How Good is Your Martial Arts Defence?

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Bodium Castle in the background, with the more modern gun emplacement used in WWII in the foreground.

Bodium Castle, England, in the background, with the more modern gun emplacement used in WWII in the foreground. Defences in martial arts have likewise evolved.

Castles were once considered impenetrable. They evolved from simple mounds of earth to wooden structures. As attackers discovered they could burn them down with flaming arrows, stone became the norm.

Unfortunately for the defenders, Medieval attackers were soon able to penetrate their defences. Common techniques included burrowing beneath the corners of towers–undermining their foundations, thus causing the castle to collapse.

To counter this, castle designers added thicker outer walls–and then rings of extra outer walls. The idea of the concentric castle was then born about 1270.

From about the 1500, castles began to fade from fashion, and wealthy countries were choosing to build palaces rather than fortifications.

The reason for this was the advent of gunpowder. Stone castles, which were so impenetrable just a couple of hundred years before, were no match for mighty cannons.

Martial arts defences.

A good defence in martial arts will also evolve and stand the test of time. It will be easily adaptable to the circumstances. The three forms of defence are Stand-Up, Takedown, and Ground. Mastering all three will ensure your development as a well-rounded martial artist.

Stand-Up Defence

A good stand-up defence requires three elements; hand positioning, evasive head movement, and footwork. The best martial artists master all three.

Hand positioning. The hands should be held high, creating a barrier to head attacks. Elbows should be tucked in, protecting the midsection, and discouraging kicks by providing a bony target. Attacks should be launched only with the non-attacking hand in a protective position. Blocking and parrying with the hands, elbows, and forearms is used. As the Muay Thai fighters have proven with their effectiveness at blocking leg kicks with checks, the legs are also used.

Evasive head movement. Muhammad Ali was a master at moving his head out of the way of incoming punches. His slipping, bobbing, and weaving have been copied by boxers for decades since. Mike Tyson’s style of peek-a-boo defence was also considered impenetrable. All of the great fighters, including martial artists, possess this head movement, and Bruce Lee was one of the first to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Footwork. Traditional martial artists and also boxers have demonstrated the importance of footwork to avoid getting hit. By being light on your feet and mobile, you are a hard target. Footwork should be mastered as a means of defence and also attack. Lyoto Machida and Georges St. Pierre are examples of great footwork in the UFC.

Takedown Defence

Wrestlers have mastered this as it is an essential part of their training. Simple movements such as sprawling and whizzers make it very difficult to take a wrestler down. Wrestlers have dominated many mixed martial arts events because of their ability to not only take down their opponents, but also avoid takedowns. Fighters specialising in stand-up fighting are now experts at keeping fights standing using these moves. The great ex-UFC fighter, Chuck Liddell, was a prime example. He was a collegiate wrestler, but chose to keep the fight standing up due to his knockout power. He was able to dictate where the fight would take place.

Ground Defence

According to most experts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the primary goal for beginner students is to develop a good defence. This defence should include escapes from not only the worst positions, but also the most common attacks. By mastering defence, a the BJJ student can then learn to attack with confidence, without feeling vulnerable to their opponent’s attacks. As the variety of attacks have increased in BJJ, the defences have evolved to counter this.

Drill, drill, drill

Luckily for the martial artist, you can drill all aspects of your defence. By using a resisting opponent, BJJ fighters and wrestlers are uniquely preparing themselves for the realities of combat. Stand-up fighters can sharpen their defence using footwork drills, evasive head movement against an attacking partner with full head and glove protection, and most importantly, sparring against a live opponent. How good is your defence, and what are you doing to improve it?

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Comments

  1. Mele Sialemaka says

    Thank you Sensie Matt,

    Taufa and Taran will not be returning to Karate after a decade of invaluable life skills in self defense and discipline and gaining their black belts. They will incorporate it into their lives.

    They have throughly enjoyed your expert skills and your natural rapport to put them at ease is one of the main reasons they stayed with karate. Including Zolton, Ben and all the black belt instructors have done an outstanding job.

    Warm Regards,
    Mel Sialemaka

  2. Sensei Matt Klein says

    Hi Dr. J! Good instructors play a most important role in our defence, we have so much for which to thank them.

  3. Sensei Matt Klein says

    Glad to hear we have been able to help them make positive changes to their lives. It has been our pleasure to have them. Thanks for your feedback Mel!