Switching Leads: Useful Move or Dangerous Tactic?

Hey everyone. This was one of my first articles. I still think it offers useful suggestions. Let me know what you think….

Switching Leads: Useful Move or Dangerous Tactic?
by Keith Pascal

What stance do you take at the beginning of a fight? Is your
strategy the same for real fights as it is when you’re training?

In the beginning of a real confrontation, I would probably
take a neutral stance. Of course, after the initial contact,
one of my feet often moves forward or backwards, putting me
into either a right or left lead stance.

I have noticed, admittedly a lot more in a class situation than
out on the street, that a lot of martial artists immediately
take a strong right or left lead. Choosing a lead is fine, as
long as you can fight your opponent from the lead you choose….

Your opponent leads with a left foot forward, so you lead with your
left foot forward too. Your opponent tries some techniques. You
respond and try some moves of your own.

All of a sudden, your opponent switches to a right lead. You
feel very uncomfortable. This isn’t the way you are used to
fighting. Everything has changed. So you switch leads too, and…
BAM! You get caught mid-motion by a kick or hit from your opponent.

What do you do?

Isn’t the answer obvious? Don’t switch leads.
If you get hit when you switch leads, then to avoid getting hit,
avoid switching. The problem isn’t in the switch. You have to deal
with the fact that you feel uncomfortable in either a matched lead
(right against right, or left against left) or an unmatched lead.

Don’t allow your opponent the opportunity to take you out of your
comfort zone. Even though it might sound too basic for some,I teach
my students to react with just about the same response no matter
which side the opponent attacks from

“OK Kids, get your right punch ready. Now, when the opponent
attacks with a right punch, how do you respond?”

The kids repond by hitting with their right hand. If, instead of
hitting with the right hand, the opponent were to attack with the
left, my students would still hit with their right hand.

If the opponent strikes with an elbow, my students still hit
with the right hand.

Don’t get me wrong.

They aren’t limited to only punching with their
right hands. But isn’t it comforting to know that they can’t be faked
into a lead switch by their opponent. They don’t have to switch
leads to be able to execute a technique. Either side is fine for them.I tell my students to pick a lead (usually their dominant side forward).
Then they spend the whole night with that side forward. I have them go
against right lead, left lead, and neutral stances. I want them to be
comfortable from where they are

On the flip side of the coin, what a great technique to use on an
opponent — one who didn’t have the benefit of reading this article.
The question is how are you going to be able to switch sides, in
order to make your adversary feel uncomfortable?

Get it? In order to find out if your opponent is uncomfotable when
you take a different lead, you have to actually … switch leads. Now,
we’re back to square one. If you switch leads, you get tagged. So,
now what do you do?

You get very comfortable with distance and timing strategy. Switch
when you are far enough away from your opponent that he/she would
have to take some major steps to effect a move on you. Or wait until
you are so close, that your opponent is fending off a barrage of hits and
doesn’t have time to notice that you have switched leads.

(Be careful: You may be too subtle, or too far out to cause that
uncomfortable feeling in your opponent. You need finesse.)

Re: Timing. I’d switch just as your coming into a natural pause.
At certain spots in an encounter, there are natural breathers, spaces
of time when the opponent relaxes the muscles,tension, and attention
after a move or a series of moves. If you can perceive these pauses,
you might try switching leads then.

Try out lots of possibilities during practice. Get comfortable with
your stance(s). Be aware that switching is a “special time.”

Final thought:

Is there anyone who remembers the cigarrette commercial
from the 60s that said, “I’d rather fight than switch”? Even though
I have yet to smoke a cig., those words take on a new meaning.

Bonus Tip:

If you’d like to take the above strategy to the next level, think
about creating an uncomfortable response in your opponent. In John
Little’s book The Warrior Within (copyright, 1996), he talks about
the a natural balance and movement that most animals have. He uses cats
as an example. They leap from a table, gracefully fly through the
air, and then lightly land.Even though he is refering to a state of no-mindedness, I think
this quote from his book offers a more advanced strategy for catching
your opponent during a lead switch:

“…(if the) cat, in the midst of leaping from the table,
decided that it did not want to leap at all, it would
instantly become tense in trying to change its course
and would end up in a rather sorry state once it hit
the ground.”

(The Warrior Within, page 55)

Hmmm. You switch leads. Your opponent starts to switch leads too,
but all of a sudden, you switch back. Could you cause your opponent
to tense up, just like the cat? What if you added yet another switch
in “the game”?

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