Principle vs. Technique – Dealing With a “Haymaker” Punch

More and more martial arts school touting great self defense training programs are emphasizing how many devastating and effective techniques they teach.  There are some who check out their competition in the same style and all but arbitrarily add techniques so that they can say they have more.  One of the great architects of the Bauhaus era, Mies van der Rhoe was quoted as stating emphatically “Less is More.”  One could translate this into quality vs. quantity I suppose.  At any rate let’s look at the “technique mills:”  Certainly an instructor can teach virtually any interested student a large quantity of techniques, all the while emphasizing to the student how great and effective the techniques are.  Inside the training room the technique(s) may be appear to be incredibly effective.  But what if your partner (the ‘pretend aggressor’) decides to resist or even start moving around or fighting you like he might in a real life confrontation?  Will the technique be as effective?  Will it even work?

Now let’s look at the principle upon which the technique is based.  As principles, there may be a specific kind of motion or movement involved such as circular motion.  There is a HapKiDo principle known as ‘non resistance’ which in essence utilizes the aggressor’s force or movement against him while allowing the defender to use as little exertion, force or strength as possible.  Take a haymaker or “roundhouse” punch as an example.  There are indeed dozens of techniques which can be used to throw, joint lock, evade or even buckle the punching party.  However if you, as the defender, do not understand the principles which allow these techniques to work with minimal effort  you are asking for trouble.

Consider the type of punch attack and the motion typically involved on the part of the attacker.  Assuming a right handed “haymaker” punch, the attacker will likely step toward the intended victim with his right foot, bring his right arm back to “wind up for the punch”, and swing in a wide arc from behind himself toward the intended victim’s head.  This punch is pretty easy to spot as it develops and is usually not all that damaging to the recipient for that reason.  (A hook punch, properly thrown, however, is a totally different matter).  However if the haymaker makes contact there is a pretty good chance that the left arm and fist are in the process of following up with similar strikes and that the attacker is continuing to move forward.  (This is sometimes referred to as the ‘windmill’ punch attack.)  Even if there are not physical obstacles to prevent you from backing away, backing up or ducking under the punch is risky at best.  That is exactly what the attacker expects and what he is prepared for.  Besides, if he does step into the punch, which is pretty normal, he will be gaining a couple of feet with the step in much less than a second’s time.  Sure, you can try to block the punch or deflect it while backing away but remember that the attacker will typically be continuing to move forward.   While all this is going on you will be at least partially off balance and the chances of you executing one of the many dozens of techniques you have learned are pretty slim since whatever rational thought processes you may still have are concentrating on not getting hit and trying to find a way out.

So what is the principle involved in this scenario?  Where is the attacker most vulnerable and what does he least expect?  Assuming a right haymaker, move toward his left shoulder.  At the very minimum here is what will happen:
1.  Your being suddenly in that location will get you inside of the most powerful part of the punching arm, the fist.  This will also tend to jam or totally block the left follow up punch he had planned on executing.

  1. You will be inside of his personal space with will disrupt his subconscious thought processes.  (Most people raised in the U.S.  have something like a three foot circle they consider their personal space and they become very uncomfortable when it is violated).
    3.  If you do nothing more than bump into him with your shoulder as you move in toward his left shoulder he will be off balanced.  If he is swinging hard a good bump or a push may actually make him fall.  This may well be all you have to do.
    4.  Being fully inside, advancing on the attacker and disrupting his subconscious thought processes will interrupt his game plan, at least for a moment.  This should give you plenty of time to execute an effective technique, even something simple like a punch to the solar plexus, a head butt, a shoulder throw, you can just reach behind him and help him lose balance, you can perform a chin jab to make his head go backwards (in which case the rest of him will also go backwards), etc.

The true bottom line here is that if you understand the principles involved and get in the right place at the right time you can comfortably execute virtually any technique you want as long as you do so quickly and accurately.  Timing is critical and practice makes for good timing.

What are the basic principles in the above scenario?  Understand where the least dangerous place to be is and get there quickly.   Act in a way that causes the attacker to move or lose balance with minimal effort to yourself.   Move in a circular type of motion to counter the arc of the oncoming first punch and to block the probable follow up punch.

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