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Children, and childish adults, call each other “chicken” when they show reluctance to try something different or dangerous. In most of these situations, being a chicken may have allowed you to reach old age with all your body parts intact.

Chickens are also found in the martial arts. Some are chicken because they are afraid to try something different or perceived to be dangerous, such as board breaking. Being this kind of chicken may keep you completely safe in your life, but it will also make your life dull and uneventful. Eagles soar, chickens walk around scratching at the ground. Sometimes they look up at the eagles, not in awe, but in fear of being an eagle's dinner.

Some martial artists also behave as chickens but for other reasons.

Some ways martial artists are like chickens

Chicken walk

Chickens make large side-to-side weight shifts when they walk; martial artists should not. When a martial artist moves toward you, the only indicator of his or her movement should be that he or she appears to be getting larger within your field of vision as they get closer. There should be no other indicators to let opponents know that an attack is approaching, such as side-to-side or up-and-down movements.

Chicken bob

As do other birds, chickens bob their heads up and down when they move to help maintain their balance. Humans do not need to bob their heads to move but it does help when sparring. A moving head is more difficult to hit than a stationary head.

Chicken breast

Chickens strut around with their chests out, acting as if they were the kings or queens of the roost. Many martial artists do the same thing.

Chicken butt

Chickens have a big, wide butt. This is not an ASSet to martial artists.
Chicken neck. Some students use a “chicken neck” when they spar. Have you ever watched a chicken walk? The chicken extends its neck and pokes its head forward when it walks. Due to its body geometry, a chicken, as do other types of birds, must extend its head when it walks to maintain balance. Since chickens have limited hip movement, no arms or shoulders, and their mass is concentrated in the front and backsides of their bodies, they use an exaggerated head movement to maintain balance.

Martial artists also should use their heads, but they should use what is inside their heads, more so than the heads themselves. Luckily, most of us do not have the body shape of a chicken, so we do not need to extend our heads when we move. However, some students feel the need drop their arms and lead with their face when they move into an attack, like a chicken neck.

I always tell students, “Arms are for blocking and attacking, not for balance” so keep the arms up and use minute body and joint movements for balance We all have heard the advice “don’t stick your neck out” from friends when we are considering stepping into a dangerous situation. Attacking is one of these situations. A head that leads will be a head that bleeds.

Chicken legs

Chickens have thin, bony legs. Nature may have issued you chicken legs at conception, but you don’t need to keep them. Bony, thin legs are not an asset in the martial arts. While big muscular arms are a liability when it comes to quickness since heavy arms move more slowly, thinner arms, while not as strong as muscular arms, can move quicker and you can use your powerful back and shoulder muscles to add power. The same cannot be said for legs.

You may think lighter legs should move quicker than heavier legs, but hip muscles do not have the strength to lift and move even light legs quickly. Therefore, the leg muscles must take up the slack and move the legs themselves. In addition, we need strong leg muscles to support the body, for lifting objects, and for jumping and kicking; all of which require powerful leg muscles. If you have chicken legs, train to build and strengthen them. If you don’t have chicken legs, train your legs anyway. Toned, strong legs are an asset to martial artists, especially those in the kicking arts.

Chicken wings

Chickens have wings, but their wings are useless for flying. We have arms, but they are useless for kicking. A person is always vulnerable when attacking, that is why some of us prefer to counterattack. When you move toward a counter-attacker to attack, he or she will step forward into the attack and counterattack with a fury. A counter-attacker will either jam the attack, deflect it, block it, or sometimes get hit by it, but either way, the opponent will get nailed, often many times.

Why do they get nailed? It is usually because they are flapping their arms like the way a chicken flaps its wings trying to fly. Both are useless. You see this sometimes while students are punching, but you mostly see it when they are kicking; they wave their arms about as if they were being attacked by bees. Some do not wave their arms, they drop them or extend them backward away from the kick; either way, they expose themselves to a counterattack. Again, arms are for blocking and attacking, not for balance. If you are using them for balance while kicking, you are not kicking properly, and you are leaving yourself open for a counterattack.

Kickers tend to flap their arms away from their bodies like chickens flapping their wings. Punchers tend to flap their elbows while keeping their hands in close to the body, they look as though they were doing the “funky chicken” dance.

Chicken hands

Chickens do not have hands but the term "chicken hands" means to handle something carefully. An example of the term's use is in the lyrics used by Tupac, "Hanging out the window/Acting up/Using my chicken hands with you doing so much..." When sparring, use chicken hands; kicks are dangerous, but proper punches are deadly.

Chicken teeth

Chickens don’t have teeth. If you use a chicken neck, chicken wings, and do not avoid or block properly when you fight, then neither will you.

Chicken comb

Chickens wear their combs, the red plumbs on top of their head, with pride. People do the same with their head hair. However, some of us no longer have chicken combs; we now have heads that appear more as the heads of the more powerful “bald” eagles.

Chicken waddle

This is the loose, dangling skin under a chicken’s neck. This is not desired by martial artists, or anyone else for that matter.

Chicken Little

Just as Chicken Little did, there are some students who see everything as a disaster. For example, every little scratch they receive is a medical emergency and every hit they receive they believe was intentional. They like to hit others, but when they get hit, they run to the instructor just as Chicken Little screaming about it being the end of the world.

Chicken scratch

Chicken wander around scratching a spot on the ground for no apparent reason, hoping to find food. Illegible handwriting or only having a small amount of money is also known as chicken scratch. Chicken scratch may also describe the way some people spar. They move around with their head and guard down, scratching (trying different techniques) here and there for no apparent reason; searching for something that might work.

Chicken knuckles

These are the soft, spongy knuckles that are found on chicken feet. This type of knuckle is not desired by martial artists. We train to have tough knuckles that may withstand the impact and forces involved in devastating punches.

Big chicken dinner

While not related to the martial arts, a “big chicken dinner” is military slang for a BCD, or bad conduct discharge, which is a less than an honorable discharge. Receiving a BCD means you were a complete failure in the military and a disgrace to the country.

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