The art of feeding pads

By Lee Morrison

When training for Self-Protection via Combatives, one of your main priorities should be the development of impact power in order to cultivate the ability to HIT HARD! One key factor towards this aim is pad work with a partner.  The feed back that you get from your partner or ‘’Feeder’’ particularly when working with focus pads/mits-can make or break the trainees ability to improve.  In other words the feeder can make your strikes feel great or conversely, crap.  The feeder can also help you to develop, maintain or lose any bad habits that may materialise along the way. Things like showing signs of telegraphic intention such as;


  • Any pull back of the arm/hand or shoulder.
  • Premature weapon formation of your striking hand/limb.
  • Any grimace of the face just before you strike.


Focus Mits/pads:

A feeder can also help you with the acquisition of target and the development of flow. Both useful additions to any pro-active assault designed to down a threat in a heartbeat.  If the feeder is used; in order for you to establish a gauge of your power in striking, then you will need to make sure that the pads are fed to you correctly. If for instance the feeder pulls/jerks or flinches the pad away as you strike (even slightly) then your shot will feel weakened and far below your potential. Conversely to that, if the feeder moves the mit/pad (ever so slightly) to meet your strike, then your impact will feel a lot greater.  Also make sure that the pads are held at a realistic height for targeting. Just level with your eyes is good for any high line attack. Feeding the pads is an art form. The feeder should be inter-active with the trainee, not just static and uninterested until it’s his/her turn to hit the pads.


Strike/air impact shields:

When feeding a medium or large size strike shield particularly for the guys here; be sure to feed with the shield held flat against your body.  Rather than holding it side on or by looping your arms through. This is for two reasons; first off the target will now offer a denser feel when you strike it, creating excellent feed back for elbows and knees. Secondly, holding the shield flat against the body will allow the feeder to experience a little impact and encourage the feeder to breathe out and contract the muscles of the torso on receipt of impact to the body; hence avoid getting winded if caught in-fight, with a shot to the body.  This is essential if the feeder is to progress to feeding/wearing body armour such as a Fist suit for simulation/scenario practice as a progression in training.  


Positions of feed

What we will look at now from an instructional point of view is a visual demonstration of some of the previous points discussed; along with some of the various ways in which the feeder can hold the pads for hard skill practice.



Angular line:




This sequence depicts how the focus mit should be held when feeding an angular line of attack such as; a slap, hook punch or an elbow strike.




Linear line:



This sequence depicts how the focus mit should be held when feeding an linear or straight line attack such as; the Tiger’s claw or rear cross punch etc.


Incorrect feed:

Here we can see that the feeder has allowed the pad to pull away slightly, at the moment of impact. This creates the impression to the striker that his shot is weak and lacks power.


Correct feed:

Conversely to that; here we can see a pad fed in the correct way.  The feeder moves the mit ever so slightly forward; to meet the striking weapon the moment it delivers impact to the pad.


Vertical Hammer-fist:

Here the feeder wears the pad so that the palm of his hand is flat against his collarbone with the striking surface facing outward on an angled slant.


Chin-jab feed 1:  (focus mit)

Here the feeder holds the pad at chin height as shown, offering the trainee a target for the chin-jab. Note how the shield is checked with the non-striking hand.


Chin-jab feed 2:  (Shield)

Here the feeder holds the shield at chin height as shown, offering the trainee a target for the chin-jab. Note how the shield is checked with the non-striking hand.

Turtle back feed: (Shield)

Here the shield is held as if wearing a rucksack slung over one shoulder. This is also known as the turtle back feed and is excellent for practicing Cycling hammer-fists and Wheeling elbow attacks.


Feed for Knee strikes: (Shield)

This is how we hold a shield for knee strikes. In particular knees from a clinch.  Hold the handles as shown fixing the shield at around groin height. Bend both knees and keep the shield in contact with them. This will create a space between the shield and your groin and will allow you to avoid any unnecessary impact.





Thunderclap: (focus mits)

Here the feeder holds the focus pads in a hands facing; back to back position as shown. This presents the trainee with two outward facing targets; simulating both sides of an opponents head. The tool of choice here is the thunderclap.




Feeding the pads is indeed an art form and the sooner you aquire the skill the more productive your training for both you and your partner, will become.