Defensive Tactics Principles

  • Strikes in Asian martial arts and Western boxing have many of the same principles in common.
  • These principles apply to strikes with most parts of the human body.
  • These principles are typically learned by martial artists through multiple repetitions under the supervision of a qualified instructor. Many martial arts and texts include these principles, such as karate and Jeet Kune Do.

This is only a partial list.


  • The striker relaxes to the extent possible during the strike, tensing the muscles of much of the body only at the time of impact, then relaxing again to recoil the striking part.
  • Relaxation enables the strike to achieve the greatest possible velocity during travel, while rigidity at impact allows the maximum transfer of energy.


  • Practitioners may include a kiai or shout, to help tense the muscles at impact and distract or frighten the opponent.
  • Strikers generally exhale as the strike nears the target. Breath control is also important to relax the body when not attacking; novice strikers often waste significant energy because they are tense at inappropriate times.


  • Strikes should aim for a point 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) behind the target surface, to impart the most energy into the target.
  • The striker in combat should attempt to strike through the target area, not just contact the surface.
  • An example of increased penetration is in turning the fist as it is thrown, a very natural punching technique that the amount of turn depends on the position be it either as an attack, defense, or counter. Instinctive punching, boxing, along with most martial arts uses this type of punching aside from Wing Chun and Capoeira who favor adding slightly more speed at the cost of moderate power loss.


  • Strikes should channel force through a small area of the attacker’s body.
  • For example, this is the knuckles of the middle finger and index finger during a karate reverse punch, or the crescent/blade of the foot in a Tae Kwon Do sidekick technique.
  • Focus helps in achieving proper penetration and in maximizing the damage at the point of impact.


  • Muscles are activated in a precise sequence to maximize the force generated.
  • Strikes should generally be thrown with some measure of shifting body weight supporting the blow, as opposed to just the striking arm or leg.
  • For example, the traditional boxing jab is made more forceful by driving off the rear leg and shifting body weight into the blow, while twisting the trunk and shoulder to further enhance the striking force.


  • Proper footwork is used to enable the proper balancing of the body, to support combinations of strikes and launch strikes from the proper angle or distance.
  • This is among the most complex elements of striking, as power ultimately flows from the legs in striking, and optimizing the ability to throw combinations involves precise footwork.


  • Strikes that go from high to low like hammer-fist, downwards elbows, and stomp kicks see their force enhanced by gravity.