Sacha Decosterd | A Technical Readout on Misdirection, Karate and MMA

Karate is freaking awesome. While the sport is plagued with stigma like that of point fighting and Tareg Hamedi being disqualified in the gold medal match at the 2020 Olympics due to, get this, knocking out his opponent too hard, the technique in karate can be absolutely beautiful. Today I want to look at a particular kick from the IKF this year. Our subject: Sacha Decosterd. Let’s begin.

First thing is first, kudos to the Karate Pathfinder team on Twitter for giving this clip some shine. If you’re a karate fan, they’re a must follow.

Misdirection and Deception: The Foundation of Sport

In the past we’ve talked about misdirection in depth with Cory Sandhagen’s defeat of Frankie Edgar in 2021. There, he led Edgar around the ring and abruptly changed directions on the execution of the flying knee to stiffen Edgar and leave him near-lifeless on the ground.

Figure 1: Cory Sandhagen knocking out Frankie Edgar with a flying knee

To start the fight, Cory Sandhagen starts by (1) circling the cage and having Edgar following him. For the majority of the fight, he’s circling to his left and conditioning Edgar to follow Sandhagen that way. (2) When he’s ready to throw the knee, Sandhagen stops and will shift to his right, opposite of the conditioning he’s put on Edgar. Edgar sees the shift as Sandhagen stopping the circling and sees it as an opportunity to advance. Sandhagen’s trap has been spring and (3) he will launch off the back leg and using it’s force to throw the flying knee.

Figure 1a: Cory Sandhagen flying knee on Frankie Edgar continued

Frankie Edgar is caught off guard by the sudden shift in direction (misdirection) and (4) the knee lands clean. All we are left with is a dead body (5).

In mixed martial arts we’ve also seen misdirection in the speed of Jorge Masvidal as he knocked out Ben Askren. There, Masvidal strolled out at the bell and then took off running and threw the knee. It wasn’t misdirection in the same sense of Sandhagen where he changed direction to land the blow, but instead it was the change of speed that classified Masvidal’s knee as misdirection.

Misdirection isn’t always about a death blow and is only a small part of the art of deception in sport, the foundation of competition. Trick your opponent and you score, be it a bucket, a punch or a knockout. To put it even simpler, if you can trick your opponent into believing you’re going to do something and then you do the opposite, you win.

Today’s we are looking at a short clip with tons to digest from it. Our subject on the magnificent art of misdirection: Sacha Decosterd.

Sacha Decosterd: Misdirection Exemplified

In this spectacular kick at the IKF, we see Sacha Descosterd utilize misdirection in an incredibly novel way, one we don’t see in competition often, if at all.

Figure 2: Sacha Decosterd and misdirection

In the pocket, Decosterd will drop a dime on his opponent. (1) He will start the point by spinning to his left. Showing his opponent the spinning heel kick from southpaw, the would-be strike surely will land on his left side. We can tell in figure 2 that the opponent of Decosterd was expecting that as well by how he keeps his hand high to block the kick on that side.

But Sacha Decosterd has something else in mind. (2) With proper form and looking back at his opponent, he will see an opening and sees his opponent reacting. He knows which way his adversary is expecting the strike to land from. He also knows that he is framing with both of his hands, opening up the right side for a point. What Decosterd will do here will be incredibly clever and effective.

Normally on the spinning heel kick, when you approach your opponent’s head, you’ll extend the leg at the knee and land the strike. Decosterd, knowing that the right side of his opponent will be available for a point, will instead (3) keep his lower half of his leg tucked, keeping himself free to move within the pocket and continue his turn just a hair more. There, Sacha Decosterd is able to (4) flick at the knee after passing up the guard that’s up on his opponent and land the kick to the head to score him the point.

The misdirection shown by Sacha Decosterd was an example of how one can be so creative in martial arts. This kick isn’t new, especially in karate, but it’s not one I’ve seen used in competition before. To see it actually score only lends credence to just how creative it truly is. It’s why we call it the martial arts. Sacha Decosterd expressed himself to his fullest potential with this kick and gave us a little more insight on what’s possible in the realm of misdirection.

Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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