The foundation of mastery is basics. It’s very difficult to go back and fix bad habits. The longer you train and older you are, the harder it becomes. Here are some fundamental concepts that will help you improve your martial arts training no matter the style or level.
If you’re a beginner, think about these points and how you can implement them in you training.
For the more advanced, compare these to what you’re currently doing. If there’s something here that you’re not thinking about, work on adding it to your technique.
Let’s get to it!
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is often overlooked. I’ve seen both martial arts fighters in the ring and students in training get ‘gassed’ way too easily. There are no two ways around it. You need oxygen for energy. You need the energy to execute blocks, punches or evasive manoeuvres.
- Instead of holding your breath, exhale in short bursts. You always should have a reserve of oxygen in the tank in case you have to defend, attack or escape.
- Coordinate your breathing with the execution of technique. This includes striking and blocking.
- Inhale when you are not within striking distance of your opponent (or between combos if working on basics).
- Click here for a quick video by JT of Precision Striking on proper breathing technique.
Technique Over Speed and Power
In the martial arts, technique is paramount. Not that speed and power aren’t important. They definitely are in a fighting situation. But without proper technique, speed and power are meaningless. I see a lot of students, mostly beginners, rushing through combinations. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- Take the time to get a new move right. If that means doing it really slow, do it slow. Perfect practice makes perfect execution.
- Ask questions. Ask your instructor/coach/trainer why a certain move is done a certain way.
- Experiment with your own technique. Everybody is different. What works for some may not work as well for you. Take time when working in the ring or by yourself to test out different scenarios.
Concentration vs. Relaxation
The strongest technique is executed when you concentrate your strength and power at the end of a technique. If throwing a front kick – in martial arts like Karate or Muay Thai – the concentration of your power would be on the ball of your foot as you strike the opponent. When you are recoiling your kick, you are bringing yourself back to a relaxed state. This applies to any technique from a Karate punch to a Muay Thai round kick to a Boxing cross.
Think of a whip. In order to have maximum effect, a handler cracks a whip by throwing it and pulling back on it at just the right time – taking it from a relaxed state to a concentrated state and back again. That’s what your techniques must resemble.
Hips are the suppository for all your power. Without twisting your hips, your strikes and blocks will be ineffective. It’s the turning of the hips that generates the explosiveness you need.
A common misconception is that punches come from the arms. That is true in part, but the punch thrown by the arms is just an extension of the motion the hips are going through. Just watch any Mike Tyson fight and you’ll see what I mean.
There are several components to throwing a strong punch.
- Aim for a full extension. Hooks and uppercuts aside, the most power you can generate from a jab or a cross is by extending your arm until there’s almost no bend in it. A straight line from your shoulder to the end of your knuckles is what you’re aiming for.
- Hit with the first two knuckles. Like the last point, this is when you’re punch is at it’s strongest. Anything other than your first two knuckles and you risk rolling your wrist.
- Turn your hips. As explained previously, the source of your power lies in your ability to turn your hips.
- Turn over your punches (so your fist is horizontal) as it lands.
The stop-hit is a martial arts technique that can be best seen as an ‘interruption’. Think of the adage “The best defence is a good offence.” Instead of a series of choreographed movements like the standard partner work, a fight is a fluid thing.
If you see an opportunity, capitalize on it. It will throw off your opponent’s rhythm and may create other openings. Instead of waiting for an opponent’s hook, you could hit them with your cross.
When to throw a stop-hit (from Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee):
- On the opponent’s preparation of stepping forward.
- To stop your opponent’s attack while their arm is still bent.
- When the opponent feints very wide, exposing their guard.
- Against an attack with wide, badly directed hand movements.
- Before applying immobilization (using a direct or indirect stop-hit).
- On the first feint from the on-guard position before lunging with a real attack.
Of course, the stop-hit requires precision, accuracy and timing. It’s something you should practice and have in your arsenal. To see what a stop-hit looks like, click here.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee
Best Karate: Comprehensive by Masatoshi Nakayama
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Thanks and have a great day!