Saturday, June 10, 2017

Balance, Transitions and Kokken

Some friends and I are practicing knife defenses, sweeps and joint manipulations of SSBD in the video above. It's a bit rough, admittedly, maybe even ugly, and that's the point. When you consider the never ending perfection that karateka seek when they practice kata, what is done in the "air," that is without an adversary except for the one in your mind, the practical takes a back seat to esthetics, and that can be detrimental to your health and safety.

The following is a list of karate technique you will see in the video: juji uke (knife pass and trap); chudan soto uke (arm bar); kake ashi dachi (foot sweep); zenkutsu dachi (foot sweep). In addition you will see a knife held in an ice pick grip used for capturing and controlling. If unarmed, kokken may be used to hook and control the opponent's offending limb.  An expert might appreciate these things, but a beginner needs a partner (and a knowledgeable instructor).

As Uzi, Massimo and I practice the technique, note how we try to disrupt the adversary's balance before sweeping. Arm bars, stabbing, pushing and position are used to displace the opponent to the point that the sweep becomes effortless. Notice too how arm bars soften up the adversary for weapon disarms and chicken wings.

A word on transitions, kake ashi dachi (cross legged stance) and zenkutsu dachi (front leaning stance) I hope you appreciate, by now, are not intermediate steps to a final objective.  If you have any practical fighting experience you understand that there is no tactical reason to ever cross legs (in the case of kake ashi dachi) when transiting sideways unless you wish to give your opponent an advantage. The stance represents a sweep. When Uzi executes a zenkutsu dachi, notice how he uses his torso as a fulcrum in an arm-bar to unbalance me for the sweep. The notion that stances are transitory phases of a body in motion should be put to rest. When combined with the images of what the adversary is experiencing contemporaneously, the dachi (stances) represent takedowns or some other technique of dominance or control. Kake ashi dachi- it only looks like you are crossing your legs, but remember that the other guy is falling. Zenkutsu dachi- it only looks like you've over committed to your lunge, but remember that the other guy has been unbalanced an is about to fall.

Finally, the video closes with a loop of Uzi repeating a key point for head control and the neck crank. Details, details.  I hope you found this interesting and helpful in your quest for a better karate.

My thanks to Maul Mornie, and SSBD brothers Uzi and Massimo.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Better Juji Uke with Pencak Silat

A seasoned karateka like you might dismiss the juji uke (or cross block) as one of those traditional karate artifacts you can't figure out: why go through the trouble of crossing your arms to block an attack when dodging or stepping away will do? You might even question committing both arms to a defense against what very likely would be a feint before the actual strike.  If you are among the minority of seasoned skeptics, take heart, this video clip is for you.

The ju in juji-uke refers to the number 10, which is rendered as 十 in Japanese. You can see where this is going. The crossed arms in the "block" are represented rather conveniently by 十.  Much confusion arises over how the block is applied. Tradition would have you cross the arms simultaneously as is done in kihon and kata. That tradition, I argue, would have you struck square in the face. A worthy opponent would fake and get you to commit everything, like the Maginot Line, to a defense that is easily circumvented.

Consider what the video clip above offers, a clever defense against a jab-cross combination, that utilizes position, control, and leverage to defeat the attacker. You are not merely waiting for the blows to rain down on you as you cover: you are setting up your opponent to walk into an ambush.  If you are wondering where the crossed arms come in, the defender does cross arms, though not simultaneously. In the basic application, it's the attacker's arms that get crossed. That's art. That's a better juji -uke.