I have tried looking in every dictionary I could think of, but off-balanced simply means "losing ones balance." This is not an English Language Question, because the english definitions I have found are not what I am looking for. When my teacher says to "keep your opponent off balance and distracted" what is he talking about? Note that this is specifically martial arts, as I know the traditional meaning.

2 Answers 2


It's actually a common phrase in English. Keeping someone "off balance" means to "confuse" or "surprise" someone.

So this means never letting your opponent know what you're planning to do. You have to keep them guessing. Hide your true intentions. Otherwise they will be ready for it, and you will not be successful.

Distraction is part of it. If you can distract your opponent, they will be focused on whatever you are doing to distract them, and they won't see what you're getting ready to do. By the time they figure out what you're doing, it's too late for them.

Successful martial artists do employ a lot of distraction and decoying in their strategy.

Hope that helps.

  • So its kind of like doing one thing... then doing another? Oct 29, 2021 at 17:32
  • I can see how this would work... If you try to punch someone they will try to defend themselves, which gives you a chance to hit them somewhere else. Oct 29, 2021 at 17:32
  • @KazhiroMakuza Yes, humans have brains that are not able to track motion very well. So to make up for the lack of computing power, people "guess" what someone will do. It is your goal as a martial artist to make sure they guess wrong. I go over this more in detail in another answer: martialarts.stackexchange.com/questions/6498/… Oct 29, 2021 at 17:37
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    @MacacoBranco I had to think about that one. I see your point. When your competition is equal to or better than yourself, maybe you can't do anything fancy, so you have to just react. I do think, though, that even when you have such high level competition, you will use strategy and will hide it. It's just that it will take a lot longer and will have to be more subtle. You're playing a waiting game, waiting for just the right moment when the pattern you're looking for suddenly appears, and you know just what to do, because you planned it. Oct 31, 2021 at 2:30
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    @MacacoBranco You know it helps having brains. Haha. When I was much younger doing TKD, I would often win against much more advanced opponents who had predictable patterns. Before I got black belt, I would often win against my much older, 1st and 2nd dan opponents. There was a 3rd dan in the class I could never win against. I went off to study other martial arts in college, came back, and sparred the guy. I actually started winning. Then he clobbered me again when he saw what I was up to. Haha. Fun times! But being able to see patterns really helps. Oct 31, 2021 at 2:36

I will describe a technique which I am not skilled at but was demonstrated ON me in front of a large class. The technique was introduced in the context of a police arrest.

  1. Throw a couple of punches to daze the opponent for a moment
  2. Use the opportunity to get behind them and apply a choke
  3. This is the important part. While choking them, walk backwards. When this was happening to me I couldn't even reach my pocket knife despite my hands being free.
  4. If you sense you are losing control, throw them on the ground and stomp them.

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