Monday, January 17, 2011

Martial Arts Drills: Gunting

I was going to make a post about various drills in the martial arts but it occurs to me now that one drill can make an article all by itself.  In some cases a drill could probably be a book unto itself.  Thus, I am going to simply post a single drill at a time rather than try to post a host of them. 

Source:  Filipino Martial Arts but I have seen many styles from many backgrounds use this or something much like it.  I have seen things like this drill in Chinese Wing Chun Chuan, and in Okinawan Karate just to name a couple of styles. 


Several forms of this exist but I will describe the main linear form of the choreographed routine that I was taught as an introduction to Gunting.  This form is also empty handed but as many of you know the drill can be done with knives and sticks among other weapons.  The literal translation from what I am told is "Scissoring".  Keep in mind this is the way I have been taught this drill.  I apologize if I have done something wrong or explain something poorly.

The drill works like this:
  1. Partner one(P1) uses a straight punch to the face of partner two(P2).  P2 then blocks first with the mirror hand parrying from the outside of the attack.  Think Pak Sao from Wing Chun.  The block should touch the back of P1's forearm.
  2. P2 then blocks the same arm again by moving the opposite hand under the first block to back hand the punch at the elbow.  In this case think of another block from Wing Chun called Tan Sao.  I had some trouble finding good pictures so I will try to make some of my own and post them.  
  3. Next P2 performs a trap before taking a turn at punching back.  The first hand to block traps the punching arm down against P1's torso.  At the same time as the trap P2 chambers his free hand for a return punch.  
  4. P2 punches P1 in the face and P1 performs the same three blocks followed by an punch back.  The drill continues back and forth.
How to Continue

Once this drill is comfortable from the right side then the two can switch sides and try again with the left side forward.  Once comfortable with the left side then the challenge is to transition from left to right side and back again without a break in the rhythm of the drill.


I find that especially among the systems that focus a lot more on kicks that the hand skills are under-developed.  This is a quick drill to teach students that will allow them to develop the basic timing, blocking habits, and coordination needed to rapidly improve the person's hands.  Plus, personally I really enjoy this drill.


There are several variations of this drill.  There is a circular version done with a similar pattern to start.  Once it is mastered it is possible to integrate it to the overall drill as well.  Switching from linear to circular and left to right makes the drill pretty challenging without considering the addition of un-prescribed techniques.

Another variation would be the addition of weapons like knives and sticks.  It can be done with one weapon in a hand or with weapons in both hands.  It can also be done mixing weapons such as a stick and a knife for each person.

One more variation to the root of this drill.  In the drill the defender is performing three blocks and one punch.  It has been pointed out to me that this is unrealistic in terms of the timing of a real fight.  Few fighters, if any, are going to be so much faster than an opponent as to block and strike with four techniques before the attacker gets a chance to do more.  "Solutions" for a suggested fix to this problem.  


  • Timing: To reiterate, few fighters, if any, are going to be so much faster than an opponent as to block and strike with four techniques before the attacker gets a chance to do more.  In my experience (which I will be first to tell you is limited) I have never had a chance to use any sort of complex blocking techniques to avoid being hit.  Let alone the idea of hitting or blocking the person multiple times.  Plus, to block three times uses a lot of energy in a fight and does nothing to improve my station.  To make things worse if all I do is focus on blocking attacks and I throw one block for every attack I will eventually miss one.  Although more than likely I will miss most of them.  Want to test this, stand toe to toe with someone.  Close enough for both combatants to put both hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them and have them throw punches.  You can shift weight back and forth but must block the punches.  You will find that this is near impossible.  Plus if the puncher is creative it will be near impossible.  
  • Power: Another problem with the drill is that in order to maintain flow the drill loses power.  What I mean by power is the ability to deliver a great deal of kinetic energy.  The point of striking to begin with...  Both combatants would walk away from a training session with a lot of bruises on their arms and face with all blocks and punches were throw with a full sense of power.  Might make for a long class.
  • Accuracy: This one is also sacrificed many times but does not need to be.  Each combatant needs to be reminded that they are to punch with the intent to contact the face.  Often the two will begin to throw their punches offline with the target so as not to hurt their fellow student.  That is kind but not helpful.  If you as the striker get into the habit of missing the target, it is possible you will do it reflexively in a high stress situation.  Plus, the defender will develop the habits of block attacks that would never come in contact.  That too is a bad habit to be in.  Both punches and blocks need to be in line with true combative intent.  If you like keep the drill slow at first so that strikes when/if they do hit will not hurt so bad.
  • Timing: Rory Miller teaches a drill I have named "The Miller One Step".  I am certain there is probably a better name out there but this is the one I have come up with so far.  Anyway, the drill can be extensive in its variety but the one thing it does well is address the three points listed among the problems with the drill.  Miller went on to teach that in order to spar in a controlled environment we must break at least one of those rules above to keep people safe from injury.  A primary tenant of the one step is that each combatant gets one strike each in turn.  This assumes that both people are of equal relative speed in a fight.  A fair assumption in most cases.  Using the one step format we can fix one timing issue by only allowing a one for one exchange.  
  • Power: When a strike is practiced it needs to come in contact with its intended target and follow through need to be as if the power of the punch is fully engaged.  Using the concept that the strike is a block and a strike it is also necessary that when a block is normally thrown in the Gunting drill that it be a punch instead and is thrown with the same point of contact with the attack as the block was to begin with but is thrown with enough drive to push past the intervening arm to a target on the attacker.  Again, I will try to come up with pictures as soon as I can.  I am certain it will make things much easier to understand.  
  • Accuracy: As mentioned before, do not miss the intended target.  Make a practice of contacting the intended target and not punching to miss.  It is a very bad habit to get into and I know of people who have done just this on accident when under stress.
  • Fundamental change in Gunting Drill: Since the drill will look nothing like the original it will be important to note that in order for this to work one person will be an attacker and the other a defender.  The attacker gets three of four punches aimed primarily at the defenders face.  Followed each in turn with a defense that is both block and strike from the defender.  Once that string is done the roles switch.  
Even with the improvements to the drill, it still has flaws.  But remember that in order for everyone to leave class happy we have to build flaws into the drill to stay uninjured.  This drill is one of many and should not be given any sort of preference over other drills as a training tool.  As with anything, it will be necessary to keep the flaws that we introduce changing every once in a while to make sure that we do not fall into a habit that might hurt us as a result of our training.

I will try to post pictures and possibly a video soon.

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