Striking & Sparring

The Importance of Changing Rhythm in Martial Arts Training

The Importance of Changing Rhythm in Martial Arts TrainingChris and I were training last weekend with our Filipino martial arts instructor friend, Jesse Blue, as part of our development through cross-training. We were working on some punching response drills in which we would flow into various counter-strikes, locks and takedowns. At one point, Jesse reminded us of the importance of changing the rhythm of our attack when we are feeding punches to our partner. I quickly nodded in agreement, and made a mental note to write about it in more detail. So here we go.

Your rhythm within a combat situation should never be like a pulse. A steady beat is easier to track, predict and adapt to. As such, if you always feed your attack with the exact same rhythm when training, with the exact same length of pause between individual punches or between sets of attacks, your defending training partner starts to anticipate that rhythm, making it easier to perform their responses. Of course, we know that attackers all have different rhythms and won’t necessarily maintain that same rhythm throughout a fight so we do our partner a disservice to always use the same one.


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Why Pad/Bag Work Is Important for Developing Solid Striking

pad_work_bag_work_striking.jpgA while back, I wrote a blog post about why it’s important to make contact on a live training partner in order to develop good targeting. The problem with contact training with a partner is that you must exercise control and not use too much power on some targets. On other targets, you can’t make any realistic contact safely. To do this, we must use focus mitts, heavy bags and other types of striking targets. Hitting a target more solidly is not just about getting more of a workout while striking, though it does carry this benefit, it also gives us the opportunity to improving our striking technique.


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How to Develop Speedy Entries into Martial Arts Techniques

How to Train Speed of Entry for Martial Arts TechniquesThere are a lot of great reasons for wanting to train speed of entry of martial arts techniques. Your initial reaction in a self-defense situation is vital to determining the outcome of the altercation. The first contact you make has the potential to completely turn the tables on your attacker, and vice versa, if you’re caught off guard and take a bad hit right off the top, it’s a lot more difficult to recover effectively. Speedy entry into techniques is equally important in the competitive martial arts arena. The faster you move into a technique, whether it’s a strike, throw/takedown or submission, the more likely you catch your opponent off-guard. Speedy entry, of course, is only one factor among many, but it is an important one.

For smaller stature people like me, the speed of entry and application of techniques helps make the best use our natural agility, and advantage we have over many larger/stronger attackers or opponents. Regardless of size, speed of entry helps the defender make better use of the element of surprise. It helps you stay one step ahead of your attacker or opponent, making it harder to mount a defense, whether through the use of strength or technique. There are lots of benefits to improving speed of entry, so below are a few tips for effectively applying and training this concept. (more…)

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Focusing on Advantage & Opportunity Over Weakness & Liability

Smaller statured men and women often encounter many challenges in the martial arts related to their smaller strength, weight, height and reach. More often than not, they frustratedly struggle against their limitations, which frequently leads to their giving up early on in their career. Or if they stick with it, they sometimes settle for less with themselves, accepting that there are some things they will simply never be able to do well in the martial arts. This is what happens when you focus on your weaknesses and the liabilities they present. Over the past 20 years of training as a smaller statured woman, I’ve learned that the best way to compensate for so-called liabilities is to focus on developing my personal strengths and the unique opportunities they present. (more…)

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Finding the Stillness in Movement

footworkA few weeks ago, I was teaching a class in which I had students working on their boxing punches while moving forward and backward in a chasing/retreating drill.

In self-defense or live training exercises like sparring, it is rare that you would get to hit a completely static target unless you managed to stun or distract the person first. That’s why it’s important to practice target tracking and this drill covers one particular aspect of it. It allows you to practice striking while your target is moving backward or while you yourself are backing away for whatever reason. (more…)

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How to Hold Your Hands in Guard

There are a lot of different martial arts out there with a lot of different styles of hand positions that are used as their main fighting stances. The hand positions that are adopted are generally developed around the goals of the art. So in determining how you should hold your hands, you should keep this in mind. (more…)

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A Training Trick for Keeping Your Chin Tucked While Boxing

One of the most common mistakes people make when sparring, when they first start out, whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, or MMA, is that they fail to keep their chin tucked. Leaving your chin up, leaves it exposed and more vulnerable to shots to the chin, which can lead to getting your bell rung, strains in your neck, damage to the brachial plexus nerves (which originate from the neck and travel down the arm), or being knocked out.

A Training Tip for Keeping Chin Tucked While Boxing (more…)

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My Top 5 Favourite Stand-up Strikes for Self-Defense

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

Every so often a someone asks me that if I was only going to learn one strike for self-defense, what would it be? I don’t really have an answer for this, because I don’t believe that there is a magical strike that will be all things to all people in all scenarios, even if they practice it 10,000 times. I think Bruce Lee would probably agree with me, despite the evidence to the contrary above. When you take the concept to the extreme, the point becomes that much more plain, like in Episode 2, Season 1 of Enter the Dojo (below). (more…)

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How to Pull a Punch When Sparring

How to Pull a Punch When SparringSparring is a useful training tool. It allows you to work on your reflexes, distance and timing (as outlined in this blog post) , while adding a live element to your martial arts training. That being said, when sparring for training purposes, we never do so at full power and intensity without regard for our partner. There are a number of reasons we try to exercise control.

One reason is safety. If you’re sparring with someone and you get a clear opening, yes, you want to take advantage of it, but you don’t want to knock their block off, potentially knocking them out and causing them injury. Getting hit at all is more than enough feedback for the person to realize their error. Another reason is practicality. If your partner gets injured while sparring then they have to take time off training causing you to lose a training partner (or vice versa if you’re on the receiving end). Also, if the person is fairly new to sparring, they won’t learn as effectively through the “sink or swim” method due to the high levels of stress imposed from being constantly hit. And, of course, sometimes you or your partner are just feeling a bit off physically or mentally and are just not as sharp as you usually are when sparring. (more…)

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Using Video to Improve Martial Arts Form & Application

This past Sunday we worked with local boxing champion Louis Sargeant to improve our sparring skills. In the second half of the class, we all took turns doing some boxing-style sparring with Louis coaching us. As part of the experience, we decided to film everyone’s sparring so people can watch themselves and get a better idea of what things they need to work on. (more…)

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