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Feinting and faking


In this article, we use acting, deceiving, and drawing altogether to create feints and fakes.

Feints and fakes are actions a fighter may use to deceive the opponent into reacting in a desired manner. They are a vital part of any attacking strategy. Everything else being equal, the fighter with the best feinting and faking skills will probably win. Although the two words "feint" and "fake" are interchangeable, as they relate to fighting, there is a slight difference in their meanings.
  • Fake. A fake is an uncompleted attack; the attack appears real except that it is not completed. A fake is used to cause the opponent to react to a perceived attack.
  • Feint. A feint is some other body movement, expression, or sound made to deceive the opponent. The movement in a feint is not necessarily an attack nor does the movement need to be toward the opponent. 
Feints and fakes provide a way to find an opponent’s weaknesses by discovering his or her preferred responses and style of movement. The idea is to make an opponent react to an imaginary attack to create an opening or to draw the opponent into responding so you may anticipate and counter.
Have you ever been in your car stopped at a stoplight with your foot on the brake? You know you are stopped, and yet, when the car next to you rolls back a few inches, for a split second, you think you are moving forward and push harder on the brake. This is the way feints and fakes work; you make your opponent react to a perceived, but false, threat.

Feints and fakes are useful in drawing out a counter fighter who always lets you attack first. The opponent may be tricked into attacking by offering him or her a target in a way that is not obvious, such as slightly raising your guard to invite a mid-level attack.

Inviting attacks from your opponent requires a courageous, active approach, not a defensive posture. Gauge how likely it is that your opponent will counter. If the opponent is experienced, he or she will be constantly poised, ready to out-time your attack, or to block and immediately counter. Plan your offense to encourage the opponent to respond. For example, feign or fake with an attack that will draw an anticipated counter-response and then counter with the real attack. Since your feint or fake will not be a fully committed movement, it will enable you to strongly block the opponent's anticipated counter and follow up with a powerful decisive counter.

Use feints and fakes as a strategy in the initial stages of competition when facing an experienced opponent to test his or her responses to them. Try to draw the opponent's counter, rather than fully committing yourself. Once the opponent’s weaknesses have been found, attack with full conviction to overwhelm.

Although feints and fakes are an effective sparring strategy, that does not mean you should use them all the time. If you are more experienced, faster, and stronger than your opponent, you probably only need to use decisive, direct attacks. If the opponent's skill level is close to yours, you may want to use feints and fakes to create an opening.

One of my past instructors was a master of using subtle movements and expressions to sucker opponents into reacting to the movements in ways that would expose themselves to attacks. He was impossible to "read." Most opponents are not even aware of the movements and that they are reacting to them. I told students that, when they spar with him, they should keep their guard up and not even try to block. If they block an anticipated attack, it will always be the wrong block and they will get hit by the real attack 100% of the time. If they keep their guard up to protect vital areas, then they will at least have a chance of protecting those areas, although they may get hit elsewhere.


A feint may be an eye movement, a small weight shift, a slight movement of an arm, etc.; anything that causes the opponent to think you are going to do one thing while you do something else. It may also be pretending to be tired or injured. For example, you may feint your opponent into believing you intend to use rear leg kick by shifting your weight to your front leg, but you fire a jab instead.

Some types of feints

  • False movement. This is when you move the head or a limb or shift weight to draw the opponent's attention. For example, use the fingers of the lead hand to give a “come here” gesture. When the opponent's eyes look toward the motion of your fingers, fire a punch with the trailing hand. 
  • Eye misdirection. This is when you quickly glance in one direction while moving in another direction.
  • Change of pace. This is when, after a furious attack sequence, you pretend to stop, and then attack again when the opponent relaxes.
  • Psychological. Using the feint involves psyching out your opponent by pretending to be nervous, scared, intimidated, etc. before the match begins. Then, at "Sejak!" you suddenly change into an alert, fierce fighter. Or, you may act overconfident, superior, or egotistical. Don’t overdo it; use subtle actions to play with your opponent’s mind. You don't want them to think you are overdramatic; you want them to casually notice the way you are acting.

How to feign

  • Body drop. In this feign, you move with the lead hand and suddenly bend the lead knee so the body stoops forward quickly. This causes the opponent to react to a perceived lunge attack.
  • Drawing. Drawing is an important type of feint that few ever develop. In feinting, you make an action to create an opening. In drawing, you expose an opening on yourself to draw the opponent into attacking the open target. When the opponent makes a move to attack the opening, you slip inside or outside the attack and counterattack. Success depends on speed, timing, and judgment.
  • Cocking. Cocking is pulling an arm back to make it appear you are preparing to attack. 
  • Sounds. If you make low frequency, growling sounds, it tends to make the opponent crouch, draw inward, and become defensive. The opponent's instincts are telling him or her that an attack is imminent. If you make high-frequency sounds, the opponent tends to stand more upright and be more alert. His or her instincts interpret the sounds as a warning that an enemy is near.
  • Frame shifting. Frame shifting is a way of distorting your opponent's perception. First, you create a frame. Raise your arms as you would if a robber said, "Raise your hands, this is stick-up!" Move both arms inward until they are just outside of a shoulder-width apart, with hands open and fingers extended. The arms now act as your guard and they also create a "visual frame" that your opponent must look through to see you, and that you must look through to see the opponent. Mentally, this frame acts the same as the frame of a painting; you see the painting but tend to ignore the frame.

    Once the frame is established, you may manipulate it to deceive your opponent. As your opponent punches, instead of blocking the punch, quickly jerk both sides of the frame laterally a few inches. The tendency is for the opponent to reference the trajectory of the punch to the sides of the frame instead of at the picture (your face, the target) inside the frame. When the frame is shifted, the tendency is for the opponent to keep the punch referenced between the sides of the frame, even though your face is no longer within the frame. This causes the punch to miss its target without you ever touching the opponent's arm.

    You may shift the picture (your face) while keeping the frame motionless. If the frame remains still, the puncher's reference will be maintained even though you have ducked your face out of the picture.

    You may also shift both the frame and the picture. If you shift the frame in one direction and the picture in the opposite direction, you may decrease the accuracy of a punch even more.

Other tips on feinting

  • Against an opponent who is reluctant to attack a feigned opening, apply continuous pressure by advancing steadily while exposing the opening to force the opponent to attack. When you are drawing an attack, you know what the target of the opponent’s attack most likely is, so you can have your counterattack ready to fire.
  • If your opponent is an attacker, you may draw an attack by exposing a target, such as by carrying the lead hand low to draw a head attack or by letting the elbows of your guard get further apart to draw a midsection attack. Once the opponent initiates the attack, you close the opening and counterattack.
  • Your opponent may be a counter fighter who tends to lie in wait. Counter fighters wait for you to attack and are usually not easily drawn into attacking an opening. If you also prefer to counterattack, then both you and your opponent will be moving around a lot with little action taking place. You need to draw an attack in some way so you will have the opportunity to counterattack. To draw a counter fighter, you attack first, while knowing where the counter fighter will probably counterattack and what target he or she will expose during the attack. Then you block the counterattack and execute your own counterattack. Be careful since counter attackers usually counterattack with multiple attacks.
  • Fighters tend to trade techniques, kick for kick, or punch for punch. To draw a front kick, fake a front kick; to draw a punch, attack with a punch.
  • To draw a side kick to the midsection, stand perpendicular to opponent, slouch, and keep elbows high.
  • To draw a round kick, work in circles or stay off-center from the opponent.
  • To draw a high kick, stay in close, and carry the arms low.
  • To draw punches, keep the body square to the opponent.
  • To draw a back fist, stand tall and perpendicular to the opponent and lower your guard.


A fake is some motion made toward the opponent to cause the opponent to react to the movement in anticipation of an attack. There is a big difference between a fake and combination even though the uninformed may think they are the same thing.
  • Combination. A combination is two or more complete attacks. Each attack is real and uses full power. Each attack is meant to score or injure and, if not blocked or avoided, it probably will.
  • Fake. A fake is one or more incomplete attacks that precede the real attack. A fake is not meant to score or injure. If not blocked or avoided, a fake will probably not score nor injure even if it makes contact since there is no power behind the technique.

How to fake

A fake is done in half the time it takes to do a regular attack. This is known as “moving on the half count.” You are trying to disrupt your opponent’s rhythm. However, if there is too great a time gap between your fake and your real attack, the attack may be blocked or countered. A fake has all the appearance of a real attack. The only difference between a fake and real attack is the focus point. A real attack is focused at a point on the surface or just below the surface of a target on the opponent's body. A fake is focused on some point in space in the gap between you and your opponent. For example, fake a high reverse punch by pivoting the shoulder and hips through the centerline toward the opponent. As the opponent reacts, hook to the opponent’s ribs with the lead hand.

Since fakes are uncompleted techniques, to be effective, they must look like genuine attacks, such as raising the knee and setting up for a front kick, so the opponent will react by lowering his or her guard. To complete the fake, you then attack an undefended high target. Alternatively, after raising your knee for a middle front kick to drop the opponent's guard, you could change the kick to a roundhouse to the unguarded high section. When using punching techniques, fake with one hand and then strike with the other, or fake with one hand and then attack with the same hand.

 Other fakes include:
  • Fake a lead jab to the chin and then drive a lead punch to the body.
  • Fake a lead jab to the body and then step in with a jab to the chin.
  • Fake a lead jab to the chin, feign a right cross to the chin, and then step in with a lead jab to the chin.
  • Fake a straight punch to the chin, and then hook the lead hand to the chin or body.
  • Fake a jab to the chin, and then fire an upset punch to the body with the rear hand.
  • Fake a jab, and then step forward with a lead hook to the chin. 


A knock-away is a type of fake. It is used to either knock-away an opponent's guard to create an opening for you to attack. To perform a knock-away, tart your attack as you normally would, except, instead of attacking, use the attack to knock down the opponent's guard to create an opening, and then attack the opening. You may also use both hands to knock down the opponent's guard, similar to climbing motion, and then attack over the guard. You may also attack under the guard after it is knocked down. For example, use the leading arm to knock down the opponent's guard, and, just as the opponent is bringing the guard back up, perform a side thrust kick under the guard.
Another version of the knock-away fake is to execute a counterattack after a knock-away by the opponent. Perform ann attack, such as a jab, slightly slower than usual so the opponent can block it and knock it away. Then, instead of retracting the jab, snap it into another attack. The entire motion of the technique is planned, the jab is not intended to connect, but it should appear as such to the opponent so he or she will react to it.

Tips on faking and feigning

  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Movements must be precise and subtle.
  • Reactions produced in the opponent should be expected.
  • Vary the fakes and feints. Don’t use the same ones more than twice in succession.
  • Make the fake or feint convincing. Use the eyes, facial expressions, body, hands, fingers, feet, and legs to produce the desired reaction. 
Think of feigning and faking is an art form and that you are an artist.


  • Hee, D. (1992). Tae Kwon Do Fighting Strategies: The Ring Tactics of an Olympic Gold Medalist. Black Belt Magazine, August 1992.
  • Prime, N. (2001). Bridging the gap. Niagara North Newsletter, Volume 30, July 2001. [Online]. Available: [2003, February 20].
  • Turtle Press. (2002). [Online], Available: [2002, October 21].
  • United States Taekwondo Union. (1999). [Online]. Available: [1999, December 4].
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