Focus mitt work is an essential component of any combat training. It develops endurance and agility, reinforces timing, improves footwork and balance, and of course it perfects striking mechanics, and enhances defensive skills. Strike lab, a class we specifically developed to improve students’ striking and fighting abilities, heavily relies on the use of focus mitts to achieve the above mentioned goals. Although pad work training alone is not sufficient to develop students’ self-defense skills, focus mitt training in conjunction with regular Krav Maga training and ultimately our sparring classes, offer students a comprehensive and well-rounded fighting and self-defense education. Given the importance and the popularity of our striking classes, we wanted to address 5 main points to consider when working with focus mitts.
This is a two-part article. In the first part we will focus on the key points of pad work from the perspective of the striker, and next month we will address the components that go into making a good focus mitt holder, whose role is equally important as the person striking.
Five keys to working with focus mitts – striker’s perspective
- Technique over power
Striking focus mitts is not about hitting each strike with maximum power, rather it’s about how to be more efficient with your mechanics, energy and balance when striking. If you are losing balance or compromising your mechanics in order to try to land a heavy strike, you are doing it wrong. Proper form is of foremost importance in striking. Proper technique is the key to maximizing power with minimal effort. In fact, focus mitt work should never be executed at full power. Remember there is a person on the receiving end of the strikes. Full power striking can be reserved for heavy bags.
- Maintain rhythm
We often, when teaching a particular combination, discuss the type of rhythm we’d like you to maintain in your strikes. Why do we emphasize rhythms so much? You can imagine that the same three punch combination can be executed quite differently if the gaps between consecutive strikes are timed differently. So by setting a particular rhythm to your striking you are regulating your breathing, you are regulating your balance and footwork, you are ensuring proper timing in the contraction of your strikes and ensuring good balanced recoil of the punches. Basically you are learning to synchronize your body to your strikes and in essence learning how to maximize on your power with minimal effort as we discussed in the point above.
- Rhythm and technique over speed
People often confuse speed and rhythm. Speed can be defined as how many strikes you do per period of time. Rhythm is more the timing between strikes as discussed above. If you are striking as fast as possible, but in the process compromising your technique, balance, timing and rhythm, then the speed needs to be diminished to the level where the mechanics, footwork and rhythm is maintained. An experienced student can properly execute a three strike combo in under a second, but we cannot expect a beginner to do the same. In fact it may take a newer student three seconds to properly do the same combination, but as long as the rhythm between the strikes is correct, and so are the mechanics of the strikes, then this is the suitable speed for this person.
- Executing the right combination is only half the work
The goal of pad work is to better prepare us for fighting. And fighting is more than just about executing the correct combination of strikes or defensive maneuvers. It is also about disciplined position of the hands, good footwork, proper distance management and more. Do not go into automatic mode when striking, rather take the time to self-assess your performance. Am I dropping my hands when striking? Am I losing my stance? Am I over reaching or am I too close to my targets? Am I always standing still after I finish my combination? This is your time to learn and improve. The way you train is the way you will fight, so avoid developing bad habits that can have bad repercussions in the future. The best way to self-assess is to add a bit of movement after every combination to provide a physical reset needed to improve your position, realign your balance and stance, check the position of your hands, adjust your distance and then continue striking. Often your partner can help you check these parameters by monitoring if you are dropping your hands, assisting in your movement between combos, adjusting distance to the targets when appropriate, etc. We will discuss these in more detail in the second part of this article next month.
- You can only be as good as your pad holder
It takes two people to work focus mitts in a collaboration, not in a competition. The goal for two partners is stay in sync at all times. No matter how fast and accurate the striker can be, he is only as good, as fast and as accurate as the person behind the mitts. If a less experienced pad holder cannot keep up with the pace and power of your strikes, then your strikes need to slow down to match his ability. If the pad holder is more experienced then the striker, and sets an unattainable pace, then feel free to slow him down to match your capabilities.
Of course, the focus mitt holder is too responsible for setting a cooperative pace, and providing a suitable training environment. The role of the pad holder and the keys to improving the overall abilities of the pad holder will be discussed in part two of this article next month.
Let us know your thoughts.