Detailed Drills: Combo Training

This week we’ll be looking at a subject that I am woefully bad at: combos!

Being tall and lanky, my natural fighting style has always been to use my reach to throw single moves that score, and then stop. These are a few drills designed to help break that habit.

We’ll go over a trio of drills designed to help (aka force) a student into throwing more moves. Some people take to combos very easily, other people by nature prefer to throw single moves. Even if a person has success with firing off a single attack, it’s important to be able to throw combinations. You never know when you’ll encounter someone who can block that first move – no matter how fast it is.

In point or light sparring, think of combos as insurance. You throw the first move with the intention of hitting, but if it doesn’t you have another move already on the way. In full contact or self defense, your goal is to render the person unable to hit back. The more times you hit them, the closer you get to this goal. Simply put: more is better than less. Additionally, if you throw several moves quickly, each one becomes harder to hit than the last. If you just threw a strike high, it will be harder for the defender to block a follow up low.

Forced Combos

forced combos.png

Two people engage in a regular sparring match, but with a restriction on what counts as a point. Before the match, pick a number (usually 2, 3, or 4) – only combinations reaching that length count as a point. For example, if 3 is chosen, the participant must throw 3 or more moves with at least one landing to count as a point. This forces both participants to really push themselves and strike multiple times, drilling combinations while working on their tenacity and aggression.

Make sure participants are throwing real combinations. Throwing a few moves in the air without intent then throwing one “real” move with a chance of scoring does not count. Every move in the combination has to be executed with intent.

If people are struggling with this drill, start with 2 move combinations and work your way up!

Combo Beginnings

combo beginnings.png

Another normal sparring match except each participant has one starting move assigned to them. They must begin all their attacks with that move. This will teach what moves work best as a first move (backfist, lead leg kick, etc) and which moves are difficult to lead with (reverse punch, spin kick, etc). Rotate the assigned moves after each person has tried a few times.

If the participant doesn’t start an attack with the assigned move, it does not score any points. For example, if the assigned move is a lead leg side kick, even a three move combo won’t count for anything if it started with a front kick instead.

Combo Setups

Combo Setups.png

In this drill, a specific technique is chosen for one or both of the participants. This move is worth a point while all other techniques are worth 0. The goal is to throw other moves as setups. For example, if you decide that only a reverse punch is worth a point, participants may still throw a backfist to the head to set up the punch.

Unlike Combo Beginnings above, you want to assign moves that aren’t quick, speedy openers. For example, if you assign a jab, both participants will just take turns throwing jabs. Assign more powerful moves like rear hand strikes and rear leg kicks. Force the participants to use the quick moves to set up the assigned move. Don’t be afraid to give a few examples when beginner students are trying this drill.

More Is Better

If you keep striking, and they keep blocking, eventually something will get through. That’s the philosophy of combos and these drills. If everything you throw is being blocked, throw more!


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