International Kickboxer Magazine, Vol.17, No.1
Paul Slowinski is a more complete and successful heavyweight fighter than any other our region has produced. He has been a world Muay Thai Champion who trained extensively in Thailand and, in the last few years, has been taken under the wing of the most successful champion in K1 history, Ernesto Hoost. On Saturday February 18, a group of students at Melbourne’s best new gym, Hammer’s Gym in Blackburn, got the opportunity to find out what makes a champion when Paul taught a seminar. We got a chance to see what Hoost has been putting him through, but also got the opportunity to measure up against Australia’s best heavyweight.
Paul was a gracious, communicative teacher, who started by splitting the class into pairs. We began with drills work, the foundation of the Dutch method. The first exercise was slipping a jab and countering with a hook and a low kick. After a round of this, we learned to apply the same counter to a right cross. With both of these techniques under control, we added other counters for a low inside thigh kick and a high kick off the left leg.
Once each of these scenarios had been practised, Paul got us to mix them up. The drills work was demanding on all muscles, none more than the brain! To anyone who has watched K1, the method was very obviously Hoost’s. It was counter fighting based on an intelligent response to the opportunities an opponent’s attack provided. By having four possible scenarios to respond to, you had to be continually reading your partner to defend, and then respond with the appropriate counter.
Slowinski channelled the spirit of Hoost directly into the room for the next lesson; Hoost’s famous ‘zone defence’. The zone defence is all about covering one’s head with the back hand and forearm to step through an attack. Properly executed, the front hand is used to stiff-arm and push the opponent backward as they throw punches. This knocks them off balance and ties up their hands. The counter fighter can now step in and attack with leg kicks and knees.
Watching Paul explain and demonstrate the technique was exciting and inspiring, but like a kid with a new Lego set, it was another thing to make it look like what you saw on the box. Paul was very encouraging, telling stories about how difficult and confusing he had found the training with Hoost when he began. He stressed the importance of practice and patience, walking around the gym to offer encouragement to everybody.
After this, we got an opportunity to use what we had learned in a practical situation. A popular drill at Team Perfect is for the fighters to get into groups of three. One fighter stands in the middle with the other two at either side. They take turns attacking for part of a round. In this case, Paul had each attacker throw two punches, allowing the one in the middle to counter the attacks with whatever they liked. There was a lot of tension in the room after the demands of the drills, so the participants were pleased to be able to take it out on one another! The sparring drill sapped almost all of what was left of people’s fitness.
The last part of the seminar was consumed by conditioning exercises. Each group had to throw three sets of three punches to their partner’s mitts and drop to the floor for a sequence of push ups. To already burning shoulders, this was a lot less than fun. From here, Paul led us through a series of push ups, working in lower half and upper half of the range of movement, as well as having to hold in various positions. It wasn’t fully compulsory, though. He gave us the option of stopping, provided we stood up and told the rest of the seminar that we were whiny little bitches who couldn’t do it!
After this, half the class was sent to the punching bags, while the other half duck-walked in a crouch around the gym. The duck-walk built up lactic acid in the thighs, making sure there was plenty of pain. The other half of the class on the bags had to throw round kicks at a ridiculous pace as directed by their partner. It could have been low, mid or high, depending on how cruel your partner was, which was pretty cruel, given the outcome of the sparring!
People were relieved to finish, flopping down into exhausted pools on the mat for questions. Paul talked about the experience of training in Holland as opposed to Thailand, giving us a unique insight into the personal challenges he faced on his way to the Final 16. The cold weather, the isolation and intense brutality of the training sessions were major obstacles. From the drills and exercises we did, Paul showed us things that were very much a part of the great fighter he has become, and presented them to us as roads we could take to improving our fighting and training.