Many martial arts use forms to help teach not only the technique systems, but the qualities and types of power that I put forth in the previous article. Proper rhythms - and broken rhythm - must be understood. This is not simply for fighting, but also for life.
As such, I detail below a series of drills. The influences on these drills are primarily Karate, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiujitsu. The drills help train the following: bunkai (applications) and kaisetsu (principles), footwork, evasion, efficient counter-attacking, standup grappling / clinchwork, and breakfalls.
The general goal is to unify many techniques and methods into one structure, which is loose, agile, and cat-like. The following qualities are very important: efficiency, flexibility, power (including strain energy, falling energy, momentum, explosive power, and short power), springy evasive movement, trapping hands and feet, as well as simultaneous attack and defense.
This is a set of drills which will help develop speed, efficiency, timing, softness, and rhythm in footwork.
Side and straight line shuffles. First, shuffle side to side, slowly then quickly. Practice this with left or right leg in front, then switch and practice again. The three types of side shuffles - side, behind, across. Next, shuffle forward and backward, shooting out punches as you do so.
Also try performing kicks as part of shuffle practice. One drill is to perform two small hops in which you switch feet, then perform kick of choice with the back leg. Before setting the foot down, pivot to the opposite side of the kick and perform a full turn in that direction. (If you kicked with the right foot, then turn to the left.) As you are planting your feet, shoot forward with a jab with the lead hand.
Pivot shuffles. Best done with a partner. Step forward along the line of his or her attack, then pivot the back leg behind the front leg, using a hip motion. If your partner is using a straight punch, use a parrying strike while trapping your his or her lead hand or arm (to set up for grappling and/or further strikes). If your partner is kicking, use the motion to begin a takedown. Once you have pivoted your back leg out, pivot back in while blocking with the lead hand.
Circular shuffles. Shuffle around your practice area, switching your balance. Stay on the balls of your feet, for lightness of foot. Then, use sliding circular shuffles - with feet more planted – to practice shifting your balance with solid, but light steps. In this way, you practice for real fighting, where you need not only agility, but power and stability.
Parry shuffles. Coordinate both hands and both feet in simultaneous movement, attack, and defense. Blocking isn't always necessary - better not to be in the way of the attack!
Smashing / Lunging
The basic technique is to perform a brushing block with the lead hand as your back foot steps across to set up for a step-across karate reverse punch. As you improve, add a deeper lunge to the punch, then explode with a kick. Then set the kicking leg forward and perform another lunging punch with the other side. This sets up for very explosive movements.
Next, drill a continuous straight blast. Concentrate on controlling and/or jamming the opponent's movement. This straight blast may be used to back your opponent into an obstruction. If the opponent moves off the line of attack, quickly transition into the next technique.
Once you have improved with these, add techniques that require both forward movement and circular pivoting for full power, such as elbows, roundhouse kicks, and hooks. Concentrate on boxing in the opponent and making him or her panic, or change tactics. Next, add pulling / clinching / controlling techniques. Lastly, fast, well-timed, evasive attack along your opponent's line of attack should be drilled. Utilize techniques for parrying and bridging the gap while simultaneously attacking. Quickly transition to off-balancing / sweeping / groundwork techniques.
"Pulling Hands" / Standup grappling and clinching
The key is to push with the hands and pull with the feet. The ultimate goal is to take away your opponent's free range of movement. Leverage and positioning are key. Firstly, review standing armbar submissions and wrist locks, then move into clinchwork. The key is to control the opponent's momentum, so that you may effect an unbalancing technique.
If the opponent resists a standing armbar, use your control of his or her arm off-balance them in a different direction, setting up for a standing wrist / arm lock or similar technique, and a takedown. However, if the opponent reacts to your "pushing hands" by trying to pull you back, push in and effect a blood choke or similar submission technique. Also, as needed, use strikes, clinch work, and seizing or pain compliance techniques (aim for joints, vital points, and muscles). Lastly, takedowns, throws, and sweeps allow easy transitions to various ground submissions.
In the case of multiple opponents, you may throw one into another, or use an opponent as a shield. Of course, these are just the basics. Keep training and studying to find what works for you.
The goal of switching is to use clever strategy to throw your opponent off his or her rhythm / pattern. The basic technique is to quickly move forward with the lead foot while performing a fast technique the lead hand. As you step, pivot the back leg around and past the front leg, using a quick twist of the hips. This looks like a shortened step-forward-and-pivot body shift.
The dip of the back leg may be large or small, but it must be fast and performed immediately after the first technique. The dip sets up for a side kick with the front leg. After the kick, retract the leg, come back to a front stance, and perform a roundhouse kick with the back leg. Retract that leg to a front stance (pulling it back or setting it forward), then perform a front kick with the other leg. Of course, one may change the techniques, but the idea is to trick your opponent, "box" him or her in, and limit their movement.
One may also vary the switch, of course, to pivot and turn at various angles. This may be used as a variation of "Pivot shuffles". The idea is quickly shutting down your opponent's movement with tricky footwork. One could add in continuous strikes, making this similar to sticking smash. Next, drill a turning step. As with the basic switch, move in with the lead foot and hand, then pivot the back leg. However, after this, follow-up with pivoting the body completely around. One should land in a stance with the same leg in front as before. Perform techniques while using this footwork. Lastly, vary your angles of movement while practicing such steps. Try it with a partner - you will try to throw each other off-guard.
Move away or along the line of attack using a deep, lunging style of angular footwork, while pivoting the upper body to evade a straight line punch. The hands should remain up, ready to parry. The legs should remain loose but stable, so that you can move quickly to the next position. A roundhouse kick or hook may be used together with a sinking step. A sinking step also sets up for a quick counter. Sinking steps may also assist in performing jumping kicks. However, such kicks are only used here to assist speed and power training. In a real scenario, one could counter with brush block and power-stepping roundhouse kick. A sinking step may also setup for pivoting into the opponent and performing a fast combination.
Wedging in. Sink backwards with brush blocks, then sink forward with penetrating sword hand blocks. This is to not only continue the idea of pulling and smashing, but to also add your own momentum, as well as "uprooting" the opponent. The idea is to twist your opponent and "cut" through their stance – possibly effecting a takedown. This may be modified to setup for various types of takedowns.
Rockfall step. Sink away from an attack into a low stance while parrying / trapping, then fall / wedge in with the lead leg. With a partner, practice using a knife hand block against his or her punch while entering his or her stance with your own side facing cat stance. The goal is to gain control of their center of gravity and knock him or her off balance while using leverage (such as using a trapped arm) and strikes (such as shoulder / elbow / body checks). While maintaining control of your partner, you may pivot away from him or her to create the momentum needed for a takedown, or use leverage to throw the opponent.
This is a quick evasive pivot that sets up for techniques such as throws, back hands, and back kicks. Like the basic switch step, move in with the lead foot and hand, then pivot the back leg. However, follow-up by completing a full turn on the back leg. This back leg turn may be compared to the pivoting often seen in karate kata. Forward spin is more of a drill than a direct application. As such, one may adjust it to include techniques such as spinning back kicks, or throwing one opponent and turning with the back leg to face another. As with switch steps, one may vary the spinning step to pivot and turn. Practice pivoting to one side, then the other. Finally, adjust it to include defensive and offensive techniques, as well as various kinds of steps (depending on what you need to practice). Spinning steps may also include practice of throws.
Falling / Breakfalls
This helps practice ground work. Kicks, elbows, takedowns, setups for various submissions, etc. may be practiced in conjunction with the rolls, falls, and position changes. Simply keep moving, attacking, and transitioning. When breaking falls, use both momentum and every part of the body to lesson the impact on any one part.
Back roll. This may be used effectively when falling backwards, and not just straight down (in which case a side fall may be better).
Forward roll. Remember to "check" with the hand that is on the side you are falling to, and "rocket" with the balls of the feet. This will help you roll with the momentum and clear the ground. Do not land flat on your back, but instead bridge over quickly on your shoulder as you keep your head tucked in.
Back control. This includes setting up a guard position and submissions when on one's back. Also, practice changing positions from the ground, especially when it comes to sweeps from the guard.
Forward control. This is when you are engaged in standup grappling. Practice sprawls, guard passes, mounts, ground strikes, submissions. Also practice spinning while giving the opponent no space, so as to gain the best position.
Side fall. Sometimes you may have to use a side break fall as not to get the wind knocked out of you, or take damage to your back. Remember to loosen up as you fall and use your arm to soften the blow. From here, use one or more kicks as you try to regain position and control. This may be followed with a technical rise, clinch, shoot, leg sweep, and so forth.
The ultimate goal is near-constant movement. One must be able to move in any direction with agility. The best defense is a good offense. Press the advantage, cut your opponent short, and jam their attack by sensing their pattern, their rhythm. It would take many pages to break down the body mechanics of techniques, much less describe further application in actual fighting.
Always engage in well rounded, sober training in the martial ways. Anything less is to shortchange ourselves and all who we come in contact with. We must not be hostile, violent, or proud, but ready to survive, protect, and lead. Do not mistake the truth for an interpretation of the truth. Let us study "a" way for a while to gain an understanding of "the" way - whose goals include perfection of character and dedication to others. This will increase our knowledge of the internal factors, which we may call wisdom. Both our external and internal strength should be used to carry ourselves with a positive attitude through life. The mind and body are incredibly adaptable. The soul is capable of great depth - and great height as well. Lastly, personal progress begins not in action, but choice. Let us decide within ourselves to follow our goals and dreams.
This article is a part of the author's concise guide to karate. Be sure to check out his Johnston Karate Home Page to view the free version of the guide or order a professionally printed copy.