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I once saw a headline for a martial arts website that read “Martial Arts is About More Than Kicking and Punching”. So true! Despite a growing number of gyms that seem to reduce martial arts to little more than physical dominance over others, the intangible benefits of training in the martial arts – mental and emotional fitness, somatic health, wellness, and inner strength to mention but a few – are huge. So huge, in fact, that we’ll look at them in a different post;). No, this article will look at the other element missing from the kicking and punching formula – the defence!!!
Sure, it’s great being able to pull off seemless combinations of strikes and kicks, but if you can’t protect yourself when on the receiving end you’ll never have the chance to show what you can do. While it is true that every martial art has its defences – blocks, parries, evasions, etc – precious few implement them to the extent that they can be confidently used in a chaotic situation. Fewer still adopt a Defence Focus to allow a new trainee to defend themselves from incoming attacks as quickly as possible. When you consider that one of the main reasons people come to the martial arts is to learn to self defence, this is a pretty big oversight.
If you want to be absolutely confident in your defence, here are some tips for developing a Defence Focus:
1) Check your stance
The task of defending ourselves is made much easier if our stance is already protecting many possible lines of attack. Ensure your stance protects your face and your body.
2) Balance & Movement
You should be able to maintain your stance in movement, and that movement should be 360! Ensure you can maintain your balance whilst moving and defending – if defending one strike or kick throws you off balance you will be unable to defend against combinations.
3) Allow Fakes & Feints
Attacks are not always going to be clear and predictable (in fact, the best are tricky and non-rhythmical). Ensure your defence allows you to quickly adapt to an opponent who fakes and feints without leaving gaps for them to take advantage of.
4) Practise The Wall Drill
Though footwork often allows us to avoid the worst of incoming attacks, there are times and situations where there is insufficient time and/ or space to use footwork effectively. (Note – only try this drill under the supervision of a qualified and experienced instructor.) To simulate this, take up your stance with your rear foot nearly touching a wall. Ask a training partner to stand in front of you and throw strikes and combinations at you (start light and build up) – let them fake and feint. You are only allowed to defend – you have to stay on the spot whilst maintaining your stance. If your defence is effective you should be able to stop 99% of the incoming attacks.

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