Variations in ude tanren - forearm conditioning

For most of my martial arts career I have known (and practised, on and off) the orthodox kote kitae or "ude tanren" - forearm conditioning. An example can be found here and below:

Master Higaonna Morio and Sensei Falcone practising orthodox kote kitae

A variant on the theme can be found here.

Without wishing to go into the merits or necessity of forearm conditioning to any great extent in this article, I would like to point out that I feel some conditioning is essential for karate blocks. While I admire the conditioning of many of my goju colleagues, I prefer a slightly "softer" approach which I feel is consistent with my approach to "blocking" generally.

Accordingly I have always wanted to combine ude tanren with movements that:
(a) apply the same movement that karate blocks apply (which to my mind is more of a deflection than a hard "blocking" movement (see my article "Why blocks DO work"); and
(b) actually condition the arm with the appropriate angle of deflection of these karate deflections.

For inspiration I turned to the Naha te staple, sanchin kata and examined its movements with a view to concocting flowing drills that embody the essential punch/block combinations.

What I found is that there are 2 principal forearm deflections in the opening moves of sanchin, namely the standard goju chudan uke (chest block) and what is known as mae ude hineri uke. Both of these are demonstrated in the video below:

"Chudan uke" and "mae ude hineri uke"

At the same time I determined that there were 3 principal options in terms of combining these 2 types of deflections with strikes.

First, one could do the block/strike simultaneously - something rarely seen in karate applications. The "simultaneous" movement can be seen in the following footwork "happo" drill derived from sanchin:

A sanchin "happo" drill showing the simultaneous block/strike

This combination is easily applied to a forearm conditioning drill as is illustrated in the video below:

The simultaneous "block/punch" from sanchin kata applied as a drill.

Another option is the "rolling" block and strike shown in my hiki uke punch drill (you'll note the chudan uke version is shown right at the end):

The "rolling" hiki/chudan uke plus strike

This is, in turn, capable of being turned into a drill. Note in particular that while one side is doing a chudan uke, the other is doing a mae ude hineri uke:

The "rolling" chudan uke plus strike as a 2 person drill

The final option is to block and then strike "kizami zuki" (effectively a jab) off the blocking arm. Again, when it is combined as a drill one side will do the chudan uke, the other side will do the mae ude hineri uke. The sides should swap, but other than hand position at the start, the movement is identical. The drill is illustrated below:

The block/kizami (jab) option as a 2 person drill

Recently a colleague asked me about the distancing in these drills. It is important to note that the distancing shown in these videos is a bit extended: this is to ensure flow for the purposes of conditioning. On the other hand, you can do what we often do (especially with intermediate and senior grades) and that is bring in the range to bent elbow. This makes it far more "live" and is useful for "melee" range training. However I shall deal with such training in future articles.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic