Editors note: This was an interview that I conducted on my own and have sold to other websites in the past. It is now only readable at Diesel Gym London’s Website, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This new version of the article, keeps the interview as it was, but has added additional material to give more insight into kickboxing history. Some photos have been used with permission of Mr. Carbin.
In 2017 I sat down with renowned kickboxing legend Lucien Carbin, to discuss his approach to training, technique and his career. One of the pioneers of Dutch Kickboxing, Carbin has coached a legendary roster of fighters including: Tyrone Spong, Tiffany Van Soust, Ilonka Elmont, Andy Ristie, Alistair Overeem, Fedor Emelianenko, Gilbert Yvel and kickboxing legend Rob Kaman.
On Getting Started
Andrew: First, I want to say thank you for agreeing to this interview, I’ve read that you initially started out in Kyokushin Karate and Kickboxing with Jan Plas (at Mejiro Gym), do you feel that karate has been as large an influence for you, as it has other Dutch kickboxers?
Lucien: Yes. I think so, but I didn’t start with Jan Plas, we were both students of Jon Bluming (the founder of Kyokushin in Holland). I think Kyokushin is a very good base for kickboxing.
Andrew: Well they’re both quite similar aren’t they, both styles have good low kicks and knee strikes. So how did you become involved with Thai Boxing, and how did you approach mixing your karate with Thai Boxing?
Lucien: So when Jan Plas went to Japan, he wasn’t allowed to train with Mas Oyama. He went walking here and there and he saw Mejiro Gym and went inside. When he returned to Holland he told me that I have to focus on kicking low, because I was a great admirer of Bruce Lee, and I was only kicking high.
So I started developing my own way of kicking low. In my style I use all of the Kyokushin Kicks. In Muay Thai you only see two types of kicks: low and round house kick. And when I was training Kyokushin, I always trained wearing boxing gloves.
Andrew: And over time from this training, you developed what you call ‘All Style Muay Thai’, is that right?
Lucien: No, I called it Carbin All Style, here is my logo.
Andrew: So when you train fighters in Carbin All Style, do you train them to fight in the way you did? Or did you change the style after you retired?
Lucien: I like them to work hard on foot work. It’s a way of defending, and through the years we have to change and update the style. I know some gyms in Holland are training the same style over and over again. Every day we develop the style. I approach every fighter different with the basics of Carbin All Style, because every fighter is unique.
Andrew: So It’s a very fluid approach to teaching. A technique I often see your fighters do, is punch while they are recalling the kick, or throw a knee strike while their arm is coming back from a punch. How did you develop these unorthodox combinations, and why do you like them?
Lucien: I like watching athletics, and I noticed that all the sprinters I would see have powerful arms. So they used the arm to pull the leg forward. I used the same principle, but for kicking. It’s very easy, you don’t need to use any power.
Andrew: So punching and then using the arm to pull into the kick or knee to increase the power?
Lucien: Yes, you cain more speed.
Andrew: That’s quite interesting because I think most fighters expect a combination to end after a kick, so it must hurt more when a surprise punch comes.
Lucien: A surprise punch always hurts and most of them are KO’s.
Andrew: Something I notice is your fighters don’t always fully rotate their hips on round kicks, the way Thai’s do, or how we do in London. Why do you prefer that method?
Lucien: Well it depends. We have three kinds of round house kicks. 1 to set up the punch after. 1 to kick on the arm like a Thai fighter would. And 1 to change the angle of the kick.
Andrew: So that shorter kick makes it easier for your fighter to punch immediately after? With that sprinting motion?
Lucien: Yes, with one round house kick, our hip is going back and the other round house kick goes forward. It depends on the follow-up technique.
On Fedor Emelianenko
Andrew: Even Fedor Emelianenko, the greatest MMA fighter of all time, copied your method to beat Cro Cop after training with Tyrone Spong.
Lucien: He was actually training at our gym at the time. I was at that event, but I was cornering Alistair Overeem, so I unfortunately couldn’t be in Fedor’s corner.
Andrew: So what did you think of Fedor from a kickboxing perspective?
Lucien: He is very, very strong. He has a powerful front kick, it’s a pity he doesn’t use it.
Andrew: I suppose maybe he was worried he would push his opponent away, when he wants to get close and throw.
Lucien: Yes, he was also concerned about Cro Cop’s left round house kick, as it was his strongest weapon.
Andrew: And he just forced Cro Cop backwards in that fight, to stop him throwing the left round house kick, was that something you told him to do?
Lucien: Yes, when we were checking how Cro Cop moved. I noticed he would make one step too many before he would kick. Because his footwork wasn’t good before he kicked, he was always late to the kick vs Fedor.
Andrew: So you were able to coach a grappler to victory against a scary kickboxer. You got Fedor to beat Cro Cop at his own game.
Lucien: Yes, I told Fedor not to focus on the round kick, but on his own way of attacking.
On Falling Out with Andy Ristie
Andrew: So, quite a lot of your fighters have had success in K-1, but now it seems that Bellator and Glory are the best places for kickboxers to earn money. Is it harder for people to make a living in the sport now?
Lucien: Yes, it’s harder, because in Glory you need to have good friends. We’re fighting in KunLun (China) and Russia. We don’t fight at Glory?
Andrew: How do you mean good friends?
Lucien: It’s not the best fighters competing at Glory, just a select group.
Andrew: I had noticed some fighters at Glory have had an easier time getting to a title shot than others. Although, it was you who coached Ristie to the Glory Championship.
Lucien: Yes, but a couple of days before the fight, he wanted to fight with one of my assistants, and we can’t allow that to happen. So after that we separated, Andy’s attitude was too much. We follow the old Kyokushin rules, Andy wanted to fight one of my sensei’s, Andy had personal problems with him and took it to the gym.
Andrew: So you had to ask him to leave?
Lucien: Yes, we haven’t seen him since.
Andrew: After Ristie left your gym in 2013, he looks like he has a lot of trouble controlling the distance against shorter fighters, losses to Robin Van Roosmalen and Davit Kirtia, and hasn’t fought in two years. Could you see yourself ever working with Ristie again for a future comeback?
Lucien: No way! Once a trouble maker, always a trouble maker.
Andrew: He has this great killer instinct, but it seems like you’re the only one who can manage him well enough in the ring to have success at the higher levels.
Lucien: That’s completely right.
Andrew: When you’re at those high levels, how do you manage it. Do you feel pressure when your fighters are competing in world championships?
Lucien: Not at all, the only pressure is whether they’re going to listen to me or not. That’s the most important thing in the whole fight.
Andrew: So one final question, I first discovered you through some amazing Padwork you did with Ilonka Elmont, which was very different from what I’d seen before. What do you think the most important techniques are for an aspiring fighter to learn?
Lucien: Balance and the use of his body. And of course the number one weapon, his eyes. Petrosyan’s number one weapons are his eyes.