GTR Archives 2000-2022


Jiu-Jitsu Books 


Roberto Pedreira















Rickson Gracie, Riddick Bowe, 

and the Distinguished Art of Thai Tae Tad

By Roberto Pedreira


Rickson Gracie believes in self-defense. Jiu-jitsu should be about self-defense, he insists. Guys who want to devote their careers to 50-50s, worm guards,  and berimbolos are welcome to do that, he says, but if the self-defense needs of ordinary non-super-athletes are not addressed, jiu-jitsu will "drown." And it is drowning, he thinks. (Rickson's opinion's about why Jiu-jitsu is gonna drown here).

Rear naked chokes work very well, if you can get behind an aggressor without getting damaged. Obviously, people who have done their training against punchers and kickers will be able to do this with a reasonably high success rate. However, based on Roberto's experience, not many BJJ people actually do this sort of training, or not enough of it. So their lethal rear naked will not avail them of much more than the TKD stylist's deadly axe kick. 

Train your rear nakeds, by all means, but know that you need more. For beginners, the ordinary people with self-defense needs that Rickson is worried about, even rear nakeds or any other jiu-jitsu techniques, are not enough and may not even be needed. Rear nakeds are not the answer to every problem and are not without limitations.

Above. Rickson Gracie demonstrating jiu-jitsu self-defense technique against street assailant (portrayed by BJJ practitioner Beau Hershberger). Rickson and Beau are demonstrating the technique as it would be applied on a beach in Rio or Malibu (except for Beau's karate pants). (Note: Rickson's "jiu-jitsu" take-down is actually a wrestling technique known as a Barzagar. Brazilians call it "Bahiana.") 




Boxing!  At one time people learned boxing for self-defense, not just to watch on youtube. Even Rickson Gracie took boxing lessons (interview with his boxing teacher here). Carlson Gracie (the man who invented BJJ as we know it today) too was a fan of boxing. He believed boxing was actually part of jiu-jitsu (documented in Choque 3). Helio Gracie believed that boxing was a strong fight, second only to jiu-jitsu (see # 48, here).

Boxing is awesome. Probably Rickson doesn't teach boxing because he has more personal faith in jiu-jitsu (and is unqualified to teach boxing, relative to jiu-jitsu and compared to most boxing people). 

He could though. Boxing fundamentals are about the same as jiu-jitsu fundamentals, or at least, there are a lot of overlapping skills in terms of posture, movement, balance, leverage, sensitivity, sense of distance, and others needed for effective and efficient self-defense.

Tae Tad

We don't need to master an entire art to profit from it. A single tool can solve many problems if it is used skillfully.  

As Rorion might have said, back up your BJJ with Thai Tae Tad.

There is a technique that is even more efficient than a rear naked (when we consider the problem of getting position to be part of the technique). It also has a number of important advantages over boxing in many scenarios. That technique is taught in the awesome and distinguished art of Muay Thai. It is the Tae Tad (and the very similar Tae Pub Nok), otherwise known as the Thai leg kick. The technique is easy to learn, assuming a legitimate teacher, preferably Thai, and preferably in Thailand. Once learned, you will never forget. It is super high-percentage. There are only two ways to defend. One is to stay away, which basically stops the attack. The other is to "shield block". This is also easy to learn but requires a while to "dial it in". The only people who can apply this defense are people who have trained Muay Thai. Ninety-nine point nine percent of other people, including attackers, will soon be on the ground rather than attacking you. 

Since impact force is a product of weight times speed, we assume an average size individual. Since most people are average, this is a good technique for most people.  

To illustrate the point, consider the following. A 300 lb former world heavyweight boxing champion fights a more ordinary size, beginning level fighter (nine fights). The former champion is out of shape (300 lb after all), nevertheless boxers do not suddenly forget how to throw a hard punch when they lose their title, and with 300 lb behind it, it would be hard.

Riddick was not a great champion but he was far from the worst either. (See here for examples of better and worse boxing champions.)

For his own reasons, Riddick Bowe decided to get into a ring in Pattaya, Thailand June 14, 2013 with a Russian Muay Thai fighter named Levgen Golovin. Levgen was not small but he was considerably outweighed. He was also "in-shape". Riddick had trained in a local Muay Thai gym and was not completely ignorant about what to expect. He knew how to lift his leg to block low kicks.

Suppose you were Levgen. Or, suppose you are you. What are you going to do in the ring with "Big Daddy"?

Here's what Levgen did.

Riddick Bowe

Levgen Golovin

Punches Thrown

2 (left swing, left jab)

1  (left swing)

Punches Landed

1 (left jab)

1 (left swing)

Kicks Thrown



Kicks Landed



The fight can be seen here.

All of Golovin's kicks were right kicks to Riddick's left (forward leg). Several cut through to Riddick's right supporting leg when he was leaning on the ropes and raising his left leg to avoid getting kicked.

None of Golovin's kicks were blocked or avoided. Five put Riddick on the canvas. The other 13 caused him to break posture (disrupting both his offense and defense and in a few cases Riddick avoided dropping only by leaning against the ropes or holding the top rope with his right hand.

Golovin landed six kicks in the first round (one of which dropped Riddick), and the other 11 in the second round (four dropped Riddick, including the last one).

As a self-defense technique, Tae Tad/Tae Pub Nok is as good as they get. 

Naturally there is a little more to it than simply throwing the kick with mean intentions. Protecting the face while you kick is part of the technique, properly speaking. If you do what Demian Maia did against Nathan Marquardt, you stand a good chance of ending up on your ass. But then Nathan was a pro and prepared for this eventuality. On the street a typical aggressor is a "target rich environment."

Benefits to this kick include (1) it hurts. It took Golovin exactly three kicks to put Big Daddy on the floor. (2) It is low risk--cover your face and kick. (3) It is high percentage--if the attacker doesn't back off he's going to get kicked. And it's going to hurt. If he lifts his leg but doesn't have the proper conditioning, he's going to drop anyway. (4) If he reaches down after the first kick lands (as Big Daddy did, and most people will do) you can put your fist in his face (or in more advanced scenarios, kick to the back of his neck). (5) When he falls he will either crumble or roll, not smashing his skull on concrete and possibly dying  and bringing legal complications. (6) You are highly unlikely to sustain any noticeable self-injury, which is not the case if you apply close fist punches

Downsides include none. Shin conditioning comes with training and takes a few months or weeks to be able to withstand serious shin-on-shin contact. For street purposes you don't need this right away, because no one is going to be shin blocking with conditioned shins.

You don't have to become a Nak Muay (Thai boxer) to add this awesome technique to your arsenal.

But if you choose to dive deeper into the distinguished art, know that Muay Thai has devastating grappling and knee techniques. 

No 50-50s, worm guard, or berimbolos though.


GTR articles about Muay Thai in Thailand here.




Recommended Reading



(c) 2018, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

Updated October 7, 2021.



GTR Archives 2000-2022