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Commitment Issues

by on January 6, 2010

Perhaps the most frustrating part of sparring for me right now is my inability to commit certain techniques. I throw something like a roundhouse, front snap kick, or back fist strike, and it ends up coming short of the distance needed to score a point. At times, my body feels like it has a governer on it, restricting my attacks. Even when I tell myself that I need to get in, get the point and just tap the persons abdomen with a good solid (but non-excessive) front snap kick, my body does otherwise. Its really just as well I talk to someone else’s leg.

Initially I did what most arrogant folks would do by rationalizing it as someone else’s fault: I blamed it on the class (not the instructor, the students). Many people in our club are ill-prepared to receive even a moderate kick to the stomach. In sparring, you tap someone a little hard and they get very defensive and begin holding back, which doesn’t help you much. You all know what I’m talking about?

But its not about the class. There are plenty of people in my class who are willing and anxious to spar with me, able to deal a kick, and able to take one, even one that’s a little too hard but they don’t mind because I’m just a lowly shodan trying to figure his limbs out.  Just last week I was sparring with someone who was kicking me solidly in the abs while we alternated kicking back and forth. I, on the other hand, was unable to kick them squarely in the abs even though I know they welcomed it. Why?

I’m starting to think it boils down to confidence. I can punch people without hesitation. I’ve often scored with a punch but still that governer takes over when I try to kick. So now its narrowed down to kicks. A lack of confidence in my kicks means I’m concerned: concerned I might break my own toes if I don’t curl them back, concerned I might break the other persons ribs if I roundhouse too hard, concerned I might strike them in the midsection with a poorly aimed front snap kick.

Its completely a mental block, but a mental block I can’t seem to shake. It keeps me thinking too much during a sparring match and gets me frustrated during a class when I can’t kick the way I know I could if there were a board and not a person there.

Beyond buying a large punching back and practicing distancing and accuracy, what can be done for this? How does one get past the self-conciousness of poorly aimed or poorly timed kicks?



From → kumite

  1. Try training on focus mitts for a while (assuming you haven’t already). This works well in lieu of sparring as you can really go full bore, plus your training partner can give you feedback as to your distancing, etc.

    I advise envisioning the kick going *through* the target, not just to make surface contact, especially when you’re doing padwork. When sparring pick a target, visualize hitting it, and then follow through.

    If you’re concerned about injuries – you didn’t mention anything about protective gear – you might want to invest in some foot guards for sparring.

    As far as hurting the other guy, remember that everyone has to get used to getting hit (within reason). A little give-and-take in a sparring match helps both parties, as long as it’s done in the spirit of camaraderie.

    • We don’t wear foot guards for sparring, they aren’t allowed for within the tournament rules, and I find that they force you to kick with the top of your foot instead of the ball of your foot, not really what you want to be striking with.

      I think focus pads are a great training method, but you need to be careful with the “kick through” method in that remember that you have to readjust your distancing for tournament sparring, you can’t “kick through” as much in a low contact tournament. Sure, you’ll likely get away with it because the target might be moving away by the time your kick lands, but if you land a full strength kick with that aim for whatever reason theres a good chance you will get DQ’d for excessive force (its not full contact).

      That being said, focus mitts are definately the way to go. The benefit over bagwork is that you can actually simulate a much larger range of techniques in something that is much more similar to an actual sparring match.

  2. Brian permalink

    Two thoughts:

    1. You probably aren’t confident about how much force you are putting into you kick, and about how well you can aim when you are kicking at full speed. This makes sense compared to punches because we generally do many times more punches than kicks over the years (and we can see our hands better than our feet).

    2. I use sparring mitts and shin pads for my benefit, not the person being kicked. Mentally, I am far more willing to make a solid hit if I know I’m not going to hurt them, and the pads help with that mentally. It’s not as much an issue now that I have more confidence in my full-speed techniques, but starting to wear sparring gear really helped a lot when I was in the high kyu ranks and shodan.

    My suggestions to fix the issues:

    1. Put on shoes and kick a brick or concrete wall, full speed, full power. Do this several thousand times. By the end you will have a pretty good sense of how hard you are kicking, and a much better sense of your fully extended range.

    2. If you can’t find pads for your feet that help with front kick, have them hold a bag for you until you get more comfortable. Pads that cover the top of the foot will still be helpful for roundhouse kicks.

    • Brian permalink

      Oh, also, a little trick we came up with here to help with aiming.

      Get to very close range (you should be able to reach them with your hand), and practice picking your knee up and putting the ball of your foot directly on your partner’s stomach as if you were doing front kick.

      Hold it there and get a feel for where their center of mass is.

      Push directly into their stomach (not their solar plexus please) as if you were taking a big step forward, then pull back to post position.

      If you do this a hundred or so times, you will get a much better sense of where you can target safely, and how much force you can use before it starts to hurt.

      (Not to mention that this kick is great for close range surprises anyway)

  3. Brian,

    I really like this idea. You’ve very right that its an aim issue!

    And like you, I am not concerned for my own safety as much as for the other person. Admittedly, I hate the thought of kicking and perhaps not have my toes curled back enough and end up injuring my feet by slamming my toes into something. I’ve done this on a wall a couple times but the painful feedback quickly taught my body to keep the toes curled back.

    But I remain concerned that I’m going to accidentally kick someone in the head when I’m trying to kick 2 inches from their head. Your suggestions seem like good ones. I’ll start testing them out.


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