Besides refining your technique, a significant challenge involves learning what tool(s) to use in various circumstances. This becomes more difficult when faced with the stress of a real life situation.
Here is a general overview of 5 of the basic strikes, when to use them, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Kicks. Great tools for long distance as well as being very powerful. Kicks can help you maintain distance from an assailant. They can, however, be difficult to perform on slippery surfaces (Canadian winter sidewalk) or in small or crowded spaces(not a great tool on a crowded subway or elevator). It is important to learn to kick in all directions as you cannot predict the direction of the problem.
- Straight Punches/Hammerfists. Great medium range tools. You can strike at various angles and heights. Unfortunately, you are closer to the assailant. Also, if you don't make a proper fist you risk damaging and disabling your hand. Palm strikes can be a nice alternative. For more about palm strikes visit: http://ikmfto.blogspot.ca/2012/08/self-defense-in-palm-of-your-hand.html
- Hooks/Uppercuts: Effective at short range. Some make the mistake of throwing long range hooks (some call these haymakers). If "haymakers" find their target they are potentially devastating but also leave you very exposed and are relatively easy to defend.
- Elbows. Excellent close range strikes that can be directed at various angles and directions. Like hooks and uppercuts there is the inherent problem of being close to your opponent. Flying elbows? If you are far enough for a flying elbow just kick or run.
- Knees. Very powerful and difficult to defend against. Less directional options than elbows. (e.g. I am still searching for the elusive standing back knee).
- Headbutts. Certainly not a long range tool unless you are a moose, ram, or Marvel Super villain Juggernaut ( a nod to comic book fans). Effective, however, in very close range.
As instructors, much of our time is spent working to develop your power, speed and overall efficiency, as well as providing exercises to help you understand what striking tools are most effective in various situations.
The next step is accelerating your decision-making and reaction times.
After all, real life happens fast.
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga Federation, Toronto