Friday, February 3, 2012

Striking - Distraction vs. Damage

Over the last couple weeks we have been focusing on the difference between strikes done for damage and those used for distraction. Both have their place but there is an important distinction.

In the most basic sense, distraction strikes are those used to setup your opponent for a damaging blow. This doesn't mean that distraction strikes don't hurt -they do- but their intent is not destruction. This is again where we need to distinguish between terms; hurt and injury. A slap to the face, for example, hurts; a broken elbow, rib, or jaw is an injury.

The point of many strikes in the martial arts is not to deliver a clean, one-shot end to a fight but to daze the opponent, get them to flinch or contort into a position that can be exploited, or to drop his or her guard. If you watch boxers (arguably some of the best hand strikers in any martial art) they will throw out many quick jabs toward the face of their opponent. Although these can certainly hurt if they connect, they're not particularly devastating. Jabs are primarily used to get the opponent to flinch, move, shift their guard, or -if they connect- to stun the opponent enough to allow a hook, upper cut, or overhand punch to land with devastating effect. Those strikes do damage.

In Kajukembo, many of the strikes are intended for the same purpose as the jab. They provide an opening in the opponent's defenses to exploit. A hammer fist to the kidney isn't likely to stop an attack, but it certainly hurts (and can have some nasty after-effects the next few days). It's a distraction strike. What's more important is that the natural reaction to being struck there is to arch the back, open the mouth, and drop the hands. This sets up all kinds of possibilities for a follow-up attack. The throat is likely wide open at this point and a strike there is certain to do serious damage. Likewise, the mouth being open increases the likelihood that a jaw strike will break teeth or result in a knockout.

The same is true with many of the initial strikes in the Tricks (punch counters). For example, the bicep strike that starts several of the Tricks hurts and can weaken the limb but isn't a truly damaging blow. Its intent is to break the attacker's momentum and distract them from their attack (as well as making subsequent attacks with that limb less effective). What it does, however, is to create an opening for you to followup with a strike to the jaw, throat, or other vital area that is more likely to end the confrontation quickly.

For the most part, the strikes that you can do at 30% power in training without injuring your partner tend to be distraction strikes. The others, such as raking the eyes, kicks to the knees, or strikes to the jaw, throat, ribs, or spine, are damaging strikes.

Keep this in mind as you work through the techniques.  It certainly gave me a better idea of how things would unfold in a real conflict.