Chris 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.
How to Change Rhythms Productively
Being an uke or training partner in the martial arts involves a level of trust. We have to trust that our partners are there to help us learn, not to bolster their own egos. If the training partner changes rhythm with the purpose of tripping up their partner just to see them falter, physically or psychologically, they bring a negative atmosphere to the partnership. Even if it’s not mean-spirited in nature, making the rhythm changes more challenging than your partner is ready for also does them a disservice. If it’s too challenging for them to able to pick up the rhythm, they just get frustrated with being unable to progress. That’s not to say students should only feed attack rhythms that they know their partner will succeed in handling. You have to push them a little past their comfort zone so they can step up their game to meet the challenge.
Keeping It Safe
The changes in rhythm to challenge our partners might mean that occasionally your partner will miss doing a block. Make sure that whatever you do, you are able to pull your strikes quickly enough to keep from landing damaging blows. If you’re not capable of this, scale back the speed until you are.
Changing Rhythms in Different Contexts
While we were focused on punches and blocks, you can apply rhythm changes to any type of attack, whether it’s strikes, grappling techniques (standing or ground), submissions, weapon work, etc. Try it for yourself, and please feel free to comment with how it affects your training. 🙂