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Thoughts on Telegraphing Strikes

In this video I discuss the idea of “telegraphing” as it relates to both fighting (consensual violence) and self-defence (non-consensual violence). As we have discussed in other recent videos, most martial artists fail to differentiate between the two and falsely assume that what is of great importance in one context must be of equal importance in the other.

Telegraphing is when we provide a recognisable cue to an opponent which enables them to react and negate the technique. Telegraphing being a problem is therefore predicated on two key points:

1) The opponent recognises the cue.

2) The opponent has time to successfully react to the cue.

Both of these issues apply to consensual violence because:

1) We normally spar / fight people will a similar skill set.

2) The default position is at a distance, which gives them the time to react.                                 

The two points don’t apply to self-defence (non-consensual violence) because:

1) The enemy is not another martial artist with a complementary skill set; nor will they seek to act as one.

2) CRUCIALLY: The enemy will not have the time or the distance to react!

It is a mistake to assume consensual violence and non-consensual violence are the same. This mistake is often made by martial artists who only have experience of one kind of violence (fighting their own kind) and assume, wrongly, that all violence is the same and hence should be approached in the same way.

Non-consensual violence is faster, closer and way more chaotic. Because of this, telegraphing is largely a non-issue. What we need in that context is motion that permits the hardest possible shots and the fastest rate of fire. This requires dynamic hip motion and effectively overlapping strikes, so the enemy is overwhelmed.

We are not talking about wild, unlinked strikes here; but the most efficient motion for the goal at hand. Concerns about “telegraphing” can be put to one side in favour of the post powerful motion with the fastest rate of fire. We need the efficient use of full body motion such that each strike is as hard as it can be and quickly feeds into the next. The result will be multiple, full power shots every single second!

If we try to move in a “stunted” way, due to a misplaced fear of telegraphing, our strikes will be weaker and less frequent. As I’ve said before, the start of a self-defence situation will most closely resemble the end of a full contact bout (not the start or half way through). We want the rapid throwing of full power shots. Time is not on our side. We need incapacitation or escape as soon as practically possible.

Additionally, the criminal will not want to stand off and “fight” either! They know that is a very inefficient way to achieve their objective. They will seek to overwhelm you with violence. If you think they are seeking to pick up on your “tells” so they can block and counter, you are in for a very painful awakening!

For many years, I have been saying that the biggest problem in modern martial arts is people failing to differentiate between contexts. Nothing has changed. Telegraphing matters greatly when we are talking about consensual violence. Power and rate of fire matters WAY MORE when we are taking about non-consensual violence.  It is very important people realise the importance of context. As one of my teachers puts it, “self-defence is not martial arts in jeans”. We need to fully appreciate the nature of the problem of criminal violence, so we can most effectively address that problem. Sadly, mono-context, one size fits all, thinking remains widespread.

All the best,


PS The YouTube link can be found HERE

Thoughts on “Telegraphing” Strikes