Techniques>Concepts>The hidden chamber

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When we first learn to punch, we learn to chamber the technique. It’s the equivalent of cambering a rifle, which is when a round is loaded (cambered) into the receiver and the hammer is cocked; which makes the rile ready to fire.

When we learn to kick, the instructor is always telling us to chamber the kicking knee. When performing patterns, we are told to imagine the chamber as an extra movement added between the traditional movements, and that we should exaggerate the chambering movement. However, when we spar we do not chamber. Or do we? The chamber is still there, it is just subtle and hidden within the movements.

Reasons to chamber punches

  • Chambering allows the punch to be delivered with full-power as a finishing blow.
  • Chambering helps reinforce hip movement that is used to generate power.
  • Full motion chambering strengthens and stretches the arm muscles so that, while sparring, more power can be generated when using the limited motion sparring chamber.
  • Chambering a punch to the hip may also be an elbow attack against a person grabbing you from the rear.
  • A fist that is pulled back to its guard position after a punch is chambering.
  • When a punching wrist is grabbed, chambering releases the grab by the twisting of the wrist toward the person's thumb, and it pulls the opponent into a counter punch using the opposite hand.

Reasons to chamber blocks

  • When blocking, such as with inner or outer middle outside forearm blocks, chambering allow more power to be applied to the block.
  • The chambering motion itself may be an effective block.

Reasons to chamber kicks

  • A kick held in a high chamber position is intimidating to inexperienced attackers. 
  • Chambering a kick high allows all the power in the hip, leg, and body to be applied to the kick.
  • A side kick that comes from the floor may be jammed by an opponent rushing in. A side kick that is chambered high with the knee pulled back to the side may be executed even when the opponent is within punching range.
  • A high chambered kick gives the opponent less time to react. Since the kick may be targeted low, middle, or high, the opponent does not know where the kick may go.
  • A re-chambered kick may be executed again with almost as much power as the first kick.


Whenever possible, all techniques should be chambered (cocked) before they are fired so maximum power may be imparted into the technique, and they should be rechambered afterward, so the technique is ready to be fired again. In training, this is an overt, complete motion, while in sparring or an actual self-defense situation, it is usually a covert, truncated motion that is included in the motion of the technique. In a self-defense situation, most techniques are executed with minimal, if any, chambering, except for the coup de grace, when a fully chambered, full-power technique is used to finish off the attacker.

Punches are pre-chambered by being held in the guard position. In patterns or when delivering a coup-de-grace, the fist may be chambered to the hip or to the side.

Chambering for blocks usually involves crossing the forearms over each other in front of the upper chest. Depending on the technique used, the attacking arm may cross over or under the other arm. From this position, if either arm is grabbed, the other is free to act. If the arms are crossed with one in front of the other, if the leading arm is grabbed and pushed backward, it will trap the other arm and prevent any movement with either arm.

Chambering for kicks usually involves raising the knee. In the front kick, the knee of the kicking leg is raised vertically in front of the body. This adds power to the kick and allows it to be fired even when the opponent is charging. In the side kick, hook, or heel kicks, the knee of the kicking leg is pulled back across the front of the body with the lower leg held parallel to the floor; this allows all the large muscles of the upper leg to thrust behind the foot. If the kick were to come straight from the floor to the target, it would be less powerful and it would be easy for the opponent to block or jam. By re-chambering the leg to this high cocked position, it makes it easier to execute subsequent powerful kicks without returning the foot to the floor. In the roundhouse kick, the knee of the kicking leg lifts straight up with the shin parallel to the floor for the same reasons as chambering the side kick.

Like every other skill in the martial arts, it takes extensive training to chamber properly so techniques are powerful and yet quick enough to be effective.

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