Here’s one of my favorite one-step sparring drills: Frankenstein.
The concept is very simple but for the younger generation (who probably haven’t seen these old flicks), please watch this clip from an old Frankenstein movie first.
As you can see, the Frankenstein monster attacks in a stiff and clumsy way. If the Wolfman would have used his speed and agility, he’d have cut him to shreds without getting hit at all. However, what the monster lacks in speed and skill, it makes up for in tenacity and endurance: it can take a LOT of damage. That’s the key to this drill. Here’s how it goes:
- The attacker acts like Frankenstein: he keeps going after the defender, all the time. He never steps back to create room, he always steps towards the defender, regardless of where he is.
- The attacker does only one technique at slow to moderate speed and then he waits for the defender to finish. This is mainly for safety reasons as we’re not using protective gear here. The faster you go, the more difficult it is to control your counters and you’ll end up hurting each other. It’s not a full-contact drill just yet (more on that later.)
- The defender however can go as fast as he likes. The only thing he has to worry about is pulling his techniques so they don’t do damage. Again, this is not a full-contact drill at this stage. It’s all about timing, technique, footwork, etc. The heavy impacts come later.
- One key point is that the defender has to step away as soon as he finishes his counterstrike. If he stays where he is, the monster can squash him. You have to imagine going up against a stronger opponent or a guy who’s so drugged up, he doesn’t feel a thing. Imagine you have to do damage and then move away before you take any because you know your best shot won’t end it right away.
- The more variation in the attacks, the more the defender will learn. In the video, you’ll see me defend against some not so common attacks. We do that on purpose. The goal is to throw the defender off balance and try to surprise him with an unconventional angle of attack. This keeps him sharp and focused on the job at hand.
- We usually don’t do that many throws or take downs as counters. Nor should you use too many joint locks either. If you do, it slows down the drill to the point of being less effective. The whole idea is to put the defender under a lot of pressure: he has to constantly strike and move out of the way before he gets hit again.
- The attacker can pick any attack he likes and never does the same one twice in a row. The attacks should always be unrehearsed and unpredictable.
That’s how you do the drill. Here’s a video of me doing two rounds of this:
- Like I said, the attacks are sometimes a bit over the top. That’s OK, as long as you don’t do just those funky ones. By adding these every now and then, the defender actually has to work a lot harder than if you only do the standard haymaker or straight punch.
- I try to use a lot of footwork and angling away. When I do it correctly, I’m usually in a good position for handling the next attack. When I mess it up, it becomes harder.
- Take a look at 1min47sec. The first upward elbow, I dodge it with footwork and it gives me a great shot at my attacker’s back. But the second one, I was a bit off balance and also misjudged the angle. As a result, I had to block it and ate some of the impact. When that happens, you keep on going and fight through it. But you then know you have to work on that defense a bit more afterwards.
- You usually see me standing far away form the attacker before he throws a shot. However, I only get there because I use footwork after finishing my counter. If I don’t, he won’t hesitate to hit me from closer by. This happens a lot with beginning students: they move in to strike and then forget they’re within the monster’s range a well. When they then stop working and forget to get clear, the attacker launches into another technique right away. It’s in those cases that you see a lot more close range fighting and also some surprised faces right before the punch comes in… :-)
- I like to use elbows and knees. You don’t have to use them as much as I do though. It’s just a personal preference.
- I also like to kick at the knee, especially when the attacker is in a position where I can break that knee in one strike. A good example of that is at 3min22sec. The attacker misses with his kick because I step back. Then I land my own shot to his knee just as he puts his weight back on his leg. If were to do the kick full force, his knee would be ruined.
- In contrast with the previous bullet where I only did one technique to finish it, you’ll often see me do quick combinations. Often, this happens when I don’t feel I’m at the right distance or in a less than ideal position. Then I’ll start hitting him faster and with more techniques to make sure he can’t exploit whatever opening I feel he has then and there. As before, this is just my own preference; feel free to do it totally differently if that works better for you.
- As you can see, my partners and I are focused and train hard but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We goof off and act silly. Now I don’t mean you have to joke around non-stop, that would mean you’re not doing enough training. But don’t end up being too uptight either. It’s supposed to be fun.
- This is just the first stage. Once you’re comfortable with this drill, you put on light gloves and some headgear so you can start making some contact. It’s still controlled but you can now go at top speed and not be afraid to hurt your partner. After you are OK with that, put the attacker in a full protective suit and start hitting him hard. The step after that is both of you in a suit so nobody has to hold back. Once you get to that stage, make sure to have somebody referee and pull you apart if it starts getting out of hand. There’s always a danger of that happening.
There you have it, the Frankenstein drill. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
Feel free to tweak this drill to suit your own needs of course. Have fun.