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Pad holding

Posted: April 7, 2020 by evanjex in Martial Arts In General, Training
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Pad holding

You aren’t just holding some pads, you are helping each other train.

There is a fine art to holding pads for someone, and there are people out there who make a lot of money holding pads for the pros. While I’m not expecting you to flawlessly shift the pads to catch a 15 strike combo for the likes of Connor McGregor, if you’re training regularly you should have a firm grasp on how to safely and effectively hold pads for your partner so that you both get the best out of your session (and come out if it without injuries.)

So, here are a few places to start if you’re not sure how to properly hold pads for people, and points to focus on if you want to up your “pad game” a little.

Each time you hold a pad, whether it be a focus mitt or kick shield, you have to understand that the pad is there to represent a body part, one that we are training to attack. Therefore, when you position your pads make sure they are in a position that mimics that body part on an opponent. The centre of the pad should align with that same body part on you, so keep focus mitts at your head height for punches, kick shields at your knee height for low round house kicks and on your torso for push kicks or knees. Of course, you can’t just hold the pad directly in front of your body and expect to be absorbed, which brings me to my next point.

Safety

The pads are there to provide a target for your partner to strike, more so than they are designed to keep you, as the pad holder, safe or protected. To hold pads safely you need to keep your body in a position and stance that can take the impact without causing your joints to hyperextend or bend in directions they weren’t meant to. For your basic jab/cross, hooks, and uppercuts the target we are training to strike is usually the head, so, as I said earlier, you need to hold the focus mitts (or “target pads”) at your head height. Obviously, you can’t hold them in front of your face unless you want to cop a blow to the face from the back of your own hand, so you need to hold them at either side of your head, again, mimicking a real opponent’s positioning. That being said, if you are holding the pads further out than shoulder width apart they are no longer in a position that resembles a realistic head position.

So here is my guide to holding Focus Mitts:

Let’s start with positioning; just either side of your head and about 30cm (1′) in front of your shoulders (note: while this range works best for me, you may want to adjust according to your arm length). This positioning is important for two reasons;

1. It creates a target as close to your real head position as possible.

2. It protects your shoulders from hyperextension (and your face from the back of your own hand.)

Now, once you have the mitts in the right position, here’s how use them;

Imagine you are “catching” each punch. That distance in front of your shoulders becomes really important, as you need to add a little bit of forward resistance to “meet” the incoming strike. This catching motion and added resistance pays off two-fold; it protects your shoulders by not letting your hands fly backwards over them from the force of the punch, and it stops your partner’s arms from hyperextending and damaging their elbows.

That covers your basic, straight jab/cross (1,2) punches. For your hooks (3,4) everything remains the same that except you turn the mitts 90 degrees, to face inward and apply your resistance inward. With uppercuts (5,6), hold the pads facing downward, one on top the other, at your chin height (still with distance from your face) and apply the resistance downward to catch the impact.

As you become comfortable with each individual strike, work on combinations; slow at first, speed will come in time.

Kick shields are a different animal completely, as they are used for a much larger range of strikes and will mimic more parts of the opponent’s body.

They deserve their own post, so I will cover those in the future.

Turning Up

With Krav Maga classes, as with almost everything in life, turning up is the first key to success. Now, by this I don’t simply mean being physically in the room, yes, getting to class on time is important, but turning up for your classmates and instructors means more than that.

Come to class regularly. This is important. Often concepts and techniques build on one and other, and if you consistently miss classes you will eventually fall behind. You won’t be able to keep up with the more complex techniques or concepts, which means that either your partner or the instructor will end up having to stop and explain things to you; which means less active training time for you and your partner. This also means that you may struggle to perform more complex movements, as you have not adequately practiced the basics to a level where you can build on them.

Pay attention. You need to ensure that you are mentally switched on while training; meaning pay attention to your instructors. Once again, just because you are there, and there regularly, doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to learn anything (lets face it, not many of us can learn through osmosis). Actively listen when things are being explained, and while chatting with the person next to you might seem like fun, it’s rude to your instructor; and if you disrupt class then it’s rude towards your fellow students as well. Furthermore, if you are chatting or daydreaming, you aren’t listening. As noted above, if you don’t listen when drills are being explained you might find that you are wasting valuable time trying to play catch up, or worse, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up getting kicked or punched by your partner (though this often makes for a quick learning curve).

Actively participate. If you’re in a classroom or lecture hall raise your hand and ask or answer questions, if you’re in a Krav Maga class speak up when you’re asked for input, and then do the drill. Sure, no one likes to be the dummy that’s getting kicked in the groin, but that’s a part of Krav Maga training. You take the fun with the not-so-fun. If you’re not giving every part of the drills the same attention and enthusiasm, on every drill, then you’re not really actively participating in the class. If you don’t understand something, ask; just keep the questions relevant.

Keep the energy up. Now, I know we don’t all have the energy of a 5yr old after their 5th espresso everyday, but you need to turn up to class ready to commit to a full class. If you’re not providing a committed and energetic attack for your partner during drills, then you’re not giving them the opportunity to learn what a realistic attack feels like, and if their technique could successfully defend against it. Even in between drills, whether it’s getting pads or putting on gear, do it with a bit of pep in your step; don’t waste everyone’s limited training time just because you’re feeling like taking it a little easier today. I don’t mean you have to be rushing every time you go to do something, but keep the tempo up, act with a sense of urgency, and don’t let your heart rate drop too much.

Be prepared. “Turning up” can begin before you even get to class. Make sure you have all of your protective gear; groin guard, mouth guard, helmet, and gloves, and bring a water bottle (tip: try to show up hydrated!). Periodically check that your uniform is clean, no one wants to train with the guy who’s shirt smells like B.O., and if you’re anything like me (who sweats) bring a towel. Because, while I don’t expect to come out of class without getting a little of someone else’s sweat on me, it’s a good option to be able to wipe down yourself or the equipment you’re using.

Help out where you can. If you’re working with a newer or less experienced person and they are having trouble, help them out if you can; just be careful not to start teaching. At the end of class help clean up and put away the equipment used. Being a good student and good classmate doesn’t start and stop when you bow in and out; if you are “turning up” for your school, take a little pride and do your part.

These are some of the things that “turning up” means to me. It may mean more or less to you, but if you have never thought about what it means, or wondered if you are, this should serve as a starting point for you to decide what type of student you want to be.

Are you a good training partner?


Are you the guy that as soon as the instructor says pair up everyone looks at hoping you will train with them or are you the guy the people avoid making eye contact with until everyone else has pared up and you get a reluctant partner. So, what makes a good training partner? Here is a list of what I find to be some of the most important points.

Turning Up


In my experience training martial arts as well as working with teams of people in the construction and hospitality industries first and foremost the thing that makes a good partner in any situation is turning up; not just being there, but being mentally focused and physically active. Especially in martial arts, where someone not paying attention can mean injuries, you need to be focused on the task at hand, knowing what both you and your partner are expected to do and executing those duties with enthusiasm and commitment. No one wants to train with the guy who is constantly asking what they are supposed to be doing or just lacks physical commitment to the training; whether that means holding pads or playing an aggressor.

Listening to the Instructors


Secondly, once you have turned up pay attention to your instructor and listen to instructions! There is nothing worse than performing a combination or series of techniques and your partner isn’t where they are supposed to be or isn’t reacting appropriately. I experienced this recently, while practicing getting up from the ground as an aggressive attacker approaches you. The drill goes like this: the attacker pushes the defender with a kick shield, the defender falls to the ground and performs a break fall, the attacker then walks towards the defender, the defender stabilizes themselves and kicks at the attackers knees (of course protected by the kick shield), keeping them at distance, and then gets up, facing the attacker in a fighting stance. My situation was that my partner pushed me with the kick shield, but, as I performed my break fall, stood 4 feet away from me and didn’t move in. So it was impossible for me to complete the technique because my partner was a) in the wrong place and b) standing static not moving forward; all because they didn’t listen to the explanation of the drill by the instructor.

Pad Holding


There is somewhat of an art to holding pads well, and it does take a little time to learn, but there are some basics that you need to grasp; not just to give the best experience to your partner, but also to avoid injuries (yours or theirs).

The two main types of pads we use are focus mitts and kick shields, so I will limit my discussion to these. When using focus mitts, the mitt itself typically represents your opponent’s head, but in some cases their body or groin. With that in mind, hold them in a position that corresponds to those body parts. For example, if your training a jab/cross (1,2) punch combination keep the pads at your head height, and close to where your head would be (though not right in front of your face, as you risk a blow to your face with the back of the pad.) Avoid holding them more than shoulder width apart, as this is not a realistic target for your partner and is a good way to injure you own shoulder. As the strike connects with the mitt treat it like catching a ball; you want to add a little forward force so there is resistance for the person punching, which helps them to avoid hyperextending their elbow.

Kick shields, as the name implies, are typically used for striking with legs and feet. The key with this type of pad is to hold it tight and close to your body. People have a tendency to try holding this type of pad off their body, assuming that the shield will absorb all the force, but what really happens is the shield is slammed back against your body. This also allows for a lot of movement in the shield and often results is your partner’s kicking foot sliding off at an unexpected angle; possibly hitting you and/or causing a ankle or knee injury to your partner.

Providing a Realistic Attack


Providing a realistic attack is another key to being a good partner. If you are training to block a punch to the head I’m not suggesting you try and knock your partner out, but if they do nothing, or offer a weak block, you should make light contact with their chin, nose, or cheek bone (depending on where you were aiming). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve faced punches that were falling short (by several inches) or landing way out to either side of my head. This is obviously not a realistic attack. As a result I have to perform a different movement to “defend” the attack, and this isn’t the muscle memory I want to train. Similarly, if you are putting chokes or holds onto your partner use enough force that they have to fight to get out of it. If you offer no resistance to the defense they are training they will be stuck wondering why its not working, and probably really shocked at how it feels, if it ever happens in real life.

Watch Your Distance


Everyone’s range is different, and all of your natural weapons (legs, elbows, kicks, knees, punches, headbutts, etc.) have different ranges. You need to match your range to the range of your partner and what they need for the weapons they are using. So, if you are working with someone much taller or shorter than you, don’t stand where your range is, stand at, or hold the pads at, their range; so they can correctly train the strikes they are practicing. It is also important to maintain this range when we train in a dynamic mode; if your partner moves in, move back to match, if they move back, move in to match.

Watch Your Power


Power control is one of our most important training concepts, especially when sparring but also when working with pads or holds and grappling. Often, rules set out a 10-15% power limit, but, if you are much larger or stronger than your partner, remember that your 15% is likely more than theirs. So, try to let your partner set the power level if they are smaller or less experienced. Likewise, if you are using pads and unload on a kick shield held by someone 40lb smaller than you, you will probably send them flying across the room.

Final Thoughts

I will elaborate further on each of these points in subsequent blog posts, but the basics are here. If you want to be a good training partner, and always have people happy and wanting to train with you; turn up, listen to your instructors, hold your pads wisely, provide realistic attacks, watch your distance, and watch your power.

And please, for anyone that trains with me, please call me out if I’m not being a good training partner. I promise I won’t take it personally.

Written by: Evan J

UTKM: Yellow Belt

The Importance of realism

Posted: January 31, 2020 by evanjex in Krav Maga Opinions
Tags: , , ,
Surprise! Attackers can be anywhere.

The importance of realism in Krav Maga, Martial arts and self-defense training

Whether your goal for training in self-defense or martial arts is to be able to defend your self on the street, competition fighting or merely to get into shape or learn a new skill one thing that should be present in your training for it to be in any way successful is realism with in your training.

Now there is a time and a place for this along with other aspects of your training for it to be successful and I am not suggesting sacrificing one for the other. When a new technique is being learned at first taking things slow and easy is the best way often to figure out body movements, dynamics and train mussel memory but then comes time to drill and stress test.

Now as anyone who has been attacked in the street can tell you it is extremely uncomfortable and stressful both physically and mentally, and for you to be able to react effectively in a real-life situation you must be able to train under conditions as closely resembling those in real life as possible. Like wise if you are training for a competition whilst the stakes might not be life and death you can guarantee your opponent is going to be giving it there all and expecting you to do the same. And if your goal was simply to get into shape the metabolic demand of an energetic and committed opponent is going to be a lot higher than that of a luck luster one.

Witch brings me to my point I have trained with lots of different people over my years in the martial arts world ranging from security and law enforcement to the odd soldier (or ex-soldier) and even a few pro fighters, and then everyone else from the committed students to the casual attendees. One thing that makes the biggest difference in my experience as to Whether or not your training partner is helping you get the best out of your training is there ability to bring realism to the situation or technique, and by this I mean if you are training to get out of a choke they better be putting a good choke on you or your training isn’t going to be doing that much for you.

Once again there is a time and a place for everything and if you are a seasoned practitioner and your training with a newbie or less experienced partner I don’t mean go balls to the wall and leave them without any hope of actually executing the technique they are supposed to be learning, you obviously have to match your power and intensity to an appropriate level but make sure it is challenging for them, there is usually less of a problem here for the more experienced person but as the less experienced person you better be bringing your all to the drill. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a newer person try to put a hold or choke on me the more resembled a neck massage or hug and then as soon as I started to resist at all they just completely let go.

This becomes very frustrating as the whole drill becomes largely useless for the person being attacked, it doesn’t remotely resemble a real attack for those wanting to learn to defend themselves or jump into a competition fight and as far as getting into shape or learning something new goes, your burning little to no calories and not learning much either.

So, here’s a word to those whom I’m talking about

  1. People come to classes to learn to fight that means the expect to get grabbed kicked punched your not going to offend anyone by being physical
  2. Use this time when you are playing the attacker to work on your own punches kicks grabs foot work look at the technique from the other side and what you might be having trouble with or how you can improve.
  3. If you are going to hard your partner will tell you as long as there is mutual respect this shouldn’t be a problem.

As a new person this can take a minute to get used to and figure out but don’t take to long because in the meantime you’re not doing yourself or anyone else and favors

Written by: Evan

UTKM Yellow Belt