3 Throws 3 Breaks 3 Evasions
A seminar I once taught in Orlando was focused on a continuity of moves when faced with three different attacks. The reason for this type of seminar was such that it allowed the student to see how counter moves may or may not change or flow dependent upon what type of attack is presented.
All the moves were based on the theory of not developing a ridged deep stance and instead utilize the Uke’s energy of movement. This required the student to be in a more natural standing position and be able to change direction by stepping or rotating in or out as needed (Tai Sabaki). As we worked deeper into the moves, the attacks were changed so distance of engagement moved closer. It was enlightening how this affected one’s ability to use some of the counters.
In explaining the motions needed for these counters we started with masking tape on the floor. A quick discussion of center line and how the Uke will start to move in a straight line along their center. Timing became important because if one begins their step or roll-out to early the Uke has the ability to change their angle of attack and track the direction of the Nage. Conservation of energy was important as was not taking an overly martial or “I’m here to fight” posture.
A phrase I kept presenting was “relaxed non structured contact.” This is counter intuitive to most hard styles. Those hard style students were easy to spot due to their desire to hit and break things from a fixed front or back stance. It was the Kung Fu and Aiki based students that eased quickly into the non combative stance and deflection.
Our first family of moves was a simple counter to a chest shove. We worked this from a one handed or two handed strike as well as changing the distance and severity of attacks. Having a 250lb man actually slam you in the chest with both hands is a great learning tool. Everyone quickly realized that you must be aware of the entire power thrust and not approach this learning with a lazy non committal attitude.
The first goal was to simply move off line and use the back forearm as an assist block or deflection to help the Uke keep moving past the Nage. When the Uke would move in with speed and a fully committed center the deflection was much easier than when the technique had to be started from a near nose to nose position.
One of the points made was the position of the blocking hand. In reality it does not matter as long as you accomplish the necessary block, but for the sake of demonstration the students were instructed to keep their palm up. The reasoning for this comes from that if you lay your palm on someone you are inclined to grab them. Even if you don’t close your hand to try and control; your sense of self is so developed from your everyday life that palm touching an object means you are holding on to that object. As the students started blocking with palms up, they were able to disengage from the attacker. Obviously this palm up technique is not where you want to eventually work a full power technique in a real encounter. It was used as a teaching tool.
Using the same shove attack we now started to work on a capturing technique to assist with some form of break. The capture consisted of a double or single palm heel strike and press to the back of the Uke’s hands. The intent was to drive the small bony protrusion at the base of the palm opposite the thumb into the Uke’s wrist. This hard little protrusion is a great striking and control point for close in capture work.
How it worked was to let the Uke’s attack come in and let your center slide back with the energy. As the attack starts to make contact with your chest drive your palm base into the back of the Uke’s wrist. The point you are looking for is where their index finger line terminates just above the socket between the forearm bones and the small bones in the wrist. As you strike in towards your core and slightly downwards let your entire upper chest be involved in the capture. Think of a bear hug where you use your whole upper frame.
This locking down of their attack allows you to continue you’re slightly downwards motion by lowering your center along with the capture. The Uke should be off their center by your strike/press/center manipulation. Now release pressure from your palm press and roll into a double spear hand attack with your palms staying up towards the sky. With this attack you drive your fingertips into the throat just below the Addams apple. The attack when executed with force should be seen as trying to drive your fingertips all the way from the front of the neck out the back side of the cervical vertebra.
To help learn and understand the concept of how the capture works you should be able to capture the Uke’s wrist against your chest and lower your center till they are kneeling at your feet. Pain is not required for this technique; it works on body leverage for compliance.
The third application coming from the shove was a throw. Using the same foundation palm lock technique from the throat strike we now focused on using the lock to assist the throw. The methodology was the same except instead of using your palm heel to do the lock down the palm heel and the Ulna bone are used. Including the forearm allows one to lock down a single or a double shove with one arm. You do give up some lock down control but that is a fair trade for the throwing action.
The timing is important for this technique such that the lock down needs to take place just before you start your body rotation. You do not want to hinder or stop the Uke’s forward energy. As the lockdown occurs and you continue your rotation take your free arm and palm the base of the Uke’s skull. You now have two points of contact and control. Continue your rotation along with a slight lowering of your center and the Uke will now be forced to rotate their upper body along your rotational line while their hips will want to continue on the original forward momentum. Look for their lead shoulder to dip slightly. This lets you know you have a good lock and are making their center shift.
Each of these three counters was simplistic in their execution once a student grasps the concepts of center loading and rotational force. In our club we focus heavily on the rotational forces and blend them with both hard and soft techniques. As was said many times in the seminar; we learn old man martial arts. Use less energy and let the opponent make mistakes, but if you can help them make the mistake, all the better.