Article:    Simply Snappy.

With the summer break taking hold it was a smaller group training last week. The thursday beginners/ fundamentals class was mainly white belts but all committed guys. I thought about what would give these guys the biggest bang per buck in the time we had. With a small group its a great opportunity to focus on the fine detail that is so important to becoming the best you can be.

Our focus was on snapback one of the key elements of a great defence. Snapback is where, with or without a small step, you snap backwards out of reach of your opponents blow and then instantly return to your former position where you can launch an attack or counter attack. Seemingly simple it really is one of the key points to mastery in Sparring. It’s the simplest means of defence. Everything else is much harder or more complicated mentally. Linked with the occasional good fundamental jab or kick and the occasional stop hit it will make you very very hard to beat. Lets look at the problem from the attackers point of view.

They go to hit you with a jab for instance. You snap back from the planned point of contact. Committed they can be easily countered in particular if they’ve just launched a rear hand cross. What to do? go deeper on their next shot. But this leaves them open to being stop hit (where you hit them as they prepare to go deeper. You doing the snap back is making their attack timeline longer. More time for you to block, move or stop hit them. Longer, deeper attacks often have more build up so are sometimes more obvious. So they’re easier to counter as long as you keep your cool.

Think of snap back as you being out of the house when someone bad comes to call (the taxman always comes to mind) You’re out when they call the rest of the time you’re in and living comfortably. So, how to do this well? The secret is keeping it simple.

It’s the big toe that does most of the work. Keep the ankle stiff and the rear leg straight. Much like a pogo stick that you bounce on. With the bounce move on a horizontal axis not on a vertical axis. That is move forwards and backwards not up and down. The more joints you involve the slower you’ll return to launch your counter attack. Remember even the ankle has got a large group of bones so don’t have a soft ankle. Similarly have the knee locked straight and pointing forwards as much as possible and the same for the foot. Think like a sprinter on his blocks you need your levers pointing towards where you want to hit. Doing all this, if you just use your ankle (the big toe joint ) to bounce you’ll get about 12-18 inches of distance from their attack. If you take a small backwards step you’ll get two feet plus. Important point: Don’t sway your back or lean backwards. This changes not only your physical structure but also your mental structure. Your stomach is stretched and it’s easier to feel vulnerable. Lean forwards and have the mentality of hunting them, even though you’re moving backwards temporarily.

In the class we used a variety of methods to train this response and get the method across.

Static snap back. You put your head on their extended fist and then use the two types of snapback to realise how much distance you can get for almost zero work. A key 4D combat concept. Type one without a short step, type two with a six inch bounce step that returns quickly.
Move around the dojo using footwork adding snapback at either end of a movement. Add it to our shadow boxing.
Single leg bounces. Do 100 you’ll feel the connection to the ankle bounce.
Jab catch drill: One person starts with a jab to engender a jab response on the part of the opponent. (you’re giving them the idea) then you snap back as they jab using your rear hand to catch or parry, then on the third beat (or half beat ) you jab then deep and hard. Musically think of your first jab being on one beat and then their response and your counter both sharing the second beat. Like eighth notes.
Use rear catch and rear parry without countering. They just attack you with a persistent jab. You retreat using a mixture of footwork and snapback.
Light sparring hitting the top of the head but only using the jab. In many ways this drives you to get snapback working as they come back with an attack faster than you’d like. You either have to get out of range quickly, which snapback does, or you have to get yourself or your head off line.
Mirror work. Look at yourself in the mirror are you using only the big toe joint and keeping all the others stiff? The less joints that have to work the quicker it is. Do you have a forwards presence, an attacking body shape? Don’t bend your back-think of that as your airbag for when you do get hit. (rarely if you concentrate on your 4D skill work)
Compete with another on who is back and counter jabbing first. You can do this together side by side in unison or up against each other in a sort of sparring game. If they’re getting back faster its’ because they’re keeping the leg stiff and ankle tight. Remember never ground the heel. Think there is a drawing pin in your shoe under your heel and if you put the heel down it will stick in you.
We had a great session with everyone getting it. Some of the seniors coming into the next class said that this had made the biggest difference in their own sparring success. As in all things it’s all about the detail. Get that right and you’ll become a master warrior and frustrate all your training friends. Have a great summer what’s left of it. See you soon. Bob