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5 Rules for Karate Pad Work

Hitting the pads, using either focus mitts or tai pads, is a solid workout, great fun, and an essential component of any karate training regime. To get the most out of your pad work, here are five basic tips.

  1. Keep it simple. To develop striking power, focus on individual strikes and simple combos. To quote Bruce Lee “I fear not the man who practices 10,000 kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

  2. Build slowly. Hand-in-hand with keeping it simple is starting slow and simple and building up. A good training partner will help condition rhythm. Combinations that would otherwise feel complex, flow fluidly with good rhythm.

  3. Move around. Develop your distancing. A training partner with pads is a safe, mobile full-force striking platform. Moving around forces your partner to reset their distance. Often you will see beginners start to jam their punches because they move in too close and find themselves no longer extending their punches.

  4. Don’t jam the striker’s punches. As the pad holder, brace the impact of the striker, but don’t jam their punches. A pad holder that jams their partner’s strikes changes the distance of the strikes and increases the force of impact on the striker’s joints, particularly the elbows. Instead, time the techniques and brace the impact.

  5. Train with intent. Plan ahead and wear the right gear. If you are training self-defense or impact kihon, you may choose not to wear gloves or wraps to keep the defense realistic. Without wraps, modify the training accordingly. Slow everything down. Reduce the variability of the combinations and reduce the footwork. Be very aware of your wrists and striking square. If you are training self-defense, incorporate open hand techniques and joint locks. Focus mitts should enhance this training, not impede it. On the other hand, if you are going to crush the workout, wrap your wrists! If you are training for sparring, wear gloves. The two minutes it takes to wrap up is nothing compared to time off to recover from a sprained wrist.

You only excel at what you practice. If you want to strike hard and have great mobility, pad work is an essential part of your karate training regime.


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