There are two different groups of people who believe they can successfully defend themselves against an attacker in real life – those who are trained in hand-to-hand combat, and those who have watched some kung-fu movies or played some fighting games.
The problem with movie martial arts is that the tactics and maneuvers are not meant to be practical. They are intended to be stylish and flashy. Through years of martial arts training, I’ve learned what works and what does not. This article is meant to educate readers on what does not work in close quarters combat.
Jumping toward an opponent and kicking at them looks great in an action movie, and is a mainstay of martial arts video games, but in real life it’s strategically foolish. The only redeeming quality of a jumping kick is that it can surprise an opponent.
The downsides are more numerous. Firstly, a jump kick takes you off balance, making you easy to knock down. Secondly, a jump kick usually lacks the power of a standing kick. If you manage to build up enough speed to make a jump kick powerful, you’re probably far enough away that your opponent can easily avoid your attack.
If you want the advantage of surprise that a jump kick offers without all the embarrassing weaknesses, try jump punching, as it is much easier to aim your attack and to put some real power behind it from close range. With a jump punch your balance is mostly retained, as your legs are free to land properly.
In a martial arts movie, it’s not uncommon to see someone run along a wall for a moment or even jump off a wall to attack an opponent. The problem is that this tactic is almost never possible or useful.
Wall running or wall bouncing is hard to do without lots of practice, the right shoes, and the right surface. With hard, slick shoes or surfaces it really won’t work at all. In fact, they work better as escape tactics rather than methods of attack.
You might think bouncing off a wall to attack an opponent gives you more power, but it really just expends more energy for the same results as a well-executed spinning back fist or spinning kick.
Anyone who has played a few fighting games before taking karate classes probably tried out a sliding kick on an opponent. This involves running forward and sliding toward your opponent with one or both feet extended to sweep an opponent off their feet.
Like the wall running, there is no way this will work without the right shoes and surface- both have to be slick and hard. But slide kicks, while stylish-looking, are slow, weak, and generally ineffectual. No matter how fast you start running, when you go into a slide, friction is going to slow you down.
Instead, consider using the momentum of your run for a running haymaker or sidekick. Or if you just want to knock your opponent off their feet, use a stationary sweep. This involves ducking down and sweeping one or both legs across an opponent’s legs, knocking their feet out from under them.
There’s a common theme in all of these useless attacks. They are showy without being useful and are meant for simulated combat. Inexperienced martial artists often find themselves drawn to these kinds of flashy attacks, but with the alternatives I’ve given, you will have a better method of self-defense.