An inspiring day with Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace - Massimo Gaetani - Paul Barnett

Bill Wallace, Massimo Gaetani and Paul Barnett at Trinity College Cambridge

I recently had the opportunity of spending an entire day, including a 2 hours workshop, with Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace and here are some of my impressions about my time with this legend of modern martial arts.  It all started when Paul Barnett, a karate teacher which acts as his agent, contacted me offering a possible date for a seminar that I accepted without hesitation.  I previously met Superfoot in 2011 at a workshop organised by Colin Payne down in Kent but the opportunity of having him in my club with my students and instructors was not to be missed.

Bill arrived at London Heathrow with an overnight flight landing at 5:55am; Paul collected him and drove straight to Cambridge where they arrived just before 8:30am.  I was waiting for them at my clinic.  Bill recognised me from our previous, albeit very short and crowded encounter, but it was immediately as if we knew each other for a long time.  As he was very tired and jet lagged I allowed him to have a nap in one of our therapy rooms.

He woke up at about midday and we went together for lunch and then a coffee in town while visiting a couple of Cambridge Colleges.  The afternoon went by pretty fast and it was soon time for our workshop that lasted about two hours where Bill run through the basic concepts of his ‘Superfoot’ system and he was explaining how he kept winning fights in his career of undefeated 6 time world champion of Full Contact kickboxing.

BillFlexibilityBill is in late 60es and when you see him on the street he looks like a man of his age in a very good shape.  When he gets changed and starts warming up he just transforms in a different person; he is more flexible than most people I know and can kill with a speed and accuracy that must be seen live.

BillMassimoDinnerAfter the workshop we went out for dinner and it was about 9:30pm when Paul called it the day and moved on to their next destination for the workshop they planned for the second day of Bill’s 9 days staying the UK.

All of my students and instructors were thrilled by the idea of training with such a legend before we started.  After the workshop, they all confirmed how Bill exceeded any expectation.  There is no doubt that training with a legend like Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace is great from a technical point of view, for any martial artist that uses kicks.  However I gained more insights about his philosophy of life and training than I actually learn new techniques or strategies to win fights.  It’s great to speak to him about how  he met and/or trained with a huge range of celebrities within the martial arts, sports fighting and show business: Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley, Dan Inosanto, Dominique Valera and Benny Urquidez just mention a few.  The fact that at 67 he still training regularly and runs between 80 and 100 workshops per year in 2 continents is a great inspiration for all martial artists that, like me, are aiming at training until old age.  I hope there will be other opportunities to have a seminar with Superfoot in the near future; in the mean time I can say he really made my day.

Three Pros and Cons of the Superfoot style for Kickboxing

The video below is one of the many available videos from Bill “superfoot” Wallace and it offers great training tips to improve speed in your kicks.

I will analyse the basics about this amazing style of fighting and highlight what I believe to be the three main pros and cons.  Having met the Superfoot in person last year I can state that after over 30 years from his retirement from professional fighting he is still amazing and thought provoking for its simplicity, directness and applications.   However the Superfoot style has some characteristics that makes it unapproachable for many people.

In a sentence the Superfoot style can be defined as based on a side stance and guard where just the front leg and arm is used to attack, using very fast combinations of kicks and punches, with priority to leg techniques.

Pros of the Superfoot style:

  • It is simple and intuitive to use
  • It scores at all allowed ranges
  • It develops unexpected speed and often it surprises opponents when they get hit

Cons of the Superfoot style:

  • It requires very flexible legs and hips; most of the techniques and combinations will not work unless your flexibility is very good
  • It just works from side stance and guard; I personally like using kicks with the rear leg and combinations of punches from both hands that are not possible
  • It stops working when the opponent go past your kicking distance

I would suggest to every kickboxer to learn, test and analyse how the Superfoot can work for them.  It might not be for everyone but some of the basics, if your legs are up for it, can be very useful to apply in certain situations. However the very specific stance and guard makes it, in my opinion, too limiting to be the only style to use.

Another great lesson from Bill Wallace

The combination of Bill Wallace’s words together with some of the scenes makes this video from 1991 a great lesson about martial arts, its phylosophy of training and how we can improve even after many years of training.  I agree completely with these concepts and that’s why I am still training with the same, sometimes more, passion than when I started.  Enjoy and comment please:

Meet Bill Wallace: training with Superfoot

I wrote about Bill Wallace in the past and I explained about his amazing style built on very fast techniques and combinations always developed from the left side stance.  Given his strong knowledge about the human anatomy, built on a master in Kinesiology, he developed over the many years of his amazing career the so called “Superfoot” system that first helps to develop flexibility on the main groups of muscles involved in kicks and then teaches how to use, in a very effective way, the three kicks and the couple of punches on which he bases his system.

Earlier today I had the opportunity of finally meet one of my heroes in martial arts: Bill “Superfoot” Wallace was running a morning seminar organised by Colin Payne from TKO in Chatham (Kent, UK); although I found out about it just a few days before, I dropped all of my engagements and simply went there J  Bill Wallace was famous when I started Kickboxing in 1981 and I never had the opportunity of meeting him so this was a chance not to be missed.

At first impression Superfoot appears as very friendly and unassuming person: he arrived with a big smile and looking to “have some fun”.   Within minutes from his arrival we started with some warm up techniques, very similar to some I have seen on his DVDs and we worked out flexibility for both the hamstrings and internal adductors in order to help relaxing the muscles needed for the 3 main kicks that make up the Superfoot method:

  • Round kick
  • Side kick
  • Hook kick

Then we started some simple exercises to improve speed and coordination about delivering individual kicks from the above list; finally we worked at combinations that use either a punch (typically a jab or back fist) or one of these kicks as a preparation for another kick.

His philosophy was and is conceptually simple: keep hitting with one technique that works and hurts a bit and keep changing angle.  Although the repertoire is quite limited it just works.  It is about working on speed, surprising the opponent with techniques that will probably not knock him down straight away but will upset him many times, make him nervous and help building up for the eventual final strike while scoring many and many points in the process.

At 65 Mr Wallace is no longer a young man: from his face you could compare him to other men of similar age.  Looking just at his body most people will think he is at least 20 years younger and that is until he starts moving.  That’s when you think he could be 25 or 30 years younger.  He can stretch his legs more than the majority of kick boxers and other martial artists I know of.  When he was a professional fighter his kicks were of truly lightening speed but even now he can kick amazingly fast.  There were several under 30 at this seminar that could not do what he was demonstrating at the speed he was doing it.

Is he a super human (apart from the Superfoot)? Absolutely not! He simply (!) managed to improve his techniques to perfection and then he adds to his techniques an amazing knowledge of what works, what scores, what helps you winning.  Full contact kickboxing is today dominated by a number of good boxers that work out how to put a few round and front kicks within a rich combination of punches.  His technique and style is unique and I don’t know of any professional full contact fighter that could fight today in this style but still he can be described with similar words I heard by a TV commentator during one of his fights: “you know he will come from a left side stance and you know he will either kick side, round or hook kick; nonetheless he scores and he does it every time”.

Meeting Bill Wallace was an amazing experience and although the workshop was less than three hours long I took home a list of amazing tricks that I will surely add to my repertoire and I will start teaching straight away.  Thanks Superfoot, looking forward to seeing you again.

Stretching for kicks#2

High kicks have an arguable use in self defence although they display excellent athletic performance and look great.  In combat sports, particularly in full contact ones, many people have adopted techniques that limit kicks level to the waist and below.

Bill “superfoot” Wallace retired in the early eighties as undefeated world champion in the middle weight of full contact kickboxing: his combat strategy was always based on fantastic kicking techniques that often caught by surprise his opponents and knock them KO.  Wallace was not just good and superfast in kicking but he could shoot double of triple kicks with a single leg, using these techniques in the same way most boxers faint punching techniques.

In this video he shows some stretching for kicks, one of his legendary training exercises to help improving the central split particularly useful for round, side and hook kick.  Please enjoy the view and leave a comment: