The popularity of cardio boxing/kickboxing programs has increased public awareness and participation in the self-defense aspects inherent in those workouts. Although, these elements are an added benefit of fitness regimes of this nature, unfortunately, this can backfire if taught incorrectly or a false sense of security is present.
You can see it in the infomercials and ads for martial arts fitness programs featuring interviews with people making comments like, “Thanks to this program, I can now take care of myself in a self-defense situation.” There is a world of difference between confidence in one’s actual ability to apply self-defense moves and false assurance in movements that only resemble an actual fighting technique.
There are ways for qualified instructors to run a non-stop fat burning class and still pass on the knowledge necessary for students to learn real moves, with real self-defense application, but is important to understand the difference and know what is legitimate vs. inspired by.
As an instructor and developer of martial arts / boxing oriented fighting programs, my key focus has been to maximize the fitness aspects of every class without compromising the self-defense skill, knowledge and practice found in martial arts. Relating every move and combination to strategy and implementation with focus and intent in a real-life scenario is imperative.
Here are some examples of simple strikes that are self-defense aspects of our fitness routines and how we teach them at Smash Hit.
1. Adapting punching motions to practical self-defense moves. Target angles are slightly different when it comes to the sporting aspects as compared to street application. This is due to gloves and wraps and point targets. For street moves, using the same movements of your standard jab, cross, hook and uppercut in your fitness routines, we substitute open hand motions as well. This will allow you to practice the same striking combinations while ingraining the habit of hitting with practical tools.
Example: Throwing a jab to a taller person’s head or taller head level on a bag works fine with a glove on but is useless in real situations because with your closed fist the front knuckles don’t really make contact. Changing to a palm strike will allow an upward angled strike to connect solidly.
We add elbows, knees, hammer fists, blocks, parries, knife hand, spear hand and many other useful movements to your routines. This not only rounds out your training by providing different types and ranges of motion but also provides a whole new arsenal of fighting techniques.
2. Footwork. By using real fighting footwork as the basis for all your routines, you will ultimately develop better balance and more power in your strikes. Proper stance and movement make all the difference.
3. Partner drills. Realize that every movement is important, and that good form is the only way to achieve real power. Visualizing actual strikes on an opponent is an excellent way to motivate yourself and give meaning to the movements of your routine. We include movement sections with partners to allow one to build the defensive eye hand coordination to implement those slips, bobs, and body movements that can block or evade attacks. Once you can adjust your distancing to consider punches and kicks thrown at you, it will help you to practice proper bag work from more reality-based guard positions.
4. Integrate practical breathing skill to power movements and develop breathing rhythms. Cardio training and self-defense moves require breath control. We incorporate breathing commands into the routines to proper exhale at appropriate times, creating greater power in your techniques while developing a good breathing rhythm for endurance.
5. Providing focus pads or kick shields in training to give students the feel of hitting something at various angles and always moving. Focus training allows you and your training partner to stay in motion and maintain a high target level rate. While a heavy bag stays pretty much in the same place, one will now develop additional timing skills imperative in self-defense training. Using pad drills gets the student accustomed to defending and striking while moving and on moving targets.
6. Learning to distinguish and connect the physiological potential of every movement is a critical but little understood aspect of martial arts fitness training. Anyone can flail their arms and legs around, but movements of cardio kickboxing are physical motions that generate force along precise lines and trajectories takes precision and training. Although the defensive applications of these movements are regularly uttered in a very simplistic way — generally a punch, strike or kick — every movement truly offers a multitude of applications. The key to discovering these is the ability to analyze and appreciate all aspects of the motion.
Example: Understanding the that the first step of a kick is the tuck. A tuck can be used as a block or strike as well. There is a different tensing element used in a tuck for a block, or strike, than on the tuck for a kick, even though they both reach the same position when thrown.
Additionally, having the knowledge of why a punch actually gains more power if it comes directly from your high guard position and true power lies within other body mechanics besides just the arm throwing out.
With the proper mindset and the willingness to alter your technique to emphasize practical function, you can use your martial arts fitness routines to develop extremely powerful self-defense moves that have direct situational uses. We hope that our students never find themselves in a situation where they need to apply these techniques in the real world, however we are determined to educate them properly so that should the unthinkable happen they are ready, calm and able to apply their self-defense moves successfully and effectively.