Open or Closed Exclusivity

The two previous posts (First, Second) discussed the unwise practice of bare knuckle punching of bony areas like the head. As such, when considering self-defense we should train open hand techniques for attacks to the face and skull. However, this may present a problem for your school or for you personally.

People come to a martial arts facility for a variety of reasons, including fitness, wellness, confidence, self-centering, but it is fair to say self-defense is always included.

However, some folk will attend such an institution to prepare for entrance into the ring or cage. This presents a problem when dealing with the self-defense aspect of using open hand techniques on the head. In sport where gloves are worn, punching the head is the norm. Moreover, open hand techniques to the head may result in disqualification during a contest.

If the classes you are involved in are mixed, ring folk and the never-going-there folk, you have a problem. How do you condition the self-defense crowd to refrain from punching the head, while conditioning the ring group to use only punches?

Honestly, you cannot. The best you can hope for is that you have even numbers, and you can isolate techniques and combinations to each group. When the numbers are not even, forcing a self-defense person to be paired with a ring person, woe will result as each corrupts the habits of the other.

In all seriousness, the only way to insure these two groups build their specific necessary attributes is to isolate the classes, with no crossovers. The individuals wanting to do both will have to take some time at their personal reflecting pools to determine what they truly desire. If their sights are set on the ring, they need to focus on that until those goals are met or set aside. They will still be in a better self-defense position than the inexperienced person. However, you do not want ring habits to infect self-defense and vice versa.

As the previous posts discussed, it is too easy to fall into the habit of punching, even when we should not. However, sport requires it. It can be argued sport too easily corrupts self-defense. Punching is a social meme. Likewise, pure self-defense training would destroy a ring fighter.

Some martial artists may have a hard choice to make.
Meet the challenge. Guide it away. Move forward into the opening.


About Sifu

I teach Wing Chun, both traditional and practical, at KDA Karate Academy. I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager. In addition to being a Martial Arts Instructor, I am an author. My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge".

One Comment

  1. I received an email from a student that contained a wonderful response to this series of posts. I thought it was worth posting here.
    – – –
    Thank you.
    I have been giving this some thought and agree. I don’t think I have ever chain punched upwards towards the head. Always straight out from my chest. Some thoughts:

    — if you are chain punching and the guy goes down, you may inadvertently punch his head.
    — you could always inadvertently punch his elbow if he pulls it in to protect himself.

    How to deal?
    1) Train to make a fist properly.
    2) occasionally punch something hard at half speed to test the integrity of your fist and punching geometry and mildly condition your hands. I have a sandbag that I both slap and hit (a training method I got from the yuen Kay San folks in VA). But we also punched a post on occasion at Bill’s school. It really revealed weaknesses in your punching and your stance. It wasn’t super hard macho punching. Maybe 25 percent or so.
    3) cultivate awareness of what you are striking in classroom drills so you train not to punch the head.

    In the street incidents I have been in (younger days) I never realized what I was punching until it was all over. Better to fix the issue in training from here on out.

    Bill Wong, my first teacher, always relentlessly advocated targeting the throat. In looking back at my old notes I noticed that he never advocated head punches. Why I never thought about this myself I just don’t Know. As an interesting aside, Bill also talked a lot about fighting with hurt hands. Maybe that’s why. Punching too many heads. Personally, I really like my hands and want to keep them healthy.

    Thanks for the ideas. I enjoy reading them.

    See you soon.

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