Detailed Drills: Offense and Defense

Today we’re going to look at a few ways to practice the classic “Offense Only” and “Defense Only” rolls in sparring practice. Practicing these rolls in isolation produces many benefits. Beginners on offense will be less scared – if they’re practicing against someone who can only block it will allow them to get into an attacking mindset. Defense only forces you to develop good focus, distance judgment, and reaction time. Without being to strike to keep the attacker at bay, they’ll be able to close the distance and strike whenever they want.


One participant is always attacking, the other is always defending. The attacker should try to keep the defender from regrouping and becoming ready and the defender should try to control the distance through both retreating and jamming.

For the attacker this is a great opportunity to work combinations, footwork while chasing, and target accuracy. When you don’t have to worry about a counter attack, you can practice being aggressive. Try to attack so rapidly that your opponent will become off balance.

On defense, be sure to keep your eyes forward and your chin down. Allowing your chin to stick out actually increases the blink reflex. Keeping your chin tucked and focusing will allow you to block better. Also be aware of distance – you should try to use distance as your primary defense and blocking as your last resort.


This builds upon the previous drill. In this one, a 3rd person periodically calls out “switch” during the match. At this point, roles are reversed. This helps the defender maintain readiness to strike and the attacker to keep from getting sloppy. The defender knows their turn to attack is coming, and the attacker must be mindful to keep their guard up even while attacking.

When attacking be aware of your own openings, the switch could occur at any time. When defending don’t retreat so far that you can’t strike when it’s your turn to be the attacker. The more frequently you switch the more intense the drill.


This one builds upon the first drill except this time the defender can throw one technique as an occasional counter. Start with a reverse punch and eventually expand to other counters. The defender will be surprised by their success rate using one move vs the opponent’s entire arsenal.

The defender must focus on readiness. Priority one must always be to avoid getting hit, but the defender needs to be prepared to counter as well. It’s a good mental exercise because the defender must find targets even while blocking. A wide focus helps with this – when defending, don’t look at the arm or leg you’re blocking, instead look at the attacker’s whole body.

I like this particular progression of drills as it’s a great way for beginners to ease into free sparring. Offense only lets you practice attacking without fear, and defense only gets you more comfortable moving and blocking. Switching it up can increase the intensity, and adding in counters gets beginners one step closer to true free sparring. Even though I think of these as great drills for beginners, intermediate and advanced students can benefit greatly from them as well.

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