I did karate for 9 years and in all that time I figured out a few techniques that were really effective. One of those techniques isn’t a punch or kick per se, but a way of throwing punches and kicks to throw your opponent off. The technique is broken rhythm.
Broken rhythm is essentially constantly changing the tempo and power of what you are doing to confuse your opponent and to gain distance. Using broken rhythm also allows you to maintain maximum energy while at the same time pushing your enemy to the brink. This will eventually make him flustered and drain his energy giving you the perfect opportunity to strike.
Why use Broken Rhythm
One of the things I would constantly see when I was doing karate is people would be very repetitive. Whenever I was sparring them I could pick up patterns they were falling into. After a bit I could predict what they were about to do and counter it. If I countered something they did, it made them think twice about coming in and attacking which gave me a huge advantage.
With broken rhythm, you’re not repetitive at all. It allows you to throw techniques seemingly out of nowhere and keeps your opponent on his toes. When you don’t fall into a certain pattern, you are much more free to throw strikes. The reason for this is that action is always faster than reaction. If they can’t predict what you are going to do, they have to react to what you are doing by either retreating or blocking. If they retreat, continue the attack. If they block, just attack the spot where they are defenseless.
You can also use broken rhythm to wear down your opponent and demoralize them so much that they mentally give up. For example, if you are constantly throwing “random” attacks, your opponent will be so busy retreating and defending that they’ll have no time to attack themselves. They will also be so flustered by having to go on the defense that they’ll have no time to breathe or think.
How to use Broken Rhythm
The way to use broken rhythm is to constantly be changing the tempo and power of your attacks.
Whenever I was sparring against someone, I would notice that if I threw a punch or kick at half speed, my opponent would be thrown off. It either made them more comfortable being in my zone of attack, or it would completely confuse them. Both situations are good for you.
The way I started to utilize this is I’d throw a couple half speed punches or kicks before throwing a couple full speed. When I say half speed, just throw out a punch or kick without any intention of hitting anything and have less umph behind it.
When my opponents would get confused by this I’d just follow-up by throwing a flurry of full speed techniques to take advantage of that split second where they’re distracted. When my opponents got comfortable with me, I’d just throw another half speed technique to try to bait a counter attack. If I could bait that counter out, I could easily counter their counter with a full speed attack. Seeing opponents get comfortable with me was great because I knew I had them. If I was throwing full speed all the time, all it would make them do was retreat all the time when they saw another attack coming. While this is good sometimes especially when they are up against a wall, a lot of the time it’s better when I sneak into striking distance using broken rhythm.
Some people will argue that you should be throwing 100% power on every attack. I disagree with this on the premise that you won’t hit someone 100% of the time. So to preserve energy, you should only use 100% of your power on strikes that will hit your target. On the punches and kicks you are throwing at half speed, use half power as well. These half power half speed attacks aren’t really meant to hit your opponent, so why waste energy on throwing them at full power? These techniques are used to confuse your opponent and to gain distance. Once inside this distance, that’s when you unleash full speed full power techniques.
From the spectator’s point of view, throwing that many attacks will look like you are wasting energy, but if you are throwing them at half speed and half power, it’s not a significant energy drain. The trade off is that your opponent will have to use a considerable amount of energy retreating and blocking, so you’re still using less energy than him.
Examples of Broken Rhythm
Someone who I see using broken rhythm a lot is MMA fighter Nick Diaz. What he lacks in raw talent and technique, he makes up for in pure aggressiveness and strategy. He’s not the best fighter by any means, but uses broken rhythm so well that he bridges the gap between him and better fighters.
One of the things you notice immediately with Nick Diaz is that he has a furious pace. He’s constantly attacking the other person and pushing the action. What’s not talked about is that the reason he is able to do this is that he’s using broken rhythm. 70% of his attacks are half speed and aren’t meant to do knockouts or damage the opponent. Over time, these small little attacks build up and open up more opportunities for him to get in.
Look at how he’ll bridge the gap to get in on his opponents using some punches that have nothing behind it. Once in, he’ll throw a couple punches to throw his opponent off followed up by a few really fast hard-hitting punches. Brilliant display of broken rhythm in action.
Another example of broken rhythm is this video I found of internet sensation Kimbo Slice and Michael Jai White. White is showing Kimbo broken rhythm and how you can use it to really throw your opponent off using a punch that has nothing on it.
See how even if he’s throwing a really slow punch with nothing on it, he’s still able to hit Kimbo’s hand? That’s broken rhythm at work. There’s other elements involved in this vid like telegraphing punches vs not telegraphing, but using a slow attack like he does he gains distance and is able to then use faster harder hitting techniques for a “knockout blow”.
Broken rhythm is a really good technique to incorporate into your training. It’s a mindset and strategy to throw your opponent off that works really well. Broken rhythm is effective in all types of fighting and would work great if attacked on the street. Most people have very little training in fighting against another human, so if you throw a little broken rhythm their way they will be woefully unprepared.
Be unpredictable and trick your opponent into complacency. Then knock them out.
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