clash of cultures between Thai boxing and mixed martial arts.

To help answer these questions, MMA Fighting spoke to the very person charged with teaching that technique, one that has been famously dubbed 'The Destruction'. In this interview, Longo discusses his martial arts background, the origin on the moniker, why he believes the technique is perfectly appropriate, how he came to employ the shin-on-knee check and why having it happen to Anderson Silva brought everything under the microscope.

Full audio with partial transcription below.


What is the origin of the 'destruction' moniker?

The origin, I'll give you for how it came to be for me. I was a Jeet Kune Do (JKD) practitioner under, technically, the lineage of Dan Inosanto, who was under Bruce Lee. And I think Bruce, or at least Dan, had incorporated a lot of Filipino martial arts.

They have a concept in the Filipino martial arts that comes from knife fighting, which is called 'defanging the snake'. If you can defang the snake, obviously the snake can't hurt you. There's a thing called 'destructions' where - and it's been around forever, I didn't make it up. I'm just giving it to you the way I learned it. I think Paul Vunak at the time was the guy that was really pitching it. This was back in the 80s. From the waist up, anything that comes in your elbow takes care of and anything from the waist down your knee takes care of.

When your knee is in a flex position, it can withstand a lot of pain. So, more the concept is if a guy is punching at you, you can parry the punch or slip the punch. That's a defensive maneuver. With the term 'destructions', it kind of takes a defensive posture and makes it an offensive posture. When a guy is coming to punch, you now look at that as a target, not as a 'get out of the way'.

Anybody who's sparred, anybody who's done kickboxing, how many times you can kick the guy in the elbow with your instep, you're out of the fight. You break your instep. It's not something that's a mystery. It's not something that's been around. It's meant to be a deterrent. Again, I'm going to go from the waist up. If a guy throws a punch, if I can somehow guide that punch into my elbow, he's not going to be able to punch me anymore. From a self-defense aspect, that's kind of like the origin of it.

No matter how big your fist is, you'll never beat my elbow. And the same thing applies to the low line with the knee because I've been through this before, clanging shins with anybody stings. I never had good shins. If you place your knee on the guy's shin the right way, it's going to be a deterrent.

When you break a guy's leg any time, that's not really the objective. It's just really to make them think twice about kicking you. That's really it. It's not really like you can look at it as a mystery. Even at the basic level of Thai boxing, you want to get the highest part of your shin on the lowest part of the guy's shin that's kicking you.

The downside with doing the destruction is you need the attribute of really good accuracy and awareness because instead of blocking with your whole shin, you now have to take your knee tap and point it on the guy's shin. That's not easy to do.

There's a suggestion by some that this particular technique is 'unsportsmanlike', but before we get to that particular allegation, do you believe striking in mixed martial arts is predominantly influenced by the culture that comes from muay Thai?

Well, I definitely don't think it's unsportsmanlike. Listen, the MMA business, that's a hurt business. You're taking your elbow and you're smashing it off a guy's face. I don't know, is that sportsmanlike or unsportsmanlike?

You want someone taking their elbow and smashing you in the face with it? No, I don't think so, but this is the sport we're in. Again, to go shin on shin, to me that stinks. I don't think it's unsportsmanlike. It's what you have to do to defend yourself.

The alternative is what, to take the leg kick?

What I'm trying to drive at is you came to this position and taught this technique because it wasn't some alien thing you guys invented. It has a history in Filipino marital arts. What I'm suggesting might be the case is the Thai influence doesn't take that into account. Is that a fair characterization?

People are suggesting it was unsportsmanlike, but it's a charge only made from the muay Thai perspective. Yet, what I'm hearing from you is that there's a wider perspective here. The technique does have a background, a martial arts background, just not one most MMA fans and muay Thai practitioners are familiar with.

I'll go with that. Listen, I'm just a conduit of the knowledge that I received and I pass on to my fighters. I think that's where I'm coming from. Thai fighting alone, that could've happened in Thai fighting. It didn't have to come from the Filipino martial arts. It's just something that I've taught over the years and that's the way I received the information. I just passed it down the way I received it.

Even in Thai boxing, guys have broken their legs. I'm trying to think of the fighter in K-1 who broke his leg off of a check. Go back to what Bruce [Lee] said. It's just a name. I don't want to fuss over that. You can call it 'destruction'. You could just call it a 'leg check'. It's the same thing. The higher you catch that lower part of that shin, the worse off it is for the guy kicking.

I've explained this a million times. I don't like my guys leading off with leg kicks. I like setting it up with the hands, so that it doesn't get checked. Nobody wants their kick checked. That stinks for everybody. The more you set up your kicks, the less chance you have of getting them checked. That's what you want hit, the femoral nerve on the side of the leg.

Now, Anderson Silva was just - I think it was frustration from the first round - started winging leg kicks. He kind of made it easy. He started telegraphing everything he did. He didn't throw his hands first, I think it was frustration. 'You know what? I'm just going to beat this kid's legs and going to start kicking him as hard as I can.' I think, again, one of the adjustments we made from the first fight is, 'let's start checking kicks'. We didn't say, 'let's start doing destructions on kicks'.

If a guy goes to throw a body shot and instead of taking it on my arm I point my elbow out and he hits his first or his arm on my elbow, that stings. He might not use that hand again, so it could happen by accident. It doesn't even have to be on purpose.

I just think we're getting caught up in the name. Checking kicks, there's always the possibility that you could break your shin if you hit it the wrong way.

There's a traditional method of checking a kick - raising the knee up and at an angle and letting the shin eat it - that seems to be the most prevalent method used in MMA and among muay Thai practitioners. True?

That's true.

So, why is that so prevalent? That seems so ineffective and hardly a victory if you check someone. You have to absorb in the process, too.

Even in Thai boxing, you know what it comes down to? It's like 'let's see who has the hardest shin'. That's really what it comes down to. Either the kicker or the guy checking it. It's like a macho thing. It's like me and you, let's head butt each other. Does anybody come out on the winning end of that? Does one guy have a harder head? Can you condition your head to be harder? Somebody's got a headache after that. I don't think it's any different. It's a technique that stinks, it really does. If you don't have a good shin and a conditioned shin, there's going to be a lot of guys who don't throw that leg kick because they don't want to get it checked, no matter how it's checked because that pain stinks and that could affect the fight.

I've seen videos of Thai fighters and by that I mean Thai natives who began fighting at age 7. I've seen video of them rolling glass bottles over their shins to deaden the nerve. In that environment, it makes more sense to be able to raise the leg at an angle for a check, but that doesn't seem available to a Chris Weidman or Georges St-Pierre. They can't really go that route because by the time you're 28 years old, you can't really condition your shins, can you?

I think you can, but you're 100 percent correct. Those shins, let me tell you. I've been with Thai champions. Those shins have calcium deposits. There's rocks growing off these. I've felt some shins that, man, I don't ever want to get hit by them. What you're saying is right, but I do think you can condition your shin. But the older you get, that would be diminishing returns to me.

You're going to naturally get conditioned shins from sparring and checking, but you can take the sticks and beat them to deaden the nerves. I think the option for those guys is you go to kick my leg, I'm going to take you down. They're going to go another route or make you pay with a straight cross down the middle. They're not going to sit there and check them all day because I don't think they have the tools to do that.

If you ever watch any of those specials they do on GSP when they bring in those Thai guys, they actually tell the guys in the camp don't get crazy with these guys because they are that good. You will be in trouble and you're not affecting those guys shins, for sure. Those shins are very, very conditioned shins and you're right, they start at a young age. Those nerves are dead, but I still think they have some pain. You'd have to ask them. They're just so conditioned to it, it's more like it's not that they don't have pain, I think they're just used it.

The check that Chris did in the fight was for an outside leg kick. Is there a similar check for one on the inside that would connect with someone's thigh?**

I put it this way. You make like you have a flashlight like a laser on your knee cap. If the kick is coming to your inside leg, you point that laser in. If it's coming to the outside, you point that laser out. That knee has to be able to go in and out.

So that knee in has to be able to go in and out. Now they were in mismatched leads, so Anderson, I believe, was swinging his back leg into Chris' lead leg. He just lifted his leg up and happened to hit him right. It was actually worse because inside to inside, you don't have that much room to travel. Outside to inside, I think it had longer distance to make the impact. It came from a further distance away to the inside.

Everyone focuses on Anderson's injury, understandably, but if you watch Chris, even when it landed on him it still turned his hips to the outside. So it still hurts to check in that way in that circumstance?

Yes, it does. 100 percent.

When your check is used properly, is the pain just on the point of contact or does it radiate through the shin?

I think it's going to be more on the point of contact. The downside of that is he eats that leg and he starts internal bleeding and all the bruising. That leg becomes dead. I'd rather have that pain [from the check].

Anderson could've kicked the inside of his leg all day long. If you're not going to stop that, he's not going to stop kicking you. By checking it - and [Weidman] checked the kick off the other leg - by him checking it, it's a deterrent. He had a little pain, but nothing crazy.

Obviously it worked out for him. I'm trying to think. I've had my leg kicked where I've never checked and been bruised from knee up to my ass, so that kind of sucks. We walk around with that for a month.

I've had banged up shins. That sucks. It's the business you're in. It's not badminton. You're in the pain business and you gotta really learn to deal with that pain. That could just be me. That could just be my perspective on it. I never had good shins. I learned to block as high as possible and if I could get my knee on that, that's what I did.

One time in sparring with a guy with shin pads on, telegraphing a kick I broke his leg. I think Chris, even in sparring, you land a kick right and it gets checked right, that guy's laying on the floor. His leg might not be broken, but that's a big owee. That hurts.

I come from a jeet kune do background, right? So it was always, you don't ever want to play the guy's game. To play Anderson's game, Weidman would've had to roll the glass on his shin and beat his shin down and then let's see who has the tougher shin. But if you want to be smart, that way you don't have to damage your shin. You just get your knee on it.

Speaking broadly, we see high-level MMA fighters eat leg kicks all the time. With these kinds of techniques available that can deter opposition, why is leg checking relatively rare in MMA?

It's a good question. I think because there's so many different elements involved - wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing - you're probably going to go to your strength. If you're a boxer, you probably just haven't put much time checking kicks. If you're a Thai boxer, I bet you're checking or you're so used to getting kicked, the leg kicks don't bother you.

It's like getting jabbed in the face. I'm not saying no one gives a crap, but you can afford getting jabbed in the face. That's not going anything. It's not really bothering you.

It's not that people don't know it. Everybody knows how to check a kick. I think they might be looking for the takedown. They might be looking for a hand counter and it kind gets passed over. There's so many different elements and so many guys that are coming in at different levels who's wrestling, who is coming in as a boxer, who is coming in as a kickboxer. That's where there's so many things to cover.

Look, Weidman, did he check any kicks in the first fight? Not many. I don't think he checked any. It wasn't bothering him. I said 'How was it?' after the fight, he goes, 'Nah, they were annoying me, but nothing crazy.' Then everybody made this thing about Anderson, he's not fooling around, he'll go to the leg kicks. He's going to kill him, so, we kind of addressed it.

I think Anderson brought out the best in Chris Weidman. He upped his level. He made him address the leg kicks. Look at the kid. The kid's a phenom. He picked that crap up in no time. I think he checked two out of three kicks, at least.

How long did it take him to learn those techniques? Relative to what it would take for your average professional MMA fighter to learn, how much faster did Chris get it?

I say Weidman is probably the quickest study I've ever taught. How about, we come back. We start sparring. 'Let's start checking the leg kicks'. He starts it that day. We'd never said we were going to do destructions. When I played around with them, we have those conversations, we do the elbows and we play around with a lot of different stuff, we just set to check leg kicks. I'm being honest with you.

We worked more on the destruction for the side kick that [Silva] was throwing the first time because he tries to hyperextend your knee. Our plan against the side kick was really lift knee up and Anderson would be like kicking a pole with the bottom of the foot and it wouldn't have any effect on him. But if you get side kicked to the front of the knee, you could hyperextend your knee. That could be a problem.

If you go back to even that flashback and look at it, listen to Anderson's corner. What advice were they giving him? 'Kick the knee! Kick the knee!' They weren't saying kick the legs. They wanted him to destroy the guy's knee. Go back and look at that flashback. They were focusing on the knee, so after watching that I kind of had a good idea of that's what they're looking to do. We kind of took it away.

To answer your original question, the guy is a quick study. I think I could've shown him something in the dressing room and he could've pulled it off. That's what I think of this kid. That's how much faith I have in him. That's how good he is.

Is Chris Weidman going to have his own Anderson Silva moment? By that I mean, we didn't see a lot of front kicks to the face until Anderson Silva did that to Vitor Belfort. Now you see it not routinely, but a lot more than we used to. Do you think by Weidman successfully employing this leg check against one of the all-time greats, we might now see that technique democratized through the professional MMA ranks?

Maybe, maybe. It depends on how many guys are really implementing leg kicks in their game. I think people are going to think about it for sure. They're going to at least have to address it and maybe go 'Man, maybe the guy has something here.' I could see that, yeah.

Just to be clear on it, you wouldn't have any issue with someone like, for example, Jon Jones purposely front kick his opponent's knee, bending it backwards to cause damage. You're of the mind that it's legal and the technique should be used because it's effective, right?

I'm of the mindset that you give me the rules of the fight and I'm going to train my guy according to the rules of the fight. If the athletic commission has allowed that side kick, I'm going to say I'm going to address it. That's really what we addressed. It was more the side kick because I thought that was more of a problem. I didn't want to see [Weidman]'s knee get hyper extended.

Do you think some of the pushback about the technique itself comes from the fact that it happened to Anderson Silva? A bad break, everyone has sympathy, but had it happened to a previous opponent, do you think there'd be as much fervor about it as there has been?

No, I think because it was Anderson Silva and this guy was put up on such a pedestal and so many guys live vicariously through this guy, he was a hero to many, just made it worse. I don't think anybody gave a crap when Corey Hill's leg broke. That was a bad break. Why don't we talk about him? Who the guy who even broke his leg?

It was Dale Hartt.

There you go. That's a trivia question. I'm glad you told me. But that's what I'm saying. I think because it was Anderson, that really is what made that out of control. I think just exacerbated that. Nobody wants to see a guy go out like that. That's why it was very somber after the fight. It was like a wake in the back. I really thought I went to somebody's wake.

Let me tell you an argument I heard and you can respond to it. It's that with these traditional boxers, these guys are fighting all the time. They amass 300 fights in their careers. They have to fight routinely, so there's certain techniques they'll avoid in an unspoken agreement they both have to do it all over again in a week or two. That has created a culture, but in MMA, 20 fights is a lengthy career.

What I'm asking is do you think that's what's driving some of the push back on this technique? It's not just that it's devastating and not just that it happened to a beloved figure, but the folks crying out about it are operating in a space where it has a completely different function than it does in MMA?

Yeah, I agree with that. Go back and look at Thai fights. You know what's funny? The leg kick is devastating and if you've ever been kicked in the leg by a Thai guy, not a good feeling. But those guys you don't see a lot of leg kicks in the fights because they're all so good, they know how to check. They grow up doing that stuff. So you see more body kicks and push kicks and head kicks than you do leg kicks. You rarely see leg kicks in the Thai fights, if I'm not mistaken. You rarely do because they're going to get checked.

Those guys fight once a month, so when they train it's a different type of thing. These guys have 200 fights. Imagine that type of fighting. 200 fights? It's wear and tear on the body.

** Editor's note: the kick Chris Weidman checked from Anderson Silva that eventually led to the leg break was an inside kick, not an outside as was asked in this interview.