An Intellectual Understanding of Martial Arts Can Give You a Jump Start in Your Training

MartialArtsPicThis is a picture of Master John Baylor and myself with some of the kids from the Upper Marlboro Martial Arts Center.  It’s a great place to learn martial arts for adults and children.  Master Baylor also has a great after-school program.  Visit or stop by in person.

This is a link to my novels, please check them out.

I had thought I posted this two days ago but it isn’t in my list.  If you have seen this before, my apologies.  I’m still getting a handle on all of this.

Having an intellectual understanding of martial arts can give you a jump start in your training. The following are just a few terms that are used in class to describe methods used in some of our techniques.

Hard Style: This is one of the two main styles of blocking. Hard refers to a direct strike on the attacking arm. If an attacker throws a punch, hard style stops the punch with force. The purpose is to knock the strike away from its target. A secondary purpose is to punish the attacker for making the attempt. The block is strong and it is also a strike on the attacking arm.

Some martial arts feature the hard style blocks. These include boxing, karate and the Japanese style Shotokan. Most hard style blocks will block a right punch with a left block. This puts the martial artist inside the striking arm. Being inside means your body is directly in front of your opponent’s body. This gives the martial artist many targets for a counter strike, but it also leaves him or her open to a strike from their opponent’s left arm. Being on the inside requires the martial artist to execute their counter strike quickly.

The blocks used in our drills are all hard style blocks. If the block is properly delivered it may leave the martial artist in a position to deliver a counter strike.

Soft Style: Soft style is the second main style of blocking. This style is designed to use the attacker’s energy against them. Instead of striking the attacking arm, the martial artist will guide the arm in the direction that he or she wants it to go. Examples of martial arts that major in soft style blocks are Judo and Jujitsu. Most martial arts, like Tang Soo Do, will mix hard and soft blocking styles.

In the soft style, the martial artist will take control of the attacking arm. When a person throws a punch they will be throwing a great deal of their energy forward creating momentum.  So what can a martial artist do with this momentum? Here are just a few examples of what a martial artist can do.

1. He or she may allow the arm to continue in the direction that is it going, maybe with a little help. This uses the attacker’s own momentum against them.

2. The martial artist may use the momentum to create a clothesline affect. He or she may pull the arm through and drive a back-fist along the attackers arm and the attacker’s head.

3. The martial artist may guide the arm across the attacker’s body exposing his or ribs.

4. The martial artist may guide the arm into an arm-bar to subdue the attacker.

Those are the two major styles of blocking. The hard style is direct and many counter strikes are possible after a strong block is delivered. The hard style is the first style taught and it is drilled in class regularly. The soft style is developed with experience. The blocks themselves are essentially the same; it is just a matter of stance and hand position.

Stances: From my observation, stances are the most misunderstood portion of martial arts. Many people don’t understand why we drill up and down the floor making sure are legs are in exactly the right position on each step. You have to look closely at martial artists when they perform their techniques to get your answer, but it’s not just martial artists. If you watch a batter swing a bat or a golfer swing a club they use a specific stance to get the most out of their swing. Stances put your body in the best position to perform the action that you want to perform.

A forward stance is an aggressive stance. This is the stance that is used for most of our hand strikes. It puts your strength and energy forward to deliver a powerful strike without overcommitting your body and losing your balance.

A back stance is a defense stance. By sitting back on your back leg you plant yourself in position. Your body is closed in allowing your arms to protect most vital targets. There is very little weight on your forward leg allowing it to kick quickly or to foil an attempted leg sweep.

A horse stance is a strong stance designed to keep the martial artist from being knocked over by a bull rush. The martial artist plants both feet squarely on the ground sits into the stance like he or she is riding a horse.

There are several others stances including the cat stance and the sparring stance.

Ju-Jit: Ju-jits are sometimes called grab-arts. They are techniques to be used when you are grabbed.

Getting the Attacker’s Attention: There are many ways that a person may be grabbed. If this happens for real I believe the first thing to do is to get the attacker’s attention. When you are grabbed the attacker’s mind is on the grab; you need to give the attacker something else to think about. Stomping on the foot could do it, or maybe a nice kick in the shins. Of course, a kick to the groin is very effective. Another effective move is to spit in your attacker’s face and make it a nasty one; that alone could make them let go. The purpose is to get the attacker’s mind off what he or she is doing and allow you to execute your technique with less resistance.

There are ju-jits for almost every possible way that a person can be grabbed. Many are based on understanding what is happening in a grab. Where is the attacker’s weight? Is he or she leaning forward or backward? Are their feet together or apart? Are they pulling or pushing the martial artist?

Using Angular Momentum: Angular momentum is defined as the rotation velocity around a particular axis. Momentum, energy moving in a straight line, can be guided into angular momentum. The tighter the circle created the more energy there is in the spin. This can be used to quickly bring an attacker down or to increase their speed when the marital artist throws them away. A marital artist can also use angular momentum to put the attacker into a position to be subdued.

This is just a quick look at some terms and how they are used in martial arts. It is a very small sample but it demonstrates that the greatest weapon a martial artist has is his or her mind.


Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Health and Fitness, Martial Arts

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