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Ghost Techniques in Martial Arts

Ghost techniques are one of the most powerful and beautiful applications to learn in Martial Arts. A ghost technique is one in which your opponent never seems the attack coming. And many times, even the casual, untrained observer may not even detect the motion. So subtle and deadly it defines supple strength of many Chinese based Martial Arts styles.

Because ghost techniques are the "hidden" attacks, they are often executed at very close range. This means that the attack often only has one chance to strike to be effective. If done wrong, it could end up compromising the attacker. Thus it's important that in order to execute an effective ghost technique, one has to practice many hours in training the body to respond and react without thinking.

An effective ghost technique involves understanding thee primary areas:

  1. You must understand the perception of your opponent. If you don't understand what he/she can and cannot see, where their field of vision lies, you will never be able to master ghost techniques.
  2. You must understand zones of the body. Ghost techniques are effective because the hidden attack occurs in a key area of the body. Without first understanding how to attack different zones of the body, one cannot execute the right attack.
  3. You must understand the mechanics of the body. Executing an effective ghost technique is often utilizing the opponent's natural body mechanics against him.


There are many ghost techniques one can learn and master. Each movement has the ability to become fodder for a ghost technique, provided the artist knows enough to seize the opportunity. Some examples of ghost techniques are below.

Attack under another attack



This is one of the first ghost techniques that many students learn. The student may have thrown a punch which was blocked by the opponent. This block creates natural blind spots which can be followed by additional attacks below the block.

In one scenario, the practitioner is throwing a punch to the face that is blocked by an upper block by the opponent. With the other hand, the practitioner can follow-up with an attack into the body, below the upper block and thus hidden from the opponent. Or, they can follow the blocked arm to turn the opponent and exposed a target-rich and completely blind back side.

Blocking and attacking at once



One of the more complicated motions is to actually block and attack in the same motion. This is often done with different zones of the body. So for instance, you might block with your arms but at the same time execute a kick to the lower zones of the body. The opponent is so focused on trying to overcome your block that they will often miss the incoming attack. The key to this ghost technique is timing. The lower attack must come at the same time or near same time as the block. In this situation, the kick itself doesn't need to be very strong to be effective. Instead it is utilizing the forward or incoming momentum of the attacker to penetrate.

Using the knee is good stepping patterns



From the first moment we step onto the kwoon (school) floor, we are taught how to stand properly. Stepping patterns are the most basic exercises that ever student must perform. What isn't often talked about until much later in the student's training (if at all) is the subtle uses of stepping correctly.

A most basic stepping pattern is the C-step. A C-step is where the leading foot makes a "C" pattern on the floor in order to get inside the guard of the opponent. This often opens up opportunities to attack the opponent within their zone while still maintaining safety of the practitioner's main zones. When inside the guard, most students know enough to attack with their hands or feet. But they often don't consider the simplest shift of their leading knee into the opponent's. This subtle action throws the opponent off balance before even having to throw a single attack.

What's so wonderful about this ghost technique is that it is often hidden even from the casual viewer. They suddenly see a larger opponent collapse and the practitioner hasn't even laid a hand on themů or better yet just did the lightest touch. They think this is some sort of setup or joke. What they are missing missed is the understanding of basic body mechanics. Joints such as the knee give way to pressure easily.

Executing ghost techniques such as these can transform any Martial Artist from an okay fighter into a spectacular one. Even if a Martial Artist prefers doing forms, understanding where to find the ghost techniques in any movement will help make executing that motion all the stronger.

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