Most martial arts training uses another human being as the target. In reality, however, there are advantages to using an inanimate object such as a BOB, a Versys VS.BOB or a heavy bag.
The obvious advantage is you don’t have to worry about hurting another person. You can really go at it without being concerned about knocking out or breaking the nose of your practice buddy. You don’t have to hold back — the BOB, the Versys VS.BOB and the heavy bag allow you to use full power in every strike, which is difficult to do in sparring sessions with your classmates.
Although all three pieces of equipment are useful, they offer different advantages and require different approaches to training.
Why Train With BOB?
• BOB promotes accuracy: Striking it allows you to develop your targeting skills because you can aim at precise features such as the face, nose, jaw, stomach, solar plexus and so on. You can use BOB as a training partner that enables you to unleash strikes similarly to the way you would in live competition. Its humanlike appearance makes it easy to keep your attention focused on the targets as you move around.
• BOB is adjustable: Its height can be increased or decreased to meet your needs. Depending on the skills you wish to develop on any given day, you can aim your kicks and punches up to attack a taller opponent or down to attack a shorter opponent. This promotes punch and kick proprioception. Because human opponents are never the same size, BOB is ready to be adjusted.
Note: If, for some reason, BOB is not to your liking, you might enjoy the Versys VS.BOB, also made by Century Martial Arts. Versys has arms and legs so you can go taekwondo or karate on it! The positioning of the arms allows you to practice your offense and defense. The positioning of the legs allows you to perfect your strikes to the groin and the inside and outside of the legs — and even the ankles.
The great thing about the BOB and the Versys is that neither piece of gear takes up much space. You can use them anywhere — there’s no need to hang them from the ceiling or mount them to the wall.
What Might You Miss?
• BOB and Versys do not move or swing. Both are static. Yes, they do enable you to strike a humanlike target, but that target will not move, which means it won’t force you to use footwork to maneuver or to choose techniques in response to movement. That’s something you can get only from a human opponent.
• BOB and Versys cost more than a heavy bag. However, the additional functionality they provide makes them worth it.
What About the Heavy Bag?
The heavy bag has been around forever. It is similar to the BOB and the Versys, but it is different in significant ways. The heavy bag swings and sways when hit. That forces you to set up your follow-up techniques. It also forces you to move from one position to another using proper footwork so you can strike efficiently. For this reason, heavy bags will always have a place in martial arts training.
Another advantage of training on a heavy bag is the way its movement makes you develop your timing, your range of motion, your coordination and your power delivery. As the bag swings, you must time your techniques if you want to generate maximize force.
Heavy bags also offer a little more resistance because of their weight. However, it is more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of a kick or punch because no matter how hard you hit it, a suspended heavy bag never falls.
Why Might I Not Want a Heavy Bag?
One disadvantage of the heavy bag is you need a sturdy anchor point or apparatus to hang it. It will need to be able to support 100 pounds or more during periods of heavy usage.
If you choose to mount your heavy bag using an apparatus that stands on the floor, it will need a lot of weight to secure it. Otherwise, it can fall over when you hit it hard. Whatever you use to add that weight, it likely can get in the way if you try to practice your footwork while moving around the bag.
Boxers and martial artists, however, can use all three training devices — the BOB, the Versys VS.BOB and the heavy bag — to good effect. So having them all is the best option if you have the space and the money.
Just remember that each one will allow you to practice different fighting skills and that the same techniques and movements should not be used on all three. In a nutshell, go with “static” training when using the BOB or Versys VS.BOB, focusing on accuracy. With the heavy bag, take full advantage of the swinging and swaying to develop your movement and coordination.
One more option! If you’re a wrestler or practitioner of jiu-jitsu or judo, check out the Versys VS.2 by Century. Its design, which uses three simulated legs, lets you practice throws and takedowns.