Lyoto Machida: Borrowed Force and the Stop-Hit

Lyoto Machida is one of those rare individuals that has made martial arts principles work in MMA bouts. Not that martial arts principles haven’t been used in those fights, obviously they have; but he brings a more varied and under-utilized arsenal to the competition. He’s pulled off Karate kicks, good defensive counter-fighting and uses a unique strategy to win consecutive championships at the UFC.

Two principles that stand out that he’s used is what is called Borrowed Force in Kenpo Karate and a principle that Bruce Lee’s fighting art is based on called the Stop-Hit.

Borrowed Force is simply taking advantage of the force already built up by the opponent; in one simple scenario, he is running in at you and you hit him; this doubles the impact of your strike, because there is his momentum coming toward you and the force of your strike going at him: Like trains going full speed at each other and colliding.

The Stop-Hit is basically hitting the opponent before he has a chance to hit you. You hit him when he comes at you, before he can even unleash any strikes or take-downs. The name of Bruce Lee’s style is Jeet Kune Do, which means Way of the Intercepting Fist; this is reference to Lee’s concept of the Stop-Hit.

Machida has used both principles in the Octagon.

Machida vs Bader

This is one of the bouts in which Machida used both Borrowed Force and the Stop-Hit. Bader rushed in to attack and ran right into Machida’s punch. Classic use of both Borrowed Force and the Stop-Hit. The power of the punch was doubled by the velocity of Bader’s rush and of Kyoto’s punch, and stopped him in his tracks and dropped him.

Tito Ortiz vs Machida

Machida was frustrating Ortiz by evading him and harassing him with kicks and punches, which is a foundation for the Dragon’s strategy. When the opponent is frustrated and rushes in, Lyoto nails him with punches, knees or kicks. When Ortiz, a grappler, wanted to get in range to take Machida down, Lyoto came up with his most available weapon to the most available target: A knee up into the body. It dropped Ortiz. Watch it here at about 1:23.

Lyoto Machida vs Sokoudjou

In this fight, Sokoudjou rushes in on Machida and Machida nails him with a punch to the face and then sweeps his leg, taking him down. This also brings in the principle in Kenpo known as Diversified Zones; which means you strike different zones, not just the same one consecutively. This definitely worked for Machida, because as Sokoudjou was recovering from the punch to the face, he didn’t even see the sweep coming. You can see this happen in the video below at about 3:15.

These are universal principles of fighting, that we have examined, that are sound and effective in actual application in real fighting. For this reason, though Machida might not use the same terminology that is used in Kenpo or Jeet Kune Do, he clearly understands these two principles explored here and has applied them effectively.

In closing, consider this fight sequence from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. I find it interestingly relevant.


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