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The Brawler’s Guide to Taekwondo
October 4th, 2006 by Ryan V. | Posted in Experience | View Comments

After my first year of studying Taekwondo, I have noticed a glaring absence in sparring — both at competitions and practice sessions.

Punching — straight jab, hook, cross; all of these things are overlooked. Most teaching methods emphasize kicking, kicking, and more kicking. Punches are used only to set up a kick. I’ve heard numerous reasons for this kicking trend: “you can kick harder than you can punch,” “you can only score points with a kick,” “kicking has better reach.” While all of these things are true, they do not negate the need for punching.

Because I started out training in boxing, I’ve been working and sparring with a mindset of a boxer ever since my junior year in high school. Once I started Taekwondo, all that I was used to had to be thrown out the window. However, during sparring sessions in training, I find that my boxing mentality can still be used for my benefit. Punching is obviously worthless while fighting on the outside. Once you throw a combination of kicks and move to infighting, though, that’s where brawling comes into play.

The infighting of Taekwondo that I have seen so far is very limited. The basic goal of Taekwondo infighting is to get back to outfighting where you can throw more combinations. However, the time during a clench need not be wasted by pushing against your opponent and trying to time a short kick; start throwing hard body shots, varying the position and speed with which you throw them. Clenching during most Taekwondo fights is seen as a chance to rest for a second during a round; it’s hard to score points in such a close distance, so take a breath and try again from the outside.

Throwing hard hooks and jabs at your opponent’s body accomplishes many things all at once. Not only do the repeated blows landed make resting and taking a breath all but impossible, it also lowers a fighter’s morale. No fighter is going to like getting battered around by a relentless hail of punches. It causes a distraction for the fighter, drawing his mind away from the fight and to the pain you’re causing him and how to deal with it. This minor disruption can be all you need to land a devastating kick. A fighter can also use strong punches to drive another fighter backwards, causing him to be off-balance and at a good distance for kicking. So while kicking is a crucial part of Taekwondo, punching is critical as well.

When you’re on the inside, put the martial artist on hold and let the brawler loose.

Statements made in this column reflect the personal views of the author. These views do not necessarily reflect those of Lehigh Valley Taekwondo and its staff.


4: "becky" says:

I’m not going to stand in close for a pile of punches. I think every fighter is different, as is every form of fighting. It might appear manly to stand up to a good and hearty pummeling but I think it’s just as effective to force another fighter to fight your fight, not theirs. Mentally, it frustrates them, they feel insecure because they are not as good at it, and this leads to mistakes that you hopefully can take advantage of. A good Taekwondo fighter should be faster than a boxing opponent.

3: "Motoo Y." says:

My thought on this, is that it depends.

Different situations calls for different strategies, and there are cases where letting the fists fly can work to your advantage. But it certainly doesn’t work against all type of fighters. Evidently, it didn’t against Robbie. (Make note of that!) But I have successfully used this type of tactic against some fighters.

I think that in a match where there is a short time limit (1 minute) and absolutely no head contact allowed (even with kicks), this may be used more effectively than in longer match that allows kicks to head.

Still, in Olympic style sparring, there is very little oppotunities to score with punches. If we use this type of tactic, we can’t forget to mix in a lot of leg works.

2: "Robbie" says:

I’m going to have to disagree with the statement about lowering morale and to an extent the distraction of punches. I guess its just experience that, when being punched in Olympic-style sparring, one has to force themselves to overlook the opponent’s attempt at distraction and begin setting up your next move.

I have been on the recieving end during two fights by two different fighters who have the same mentality as you do-when in close, let the hands fly. My strategy was to stand close and take the shots. While maybe not the most intelligent decision, I counted on the fact that they would probably tire themselves out. The strikes really didn’t inflict much pain, nor did they distract me to any extent. But by me standing there just taking the best they could throw at me, their morale was affected, as apposed to damaging mine. They thought by hammering my body with a hail of punches, I would be distracted, hurt, etc.

So while I agree with your logic, if throwing a hail of punches in close sets up an oppertunity for your kicking attack, you must also take into account your opponent’s reaction to the assult. If they stand there and let you tire yourself out with the punches, be prepaired for their counter. But more power to you if they fall into your trap.

1: "Ben" says:

Ryan, you bring up a legitimate point that punching in WTF style sparring is very limited. I guess it is just part defining the rules for sport fighting. Knowing your opponent is not going to punch towards your head gives way to a different type of fighting. It can lead to being lackadaisical in protect your head. Although we have in the past put on the hogos and boxing gloves and did more of a kick-boxing style of fighting from time to time. You will find you really have to adjust your strategy of fighting when punches are allowed. Not only changing your own techniques but also assessing your opponent. Some of the not so fast or flexible kickers can be quite skill with their hands. For example, willing to take a few kicks to the body in order to work their way in close for an opening to the head.

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