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Hit & Move

Hit and Moveby Guru Scott McQuaid

Every martial art talks about moving off the centerline away from the attack, but very few talk about the movement after. It has been stated many times that without footwork the best technique will undoubtedly be ineffective, simply because the practitioner is not in the correct position to capitalize on their actions.

A basic misconception in dojos, gyms and studios across the world is practicing a drill from a stationary position. The instructor may move off the centerline to parry or strike their opponent, but if they remain in the same position for their next play, they are effectively a sitting duck.

All combat is constant readjustment, the movement may be wide or narrow according to the actual fight, but there will always be movement. No matter what the fight situation is, hand to hand, blade to hand, stick to stick or blade to blade, you will have to adjust and move constantly.

It's acceptable to learn a drill by standing in front of your opponent, but once you have grasped the concept of the particular technique, then you better start moving with it because if not, your muscle memory will only reflect the static, organized training structure to which it was learned in the classroom and this is a false security.

Hit and Move

The notion of hit and move carries throughout all combat arts. Thhe first lesson you are taught in boxing is stick (hit) and move, the art of hitting without being hit.

Perhaps the most famous quotation to ever come out of boxing came from arguably the greatest boxer that ever fought: "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee", said the late Muhammad Ali. This man set the bar in the ring for being elusive, hitting and moving.

Staying stationary is a good way to get hit, a lot. Enter paradox number one in fighting, hit and move - every time you strike your opponent, although you may be landing your shots, you are also alerting them of your position. They know where you are, so you cannot remain in that spot. How many times have you seen a boxer in trouble, being pounded on the ropes only to instantly turn the tables by throwing out a wild haymaker and catching their opponent to floor them. This is because even though their opponent has the upper hand, he remained in a static position allowing the boxer on the defense to have clear knowledge of their positioning.

In the first engagement of combat, be it defensive or an attack, you must alter your position, be it a wide, mid or small alteration, you must not be where you were, because your opponent will attack towards the last place they saw you.

Each martial art has a different mindset and approach to the fight, but one thing they all have in common is to try to remain in the safe zone. But this is not an area that is achieved with one side step. In an actual fight the safe zone is everywhere your opponent isn't.

Remember - every time you parry to deflect or redirect a strike, you draw your hands away from your head and torso which leaves an opening in your defense. This is a nature of combat, in defending ourselves we will have to take risks. So if we are exposed for a microsecond, we should not be a static target for our adversary to use that gap in time to potentially counter-attack.

This doesn't mean that you are constantly moving around on your toes, as reality based street fighting does not allow for the space and rules that a ring or octagon provides. It means that you practice what your preferred art teaches in its first fighting position, but the moment you hit, you move, then strike again and then move. This can be done by side-stepping, circling, flanking or back-stepping; whatever the structure of your discipline, just never remain on the spot. It takes just 13 milliseconds for the human eye to process an image, so in theory you are hitting and moving simultaneously, but the attack or deflection will land first because shifting your body mass is slower than the reflex on your arm movement.

Once the fight is imminent, it really comes down to who lands first, because that first attack could be the only strike in the fight. This is why no punch, kick, elbow, knee or any other attack can be wasted. Treat every attack you apply as if it is your last, because it just might be. Even if your attack is working off a deflection from your opponents initial strike, you must hit with something that's aimed to render your opponent useless. On the street, there's no option for softening your adversary up with a jab or a wrist lock. You have to cause maximum damage on your first strike, so to deter them from trying to follow up. The longer the fight, the more danger you are in. Once you have hit and moved, you are in another position to either strike or counter again, pending on what has occurred in the first exchange. No matter the outcome you are still in a better position, because your opponent will have to readjust to your new positioning and while they are resetting themselves, you are attacking.

As reality based fighters we are aware of hit and move, so our focus is not to attack where our opponent was, but rather hit where they are going to be.

The hit and move lesson is simplistic, basic in its outlook, but is often ignored and generally only comes to light when a live opponent starts to move freely, off the centerline without the instructors foresight.

Knowledge has no value unless you use and share it, for everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. The only difference between your martial art and somebody else's is reality.

Published in Irish Fighter Magazine 2016