Lead hand punching...

One of our students asked an interesting question in email that I thought worth an extended answer and a question I thought worth including everyone in on.

Here's the question...

Most Asian martial arts (that I know of) practice defending against a punch thrown from the same side as the extended leg - except when we're sparing of course. But I can't imagine an attacker ever throwing a punch like that (or even a grab) - a brawler of the 20th century would most likely assume a boxer's stance with the left leg extended - guarding with the left hand (if he were right handed) and punching/grabbing with the right. This is a more balanced/stable position for the average person, and is the stance we take when we spar. So why the traditional training style? Does anyone know if there is history behind this? Not saying that our training isn't effective (it is) - just curious.

Ok, so there's three points that are being made here...

You are more likely to encounter someone who...

  1. Uses a reverse punch for power rather than a "normal" punch.
  2. Throws that reverse punch from a boxing stance (more or less our fighting stance) with left leg forward. and lastly
  3. Our training style puts emphasis on defending against a lead hand punch.

The questions you pose then are:

What are the benefits of our training style given 1 and 2?
What is the history of our training style?

Proceeding with the above questions I want to discuss three issues about training.

  1. History

    Let's examine the history of how our training came to look the way it is.
  2. Training for development vs. training for realistic response

    Part of the goal of our training isn't so much the direct application of our training drills -- but the physical, emotional, and mental change that the training results in. Let's examine that issue further.
  3. Training is built in stages

    We have a definite development pattern that starts from simple advancing to more complex. I'll put forth the premise that the training goal for competency is about 4th degree black belt. And at minimum a first degree black belt. Therefore to examine the goal of training we need to examine the training drills at black belt level. So we'll look into that further.
  4. Realism

    Finally, let's examine the issue of what is realistic for the street and what impact it has on training.

So going into more depth on each issue...

  1. History

    The history of Chung Do Kwan comes from the late Master Lee, Woon-Kuk who studied Shotokan Karate-do from the late great Master Funakoshi, Gichen in Japan. Master Funakoshi had trained in Shorei-ryu and Shaolin-ryu Karate-do in Okinawa. The Pyung-Ahn forms that we do were created by Master Funakoshi's teacher Itsu, Anko as beginner level forms that you could teach to high school kids. Before that forms practice consisted of what are now black-belt level forms. Typically, practice consisted of a very small number of forms. Training at this time consisted almost solely of forms practice, with 3-step sparring as an additional drill. Funakoshi was the one to introduce a form of free-sparring to martial arts training. Basically, any martial art with this lineage uses 3-step sparring. Since, Chung Do Kwan has a lineage through Karate-Do we also use 3-step sparring.

  2. Training for development vs. training for realistic response

    Most of the drills that we do at beginning levels are done more for training than for direct application. A common drill for sports are sit-ups -- but you never do the same motion in the sport. But, the sit-ups are done to develop core conditioning. Similarly, in TKD training there are drills that are done for conditioning as well as direct application. One of the first things we want to develop are: power from hip rotation, the ability to root to the ground in one's stance, and build up balance, strength, flexibility and good posture. Lead-hand punching in a front stance is an excellent drill to begin this process.

    In sparring we use a shorter stance for mobility, but to maximize power you should move into good solid stances as appropriate when retaliating. So moving into a good front stance for countering does make sense.

  3. Training is built in stages

    At beginning levels all punching is lead-hand punch in front stance. By the time we get to 4th Dan -- the form Kong Sang Kune (which can be considered the ultimate form, because the Pyung-Ahn forms were created from it) almost all punching is a one-two punch using both punching hands. We also have a variety of sparring drills that encompass a wide-range of attacking methods. 1, 2 and 3-step sparring, self-defense, instant sparring, free-sparring etc. The utility of 3-step sparring at advanced levels isn't so much learning to defend against a punch -- it's being able to try out different responses (and most responses can be used against other types of attacks beside a punch). The nice thing about the drill is that it can span your entire martial arts training. At the beginning simply learning to deal with punching is enough, at advanced levels you can try out more complicated advanced retaliation responses. And it's a format where you can safely try out many different responses, and responses that can't be used in free-sparring -- such as kicking at the knees, or groin and sweeps and arm breaks -- in a safe manner.

  4. Realism

    Fighting style is influenced by culture. Our culture certainly has a strong influence of boxing. Watching boxers the lead hand jab actually does most of the work clearing the way for the more powerful rear hand punch. Boxers use both hands, trying to open the opponent for the second hand. Because of placement the lead hand is easier to get in as it's closer and faster, but less powerful, and the second hand stronger, but takes more time to reach the target. So in a sense from this argument the first thing I need to do is to defend against a lead hand punch -- hence our 3-step and 1-step training is right on target.

    The other thing to consider is that the rules of boxing limit techniques and rule out techniques that would change positioning. Allowing throws, take downs, kicking and take downs would change the performance. Most throws are difficult to impossible to do against a good front-stance. And the front stance itself can be nicely used to perform a sweep against an opponent. Also the reverse punch is more vulnerable to a throw than a lead-hand punch.

    But, from reading information on self protection and actual encounters, the start point of an encounter is definitely NOT clear. Scenarios don't necessarily start off with a nice "squaring off" of the opponents who starts from a boxing stance and throws a punch. They start with subterfuge and/or surprise that may build up for quite some time before resulting in an attack. There are situations where challenges happen, and a definite squaring off, (most commonly with men, and often at a bar) but much of the time these situations can be diffused verbally before becoming violent. So as such initial attacks range from take-downs, tackles, grab, push, punch, kick, choke for the whole range of human violence.

    As such my training needs to be such that I can defend against a variety of techniques from a variety of starting positions and not any one single technique.

    Conclusion

    My experience has been that traditional training with punching in front stance and three-step sparring have been useful training methods. Front stance provide excellent core conditioning of legs for isometric strength, flexibility and body posture. This method of punching development also does a good job of learning to develop maximum power with a solid rooted base and hip and shoulder rotation. It provides a maximum power base for punching in sparring. Three step sparring also provides a nice safe training drill to try out many different retaliation methods. And it provides a nice forum where beginners can be introduced to sparring in a simple environment that feels fairly safe to them. Personally at this stage in my training I have no problem with contact sparring, but when I first started there is no way I would've lasted if I was thrown into a more active sparring environment.

    Erik Kluzek, Nov/24/2005



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