11 April 2011

Human Dummy Drill

The other night we were practising prearranged sparring. While the students found defensive postures like blocking easy enough, some students found it difficult to come up with a variety of appropriate counter-attacks. They tended to fall back on the same counter-attacks all the time, such as a reverse punch or low turning kick. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using those techniques that come most naturally to you. It is good that you have such an arsenal of reflexive techniques to rely upon. Yet part of the purpose of prearranged sparring is to provide an opportunity to practise a greater variety of techniques to apply within a specific scenario. It allows one the chance to ingrain new techniques that could potentially become reflexive responses as well.

Being familiar with the vital spots is important. (You can review Taekwon-Do's primary vital spots at the SA-ITF website, here.) But more than a mere surface knowledge of these points, a 'feeling' for how to reach the vital points, which attacks work most comfortably and most powerfully from whichever position relative to these targets are equally, or probably even more, important.

Human Dummy Drill

One drill I use to help students acquire such a 'feeling' is to have a training partner act as a human dummy and allow the student to move around the training partner while mock attacking different vital spots.

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In a sense, the drill is similar to how one would use the wooden dummy used by Chinese martial arts (i.e. Whin Chun). The wooden dummy drill is in two ways better than the human dummy drill because you can hit the targets with much more force while also conditioning your attacking tools and limbs, but it is not very representative of 'real' targets, nor can you move around the dummy. On the other hand, the human dummy drill is better that the wooden dummy drill because one can move 360 degrees around the 'dummy' and it provides an accurate account of the human body. Unfortunately you cannot hit the targets with too much force since you will injure your training partner and therefore it also doesn't help much with attacking tool conditioning.

Students practising prearranged sparring at
'The Way' ITF dojang in Seoul, South Korea.
To do the 'human dummy' drill I usually start out with the training partner just standing in a natural upright posture, feet somewhat apart and arms raised slightly away from the sides. Moving around the training partner allows the student to identify different vital spots from many different angles. Merely naming the vital spots is not enough. Instead, the student should move around the training partner while attacking the vital spots with appropriate attacks. The student's distance and relative position to the training partner will influence the type of attacks chosen. An important part of this exercise is to continue moving around the training partner. Just standing in one position and attacking vital spots makes one think too much. By continuing to move around the 'dummy' the student is forced to go with the flow and identify and attack vital spots as they 'appear'. This not only practise functional movement from stance to stance, but it also prevents the mind from only seeing a target from one entry point. Later one could have the 'human dummy' move into different postures, like a boxer's guard, like a walking stance punch, a kicking chamber, and so on. Each posture forces the student to identify other vital spots that are most accessible from that particular position. It also changes the three dimensional space around the opponent which will require one to move around the dummy in different ways.

Remember, of course, that this drill is a good exercise to help one expand your awareness of different vital spots and different attacks to reach these vital spots. However, don't forget that this is only an exercise and not reflective of a real combative encounter because your opponent is not moving.

The human dummy drill is a good exercise to do before doing prearranged sparring exercises as it reviews the vital spots and helps the students 'feel' how to attack them better.

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