Why punch when you can kick?

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Why punch when you can kick?

Postby Thomas Kurz » May 26, 2008 09:15

I decided to post here one of my recent mailings to the Stadion's list, because I think it can begin an interesting discussion among m.a. instructors, and especially among tkd instructors. So, here it goes:

In a recent mailing I answered questions from a karate fighter
who injured his arms. His injury was consistent with poor
punching form--overextending his elbow and overrotating his fist.

I told him how to correct his arm movement so that he wouldn't
injure his muscles when practicing punches (you can read my advice
at http://www.stadion.com/mailings/mailing05092008.html ).

There are more errors in poorly taught martial artists' punches:
wrong wrist alignment, elbows out, shoulders up, excessive tension,
and poor hip action are the most common.

The causes of those errors are:

1. Poor example--from fake instructors;

2. False belief that kicks are so superior to punches that one may
neglect punching practice.

The second cause compounds the first one--those aspiring "martial
artists" don't work with punching equipment (bags, balls, etc.)
enough to acquire good form.

The end result, which I have seen at my clinics and workouts, was
(and still is) that the vast majority of people who came to learn
kicking didn't know how to punch. How do these people expect to set
up their kicks, or mix them in combinations with punches (and how
have they obtained their rather dark belts)?

I have seen too many matches, mostly of taekwondo players and some
point fighters, in various tournaments and championships, in which
opponents moved as if their arms were injured. They hardly used
them at all. It is as if they didn't know that good punches set up
kicks by creating openings in an opponent's defense. At the same
time, punching combinations "pull" kicks and give them more power--I
show this on the Clinic on Stretching and Kicking DVD.

At a close distance, poor punching skills make fighters miss
opportunities for scoring points, for putting their opponents off-balance
and thus setting up a few good kicks, or for knocking some wind out
of them. All those taekwondo players who don't punch when up close
are laughable. And so is their explanation that punches don't score
points because they can't get the "trembling shock" on someone
wearing a chest protector. Believe me, if you punch correctly, from
up close, the chest protector won't really nullify a good uppercut
to the floating ribs or to the solar plexus. An opponent who gets a
good shot to the stomach or is knocked down will lose confidence
and will be easier to score on with kicks.

BTW, you can subscribe to Stadion list at http://www.stadion.com/stadion_subscribe.php
Thomas Kurz
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby gwhite » May 26, 2008 12:00

Hi Master Kurz,

I have been meaning to write you and say what a pleasure it was to meet you at the tournament in Montpelier a few weekends ago. As I said I have enjoyed reading your books and watching the Stadion Videos and using the concepts and practices in teaching my Taekwondo program. Your expertise on proper stretching and exercise methods has been very valuable to me and my students.

I agree with your points about the importance of proper punching technique. However, I wanted to respond to your comments on Taekwondo fighters in the following section of your latest E-Newsletter.

All those taekwondo players who don't punch when up close are laughable. And so is their explanation that punches don't score points because they can't get the "trembling shock" on someone wearing a chest protector. Believe me, if you punch correctly, from up close, the chest protector won't really nullify a good uppercut to the floating ribs or to the solar plexus. An opponent who gets a good shot to the stomach or is knocked down will lose confidence, and will be easier to score on with kicks.

A good punch to the chest pad in Olympic Style Taekwondo can be devastating when applied with proper technique and timing. However Olympic Taekwondo stylist fight the way they do for a reason (arms down, and relaxed or with a low guard).

You do not see the punches you describe being used, because the rules do not encourage them by awarding points for these techniques. Punching, even when applied with power rarely result in a point in Olympic Style TKD.

Considering, the vast majority of kicking exchanges are roundhouse kicks to the mid section, having the arms down or in a low guard makes it easier to cover the mid section during the fast, and simultaneous exchanges of kicks seen in Olympic Style Taekwondo.

Furthermore, the punches that do score in Olympic Style TKD are typically "Cover Punches". That is covering an incoming round house kick, and punching to the hogoo at the same time. This timing turns the punch into a "stiff arm" style attack, and can stop the forward momentum of the opponent particularly well because they are standing on one leg. A follow up kick is common and will be the technique to score more often then the punch itself.

Athletes will migrate to what is most effective, within the rules of the sport. You would never see two Olympic fighters squared off at a close distance exchanging body punches, it would be a waste of energy, and counter productive to the ultimate goal of winning the match.

Obviously these items are specific to the sport of Olympic Style Taekwondo and would not apply to Self Defense training, Kick Boxing, or other combat sports where punching is scored more heavily.

Respectfully,
Gordon White

--
The Blue Wave Taekwondo School llc
Gordon White
182 Main Street
Burlington, VT 05401
(802)658-3359
http://www.bluewavetkd.com
http://bwtkd.blogspot.com
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby tyciol » May 28, 2008 21:52

I like both the analysis and the reply here, they explore some stuff I just didn't think about.

Even though TKD tournaments lead to sparring a certain way, I think that having limitations and directions people head in under certain rules can be valuable for developing certain skills and abilities. Just so long as they don't limit someone's actual combat habits I don't see the harm, and actually see the benefit in it.

It's sort of like fighting with a hand tied behind your back. You'd never do this in a real fight, but training that way can teach you to use your other arm better if you rely on it too much.
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby tsdsensei » May 29, 2008 01:20

Competing for points, for trophies etc. is nice if that is what you consider your past time. Some people golf, some play tennis and others play martial arts. Martial is war or warrior arts. I can speak from personal experience that you will do in the street what you practice in the dojo or dojang. You develop muscle memory, you develop psychological conditioning whether it is good or bad you will have it.
If you do most of your practicing with your hands down, focusing on kicks and ignoring opportunities to use hand techniques you will do the very same thing in the heat of battle. During a real conflict your heart rate goes up, adrenaline rushes in, blood pressure rises and peripheal vision fails and you get tunnel vision. One master instructor described fancy techniques in a street fight as similar to having fingers like sausages that fail to efficiently use whatever the latest fancy technique is that you learned last week.
I was a police officer and have done private security including some individual body guard work. At 2:00am some stranger decides he does not care for you and wants to hand you your head, you have very little time to take correct action or you are in a world of hurt. If you or your family is attacked in the parking lot of Walmart you would be very foolish to start throwing jump spinning kicks at the assailants face while being on an uneven surface with stones, broken glass, coke cans and whatever else someone else left behind. Bruce Lee was famous for the incredible high kicks he threw in the movies. Yet in his writings he maintained that high kicks were not practical for real life self defense due to their many inherent weakness's.
One of my ranks is a 5th dan in Tang Soo Do and in the dojang I love to throw a good spinning hook just as much as the next guy. However that is not what I teach my students to do in real life self defense situations. Hands up guarding the face, an off set boxers stance, focus on strong punches, quick snap kicks to the lower body, no higher than the waist, move in close and use powerful knee strikes and elbows. That wins fights. If it did not you would not see more and more law enforcement agencies including Federal agencies taking more and more classes in arts such as Krav Maga, Hagannah, some Muay Thai etc.
I am not opposed to tournaments as long as the instructor and his students do not harbor the illusion that point fighting equates good self defense for the street. On a side note there are some styles such as Kyokushinkai, kick boxing and others that by their very nature are highly agressive and taught with a realistic attitude and with techniques that work in the real world.
My opinions are not always popular with commercial martial arts schools teaching tournament style martial arts. However I have 37 years, 6 black belts, instructors who taught law enforcement and the military and friends who are defensive tactics instructors with the FBI and other agencies. They teach as I do because it works and the fancy stuff often fails.
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby gwhite » May 29, 2008 11:00

tsdsensei,

My reply to Mr. Kurz had nothing to do with Self Defense readiness, or an argument that good punching skills were not valuable. My comments were specific to Olympic Taekwondo - a Sport, in the same way that Judo, Boxing and Wrestling are sports.

You are clumping athlete training in with self defense training. Suggesting that Taekwondo players are not prepared for self defense because they do not practice self-defense style hand strikes, is like suggesting that boxers are not prepared for self defense because they do not practice kicking skills. Or even better - that baseball players are not prepared for their sport, because they do not practice dribbling a basketball.

Not all Taekwondo schools are the same, but I can tell you about mine. We have a full curriculum for recreational students, calisthenics and stretching, basic techniques, forms, self defense, sparring. For students interested in pursuing Competitive Taekwondo, they are treated as athletes, and trained to excel in their sport.

Gordon
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby tsdsensei » May 30, 2008 04:35

I am always encouraged to hear of schools that are well balanced and teaching all aspects of any given art regardless of the base being Korean, Japanese, Chinese etc. I would like to address a couple of your points. Your reference to Judo, boxing and wrestling as sports is mostly correct. As a result from a general sense, not 100% of the time, judo players and wrestlers don't do well in street fights. Grapplers or if you want to call them jujitsu people generally fare much better as they are often better prepared for tough confrontations. Boxers on the other hand are generally much better conditioned than the average martial artist. They are trained physically and mentally to take a solid punch. A year or two ago the Discovery Channel used scientific research and testing methods to compare boxers, Japanese karateka, Tae Kwon Do practitioner, a Kung Fu man, a Ninja and a Brazillian Jujitsu rep I believe one of the Gracies. Guess who had the greatest destructive ability in his hands. Yes the boxer. A boxer has the ability to deal crushing strikes with his hands and yet he has his weakness's to. Mike Tyson one of the most feared boxers of all time got into a street fight in New York City a number of years ago during the peak of his career. Mike punched the other guy out and broke his own hand. Boxers like many athletes become dependent on the specificity of their sport.
While I have no hard and fast statistic there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that tournament fighters whether they be Korean, Japanese/Okinawan or whatever make poor hand to hand combat people in the street. Read some of the better professional journals and the concensus is tournament fighting gives a person a false sense of being able to defend themselves.
Baseball and basketball players are not prepared for nor do they consider hand to hand combat. Have you ever watched baseball players fight on the field. They look like a bunch of girls slapping each other with little effect. I recently saw an article of great concern for professional athletes. The article stated a serious safety issue and interviewed many professional athletes as proof of the growing problem. The problem is there are numerous examples of an increased number of assaults on professional athletes. The people interviewed for the report included current athletes, retired athletes and security specialists. Their growing solution is to legally or illegally arm themselves with handguns. Many get licenses for concealed carry and take lessons to learn how to shoot effectively. They are athletes in their prime and would probably do remarkedly well in a martial arts school but their choice is to go with deadly force with nothing available to them prior to using a high capacity semi-automatic handgun. I was a police officer and had a force level continuum. Verbal talking the person down, hands on to restrain, hand strikes, arm bars, wrist locks, baton strikes, pepper spray and if available use of the taser. Then when all else failed or if the initial contact was already involving deadly force then the officer could use deadly force to save himself or another party. With these professional athletes I was concerned because their solution is to go from non-combative to deadly force in a split second.
Several years ago I was reviewing a tape of security officers at a local Kmart taking a shoplifter into custody. It was of particular interest because the individual was known to be a 3rd dan in Tae kwon Do. The tape showed a young man in his mid 20's approx 6' 3" of medium build rolling on the ground in the parking lot with a manager who was overweight and in horrible physical condition. His experience with Tae Kwon Do gave him no clue of what to do with someone who just reached out and grabbed him.
Do not misunderstand I am not slamming Tae Kwon Do, I do reserve heavy criticism for schools that teach point "karate" for the purpose of competition and yet give their students the false impression they are prepared for real life self-defense. I trained a group of middle school students for 3 weeks of a section of gym class in a private school. On the last day of class the students told me that "Sue" had been attacked the night before in the parking lot of a local grocery store in a "good neighborhood". I didn't see her and became concerned about her getting hurt. She was just late for class. "Sue" was an average size 14 year old slender (weighing no more than 110lb) cheerleader and had not an agressive bone in her body. According to the police report she was grabbed from behind by a male of approx 5'10" and 170 to 190lb in size. He grabbed her in a bear hug lifting her off the ground having her hands pinned as he put his arms on top of hers. She tried 3 things. I had taught her to break a finger or thumb and she couldn't grasp it in the dark. So she arched her back and kicked straight back and up catching him in the groin. He dropped her while he was bending over from the blow. She then threw a front snap kick at waist height which is where his face was. The blow struck with sufficient force to break either his nose or lips as some of his blood sprayed on her shirt which the police confiscated for DNA testing. He then ran in one direction for his car while she ran towards the store and her mother.
My point is that "Sue" got a little bored with 90 minute classes 4 days a week for 3 weeks because she repeated a few things a lot. When the chips were down she had muscle memory to do what she had been practicing. For a young lady who had no previous martial arts experience I think getting two out of three isn't bad!
In the martial arts world we need to be concerned what we are selling people. When a parent brings a child to me I pointedly ask if their interest is to go to some tournaments to win trophies. About 2% of them show interest. I train them for that with the clear understanding that their child may not know how to fight his or her way out of a paper bag. I accompany the student to a safe competition and they usually do well. They usually lose interest the fastest and quit. The last two took 1st and 3rd place at the state sparring championships. They quit in less than 6 months.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with competition in the martia arts. Just don't be deluded that skills aimed at point fighting which is basically a game of tag will serve you in the street. I will end on this last point. One night I was called to a bar with the reported attempt of a rape of a young woman. The young woman was hysterical and we were having a difficult time getting a clear story of what happened and who to look for. After a few minutes of questioning her boyfriend came out of the bar and confronted me. In watching his dilated pupils and blood shot eyes it became quickly clear that he was convincing himself that I was the rapist in spite of the fact that I had a blue uniform on, a marked police cruiser and hadn't been at that bar in two days. I saw a little flex of a shoulder muscle and a change in expression and reflexively drew my weapon and told him I would kill him if he brought his hand out from behind his back with a weapon. We were about 8' apart and FBI statistics show you have about a 90 to 95% chance at failure to stop a knife attack at that range. Short end of the story is that my partner got cut during the search for the weapon which turned out was a razor he was going to use to horizontally slash my throat with. What saved me was a good and wise instructor who took me aside when he learned I was going into law enforcement. He altered my training some and then imparted a lifetime of lessons learned. Fortunately I was paying close attention to the lessons dealing with drugged people and body positions and battle tactics. I owe that Sensei my life. That is why my opinions may come across as harsh and certainly highly opinionated. My intent is meant to try to save innocent people from being the victims of senseless violent criminals.
TSDSensei
I am a 49 year old martial artist with 32 years & 5 black belts. I teach Tang Soo Do with a little Wado-ryu. Being 49 I can always use suggestions on training methods that work for my age without overdoing it.
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby Thomas Kurz » May 30, 2008 11:05

tsdsensei,

You have veered off topic. This thread is about punching/striking techniques and tactics in competition. Neither in my original Q&A e-mail (see http://www.stadion.com/mailings/mailing05092008.html ), nor in the first post in this thread do I mention self-defense. So let's stick to the subject, that is to why punches and arm strikes are not fully utilized in tkd matches.
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby Thomas Kurz » May 30, 2008 11:47

gwhite wrote:I agree with your points about the importance of proper punching technique. However, I wanted to respond to your comments on Taekwondo fighters in the following section of your latest E-Newsletter.

All those taekwondo players who don't punch when up close are laughable. And so is their explanation that punches don't score points because they can't get the "trembling shock" on someone wearing a chest protector. Believe me, if you punch correctly, from up close, the chest protector won't really nullify a good uppercut to the floating ribs or to the solar plexus. An opponent who gets a good shot to the stomach or is knocked down will lose confidence, and will be easier to score on with kicks.

A good punch to the chest pad in Olympic Style Taekwondo can be devastating when applied with proper technique and timing. However Olympic Taekwondo stylist fight the way they do for a reason (arms down, and relaxed or with a low guard).

You do not see the punches you describe being used, because the rules do not encourage them by awarding points for these techniques. Punching, even when applied with power rarely result in a point in Olympic Style TKD.

Considering, the vast majority of kicking exchanges are roundhouse kicks to the mid section, having the arms down or in a low guard makes it easier to cover the mid section during the fast, and simultaneous exchanges of kicks seen in Olympic Style Taekwondo.

[...]

Athletes will migrate to what is most effective, within the rules of the sport. You would never see two Olympic fighters squared off at a close distance exchanging body punches, it would be a waste of energy, and counter productive to the ultimate goal of winning the match.


Points that you make are valid, but... coming from a completely different tradition you don't seem to know what kind of punches I mean and at what distance.

Yesterday I found the time to record a little demo of what I mean. Unfortunately I had no demo partner with me, so it will show only the punching technique and not how it is done at a clinch distance or at chest-to-chest distance (what makes tkd players look like wrestling penguins :wink: ). There is more to successfully punching at a close distance than just knowing the punches. One has to know the partner drills for that.

It might take a couple or more days before this short video will be viewable. I have to narrate it, have it converted to Flash and post it at Stadion Website. But now I have to go out to work out, because it is sunny, then I have to write an article before a deadline, so the video has to wait.

For now, this quote from my original message will have to do:
"An opponent who gets a good shot to the stomach or is knocked down will
lose confidence, and will be easier to score on with kicks."
Thomas Kurz
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby gwhite » May 30, 2008 20:39

Great! I look forward to seeing the video when you have the time to make it.

I have seen a lot of punching done from clenched (chest to chest) postion. It can work to wear the opponent down, but never results in a knock down or a point. It would be very interesting to see the punches you describe work from this distance, especially since no one is doing it now.

The inside game (wrestling penquins) is quite developed, and kicks do happen at this distance with a quick slide out, or step out follow by a kick. There is also a lot less clenching today then there was 10 or even 5 years ago thanks to rule changes.

thanks,
Gordon
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Re: Why punch when you can kick?

Postby Thomas Kurz » Jun 07, 2008 10:28

Here is the video I wrote about in my previous post. It shows three clinch-distance body punches:

1. Ninomiya-tsuki--a sliding punch that bruises the chest muscles or sternum as it pushes down toward the solar plexus or lower, toward the top of the pubic bone;

2. Uraken-shita-tsuki--a low uppercut, to the abdomen or to the floating ribs; and

3. Seiken-tsuki--the basic normal-fist punch that works at a range of distances, from less than a foot-length to an arm-length, depending on the height of the target (the lower the target, the shorter the distance).

A candle in this video is a testing tool. It shows whether the form of each punch is correct enough to generate the velocity needed for a meaningful impact--from a short distance. (People who have not experienced these punches might doubt their power, so there....)

The point of this demo is that these punches, especially the Uraken-tsuki and Seiken-tsuki, undo (often KO or KD) the opponent, with very little effort. That requires correct form plus good timing.

The form is verified by extinguishing the candle. If movements from the toes to the fist are not coordinated well, their velocities do not add up to push the air in front of the fist fast enough to put out the candle (i.e., the punch doesn't pack enough power to fold an opponent).

The timing ought to be such that the punch hits the opponent as he or she breathes in. This is taught through an easy sparring drill. But first the form must be correct.
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