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"Technique one... Technique Two... Technique Three

I dislike giving out lists of techniques. Sometimes students will ask me, “Why don’t you give us a list of all of the punching combinations, so that we have them?” My response to them is, “If you want a list, you can write one yourself, but I’m not giving you one.” Here is my reason for telling them that. As is often the case, when students are given lists of techniques, that is all the student looks at or uses. While lists may initially serve a somewhat useful purpose, in many cases, if a person is not careful, they can become a form of limitation.

Let’s take punching combinations as an example. My goal for my students is not to have them memorize a bunch of combinations, but rather, to understand the “essence” of compound punching. Initially, I will have the student develop each basic tool individually such as the lead straight, rear cross, hook, uppercut, etc. Then I will tell them, “Now I want you to develop your ability to use your lead arm striking tools in combination.” -- “Now I want you to develop your ability to use your lead hand and rear hand in combination.” I might tell them to come up with a two-punch combination, a three-punch combination, or even a fix or six-punch combination. And as long as they aren’t violating any fundamental principles, I let them go. The point is that I want the student to develop their own ability to think and create combinations themselves without relying on me or some list. What type of combination they use in sparring has to relate to their opponent’s positioning, their defense, etc. If we include such things as feints and false attacks into combinations, then you can change, adjust, or adapt them. For example, a simple three-punch combination can be done four ways:

  1. Hit - hit - hit

  2. Feint - hit - hit

  3. Feint - feint - hit

  4. Hit - feint - hit

It doesn’t make sense to end a combination on a feint. So if you had a list of possible punching combinations you could continue to extrapolate into who knows how many techniques. The list, as they say, could be endless.

Let’s look at Hand Immobilization Attack. (I know the use of trapping is controversial and various people have their own very definite opinions about it, so let’s not even go their, okay?) My point is that you learn basic trapping actions, then you move on to compound trapping actions. But all those actions are built around the principle of the type of energy and reactions you receive from an opponent, not some list that gives you fourteen trapping combinations off a ‘pak sao’ (slapping hand) trap. You don’t just do a pak sao, lop sao, gua chuie combination because it’s on a list. You use it because that’s what the opponent’s energy and actions (or reactions) dictates would be the most appropriate action to use at that moment.

There is nothing inherently wrong with lists. If you choose to use them, that’s fine. But make sure that you use them as a resource to help you grow, and don’t allow them to restrict your own thought processes. Use your creativity and imagination to develop yourself and become a free-thinking and creative martial artist.

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