Developing Timing, Distance and Reactive Karate Skills

Of course you and I know one of the most basic concepts of karate is not getting hit.

No big surprise there, huh?

Typically that means “not being there” should be the first rule of self defense. In other words moving out of range of your opponent’s reach is a critical skill to possess. How far does your opponent have to miss by, in order to miss you with their technique?

Not far, I’m sure you’ll agree.

(Great fighters do this well – they make their opponents just miss… and then they make them pay.)

The other side of that coin is the challenge of closing the gap without telegraphing the technique. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to practice both skill sets simultaneously?

Never fear dear reader, I’ve got your 6 as usual.

mousetrapThere’s a drill in my 125 Dynamite Drills ebook called Stepping Mousetrap, in which students pair up on one side of the tatami and take their forward stance facing each other. As one person steps forward, the other steps backwards. The objective is for the person stepping forward to try and trap their opponent’s front foot by stepping on their foot. The person stepping backwards must be fast enough to avoid the trap. When students get to the other side, roles are reversed as students make their way back across the room. There are a few more rules and regulations to the game, but that’s it in a nutshell.

Anyhow, this week I took that exercise to a new level with my students and I want to share it with you today. Furthermore you can do this with all adults, teens and kids of all skill levels.

The first upgrade for this drill is simply to have the “attacker” make oi-zuki (lunge punch / step forward punch), and again the defender must be fast enough to step back and avoid the hit. The defender is not allowed to block, but simply must stand with their hands on their hips and rely on the speed of their movement only. The objective is to learn the range of their opponent’s technique, and to shift just out of that range. For safety have the attacker punch to the chest and not the face.

The second variation we worked on this week that raised the stakes was to have the attacker make mae-geri (front kick) and land forward as the defender stepped backward. The attacker must kick as fast as they can with the objective of kicking their opponent in the abdominal area. Again the defender may not block – just move back.

Each of these variations increases the risk for the defender and subsequently raises the awareness level for all students. The defender doesn’t want to get hit, and the attacker must not telegraph their technique if they are to be successful.

Students really enjoy this drill. It makes them nervous and the occasional student will get hit. However, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s best they learn this in the dojo rather than somewhere where a mistake could have dire consequences.

What other variations can you think of that would develop these same skill sets?


4 thoughts on “Developing Timing, Distance and Reactive Karate Skills”

  1. Loved doing this when I was younger, great refresher/reminder. I had totally forgot about this! thank you for the emails, I love them.

  2. Great drill! I immediately thought of having the student avoiding getting stepped on to counter by trying to step on the attacker’s foot. That would create good practice for “just barely” getting out of the way so that you are still within distance to counter.

  3. I’m afraid their distance will always be too great. That is what happens when I teach some sort of Kihon Kumite.
    The attackers are too afraid to hit. Maybe I can let one person carry some kind of “impact pad”.


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