Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Offensive Approaches in Sparring

“While the schools remain apart in thought and styles, they are bound together by the practice of sparring, which is the only standard value in the sport recognized by all who are responsible for advancing the true art of karate.”

Sihak Henry Cho

Korean Karate, Free Fighting Techniques
This month in our intermediate class we're working on Offensive Defense, which is the term we use to describe the type of Sparring we practice at Dunham's Martial Arts. Our base Sparring techniques are derived from the Freestyle (Sparring) techniques Mr. Parker describes in Volume 5 of Infinite Insights into Kenpo. Those techniques have been added to and expanded upon to create the list of Freestyle Techniques practiced in the school. Mr. Parker wrote that the practitioner should, “study these progressive patterns of attack [and] take the initiative to develop patterns of [their] own.” Undefeated Champion Full Contact Karate Fighter Bill “Superfoot” Wallace once wrote, “In Sparring, the basic movements and strategies evolve into an infinite number of patterns and variations. (Dynamic Stretching & Kicking, 1982)

We will practice these infinite variations with an eye towards efficacy and application, but there are broader approaches which will help us to develop the tactics with which we address each unique encounter. Professor Dan Anderson addresses these approaches in his classic work on Sparring, American Freestyle Karate: A Guide to Sparring.

The first, he calls Direct Attack, a basic, singular attack executed with complete commitment. Professor Anderson encourages the practitioner to just “pick a target and go for it.” Direct attacks are set up with deceptive footwork which hides the movements the practitioner uses to close range with his opponent. Once within striking range, he identifies a vulnerable target and strikes out against it. Of Direct Attacks, he writes, “A Direct Attack needs full commitment. An explosive take-off, a follow through attack, and good timing. It all has to be there without any reservation. If it is not all there, chances are it will not go.”

The next approach is the Attack by Combination. The Attack by Combination is an expanded form of the Direct Attack. Instead of getting in range and firing a single strike to an unprotected target, the practitioner fires strike after strike to a number of targets in sequence, using each strike to create openings for the successive follow up stikes. Of the Attack by Combination he writes, “This type of approach is good for street fighting and full contact karate. The idea here is not to get into the “one hit and quit” attitude. Be able to execute both single hit and multiple hit sparring as each have their place and can be interchanged on various opponents.”

Next is the Indirect Attack. The Indirect Attack utilizes fakes, feints, sweeps, and set-ups to make your opponent “zig when he shoulda zagged.” The practitioner begins by identifying his opponent's reactions to certain movements, hand and foot techniques, aggressive posturing, even stance transitions. Then he uses his understanding of his opponent's pre-programmed responses to encourage his opponent to move out of position. It is then that the practitioner strikes, taking advantage of his opponent's momentary vulnerability. Of the Indirect Attack Professor Anderson writes, “An Indirect Attack works on the premise that you want to redirect your opponent's attention from point A to point B so that you can hit point A. You can use a combination of fakes and hooks/sweeps prior to the real attack. Nowhere in the book of rules does it say just one set-up per attack. This approach is good for your imagination so use it.”

Next is Attacking by Trapping. Attacking by Trapping is using stand up grappling techniques to draw your opponent within range of your long range striking techniques, as well as to hold him in place and prevent him from escaping. Professor Anderson makes a point of explaining that Attacking by Trapping is closely related to the practice of Street Fighting and Self Defense and that “there are situational approaches that are not interchangeable and there are those that are;” by which he means that some techniques are specific to combat sports, and some are specific to self defense, while there are still others which overlap the two disciplines. It is these overlapping approaches which we are most interested in in our study of sparring at Dunham's Martial Arts.

Finally he describes the Attack by Drawing. This method is subtle, and relies on baiting and controlling range to entice the opponent to attack when and where you are prepared to defend. The practitioner may leave targets seemingly unprotected or subtly press in to his opponent's critical range, or he may create distance instead and goad his opponent into an unbalanced charging attack. This method requires the practitioner to understand and control space and time, while monitoring his opponent's reactions to his movements. Consider the Territorial Imperative from our article on Nonverbal Communication. Understanding how your opponent will react to intrusions into his territory can give you keen insight into his fighting strategy. Professor Anderson instructs the reader to, “interchange these [methods] with the variations in your opponent's approach to best suit your own ends. Also be able to recognize them when they are being pulled on you.”

Professor Anderson sums up the section on Offensive Approaches with these words. “In order to make the offensive (and defensive) approaches work, you have got to give total commitment to them. No half measures will do against anyone who is good at all.”

No half measures. In the Fire Chapter of his Book of Five Rings, Musashi wrote, “Who in the world can obtain my correct Way of the Martial Arts? Whoever would get to the heart of it, let him do so with conviction, practicing in the morning and training in the evening. After he has polished his techniques and gained independent freedom of movement, he will naturally gain miraculous powers, and his free and easy strength will be wonderful. This is the spirit wherein, as a warrior, he will put these practices into action.”

Complete commitment. Total conviction. Practicing in the morning and training in the evening. There are no short cuts in martial arts, but there is a trick to it. Dan Anderson wrote his book because as a boy he wanted someone to show him the tricks. Well there they are. The Offensive Approaches. Direct Attack. Attack by Combination. Indirect Attack. Attack by Trapping. Attack by Drawing. These approaches are methods by which you can engage your opponent. That's why we call it Offensive Defense at Dunham's Martial Arts. You are still practicing self defense, but in this scenario you must engage your opponent. And Professor Anderson shows us several ways to accomplish that, before encouraging us to compound and combine the approaches themselves. Attack by Drawing, then when the opponent moves within range, Indirect Attack, then Attack by Trapping, then use a Direct Attack to a Vital Target. That is how the basic principles become “an infinite number of patterns and variations.”

Drills -
Beginner: Practice the Direct Attack in front of a mirror and with a partner. Watch yourself for tells such as changes in height, shifting balance, and shoulder shrugs which might betray your intentions to your opponent. Ask you partner to monitor you for tells as well and then alert you to their presence. Work on eliminating these actions from your techniques so that you can strike without warning.

Intermediate: Practice Combination Striking on the bags and on the body. Hands set up feet. Feet set up hands. Practice three or more strikes at a time, changing levels and ranges and alternating between inside and outside and linear and circular techniques. When you can incorporate all these elements into your combinations, you become very difficult to predict and defend against.

Advanced: Practice sweeps, fakes, and feints while sparring with your opponent. Upper Body Fakes and Lower Body Fakes can be used to set up your opponent and move him off balance. When working striking combinations, practice alternating between pure striking and using some of the strikes as fakes or grabs to the opponent's limbs. Follow up grabs with sweeps against the opponent.

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