Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

My personal website is, and check out my book "No Worries" on Amazon here

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Perfect Strike

Poor Rob, I didn’t mean for him to collapse on the floor. My knee (during sparring) came effortlessly into his abdomen forcing all the air out of his lungs giving him no option – his legs buckled and he dropped to the floor. As I remember him gasping for air down there, I also remember how easily and effectively the strike was made. And for that, I guess I can thank my studies of NLP.

Now, whereas I am certified to Master NLP Practitioner level, I would never call myself an ‘NLPer’, as I am far more than that. There are also some misguided views on what NLP is and isn’t by some of the public and also scarily by some NLP Practitioners! So sometimes it's best not to label yourself with what a few people may perceive as a limitation. But here I feel it is definitely relevant to give a quick explanation of what it is.

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a field of work started by two academics who ‘modelled’ several of the top therapists of the time. The idea is that if they worked out how they used their bodies, their language, and how they think - then they could produce a ‘model’ of that person’s performance. And once you have a model, other people could follow that model to get similar responses.

On a really basic level this is exactly how we learn as a child – we observe, we replicate, we learn.

The modelling of these therapists also left behind a trail of highly effective techniques and patterns, originally basically ‘swiped’ from top fields of psychology, psychiatry, linguistics and physiology. These techniques are utilised by hypnotherapists such as me, life coaches, business and management consultants, politicians, marketers, advertisers, and sports persons – every walk of life.

Yet if you go back to base principles NLP is nothing more than a system of modelling.

And that is how I achieved this knee strike.

During my fight training I like to learn and develop, whilst reinforcing what I know, expanding knowledge, and aiming to leave a training session better than when I started. So when I spar people, and find they have an effective technique or application, I like to learn how they do it.

One of my training partners, Jesse, has a lovely technique he often uses during sparring. He has a ‘walk through knee’ which he uses to great effect. It is a simple technique – you just step forward and lift your knee into your opponent – yet he seems to make this more effective than most. So the last few weeks I’ve set out to model how he does this, so I can gain some of his effectiveness.

The first week I sparred him normally, and started to notice what positions and movements I made that allowed Jesse to use this knee. Every time he used this technique I ran the movie of this event back in my head, working out exactly what position I was in when he did it. How was I positioning myself for the knee?

In following weeks I developed this knowledge, using my sensory acuity to notice his position immediately prior to throwing the technique, every part of his posture, noting where his attention was – I now had the ‘trigger’ positions set in my head that allowed him to throw it.

Then I worked on noting the individual movements of the knee – everything from breathing to posture, to all the little micro-movements, the tension and relaxation, the acceleration, the focus and attention – all the way from before the technique to after the technique.

Again, I stored it as a movie, complete with added sounds and feelings, making it a sensory ‘recording’ of exactly how Jesse went about throwing the knee. I ran this many times in my head, using self-hypnosis and visualising the recording time and time again. I now had the base information from which to work.

And then I started to ‘mirror’ his movements, working on everything from posture down to the smallest micro-movement I could detect. In doing this I found a key element was the positioning of the feet – the angle, the weight distribution, and the contact points with the canvas. Following this mirroring I started to copy his exact movements, using my mind to fill in any gaps, or to make any adjustments for the fact that our bodies are physiologically different.

This last step was actually quite easy – I had practised already with a technique known as ‘deep trance identification’, or DTI. It sounds fancy, but it’s quite simple. I run the recording time and time again in my head of Jesse throwing the knee. And then I allow myself to become Jesse, kind of ‘possessing his body’ in the recording, seeing through his own eyes, hearing what he would hear, and feeling what he would feel. Think of it like Casper the Friendly Ghost going into someone else’s body. And then, experiencing this knee strike completely from Jesse’s perspective, I allowed Jesse to ‘morph’ into me, so I was running the recording with me totally experiencing the perfect knee strikes completely from my perspective, and totally immersed in the complete experience.

One of the best bits of our neurology is that our minds cannot determine between vividly imagined and reality – both are treated the same. And if you add in the kinaesthetic element, or actually throwing the knee as you are running the recording, you really strengthen the neurology – you are totally throwing the knee exactly how you want to.

So last Friday at sparring I tested my work. I did a round with Jesse, and did a last bit of fine tuning as I observed (and then felt!) a perfect knee strike from him. It was time to put my work into practice.

And Rob was my ‘victim’. I started the round as usual, got myself prepared mentally, and then allowed myself to become this recording I had worked on. The moment Rob fell into the perfect position according to my recording I instantly stepped forward and executed the perfect knee strike. It was so effortless, so easy, so perfect it kind of went in a whole lot further than I had intended. I had mixed emotions as I looked at Rob gasping for air like a fish out of water on the floor. One part of me was feeling bad and thinking ‘oh sh*t!’ for hurting a training partner even though I was never intending to – the other part of me was thinking ‘cool’ for how effective I had been in developing this knee!

The above is the bare bones of the process I used, there is far more detail that can be added, as I do when I’m working with my sports clients. Yet at the same time every reader who plays sport can use exactly the techniques listed above to help them improve any technical element of the game.

Now I have got the perfect ‘walk through knee’ I wonder what, and who, I will start to work on next…


  1. Excellent post buddy.
    I ran this very protocol (DTI/NBG) at the seminar on sunday!

    Keep rocking my man, and don't knee strike me please!


  2. Al, your protocol on DTI/NBG is first class - when we went through your approach I learned a whole different perspective - thanks mate!

    I know your seminar participlants would have got so much out of it...

    Keep up the good work!

    Best regards,


  3. Very interesting post. I have constantly used these techniques without actually knowing what they were called.

    I started Muay Thai 3ys ago, and my total training time within that time has been about 2 yrs due to work/travel commitments. When i did train, it was just once a week.
    However, my progress has been amazing - if i may say so myself. I am now able to spar guys who have 5 - 8yrs experience on me and beat them effectively. I even sparred a guy with professional fighting experience and beat him on points (coach was scoring).
    I did this by endlessly watching videos of very successful fighters i admired. I studied their stance, movements and general demeanour. I looked at the ways they they punched and kicked. I evaluated how their movements/ attacks originated. I assessed their body/feet positioning.

    All this is a very tedious process, as most of these movements occur in the fraction of a second, too quick for the human eye to discern. It involved me doing a lot of rewinding and observing the motions in stop/start and slow motion.
    Even so, i had to watch them numerous times to even begin to discern and understand what i am looking for.
    once i identify a movement, i break the movement up into steps. I take one step and try to understand it fully, i then attempt to replicate it myself. Again, this is extremely difficult as i may not yet posses the necessary skills, fitness or balance to perform it accurately. However, i still attempt to do it, so that i can have the physical imprint of the movement in my brain.
    After this is done, i simply go through the process of Mental Rehearsal and Visualization. I imagine the fighter performing the movement again and again, until it is burned in my mind. I then substitute myself in his place and run the process incessantly in my mind.
    This process eventually takes me to a place when i KNOW how all the parameters involved in executing the movement perfectly. This is the "theory", and i now begin the process of "practice". The goal is to basically attempt to practice this "knowledge", using the image/video imprint created from the visualization techniques until i can execute the movement perfectly.
    This is where the hard work really begins, and is actually a never ending process.

    It may all seem long winded, but it has allowed me to exponentially accelerate my development in Muay Thai.