BOB Drills You Prob­a­bly Never Thought Of, Part 1


T hese days, it’s hard to watch a TV show or movie that in­cludes a dojo scene without spot­ting a Body Op­po­nent Bag in the cor­ner. BOB is ubiq­ui­tous for a very good rea­son: It’s a must-have for every mar­tial arts train­ing cen­ter no mat­ter what style is taught. I say that be­cause of the myr­iad ways you can use BOB to im­prove your stu­dents’ skills. Pre­sented be­low are some of the meth­ods used in my school, along with a lit­tle back­ground in­for­ma­tion.

FIRST, THE BACK­GROUND. Like most dojo, ours has a BOB — it hap­pens to be an XL — placed near the heavy bags, pads and shields. I wish we had more than one be­cause ev­ery­body loves whal­ing on it. I re­mem­ber the first thing I did when I got a chance to try one: crack it with a left hook and an up­per­cut. If you’re a puncher, it’s hard not to ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing about to make contact with a tar­get that’s de­signed for it, and that’s true no mat­ter how old you are.

Over the years, I dis­cov­ered that the beauty of BOB is it of­fers users so many op­tions that a heavy bag does not. The first one is what pre­cip­i­tated my ini­tial ac­tion when I had my first close en­counter: BOB pro­vides a re­al­is­tic strik­ing sur­face for the hook and up­per­cut, which the heavy bag does not. Con­se­quently, stu­dents who lack ac­cess to a BOB of­ten al­ter their strikes to adapt to that short­com­ing, which leads to bad tech­nique, im­proper mus­cle mem­ory and so on. Yes, they can ben­e­fit from rounds on a heavy bag, but if they’re train­ing for self-de­fense, they need to prac­tice their tech­niques in a re­al­is­tic fash­ion, and that’s pre­cisely what BOB is made for.

While trav­el­ing to other schools, I no­ticed that most in­struc­tors keep their BOB sta­tion­ary when it’s be­ing used. They fill the base with wa­ter to give it mass and keep it from mov­ing when struck — which, in­ci­den­tally, per­mits solo work­outs, and that can be very con­ve­nient. How­ever, keep­ing BOB loaded isn’t the only op­tion. I of­ten drain the wa­ter from mine to make it easy to move around the dojo and quick to ma­neu­ver when I want to change the an­gle of at­tack to keep stu­dents on their toes. The fol­low­ing are some drills I use for “empty BOB.”

TEACH­ING CHILD SAFETY is one of the pri­or­i­ties in our dojo. The three rules of our pro­gram are don’t be there, don’t get touched and don’t go qui­etly. BOB helps us in­grain those lessons with these two drills.

Hi-BOB Drill: Have the kids line  up in front of BOB while you stand be­hind it. Ad­dress­ing one per­son at a time, tilt BOB for­ward and down­ward to touch the stu­dent. The stu­dent’s job is to shout “Hi” while smash­ing BOB in the nose with a palm heel be­fore run­ning away. This drill helps kids de­velop an im­me­di­ate re­sponse to an adult who in­vades their space. Fringe ben­e­fit when teach­ing the very young: They think of BOB — and not you — as the bad guy.

You’re-Not-My-Dad Drill: Have the  stu­dents line up sev­eral feet away from BOB. Stand be­hind it with one

hand on the base and the other on BOB’s back. Fo­cus­ing on one child at a time, quickly push BOB around the mat while the stu­dent runs away and shouts, “No, you’re not my dad!” The goal, of course, is to pre­vent child ab­duc­tion the eas­i­est way pos­si­ble — by avoid­ing the threat.

IN OUR DOJO, I teach group classes as well as pri­vate lessons, and many of those ses­sions re­volve around tour­na­ment spar­ring, kick­ing and fine­tun­ing the ba­sics. Yeah, I could serve as the tar­get in any of those drills, but I pre­fer to let BOB ab­sorb the pun­ish­ment. For spar­ring drills, BOB usu­ally wears head pro­tec­tion and a chest guard. For the other drills, he’s not geared up.

De­fen­sive-Kick Drill: Have a stu dent square off with BOB at a nor­mal fight­ing range in the mid­dle of the mat. The stu­dent waits for BOB to move for­ward. The in­stant BOB ad­vances — once again, you’re push­ing it from be­hind — the stu­dent moves back and pops BOB in the mid­sec­tion with a side kick. Re­set and get ready to re­peat, but this time, have the stu­dent move backward at an an­gle while nail­ing BOB in the noo­dle with an ax kick. Re­set and get ready to re­peat, but af­ter the stu­dent kicks, keep go­ing for­ward. Chase the de­fender as he or she re­sponds with what­ever foot and hand tech­niques are ap­pro­pri­ate. These drills de­velop skills, im­prove en­durance and boost body con­trol. They’re a great work­out for you, too.  Speed and Fo­cus Spar­ring Drill: BOB stays sta­tion­ary this time with you sup­port­ing it from be­hind. The stu­dent, who plays the at­tacker, prac­tices his or her fa­vorite kicks aimed at BOB’s head and body, pre­cisely where they need to land to score in com­pe­ti­tion. Of­fer cor­rec­tions while the stu­dent con­tin­ues for sev­eral min­utes. For the next round, shift BOB from side to side and for­ward and backward to make it more dif­fi­cult to score. Take full ad­van­tage of BOB’s abil­ity to ad­just to dif­fer­ent heights to sim­u­late fight­ing dif­fer­ent­size op­po­nents.

Ki­hon Drills: (Note that BOB wears  no gear dur­ing these drills.) These ex­er­cises are sim­i­lar to the spar­ring and kick­ing drills, but the stu­dent per­forms your art’s ba­sic tech­niques. They might in­clude the re­verse punch, lead punch, chop, ridge­hand and back­fist, along with the front kick, round­house kick and side kick. When BOB at­tacks, the stu­dent re­sponds with pre-as­signed tech­niques and com­bi­na­tions. Be­cause empty BOB is so mo­bile, these drills foster dy­namic move­ment without risk­ing in­jury to a hu­man be­ing who oth­er­wise would be ab­sorb­ing a lot of contact.

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