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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Alternating Hand

Lately we've been covering a lot of material that involves the alternating hand principle.

What do we mean by that?

The idea of strike with one hand, then the other is fundamental to most martial arts. I've seen boxers do it, karate and TKD people do it, we do it in Kobudo, and of course, it's found in the Filipino Martial Arts.

Think of the basic combo in boxing (and other striking arts): jab+cross, and jab+cross+hook.

I used the term "the alternating hand" but of course I mean the feet as well, for those of you big into kicking.

This is related to what I wrote in "Three is a Magic Number".  The alternating hand principle is found in our core drills of Brush-Grab-Strike, Block-Check-Counter, Hubad-Lubad, and of course, Double Sinawali. It's found in what we call our "Defensive Response #4" (rear hand block, front hand block or grab, rear hand strike).

Of course, you can do this with two (or four or whatever) strikes as well as three.  We use three a lot in Arnis (as I've noted) but it's not the only way to do this.

I don't actually remember the alternating hand principle being taught to me at a thing, specifically. It's just something that I noticed, over time, working with students and having to explain it to people, and like a lot of things in the martial arts, once I realized it is a thing, I started seeing it everywhere.

Younger daughter working alternating hands - brush-grab-strike - with Mr. Chick.

There are downsides to relying on alternating hands alone, as it's a pattern that can be easily anticipated and countered by someone who is trained.  That's why you see boxers and other live sparrers also engage in what I think of as a broken "pattern" - they might only alternate hands now and then in a way that is designed to be difficult to anticipate.  Really good ones engage in a pattern and then break it once their opponent notices and anticipates the pattern on purpose.

Even with its downsides, the alternating hands principle is still something that's fundamental to what I do - to what many of us do.

I'd like to know - how do you use alternating hands (or feet) in your art?  What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of alternating hands?  Let us know in the comments!

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