Point sparring teaches many wonderful skills: judging distance, reaction time, accuracy, and speed (just to name a few). Unfortunately, because most tournaments don’t allow grabs and throws in point sparring (whether it be continuous or single point-reset style), it’s easy to develop some bad habits too. These bad habits can be especially dangerous because it wrongly trains people to not fear having their legs grabbed.
Having your leg grabbed is a very, very bad thing.
In a self-defense situation, the pulling and twisting that can result from having your leg grabbed risks knee and leg injuries. Even worse, you risk being thrown on your head! Not the ideal outcome to throwing a kick.
So How Do We Train for This Safely, and in the Context of Sparring in Class?
Well the easy answer is to allow grabs and throws. Some martial arts point-fighting events allow grabs and throws and then award a point for a drop punch once the opponent is down.
That’s all well and good, but what if your school has never done anything like that? Jumping in feet first isn’t the best way to learn and teach. Instead, let’s look at today’s drill:
Catch and Release
This is a great drill for people who have sparred a decent amount, but never allowed catching or grabbing kicks.
In this drill, one person is only allowed to throw kicks while the other is only allowed to defend. Keep track of how many kicks score. The round ends when the defender successfully grabs the attacker’s leg.
After that, the two switch rolls. Whoever can grab the leg after getting scored on the lowest number of times wins.
This will teach students to properly fear having their leg grabbed, and reinforce the good habit of snapping kicks back!
Suggested Kicker Strategies:
- Use fast kicks that can snap, like a front leg roundhouse.
- Fake a kick to one target then really go for another.
- Avoid throwing a hook kick by itself, this kick is easy to jam and grab.
- Throw kicks high and outside, kicks to the inside are easier to grab.
Suggested Defender Strategies:
- Either by too far, or too close. Jamming a kick makes it easier (and safer) to grab.
- Block first, grab second. Reaching for a kick is a good way to break your fingers!
- Start with one hand covering low to reduce the attacker’s potential targets.
Important safety point: When this drill is new to people, have a 3rd person watching, keeping score, and yelling “stop” when the leg is caught. The second the leg is trapped you want to end the drill to prevent injuries from loss of balance. You may also want to precede this drill by having students practice falling safely with one leg being held.
So There You Have It
This is a quick, fun drill that reinforces important concepts like snapping your kick back, and fearing the leg grab!