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Martial Arts: Practice Fighting and Competition


Defensive Thoughts

By Christopher Caile

I was helping teach a semi-contact karate class (low and high kicks, knees and hard hand techniques to the body, light to the face with protective gear). I had come over to two combatants, one of which was holding back and trying to maneuver to avoid the hard techniques aimed at him (we are not talking about point karate here). I stopped them.

Addressing the one holding back, who we will call Jimmy, I said, "you are thinking defensively. You are trying to not get hit and in doing so you are doing the exact opposite. You become more open by abandoning your attack and by not hitting hard yourself. Stop thinking and attack back."

"You're right," Jimmy said. "I didn't start out that way, but when I started backing off,  and avoiding attacks, things turned on me."

He was right.

In practice contact sparring or in real fighting where blows are actually delivered with power, defensive thinking can get you hurt, or at minimum open you to being hit or even hurt. It doesn’t matter if you are practicing karate, kung fu, taekwondo or are on the street fighting for your life,:  if you are thinking defensively you become more vulnerable.

The reasons are many. If your mind is full of thoughts of defense, or fear, these elements cloud your ability to clearly see and perceive your opponent and his actions. You react later and more slowly.

On a physical level, without attempting to hit or strike your opponent effectively and with power, you free your opponent from having to defend himself and he can more easily just wade into you with his technique. It becomes a one-way street.

This does not mean you can't move, evade, slip, angle, etc., to gain positional advantage, find openings and avoid attacks. It is just you can't do this exclusively and that these actions should be also to gain advantage in your own offense. 

Most important, however, is attitude -- one of offense - some would say "indomitable spirit." In a real fight it would be an "I am going to hurt you attitude," one that almost disregards the opponent's attacks, thinking them to be a futile attempt to thwart your own attack.

Years ago I had a student at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY) who was what we call a natural. After months of training he was eligible to free fight  - and this wasn't even hard contact.  I still remember vividly how he whipped out strong roundhouse kicks that hit with a bang --such force that the blows would drive my arms back. On others these same kicks would stop or even off balance them.  “Wow,” I thought, “he is so powerful.”  It was difficult for more advanced students to effectively fight back.

Not long afterwards he hurt his big toe in sparring. I then didn’t see him for several weeks. When he returned I was a bit shocked. His total attitude and spirit had changed. When free fighting his kicks were slow and timid – as if not wanting to hurt himself again. They were easy to see and block or avoid, and they no longer could intimidate.

His own fear of getting hurt and willingness to commit to action suddenly made his fighting ineffective and weak. He was now vulnerable.

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About The Author:

Christopher Caile is the founder and Editor of

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karate practice fighting, kumite, kung fu, taekwondo, street fighting, street self defense

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