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Have you ever sparred opponents who fought with open hands and would periodically slap their chests or other parts of their bodies? Sometimes it may be a tic or baad 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 other martial arts, such as in American kenpo or Shaolin long fist, they may have learned it there.


Kenpo is often called “the slapping art.” Practitioners 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 your hand or arm off your body or the opponent’s body. (A rebound means your attack is changing directions and taking a longer route to the target. You are not gaining any power or quickness, only adding a superfluous motion.)
  • 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. (You are not returning to a guard position; you’re returning past the guard and then must come back to it.)
  • If you slap yourself when you train, it teaches you to have a hand in the guard position when you fight. (This may work if the instructor is the one who slaps you when you drop your guard.)
  • To train yourself to recoil your attacks inward as fast as you strike them outward. (Recoiling/chambering has its benefits, but slapping means you’ve over recoiled and wasted valuable time.)
  • To minimize the harm done to your training partners while you are practicing in class. (If slapping minimizes harm to your partner, then it must also minimize harm to your attacker, which is counterproductive.)
  • 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. (Doesn’t this also tell the opponent where you intend to strike. If you mislead the opponent by slapping a spot on yourself but then attacking another spot on the opponent, will it affect your accuracy in attacking the different spot.)
Once again, I apply the reasoning of “If the technique works so great, why isn’t it used by other martial arts or by professional fighters who get paid for beating their opponents?” The standard answer is, “Because it doesn’t work!” It may work under certain conditions, especially with fighting another slap dancer, but it is useless under most conditions. It's just another attempt by a martial art "founder" to be different.

If you are striker, you will be willing to take a few snappy strikes from a slapper 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 your head off with his 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 have.

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