You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘striking’ tag.
- Move the bag where you want it to go, don’t stay flat-footed or let it move you
- Hit it as it approaches and as it moves away
- Karate etc. folks: forget the stances and think about mobility, forget the pull back unless there is something to actually grab
- Work the bag at different ranges and heights. Think about 3-5 strike combinations that move up and down the bag at face and torso heights
- Explore close range hooks, uppercuts, elbows and knees. Your vocabulary can include more than straight punches or swings
- Avoid throwing swings- get close enough for hooks to stay tight, or be far enough that you can extend the arm 3/4 before impact
- Explore hitting the bag at non-optimal ranges and angles to simulate non-optimal conditions
- After each strike return to a guard that allows you to protect your face. Be watchful of the tendency to drop the hands after strikes
- Strike ballistically. Let the shoulders move faster than the hips. Motivate the strike from the shoulder, don’t tie it to the slower movement of the torso
- When going for impact, a higher-pitched ‘smack’ is a good sign, dull thuds are a sign of lower velocity
- Follow through is important, but do not adopt the habit of pushing into the bag
- A good round kick should fold the bag, not just bump into it
- Front kicks may land with more force if you use the heel instead of the ball of the foot
- If you train with a group that questions the need to ever hit things, spend some time hitting the bag and see how you do. All the air-punching in the world doesn’t do much for teaching one how to hit hard. Somewhere along the way this became a controversial idea in some circles
- If you train on the bag hard and heavy quite frequently, consider giving your arms and shoulders a break by incorporating 1-2 week recovery periods and investing time into regular stretching for the pectorals, biceps, triceps, lats, trapezius, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles
RIP, Ude Makiwara 1.0. Felled by a roundhouse kick in the prime of life. I put this thing in the ground roughly four years ago, and aside from the fungal growth around the bottom it held up pretty well. I learned more from this thing about how to actually hit than from anything else. Fortunately, I just happen to have a fresh log on hand for 2.0…
When training combinations on a heavy bag or pad, or working combos in sparring, pay close attention to what your hands and arms do immediately following and between strikes. A few tendencies are very common:
- dropping the hand to waist height in between strikes with a bent elbow
- pulling the hands all the way past the lateral line behind the body
- letting the entire arm hang straight at the waist
These are common habits, especially among people who are new to training, bag work or successive sparring. People who train in arts that emphasize a “pullback” motion in tandem with every strike are especially prone to it, and it’s a habit that should be discouraged. I understand the utility of a pullback to create a force-couple with the target, but it is absolutely useless unless something is actually being grasped and pulled back- keep the other hand near your face, where it can serve a purpose (keeping your face from being rearranged).
Ideally, you want to train in the habit of returning the hands to a guard that covers the face following each strike. I prefer a higher guard, but the happy medium between people’s personal preferences is one that places the hands someplace between the chin and temple. If this is something that you or a student has a hard time doing, try the following strategies:
- Adopt the habit of keeping your thumbs or palms in contact with your temples. You may not prefer a guard that is quite this high, but the tactile feedback of the thumb contact often works better than repeated verbal coaching about the location of the hands. Once you begin returning naturally to this position, thumb/skin contact with the temples is no longer necessary.
- Put your bag near a mirror (or a mirror near your bag) so that you can watch what your hands do.
- Ask a trusted training partner to slap you lightly in the face when your hands drop during a drill. Touching may get the idea across, but a few light slaps will provide quite a bit more motivation to keep your guard up between strikes.
- Take a resistance cable or band with moderate tension and wrap it across your upper back, in line with the shoulders. Grasp the handles at roughly chin height. As you strike the bag (lightly) the cable will produce higher tension, providing an external motivation to return them to your face as opposed to dropping. Don’t let the tension cause your elbows to flare too wide from the body.
Striking is the act of fitting a weapon to a target. Availability of targets may change very quickly, availability of weapons may change very quickly. Learning to recognize these changes and adapt to them requires more time spent striking targets that are moving unpredictably and changing range than targets moving predictably or not moving at all. The speed and intensity of these activities should be varied to emphasize different attributes: tracking/accuracy, reaction time, fluidity, and power. Tracking, fluidity and reaction time are more important than focusing exclusively on power. Reflection on which changes in target and range present the most difficulty is vital.
Hitting a moving target is one of the most inherently athletic skills that I can think of, and it’s an absolutely vital element in a martial artists’ tool box. I’m a strong advocate of the “hands off” approach of giving a student the conditions in which to explore range and which weapons to apply at different- and changing- ranges. Light moving targets, stationary targets, heavy moving targets and sparring all play an important role.
I’m amazed at how many conversations I’ve had with earnest karate/TMA people wherein they insist that distancing, timing, impact force management and the selection of the appropriate weapon (strike/technique) are best learned with minimal- or no- bag and target work. While some “traditional” martial artists insist that learning how to effectively hit something takes years to develop and master, it’s painfully obvious that a novice student can develop considerable skill in far less time if he or she is allowed to experience feedback instead of endless, abstract technical instruction. Several findings of the study provide insight into why this is so:
By allowing novice boxers
during the basic training sessions, when the
heavy bag practice is mostly used, to explore the
whole spectrum of constraints enabled by each
combination of parameters, they would learn
how to adjust emergent motor solutions to the
hitting task which are specific to their individual
organismic constraints. Once these efficient
coordination patterns have been established with
the heavy bag, learners could move to the task of
hitting moving opponents during light sparring…
…Novice boxers are able to discover and exploit
the scaled performer – target distance region that
affords maximization of the unpredictability (H),
diversity (S) and the efficiency ratio (E) of their
…Spontaneous emergence of boxer – boxer
coordinative states and strategic positioning as a
consequence of boxers’ perception of essential
interacting constraints points to the possibility
that practice should be less loaded with verbal
instructions from the coach to impose decisions.
Rather, practice could be directed towards
creating a variety of learning situations (by
manipulating the dynamics’ constraints) in
which trainees would themselves explore,
discover and thus adapt to the information …
Take a look at here for a large library of artistic representations of the combat sports from ancient Greece and Rome. Just about any technique that you might see in modern boxing, wrestling, Judo or MMA is represented.
The pig-on-a-rope punching bag under “Training Methods” is a particular favorite, but I doubt that I will be running out to the slaughter house any time soon.
As people debate naively on about which style or art is the best, these pieces are a nice reminder that there are only so many ways that one can punch, strike, kick, strangle or throw someone else. No one art or culture has any particular claim to any of them. Every culture has developed fighting methods, so a functional similarity should be expected.
In the final installment of the “Ude Makiwara: Notes on History, construction and Usage”, I mentioned that I would soon post some video clips of drills and training methods. It’s been more than a year and I’m finally getting around to putting some of these videos together-yeah, so timeliness is not a strong suit. The video linked below shows a very basic progression from simple straight punching into combinations utilizing circular strikes and basic footwork. In the next few weeks I plan to get some more videos up showing different drills that progress from simple skills to more sophisticated ones (hopefully before the year is out!)
“I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house.”
Note: this essay grew out of notes for an as yet unfinished review of Jack Dempsey’s 1950 book “Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense” and personal notes that developed over the course of a year of intensive work on punching
What does a black belt know about punching?
I first read about Jack Dempsey in an article written by Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo for Classical Fighting Arts in 2006. The article, entitled “Jack Dempsey, Master of Xingyiquan” focused on a boxing manual written by the 1919 heavy weight world boxing champion. As I began reading the article, I wondered what an old-school Western boxer had to do with an Asian martial art, or karate training in general. I was still in the “karate is superior to boxing because it uses the whole body” phase of thinking that some people go through early on in their training (and some never leave, to their detriment). The book in question, “Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense” (1950) seemed quaint and outdated, right down to the rolled up sleeves and pompadours in the accompanying illustrations. By the end of the article however, my interest was piqued, and suddenly my dichotomous conceptions of boxing and karate began to mutate some. The utter clarity of Dempsey’s cited examples set off a new train of thinking: regardless of styles or arts, punching is punching. Using the fists to damage or knock another person out is a skill that is governed by the same principles, regardless of the art that develops it. To borrow a phrase from Harry Cook, we all practice the “two hands, two feet, one head” style of fighting.
We all practice this style, but the training methods that one chooses to pursue can either develop or detract from making it practical and usable. After reading this article, I began to look objectively at the differences between the way that a boxer trains a punch and the way that karate people- both in general and at my particular dojo- trained punching. Before long, I reflected that boxers, on average, spend far more time than karate people hitting things: stationary targets, heavy bags, focus mitts, reflex bags/balls, and of course, other people (yes, there are exceptions, but I am addressing generalities here). Their learning environment is incredibly rich with varied stimulus (static targets, moving targets, responsive targets, non-responsive targets) and opportunities to apply their skills under varying levels of pressure. Simply put, the best way to get good at hitting things is to hit things. I had earned shodan a year earlier, but I did not feel like I was hitting any harder, faster or better. Despite the fact that the dojo I trained in spent a considerable amount of time on pad work, and a makiwara and heavy bags were present and well-used, it was clear to me that despite hard, frequent training, my own punching ability was not what it needed to be (and this is in no way a disparaging reflection on my teacher- it was a critical look at my own pursuit of the skill).
I’ve noticed lately that during my personal training time, I tend to default to a few combinations when it comes to working the heavy bag or ude makiwara. I may reshuffle the various techniques into different orders, but after awhile the same 4-5 strikes manifest themselves. Straight left, outside right hook, lead uppercut, hammer fist on the return, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having a few specialty techniques ingrained from doing lots of bagwork and from sparring experiences, but at some point a habit becomes a limitation. A problem made itself obvious: how can I incorporate a degree of randomness into this training time, thereby moving outside of certain habits, without becoming unproductive? I’ve also noticed that people learning karate generally learn best when they have “discovered” something for themselves rather than being given every minute detail and then told to master it all. So how to incoproprate this into my solo training, as well as for working with others?
In between rounds on the heavy bag last night, my mind wandered to thinking about getting some index cards for making flashcards of each unfamiliar word or phrase that I come across as I read through a collection of Latin American short stories in Spanish (another summer project). Look it up, use it in a variety of contexts, combine it with what I already know, learn it . And as I went back to the bag, I wondered “why not do that with striking combinations?” So I grabbed 50 or so index cards and wrote a different strike on each one:
For each strike I also included cards with simple variations, such as front hand/leg, rear hand/leg, low and high, to address all of the variables for using that technique. I also threw in some ‘wild cards’ that read “switchback,” “turning,” and “shifting” to incorporate some basic footwork into the deck. The result? A very effective way to train combinations and force your body to work in ways that you might ordinarily neglect. Below are four samples of random combos that I drew while training yesterday evening:
In these FOD (Flashcards of Doom) I found a very effective answer to my problem. Partner or not, I can shuffle through the deck and stretch both my brain and body a bit. I had a couple of willing students try them while doing some pad work this morning, with very good results. By the end of it they were moving through even the most counter-intuitive combos with fluidity and power. Give it a shot- just get a packet of index cards and write out your vocabulary of strikes and footwork. When you come across techniques that are new to you, or that you are uncomfortable with using freely, add them to the deck. Shuffle thoroughly and you’ve got hours of fun on your hands. Well, maybe not fun, but you will find yourself working combos that you’ve never thought of, and realizing that you have certain bad habits (dropping your hands between techniques, bad balance in transitions, pausing when throwing continuous strikes from the same limb etc). And you’ll be suprised at how much the random combo training eimproves the rest of your practice.