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In Sun Tsu’s iconic work on tactics “The art of war” he says, “all warfare is deception”. Sparring is no different.
Most sneakiness in kumite is based around making your opponent think one thing but then doing another.
Make them think you are weak when you are strong
Make them think you are strong when you are weak
Make them think you are kicking when you are punching
Make them think you are punching when you are kicking
Make them think you are going left when you are going right
Make them think you are going high when you are going low
Make them think you are slow when you are fast
Make them think you are going fast when you are going slow
Make them think you are disengaging when you are attacking
Make them think you are attacking when you are counter, counter attacking
Make them think you are far when you are close
Here are some examples:
When people are about to kick they often come up higher in stance and can even lean their shoulders back in anticipation of having to lift their leg high. Adopt this posture and even fake some kicks when you are planning to punch.
When people are about to punch they will often adopt a low stance bending their knees in anticipation of needing to spring forward, frequently they will hunch slightly forward to bring their hands closer to their opponent to they have less distance to travel. Adopt this posture when you are planning to kick.
Leave a hole or gap in your guard that you know an opponent will extend and reach for. When they do, be ready to quickly close or shift the gap and counter attack simultaneously. To make this trap even more effective, tailor it to your opponent i.e. if they are a right-hand reverse puncher I would leave a gap for my left-side ribs or if they were a sweeper I would extend my foot forward only to pull it away when they sweep.
Cowering is another good trap, retreat and turn sideways or duck your head and cower. This show of cowardice will spur an aggressive opponent to surge forward to reach over the top, and when they do have a side kick ready, or if you have speed be a little more pre-emptive and pick them off with a reverse punch.
Key elements to a good decoy
Conditioning is an essential tool that makes your opponent feel that you are predictable, making them develop their own predictable defensive response. Of course, now they are now conditioned to respond to your combination in “x” way and you will capitalise on this by changing the end of your “predictable” combination to “z”
Some other types of conditioning:
Punching in rhythm and then breaking that rhythm will throw them off their rhythmic blocking.
Push their forward guard hand tapping it down, they will respond by stiffening their guard, even resisting and moving their hand up in anticipation of being pushed down again. When they do this, fake to push their hand down and instead attack underneath that arm which is now too tense to defend properly.