“My shoulder hurts, they hit hard, my fingers hurt, they hit me” all these statements and many more is what I hear as I walk around teaching martial arts. Pad work is a skill that a lot of people overlook they think of it as being put in goal when you were a kid when the two pots and in rule was applied. Meaning when you scored two goals you went into goal until someone scored two goals past you; funny how bad you get as a goal keeper when it is your turn in the nets. Then you are back out pretending to be Keegan or Shearer. Most people want to do the punching side of pad work but as you progress in your martial arts you will somehow end up holding pads.
Pad work is used in many arts to develop technique, power, timing, rhythm and focus, sometimes pads are even referred to as focus mitts as that is what you must do, focus. The role as pad man is to make the puncher get better, smoother, and more accurate with their striking so that they can strike better when sparring and fighting. The pad man should stand in a fighting stance with the pads in line with the fighter’s shoulders and not hold them like Mickey Mouse’s ears or like you are just about to sign YMCA (I can see you doing it). This is important because you both could be injured if you hold them in the wrong angle, height or depth. You should hold firmly and create resistance for the impact of the striker for the same reason, injury prevention. Start off by using basic pad work drills i.e. jab cross, hooks, and uppercuts. Then start to add slips, bob, and weave drills into the mix. Slips are when you jab or cross at the puncher but please remember to aim at them not just anywhere in the general area or they will think they are Mayweather but in reality, they are just wet weather.
When you make them duck under a hook either left or right remember it should come from a punching angle that you use, you should not back hand the technique because it would make you look like you are blaming it on the sunshine, when you should be blaming it on the moon light (I can see you dancing again). The pad work should be logical and progressive to challenge the puncher and make it fun. Then you should progress onto body shot work and doubling the same hand over like Tyson was famous for, a left body shot followed by a left hook or uppercut to the head.
Speaking of which, you always must focus when you are doing the pads because if you drift off thinking about food, or what you are going to watch when you get home, you might not get there; pad work is dangerous. You must always stay switched on because any technique that is thrown in the later stages will be full force shots and you must slip, catch, or wear, meaning you can get knocked out if you are not careful while holding pads.
Once people are good enough to move around on two legs and hit the target with their hands, start to introduce knees and leg work. Only do this when the now striker has balance because there is no use taking a leg off the ground when two are having difficulty being on it. As the great Bill Wallace says “If you improve your balance by 25% you look 50% better when you fight”; coming from a man who knows this is amazing advice. You could move from focus mitts to Thai pads, which are heavier and more difficult to move around but give an awesome workout for hands, legs, knees and elbows, but really works the holder and can be very damaging to the joints back and muscles. You could then use shields to improve all of you kicks and kick work combinations, holding literally like a shield to brace for impact.
As I said at the start I am a professional pad man and have held the pads for kickboxers, Thai boxers, boxers, including Nigel Benn, MMA champions and world class martial artists. I spent a lot of hours skipping all over the ring, cage, or 40 mms mats that my calves, quads, gluteus maximus, lumbar, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, trapezius, biceps, triceps brachioradialis pectoralis abdominals and obliques get an amazing work out so it is a whole-body workout; but it can be very damaging taking the shock value of all the strikes over the years.
So, the next time you must hold the pads for twenty minutes during class spare a thought for the professional pad man that spends their life making you a better striker.
Until next time
Big love from the AFC