If you keep your arms in a proper guard, bob and weave your head and upper body, and constantly move your lower body using proper footwork, an opponent will find it difficult to hit you with any type of attack. It is when you block or attack that you create an opening and an opportunity for an attack to get through your defenses and hit you. This means that all blocks and attacks must be quick so the arm or leg performing them returns to the guard position as quickly as possible to close an opening created by the block or attack. This means that there cannot be any follow-through to the movement.
Follow-through is taught and encouraged in other sports, such as when batting or throwing a baseball, swinging a golf club, or throwing or kicking a football. However, these are individual actions done once every few minutes. Whereas, in the martial arts, blocks, kicks, strikes, and punches and constantly being executed by both opponents.
Some martial art practitioners mistakenly use follow-through, and some may even be taught to do it, but it is a dangerous practice. For example, if you fire a hook punch toward the opponent’s head using follow-through and miss the target, your fist and arm will continues in an arc until they reach the limit of movement, and then they return to the guard. If the opponent leans backward to avoid the hook, as Muhammad Ali did, all he or she has to do is return to an upright position and fire a jab or straight punch at your exposed head or torso. Not only are your lower ribs exposed, with the body twisted, the ribs are under tension and unable to flex properly to absorb a blow to them. If you fire a round kick with follow-through, you will not only expose your head and upper body, you will also expose the support leg which is under tension due to supporting all the body’s weight.
When follow-though is used, it is difficult to fire the same attack again or to fire a combination attack. You may continue the follow-through into a spinning attack, but if the opponent closed range for a counterattack, then spinning attack will not be effective and may expose you to even more counterattacks.
Instead of using follow-through, focus every attack to reach full extension and full power at a specific point in space. The attacking hand or foot stops at that point and quickly retracts to the guard. For no-contact sparring, that point is 1-inch short of the target. For light-contact sparring, that point is on the surface of the target. For full-contact sparring or self-defense, that point is 1-inch behind the target.
When the hand or foot quickly retracts to guard, it, or a different hand or foot, may be quickly fired again. You are only exposed for the split second it takes to extend and retract the arm or leg. Train for achieving quick, powerful, focused attacks that may be fired in succession or in combinations.