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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Personal Stories, Sparring » Keep your hands up

Keep your hands up

In the video below, I’m sparring with Mr. Tony Kelser while visiting Disciple Martial Arts in Edmond, OK. At about the halfway point in the video, I take a clean shot to the nose. My hands were down. Give Mr. Kelser all the credit though, he rightfully took advantage of the situation. Hopefully a punch to the nose, in a safe, training environment, will serve as a good reminder to keep your hands up.

In martial arts, especially Kenpo Karate, you are taught to keep the front hand high, near the face with the elbow anchored near the chest. The rear hand is covering the heart or midsection in anticipation of use. Your hand placement in this fashion is called your guard. The closer an opponent is, the higher up the rear hand moves. This way, in a very close situation, both hands are able to protect the head.

It’s a common, bad habit, to drop your hands when fighting. Typically it happens when you’re tired. Holding up your arms takes energy. The longer the match goes the harder it becomes to keep them up. Sometimes the hands fall because your opponent has lulled you into dropping them by throwing a barrage of low strikes. It’s a setup to get you to lower your guard.

How do you correct the habit of dropping your hands? Well you can take a good punch in the nose as a reminder. <ouch> Practice is the best answer. Though when you’re in the mix of sparring, it can be difficult for beginners and veterans to remember to pull the hands back up. Good coaching is key here. Having an instructor or training partner remind you from the sidelines is extremely helpful. Another option is to vary your training up by wearing heavier gloves. This strengthens the arm muscles, making them last longer and not tire out. The arms don’t fall as easily or quickly.

Getting punched in the face is a reality of karate training. It’s going to happen to everyone at some point. Probably more than once. How you learn from it is part of what defines your journey in the martial arts.

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Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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