The term control is refers to the precise control used in controlling the force of an attack. Control is one characteristic of Taekwondo and karate that sets ithem apart from other martial arts. Many fighting arts teach and train to strike with full force in every attack. Control requires the martial artist to precisely control the depth an attack penetrates the target depending upon the circumstances of the attack, the physical size and strength of the attacker, and the intent of the attacker. This type or control requires many years of training. For more information in this type of focus, see control.
Control, also referred to as focus, is the ability to deliver a full-power Taekwondo technique to a predetermined point in space. With proper control, a martial artist may execute a full-power punch that breaks through a stack of boards or execute a full-power punch that just barely touches the tip of a young student's nose. With proper control, you may aggressively spar an opponent using full-power techniques and never hurt the opponent, even if he or she never blocks any of the techniques. The mark of a true martial artist is precise control of full-power, fully-extended techniques.
Control comes from the proper use of range. The only difference between a full -power technique that kills and a full-power technique that merely touches is a difference in range. This difference in range is only—one inch, or less. This means the difference between fighting to kill and sparring to play is only one inch. This does not mean that during sparring sessions you stop your techniques one inch short—since all techniques are executed full-power and full-extension—it means you adjust your range (distance between you and your opponent) by one inch. Control requires one to develop an instinctive feeling of range through training. Just as your brain has been trained to make involuntary adjustments of your body to maintain balance while walking, control training trains the brain to make constant involuntary adjustments to range while sparring.
Regrettably, control is not stressed in martial arts training as much as it was before the advent of protective sparring equipment. In the past, to score a point, the technique had to be full-power, full-extension and within an inch of the target without hitting the opponent. Now, with protective sparring equipment taking most of the danger from accidental strikes, control is not considered as important. However, if a trained martial artist ever strikes another person in the real world, even if in self-defense, and kills the person, the martial artist may be charged with murder. The courts assume a trained martial artist has full-control of his or her strikes, so, if a strike kills, the courts may assume the martial artist must have intended to kill.
In a case a few years ago, after a martial arts demonstration at a shopping mall, a black belt was signing autographs for some young women. One of the women's boyfriend got jealous and attacked the black belt who punched the attacker. The attacker fell backward and died. The black belt was subsequently convicted of voluntary manslaughter, vice involuntary manslaughter or justifiable homicide, since the jury assumed that since the martial artist was training in killing techniques and control of power he must have intended to strike the man hard enough to kill him.
What if your opponent suddenly changes the range after you have fired-off a technique? If your opponent increases the range, you are in no danger of hitting him or her but you may be tempted to extend your technique further than originally intended and reach in an attempt to "catch-up" to your opponent. Remember, the target for all techniques is a point in space. That point may be on the surface of your opponent's protective helmet. If the helmet moves, your target point does not move with it. So do not reach after the opponent, just complete the technique to the original point in space and then fire-off another technique to another point, after adjustments are made for the range change.
If your opponent decreases the range, then you have three options: either slow or stop the technique before it makes contact, redirect the technique to a target where less harm will occur, or strike the opponent and possibility injure him or her. Since no one wants to harm an opponent unintentionally, the technique must be slowed, stopped, or redirected.
Redirection is changing the trajectory of a technique so it strikes a less vulnerable target. For example, a punch toward the head may be redirected toward a shoulder so the impact will not cause serious harm.
Slowing or stopping a technique requires applying negative forces to the technique to slow or stop the technique. In effect, you "slam on the brakes" and hope the technique will stop or at least slow enough not to injure the opponent.
Another way to stop a technique is to totally relax and remove all muscle tension in the attacking limb. In a living person, the body is constantly under muscle tension, even when unconscious. When a person dies, the muscle tension instantly ceases. Most people have never seen a person instantly die. About the only way to witness this is to see a person die instantly from a gunshot wound. If you are the killer, you may witness it, or you may see it while witnessing a suicide.
If a person faints or is knocked out, voluntary and involuntary muscular control is interrupted and the person falls. Since muscle tension is still in effect, the person falls in some direction. If a person is instantly killed, such as by a suicide gunshot, muscle tension immediately ceases and the person collapses in an instant. At one instant, the person is standing normally with a gun to his or head, then the trigger is pulled and, in an instant, the person is in a pile on the floor. The person does not fall over, he or she just collapses to the floor in an instant. With no muscle tension in the body, it collapses similar to a wet rag.
If you need to stop a punch that is about to strike an opponent, and, if you are able to consciously reduce muscle tension in your punching arm, the arm will be similar to a wet noodle and will harmlessly bounce off the opponent. Have you have waked up after lying on your arm to find the arm is "dead." Not only does it not have any feeling, it just hangs uselessly, similar to a wet noodle. If you were to spin your body so the arm could hit someone, it would not cause any harm. Practice stopping a technique by instantly reducing muscle tension in the arm and relaxing it so it becomes limp. Since you cannot "slam on the brakes" or redirect a technique without a great amount of muscle tension, you cannot use this relaxing method at the same time you use them.
Some martial arts, such as A .S. P. (American Self Protection), believe that teaching beginning students to focus is not only unnecessary, but also dangerous. They posit that a well placed, powerful kick needs does not need to be focused to be very damaging, and that a focused kick may cause damage that is incommensurate to the severity of an attack, thus exposing the user to liability. These critics argue that any attempt to control an attack may result in an ineffective attack or an unnecessarily damaging attack (actually, this would be result of not using control). These critics believe that, when students train to deliver attacks using light-contact, that they have the option to use focus if the situation calls for it. Hogwash! How may you have the option to use something you do not know how to use? In addition, if you do choose to use the focus option, then you will still have the claimed limitations of using focus.
If you master control, you will impress spectators more than a person who performs spectacular breaking techniques. Almost anyone off the street can break a board with raw power, but only a highly trained martial artist can execute a technique with precise control.
It is easy to control linear attacks, such as a side kick or a jab, in a non-contact sparring match. Since you know how long your leg and arm is, all you have to do is adjust your range to the target. Rarely does a linear technique make contact or hit any harder than originally indented. However, it is more difficult to control angular or circular techniques.
In an angular technique, such as a round kick or an overhand punch, control is more difficult but still manageable. In the round kick, the body and upper leg rotate while the weight is centered over the rotating base foot. If you stop the rotation at exactly 180 degrees so the knee is pointed at the target, when the kick fires, you know exactly where it will impact, since the last motion of the kick is from the knee to the foot. The lower leg has very little mass so it is relatively easy to stop its motion if necessary. In an overhand punch (a punch that moves up and over the opponent’s guard and then down to the target), if there is a problem, the arm’s motion must be stopped, but, since the arm has little mass and the shoulder muscles are so strong, this is relatively easy to do. Angular techniques occasionally make contact, but when they do, the contact is still relatively light.
Circular techniques, such as a circular style crescent kick, a heel kick, or a hook punch, are very difficult to control so they cause the most problems in no or light contact sparring. In each of the kicks, since the leg is straight during the kick, to stop the kick, the entire mass of the leg must be stopped. Since the mass is so great and the hip muscles are not strong enough, it is difficult, if not impossible, to stop the kick, so the next best thing to do is to try to drop the kick straight down to the floor.
Since the arm mass is so light, it can be relatively easy to control or stop a hook punch. The problem is that most people only train in performing a hook punch with a full range of motion, so when control is needed, they do not do so well.
If not avoided or blocked, circular techniques will make contact and will probably make hard contact, so most injures in no or light contact sparring comes from circular techniques.
To help control circular techniques, students need to practice using control. Instead of circular crescent kick, a snap crescent kick (similar to a front kick that strikes with the side of foot against the side of the opponent) may be used. Snap kicks are relatively easy to control.