Taekwondo Training – Using Focus Pads

Nothing feels as good as a decent kick/punch combination to a properly held piece of training equipment. While a punch bag or a wavemaster (stationary punching equipment) can develop the basic techniques, the advantage of hand held focus pads is that the holder can simulate the movement of an opponent more realistically by moving in close proximity to enhance range and develop accuracy. The moving around also improves balance and stability, plus the secondary effect of building up an aerobic base.

Holding the Focus Pads

Focus pads are an important piece of equipment in developing fundamental boxing punches. These hand held targets (one held in the left hand and one in the right) allow the boxer to judge the correct distance from a stationary position when just beginning to find the correct arms length and hitting

They allow you to become quickly self-corrective, avoiding any embarrassment you may feel in the early stages of development and especially in the presence of an eager and passionate coach. There are two very important sayings when it comes to focus pads:

  1. A good pad holder can make a bad boxer look good
  2. A bad pad holder can make a good boxer look bad.

The other gem of wisdom states that every time you fire a punch at the focus pads it must:

Look good, sound good and feel good.

Martial Arts Training Equipment - Using Focus PadsWhen you first begin to hold the pads adopt your favourite fighting stance so your feet are best positioned to absorb impact. Put on both focus pads and place one behind the other for better support. Then hold both pads out slightly to the side so that this position allows greater vision. As the pad holder you now call the various commands as this prevents any lapse of concentration. Holding the pads will mean that you can be right within close hand range and see close up the aspects of correct striking angles, distance and timing as your partner shoots various punches at the target you hold. Try to only offer the target for each command, and once your partner has punched retract the target, and hold the pads down by your side.


Once comfortable with the double handed position, that’s one pad supported by the other, you can then use the pads in the normal way of one in each hand. Try and hold the focus pads in such a way that they represent a human head and body. For example if holding for a left jab and right cross, hold the pad for the jab closer and the right cross a little further away. Shoulder injuries are common with prolonged holding of focus pads, hence my advice on holding both pads together. I have torn my right shoulder from holding a single pad for the most common shot which is the lead left jab.

Another common fault with the focus pad is holding a single pad right in front of your face, causing the force of a punch to hit your face.


Points to remember:

  • Hold both pads in such a way that the person punching the pads is clearly seen.
  • Call the commands clearly.
  • Practise in a stationary position before moving on to mobile targets.
  • Once the pads are punched, remove the pad (target), as holding the pad up at the same position all the time will only confuse the person who is punching.
  • Both partners should get an equal workout and the skill level should be evenly matched.


Most of us have seen worn out smelly pads that have frayed edges that can barely absorb heavy impact, so it’s best to get rid of them.

In conclusion always try to workout with a trusted partner this way progress can be evaluated faster and injuries reduced.

2 Responses to Taekwondo Training – Using Focus Pads

  • Stuart says:

    Shoulder injury
    Hi there, I think I may have injured my left shoulder holding pads for a strong hitter. I started TaeKwonDo 3 weeks ago and am fairy flexible and atheletic which probably makes me appear better/fitter/stronger than I am.
    I was partnered with a Black belt and while the instruction was great I think in hindsight this was not a good idea.
    The day after the training session I was OK but day 2 & 3 I suffer (as after all classes – so far) with the usual muscle ache(DOMS)….normal. Except this time there was alos a bad pain from inside both shoulders (I have dislocated my left shoulder 3 times, but not recently ie in last 10yrs). by day 4/5 I was back to normal and trained again as planned (leg work this time). So all OK.
    4 nights ago I had a terrible night waking every 30 misn or so with horrid pain in only my left shoulder – same pain as before but worse. This has got worse now the last few nights – I’ve started iceing at 15min intervals and it feels a little better today.

    Range of movement is not the same as recovering from the dislocations, so I fear a different injury

    Could you direct me to any good resources for understanding what I may have done? If I go the quak I’ll get sent home with anti inflamatories and told to rest (which is exactly what I’m doing).
    Thanks again and congrats on a great article/site.

    • Master Frank Murphy says:

      Hi Stuart, thanks for your feedback and sorry to hear about your injury. I suffered from shoulder problems myself on occasions but one of my complaints was ‘frozen shoulder’ which can come on suddenly. I had to see physiotherapists, osteopaths and consultants and ended up with cortisone injections for pain relief. I then discovered over the internet an exercise guide for stiff and painful shoulders by Brian Schiff and this helped me tremendously. I would highly recommend his books or manuals. Since then he has also produced training guide DVD’s but I have not seen them myself personally.
      Good luck and get well soon


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