A 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.
Creating Feedback Loops
Yesterday, I was reading a great book, Bounce by Matthew Syed, which discusses a variety of techniques for getting more out of one’s practice. One of these concepts was the feedback loop. Some forms of practice are better for developing one’s abilities more quickly because they give more feedback which the practitioner can respond to by adjusting their technique. Others require the constant attention of an instructor, which is impractical in most martial arts class environments. A common example is striking in the air or doing kata. In the early stages of development, the student with no experience requires constant instructor attention in order to receive constant feedback. Doing pad/bag work, on the other hand, provides a feedback loop. When you hit a pad or bag incorrectly, it doesn’t feel quite right, even uncomfortable. The student can note this and make corrections to get the right feeling on impact, much the same way a training partner can provide direct feedback on targeting accuracy.
Starter Notes for Doing Pad/Bag Work
The student, of course, still needs to learn how to strike properly when doing pad/bag work in the early stages. Students need to learn how to strike in a way that doesn’t cause injury to themselves, while also maximizing efficiency of movement for power output. Instructors should be sure to caution new students to start out by making light to moderate contact only at first. Until students get the hang of good technique, they risk injuring various joints depending on the technique. Once technique becomes more consistent, power levels can be increased more safely. Personally, I like to work on technique using bare hands, even for punches. Boxing gloves offer wrist extra support that you wouldn’t have in a real self-defense situation. That being said, if you’re doing bag/pad work with the idea of building your punching strength, it’s safer to do so with gloves as you end up subjecting your hands and wrists to a lot more impact. Regular training like this can cause stress injury to your hands.
Now over to you: do you use pad/bag work in your training? How do you find it beneficial in your practice. Please share your thoughts in the comments. 🙂