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.