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punching and striking

There are many reasons why striking is an important part of martial arts. I posed this question to one of my classes a few weeks back. Various levels were present, from 3rd-degree black belts to beginner yellow, and I wanted to see what kind of answers I got. I told them, of course, there were many acceptable answers, but I was shooting for one in particular.

Here are some of the most common responses:

  • To incapacitate an attacker. The goal of striking in self-defense is to stop the attacker from harming you. A well-placed strike can quickly disable an attacker and allow you to escape. The pepper spray effect of striking, if you will. One of the sayings we use with the kids is, “We don’t hit to hurt; we hit to stop. Stop the attacker from hurting us.”
  • To control an attacker. In some cases, you may be unable to incapacitate an attacker completely. However, you may be able to control them by striking them in certain areas. For example, striking the attacker’s eyes or throat can make it difficult for them to continue fighting.
  • To build confidence. Learning how to strike effectively can give you a sense of confidence in your ability to defend yourself. This can be especially helpful if you are naturally timid or anxious.
  • To improve physical fitness. Striking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and strength. It also helps to develop coordination and timing.
  • To have fun. Martial arts can be a lot of fun, and striking is a big part. Learning how to strike effectively can be challenging and rewarding.


It is important to note that striking is not the only important aspect of martial arts. Other skills, such as grappling, takedowns, and joint locks are also essential for self-defense. However, striking is a versatile skill used in various situations. As a result, it is an integral part of most martial arts curriculums.

Striking Opponents to Elicit a Reaction

The answer I was looking for in this scenario was striking is used to elicit a specific reaction from an opponent. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Targeting specific areas. Striking certain areas of the body can cause an opponent to react in predictable ways. For example, hitting the solar plexus or groin can force an opponent to double over in pain, while striking the eyes can cause them to close, flinch, and raise their hands to them.
  • Using feints. A feint is a fake attack used to draw an opponent’s reaction. For example, you might feint a punch to the head and then follow up with a kick to the body while their hands are still blocking high.
  • Using timing. Timing is essential in martial arts and can aid in eliciting an opponent’s reaction. For example, you might wait until an opponent is about to throw a punch, then quickly counter with your own punch.


Eliciting a reaction from an opponent can be a very effective way to win a fight. Understanding how to do this can increase your chances of success in self-defense or competition.

Here are some additional tips for striking opponents in martial arts to elicit a reaction:

  • Be unpredictable. Don’t fall into a predictable pattern of strikes. Keep your opponent guessing by mixing up your strikes and using different combinations.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t just focus on your opponent. Be mindful of your surroundings to avoid striking anything or anyone else.
  • Use the right amount of force. Don’t over-strike or under-strike. Use the amount of power that is necessary to get the job done. Not all strikes are knockout shots; allow setup shots to do just that.
  • Practice regularly. The more you practice, the better you elicit reactions from your opponents. Know the typical response to specific strikes, and use that knowledge to your advantage.


Striking opponents in martial arts to elicit a reaction is a complex skill that takes time and practice to develop. However, following these tips can improve your chances of success.

Be a Good Training Partner

One of the most important aspects of being a good training partner is always practicing with realistic reactions. If your partner is performing a set of moves that would elicit a particular reaction, you are not doing them any favors by standing there looking bored and not acting out the role.

Here are some other tips on how to be a good training partner in martial arts:

  • Be respectful. This means respecting your partner’s skills, experience, and safety. It also means being mindful of your body language and verbal communication.
  • Be focused. When you’re training with a partner, it’s essential to be present and engaged. This means paying attention to your partner’s movements and techniques and being aware of your body and surroundings.
  • Be communicative. If you’re not comfortable with something, or if you have any questions, speak up. It’s important to communicate with your partner so that you can both get the most out of your training.
  • Be safe. Always use proper technique and be aware of your partner’s safety. This means avoiding unnecessary contact and stopping immediately if your partner taps out.
  • Be supportive. Encourage your partner and offer constructive feedback. This will help them to improve their skills and have a more enjoyable experience.

Here are some additional tips that are specific to sparring:

  • Match your intensity to your partner’s. If your partner is a beginner, don’t go all out. Instead, match your intensity to theirs so they can learn and improve.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re sparring, it’s essential to be mindful of your surroundings to not accidentally hurt your partner or anyone else.
  • Tap out if you’re in danger. If you’re in a position where you’re being hurt or overwhelmed, tap out to signal to your partner that you want to stop.

Following these tips will help you to be a good training partner and make your martial arts journey more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Stages of Learning

Some of you might be saying that is not realistic. You never know what an opponent will do, so acting in specific ways will not help you in a fight.

Let’s remember the three stages of learning in martial arts:

  1. Embryonic: This is the stage where the foundation for learning is laid. It occurs when you start training and learn the martial art’s basic movements and principles.
  2. Mechanical: This is the stage where you start to practice the techniques you have learned. You will repeat them over and over again until they become automatic.
  3. Spontaneity: This is the stage where you have mastered and can use the techniques without thinking about them. You can react to situations quickly and effectively.


Here is a more detailed explanation of each stage:


  • In the embryonic stage, you learn the basic movements and principles of martial arts. You are also learning about the history and philosophy of the martial art.
  • This stage is crucial because it lays the foundation for future learning. You cannot progress to the next stage if you do not have a solid foundation.
  • In this phase, you may learn longer techniques in smaller, easier-to-digest chunks, gradually adding more details as you become more proficient.



  • In the mechanical stage, you slowly and methodically work the techniques you have learned. You will repeat them over and over again until they become automatic.
  • This stage is crucial because it helps you to develop muscle memory. Muscle memory is the ability to perform a movement without thinking about it.
  • “Slow is smooth; smooth is fast…” You will likely practice your moves 100 or 1000 times slow to get them one time fast. When it counts. “… speed is a resultant of accuracy.”



  • The spontaneity stage is the ultimate goal of all martial arts training, representing the pinnacle of achievement. At this stage, a martial artist has gained mastery of the techniques and can use them effortlessly without much thought. The fluidity with which they move and execute their moves causes others to take notice.
  • Not only is the martial artist able to execute their techniques flawlessly, but they can also react to situations quickly and effectively. In other words, they become an embodiment of the art, living and breathing it both on and off the mat. They are no longer just a martial arts student but a true martial artist at this stage. This is the ultimate end goal, but it has a wide range of “master proficiency.” Not all black belts are created equal.


It is important to note that these stages are not always linear. A person may move back and forth between stages, depending on the technique they are learning and the amount of practice they have had. Additionally, the stages of learning may overlap. For example, a person may be in the mechanical stage of learning a punch, but they may also be starting to show signs of spontaneity in their kicks.

The three stages of learning provide a framework for understanding how people learn martial arts. They can also be used to guide the design of training programs. For example, if you are designing a training program for beginners, you would want to ensure that it includes opportunities for repetition and practice. You would also like to ensure that the program is challenging enough to promote growth but not so challenging that it becomes frustrating.

As always, be safe and be prepared.


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