Have you ever sparred opponents who fought with open hands and would periodically slap their chest or other parts of their bodies? Sometimes it may be a tic or bad habit the fighters picked up somewhere in their training, but sometimes it is because they have been taught that way. Taekwondo instructors do not teach this technique, but if the person using it has had prior training in martial arts, such as in American kenpo or shaolin long fist, they may have been taught it there.

Kenpo is often called the slapping art; they perform what has been called a “slap dance.” If you watch kenpo students practice hand attacks, as one hand strikes outward, the other hand slaps the chest and then rebounds outward into an attack. Sometimes this is repeated at a high speed.

Some reasons Kenpo gives for using the slap check are:

  • To get a rebound effect when bouncing you hand or arms off your body and the opponent’s body.
  • To return your hands quickly to a protective position and give them a starting point from which an attack may be launched quickly in any direction.
  • To train yourself to recoil your attacks inward as fast as you strike them outward.
  • To minimize harm done to your training partners while you practicing in class.
  • To indicate where your attack will land on your opponent’s body by striking your body on the same spot. This helps you train yourself to strike this point accurately on the opponent’s body.

Once again, we apply the reasoning of “If the technique works so great, why is it not used by other martial arts or by professional fighters who get paid for beating their opponents?” The standard answer is, “Because it does not work!” It may work under certain conditions, especially with fighting another slap dancer, but it is useless under most conditions.

If you are striker, you will be willing to take a few snappy strikes as you nail the opponent with one or more powerful blows. If you are a grappler and you take a slap fighter to the ground, the snappy strikes will be useless against you on the ground. My rule of thumb for the usefulness of blocking or striking techniques is, “Will it be effective against Mike Tyson when you have just insulted him and he is trying to take you head off with punches?”

If you face a slap fighter in the ring, do not be distracted by the superfluous hand movements. Just block, kick, and punch as you always do. 

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